Watch sport on TV
Up until relatively recently, if you wanted a sports TV package in the UK you were pretty much limited to a choice of one. While other TV providers offered the odd sports channel, only Sky Sports had the likes of live Barclays Premier League football and international cricket, and you could only get it with Sky TV.
However, UK communications regulator Ofcom ruled that Sky must offer Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 to other providers in 2010, and BT Sport launched in 2013. So you’ve now got more choice than ever before when it comes to who you get sports TV package from and how you choose to watch it.
Who does sports TV packages?
Generally, any provider that does TV also does sports TV, offering either or both BT Sport and Sky Sports. Some providers also offer a range of other sports channels, which either come as standard, or can be added to your package for an extra monthly charge. And some now offer you a way to watch your sports channels on your computer, tablet and smartphone too.
You get all the BT Sport channels - BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2, and ESPN on BT Sport - free with any BT TV package with BT Broadband or BT Infinity. Pretty sweet, huh? BT Sport Ultra HD is only available with BT TV too, no other providers, and you'll need the Total Entertainment TV package and BT Infinity broadband.
However, note that this is changing soon: from 1 August 2017, BT Sport will only be free with the top-tier BT Total Entertainment; for other TV packages, it'll cost £3.50 per month.
Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 can be added to any BT TV package as a bolt-on, provided you have BT Infinity with download speeds above 30Mb. It costs £22 per month for standard definition or £27 a month for HD. You can watch BT Sport online with all packages, but not Sky Sports.
With Entertainment Starter and Entertainment Plus you also get a selection of ‘premium’ channels, which include British Eurosport and British Eurosport 2.
Through a Now TV box, stick, or app, you can get a Sky Sports pass, which nets you seven Sky Sports channels (Sky Sports 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, F1, and News HQ). It costs £6.99 for 24 hours, £10.99 for seven days, or £33.99 for a whole month.
While Plusnet (www.plus.net) doesn’t actually do TV packages - well, not quite yet - it does offer BT Sport. If you’ve got Plusnet broadband and Sky TV - or a Sky dish and a Sky box because you used to have Sky TV - you can get BT Sport for £9.99 a month - or £12.49 in HD.
While getting BT Sport on Sky TV through Plusnet costs around half what it does directly through BT, you can’t watch it via the BT Sport website or app.
You can add Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports 3, Sky Sports 4, Sky Sports 5 and Sky Sports F1 (you get Sky Sports News HQ as standard) to any TV package for £27.50 a month. However, if you want Sky Sports in HD, you’ll have to get the pricier Family Bundle.
BT Sport is available on Sky TV (www.sky.com) for £6 per month with BT broadband. If you don’t want BT broadband, you can get all four BT Sport channels - in standard or high-definition - on your Sky TV on either a 12-month or one-month contract. (This is changing from 1 August, too - it'll cost £7.50 per month with BT Broadband, £22.99 without.)
You can watch Sky Sports live and on demand online using Sky Go, and BT Sport using the BT Sport website and app. You get Motors TV as standard with all Sky TV packages, and you also get At The Races, British Eurosport, British Eurosport 2 and Extreme Sports Channel as standard with The Variety Bundle and The Family Bundle.
Finally, you can add Chelsea TV, Liverpool TV and MUTV to any package for £7 a month each through Sky, and BoxNation for £12 a month, Premier Sports for £11.99 a month or £95 a year and Racing UK for £22.98 a month through the relevant channel.
With TalkTalk (www.talktalk.co.uk) you can add Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports 3, Sky Sports 4, Sky Sports 5 and Sky Sports F1 to any TalkTalk TV package with the appropriately-named Sky Sports Boost.
It's one of the more flexible ways to get Sky Sports - TalkTalk Boosts roll on a monthly basis, so you can sign up and cancel them as and when you want.
You can also get BT Sport, albeit not from TalkTalk directly. When your TalkTalk TV package is up and running, simply sign up for sport from BT directly, and you'll get all the available channels.
Sky Sports News HQ comes with the TV Plus package as standard, or you can add it on with the TV Starter Boost, which gets you a few extra Sky channels. However, you can’t get Sky Sports in HD with TalkTalk TV, or watch them on your computer, tablet or phone.
You can also add BoxNation to any TalkTalk TV package for £12 a month.
