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Pay TV subscriptions – one in five want out – do you?

Off button on remote control

Apparently one in five current paid-for TV subscribers are tied into an unwanted contract. Is 2011 the year that you too will want to save some cash by letting your TV subscription slide?

The research comes from Freesat, the free-to-view digital TV service from the BBC and ITV.

And although it has a vested interest in publishing this data, it does seem that in these austerity-hit times many of us are looking at our pay TV contracts – do they actually represent value for money?

Even minimum subscription contracts to Sky or Virgin are likely to set you back £1000+ over a five-year period (and a whole lot more if you get the premium sports and film channels). There’s certainly a lot of money to be saved by switching to Freeview or Freesat services.

Sure, you won’t get access to the pay-channels, but how often each week do you actually tune into them? Separate research by the Broadcasters’ Audience Research Board found that around 60% of Sky subscribers only watch the free channels. So you could be paying a lot to access hundreds of channels when you’re only watching a few of them.

But why are people sticking with their unwanted TV contracts? Freesat’s research suggests that inertia is one of the main reasons – they want out but just never get around to doing anything about it. Meanwhile the direct debits keep draining funds from their bank accounts each month.

Does this strike a chord with anyone out there? Do you want to get out of your expensive TV contract but haven’t found time to do it? Or maybe you think your TV subscription is worth the price you pay each month.


Though I’m not really thinking of completely un-subscribing from Virgin – I an thinking of heavily reducing my subscription.

Sophie Gilbert says:
8 January 2011

I unsubscribed from Virgin a long time ago. Freeview telly offers more than enough choice for me.

In all honesty – I joined Virgin for their fast Broadband and clear telephone – Sadly Freeview does not offer those options.

Kate says:
9 January 2011

Was there any questions in the survey with regard the amount of content theft freesat users indulge in using their BB subscriptions?

I want out of my licence fee altogether. Make the BBC pay per view. End of.

Peter says:
11 January 2011

I opted out of Sky six months ago, but the reality is, if your a sports fan, they have the monopoly – I’m afraid I missed my Rugby ‘fix’ to much, and rejoined. I wish there was a viable alternative, but there just isn’t – if you want to watch sports.

John says:
11 January 2011

With the same apetite for rugby but needing to make economies, I subscribed to epns and for £9.99 per month on a one year contract received a 300gig PVR and the oportunity to watch EVIVA premiership rugby. Most English and lots of European rugby. With this piece of kit there is also the possibility of subscribing to Sky sports one for £19.99 per month, no contract.
Hope this helps

johpal says:
11 January 2011

I shall be ditching Sky Movies at the end of my 12 month contract, but will retain the basic package with the HD add-on. I can receive 4 Freeview HD channels, but ITV HD sound (no Dolby Digital) cuts some of the entertainment value. Freesat has (as far as I can ascertain) only 2 HD channels, one of which is ITV (see earlier comment), so not worth me considering.

I enjoy watching sports so Sky Sports is a must for me. I might drop the film channels although last time I checked this would make little difference to the monthly cost.

DespyDan says:
11 January 2011

I finally stopped my Sky+ subscription last October and bought a Panasonic Twin Sat HD + Hard Disk + Blue Ray (play/rec) + USB + SD + VieraLink (disappointing!). 7 months of subscriptions pays for the Panasonic. I’m still awaiting the long promised BBC iPlayer; latest update says end of Jan 2011.
Yes, I’m missing loads of channels, but I have always primarily watched BBC, ITV, CH4, because overall their programmes are better. Many of the Sky channels are simply old BBC programmes (e.g. Dave), and I begrudge paying for programmes I’ve already paid for.
Okay, so there aren’t as many HD channels on Freesat, but unless you have a huge TV (>40″) you won’t really see that much difference.
Also Sky charge you to record programmes, except if you have multiroom. The Pany lets me record for free AND I can store my own video and music on the hard disk. The Pany also plays music CDs.
The Sky+ box is a closed setup; i.e. it can only be used for Sky programmes and nothing else. This is now very old technology.
Both my Sky+ boxes also developed a “fault” at about the same time; recordings on one transponder would simply fail to work with the error message indicating that the box was not receiving a signal. I have had no problems recording on both transponders at the same time with the Pany. Sky tech support went through a pre-defined procedure to try and rectify the problem, but nothing worked, leading to the recommendation to call out an engineer at a price. I found this very suspicious at the time, especially since the Pany records without problems. (So it looks like the same problem hit both Sky+ boxes at the same time. Really!)
So far, no regrets on cancelling Sky; I watch far less rubbish as a result!

Both my Sky Boxes developed a fault at the same time. One of which I didn’t know about until the engineer discovered it. He did however replace both boxes on the one call out fee. Replacing them with reconditioned boxes. I’m not 100% happy with the service as I believe the fault was caused by Sky in the first place.
Next time I may consider cancelling the subscription as it is now getting very expensive even without HD.

Chris says:
11 January 2011

Humax Freesat box has BBC Iplayer now & ITV player shortly – maybe its your Panasonic freesat that needs a retune ?

