Sky TV vs Virgin Media TV: Which is best?

ByKim Staples
Sky vs Virgin Media

The two biggest pay-TV providers in the UK have a lot in common - high-tech set top boxes, on demand series, and more channels than you can shake a stick at. But which is best - Sky or Virgin Media?

We've compared the two side-by-side on all the things that matter to help you figure out which one would best suit your home. Keep reading to see which one comes out on top.

Check out our full guides to Sky TV and Virgin Media TV.

At a glance

  Sky TV Virgin Media TV
Packages Original Bundle, Variety Bundle, Box Sets Bundle, Sports Bundle, Cinema Bundle, Complete Bundle Player TV, Mix TV, Fun TV, Full House TV, VIP
Number of channels 280-360 70-245+
Set top boxes Sky+ HD, Sky+ HD 2TB 500GB TiVo, 1TB TiVo
HD Yes Yes
Recording 500 hours with Sky Q 1TB; 1180 hours with Sky Q 2TB 250 hours
Delivery method Satellite Cable

Channels

One of the best things about Sky or Virgin Media TV is the sheer number of channels you get. It's a lot.

Virgin Media's smallest TV package, Player, has 70+ channels, while its largest, Full House TV, has 245+. Sky, on the other hand, has around 280+ in the Original Bundle, which increases to 360+ with the bigger Box Sets Bundle. All its TV packages include the Sky entertainment channels too - like Sky 1, Sky Arts, and Sky News, and it's the only place you can find Sky Atlantic.

Take a look at the full list of Sky channels here and Virgin Media channels here.

Verdict:  Sky is a clear winner in terms of range and number of channels.

Sky TV deals

Sky
Sky
Sky
Sky
Original Bundle + Broadband Unlimited Variety Bundle + Broadband Unlimited Box Sets Bundle + Broadband Unlimited Sports Bundle + Broadband Unlimited
Monthly cost £25.00 (for 12 months, then £30.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £319.95 Monthly cost £37.00 (for 12 months, then £42.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £463.95 Monthly cost £43.00 (for 12 months, then £48.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £535.95 Monthly cost £52.50 (for 12 months, then £57.50 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £649.95
Up To 17 Mb Up To 17 Mb Up To 17 Mb Up To 17 Mb
Pay as you go Pay as you go Pay as you go Pay as you go
Channels 113 Channels 154 Channels 160 Channels 119
Go
Call Sky on 0800 151 2878
Mon to Sun 8am-10pm
Go
Call Sky on 0800 151 2878
Mon to Sun 8am-10pm
Go
Call Sky on 0800 151 2878
Mon to Sun 8am-10pm
Go
Call Sky on 0800 151 2878
Mon to Sun 8am-10pm

Sports

Virgin Media has an edge when it comes to sports telly. Sky Sports can be added to packages from either provider, but you can only get BT Sport directly with Virgin Media. You can add BT Sport to Sky as a separate subscription, but you'll have to do so after you're up and running - Sky doesn't include it in any bundles.

There are packages from both that include At the Races, Eurosport, Eurosport 2, and Extreme Sports; and both can have more niche premium channels like BoxNation, Racing UK, and MUTV added on. So, there's only one real difference for sports fans.

Verdict: Both are excellent for sport, but since Virgin Media gives you easy access to you every sports channel in the UK, it gets the nod from us.

Set top box and recording

Sky TV comes with a choice of two set top boxes. A Sky Q 1TB can record up to about 500 hours of standard definition TV, and a Sky Q 2TB box can store up to 1180 hours - though it carries an extra charge. Both support HD - though the 2TB box is also 4K-ready - and both have built-in Wi-Fi to power the on demand features.

Virgin Media TV has two TiVo boxes to choose from: a 500GB box (that can record 250 hours of standard definition), ot 1TB box (that can record 500 hours). Both have some fantastic features. There's a comprehensive search function, a Wishlist, and a bunch of apps like Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify.

Verdict: This is a tough one. Sky offers the box with the most storage and a slicker interface, but Virgin Media is the only provider in the UK with TiVo. Plus, Sky Q lets you watch and record up to five channels at once, whereas with a TiVo box you're limited to three. Sky wins.

TiVo box

On demand and catch up

Lots of channels and a high-tech box are all well and good, but can you watch what you wantwhenyou want?

Virgin Media TV comes with seven-day catch-up (from BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Demand 5, and entertainment channels), and loads of on demand boxsets - though the exact ones you get will depend on what channels are included in your package. You can watch online and on the go via smartphones too with the Virgin TV Anywhere app.

Sky, on the other hand, claims to have the UK's widest range of on demand TV. As well as the main catch-up services, there's Sky On Demand for catching up on Sky TV channels, and lots of box sets too - including some exclusive ones like Game of Thrones. You can even watch on demand TV online, via phone, PC, Mac, or games console, via the Sky Go service - included free for all subscribers.

Read more about on demand TV.

Verdict: It's difficult to say - there's a lot of stuff to watch on both. We'll call it a tie.

Virgin Media TV deals

Virgin Media
Virgin Media
Virgin Media
Virgin Media
Player Bundle Mix Bundle Full House Bundle Fun Bundle
Monthly cost £12.00 (for 12 months, then £26.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £158.99 Monthly cost £18.00 (for 12 months, then £31.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £230.99 Monthly cost £35.00 (for 12 months, then £57.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £434.99 Monthly cost £26.00 (for 12 months, then £41.00 per month thereafter) 1st year cost: £326.99
Up To 50 Mb Up To 50 Mb Up To 200 Mb Up To 100 Mb
Weekend calls inc. Weekend calls inc. Weekend calls inc. Weekend calls inc.
Channels 95 Channels 197 Channels 259 Channels 220
Go
Call Virgin Media on 0808 168 6088
Open 24/7
Go
Call Virgin Media on 0808 168 6088
Open 24/7
Go
Call Virgin Media on 0808 168 6088
Open 24/7
Go
Call Virgin Media on 0808 168 6088
Open 24/7

Availability

Thanks to its satellite system, Sky TV is available pretty much anywhere, so long as you can install a satellite dish. Of course, that's not always possible, especially in rented homes and apartment buildings - but geographically speaking Sky's availability is pretty wide.

Virgin Media, however, delivers TV via its cable network, which is limited to certain areas. Most large cities, towns, and areas with a high population are covered, but it still only accounts for around 50% of the UK.

Use our handy postcode checker to find out if either are available where you live.

Verdict: Sky is a tad more widespread.

Conclusion

All in all, you're getting a good bit of telly whether you choose Sky or Virgin Media. Both have a lot to offer and it really depends what you want from your TV as to which is best for you.

Sky has more channels, wider availability, and a box with more storage space - ideal if you record a lot of shows. It's also the only way to get Sky Atlantic, so if you want to watch shows like Game of Thrones it's your best option.

But Virgin Media offers a TiVo box, and it's better for sports channels. You're less likely to get interference from bad weather too, because it's delivered by cables rather than satellites. It's also among the fastest fibre optic broadband providers in the UK - if you bundle, you can get blistering speeds of up to 200Mb.

Whichever you think is the one for you, make sure you compare packages so you can find the best possible deal.

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