With Virgin Media (www.virginmedia.com), you can get BT Sport and every Sky Sports channel in one package. The simplest way to do this is with the Big Kahuna Sports or VIP TV, broadband and phone bundles.
Alternatively, you can add BT Sport in standard and high-definition to any Virgin Media TV package for £18 a month (apart from TV XL, which includes it as standard). You can add Sky Sports 1, Sky Sports 2, Sky Sports 3, Sky Sports 4, Sky Sports 5 and Sky Sports F1 (Sky Sports News HQ comes as standard with all packages apart from TV M) to any package for £31.75 a month. Sky Sports in HD will cost you an extra £7 a month.
Every package comes with At The Races as standard, and all packages from TV M+ up come with British Eurosport, British Eurosport 2 and Motors TV. Packages from TV L up also include Extreme Sports Channel, and TV XL adds British Eurosport HD, British Eurosport 2 HD and Sky Sports News HQ HD to the pile.
BoxNation can be added to any package for £11 a month, LFCTV for £7 a month, MUTV for £7 a month, Premier Sports for £9.99 a month and Racing UK for £22 a month. You’ll also get access to pay-per-view sports events via Sky Sports Box Office through Virgin Media TV.
What is the best sports TV package?
As ever with this sort of thing, the answer comes down to what you’re looking for and what your budget is. If money’s no object and the most important thing is that you can watch pretty much any sport that’s televised, then it’s hard to look beyond Virgin Media’s Big Kahuna and VIP bundles. Not only do they give you BT Sport and every Sky Sports channel in both standard and high definition in one package, they also come with four other sports channels, and you can add five more. Boom.
If it’s the best value sports TV package you’re looking for, then the BT TV Entertainment Starter package is a good shout, since it gives you all four BT Sport channels for free, and includes British Eurosport and British Eurosport 2. It also gives you the option of adding Sky Sports 1 and Sky Sports 2 for a month at time.
When it comes to availability, you’re looking at either BT TV or Sky TV. BT is the biggest broadband provider in the country, and anywhere you can get BT Broadband with a minimum download speed of 2Mb, you can get BT TV. And because Sky is a satellite TV provider, you can get Sky TV just about anywhere as long as it’s cool to fix a dish to your home.
Can I watch sports online?
Indeed you can. As mentioned previously, some providers now offer you a way to watch the sports channels you subscribe to on your computer, tablet, and phone. You can watch BT Sport online through BT, and BT Sport and Sky Sports online through Sky and Virgin Media, although not without a TV package in the case of the latter two.
Whether you can watch other sports channels online varies from provider to provider. So if there’s something in particular you want to be able to watch while you’re out and about, check whether you’ll be able to before signing up to a package.
If you don’t want to commit to a long-term contract, Now TV could be for you. With Now TV you can get all seven Sky Sports channels on a pay-as-you-go basis online with a £6.99 Sky Sports Day Pass, or £10.99 Sky Sports Week Pass. You can get them on your TV too with the likes of a Now TV Box, Chromecast, particular games consoles and smart TVs, or if you’ve got EE TV.
FAQ about sports TV packages
Can you get sports TV packages for pubs?
You can indeed. BT and Sky both offer sports TV packages tailored specifically for businesses. BT offers BT Sport packages for pubs, bars, hotels, clubs and other businesses at btsportbusiness.com. Sky offers Sky Sports packages, as well as many other sports channels, for pubs, bars, clubs, hotels, restaurants and even care homes and offices at business.sky.com.
Can you get sports TV-only packages?
It depends what you mean by sports TV-only packages. If you mean a TV package with sports channels, but without broadband and phone, then yes, you can get those from both Sky (www.sky.com) and Virgin Media (www.virginmedia.com). If you mean a TV package with sports channels and nothing else, then no; if that’s what you want your best bet is getting Sky Sports on NOW TV on a daily or weekly basis.
What TV packages include Eurosport?
British Eurosport and British Eurosport 2 are included with the BT TV Entertainment Starter and Entertainment Plus packages, and the Sky TV Variety and Family Bundles. They’re also included with Virgin Media TV M+, TV L and TV XL - and TV XL also includes British Eurosport HD and British Eurosport 2 HD. Alternatively, you can get Eurosport on your smart TV, computer, tablet and phone online from £3.99 a month at www.eurosportplayer.co.uk.