Whether you see a difference with HD depends on what you have before. I moved from analogue 21″ to HD 32″ and the difference was staggering – especially aerial shots of urban landscapes for example. Comparing with other sets in the house which are Digital Terrestrial the difference isn’t so marked. I agree that Viera isn’t really worth the bother – apart from YouTube it seems to be mainly wierd foreign stuff.

Jamesc says:
14 January 2011

I was interested to see Chris’s comment about BBC iPlayer on his Humax Freesat, I would like to point out I’ve been using ITV iPlayer for a couple of weeks now, it is in Beta and you can get it by putting 999 then when page comes up press green twice then blue once and finally green twice again and hey presto, Don’t know how long it will be like this, but give it a try.

Chris says:
11 January 2011

I’d had virgin for a couple of years but didnt feel i got much out of it. Dropped it & went freeview. that went well, but HD channels started to appeal (in a way that 3d doesnt) so i’ve shifted to freesat using a humax box & a panasonic tv. I’ve been recommending it to all friends & family that have a chance to swap as contracts come to an end.

borolad says:
11 January 2011

I dropped movies some time back and agree that a lot of the Sky channels never get looked at. Cricket and Rugby (both codes) keep me tied to Sky Sports.
Currently unhappy as just before Christmas Sky upgraded the software on the HD boxes and since then its started to freeze, locks up and is very slow to respond.
Customer service not at its best!

When my sky+HD contract ends I shall seriously consider cancelling. There are hundreds of channels that I am paying for but never watch. I am also agrieved that I have to pay a licence fee and a subscription fee, and basically watch the same channels. When HD becomes widely available subscription free then that platform will be my choice. As an aside, if the mainstream channels repeat the old Christmas programmes again I shall go nuts!!

John Carter says:
11 January 2011

I keep on forking out for Sky+ (basic package + multiroom) simply because of the excellence of the electronic programme guide and the ease of operating the recoding and playback features. But I agree that most of their channels are a lot of tosh (as was their appalling printed monthly magazine)and I simply must stir myself to do something about it. Guess as well as Freesat box I’ll need an aerial upgrade, so won’t be saving money for quite some months. One of my boxes failed and I bought a nearly-new 2nd hand box on e-bay (£35 instead of their £199!) and then found that Sky had blocked it as being `incompatible’ with their system. I dug my heels in, threatening to quit, and they did then send a signal to unblock it.

Well done for standing up to Sky. I don’t think you would need an Aerial upgrade for FreeSat as I believe your current dish will be OK already if you have Sky + . To be sure have a look at http://www.freesat.co.uk/how-to/faqs/how-to-install-freesat first.

Bechet says:
12 January 2011

I watch Sky when I stay with family and I suppose that if you want to see live Test Cricket and Premier League football it is a must. Otherwise, however, Freeview is quite good enough ~ Test highlights on ITV4 ~ provided your reception is up to it. Unfortunately for some of us it never will be, even after Switchover in 2012, so we shall have to install Sky, Freesat or one of the others. Bring back Analogue TV !

I use 2nd hand SKY boxes to view the free channels , easily obtained for free from Freecycle or for around £20 (tested and guaranteed) from our charity shop.

I have no general objection to paying to watch TV but do object to taking out a 12 month subscription when all I want to watch is a few cricket matches over the year.
What is needed is a Pay to View as you Go service.

marivah says:
14 January 2011

The only reason I keep my Sky subscription is to access National Geographic and Discovery group of channels. Everything else I watch can be received on Freesat or Freeview.
Most of Nat. Geo. and Discovery programmes on repeats. If only Freeview/Freesat would include these channels instead of some of the shopping and gaming channels… !

Am I the only one who gets really angry because despite paying through the nose to SKY, I still have to endure adverts? I find I have to record most things on SKY+ then fast forward through the breaks. You can’t do this watching things like live cricket though and get assaulted by an awful advert (Go Compare anyone?) every few overs or after a wicket, when discussion and analysis would be much more welcome.
It will be argued that adverts help reduce subscriptions but in reality they wouldn’t dare charge any more and the extra money just enables SKY to price everyone else out of the market and to inflate the wages of primadonna Premiership players.

Jenet says:
15 January 2011

Two reasons for subscribing to Virgin. BT had started sending me emails to say I was nearly at my download limit – absolute rubbish as I hardly ever download anything apart from numerous Microsoft updates. Also, when Freeview was switched on in my area, because we receive it via a Relay transmitter, we only get 15 channels (this includes radio channels). I now get TV, phone and unlimited and broadband fo £1 per month less than I paid for my phone and broadband. Although this is an introductory offer and will no doubt go up in future, I find it is well worth it as I do watch quite a lot of the digital channels – especially the HD channels – to which I do not have access under Freeview.

Some interesting threads which seem to have a common theme – pay to view TV is expensive and lacks any real quality programmes. I use Virgin and am hooked into their XL TV package due to needing high broadband and good telephone service. I have to congratulate virgin though on its standard of service in my area as I have had little or no disruption to service in the last 5 years. I too am a rugby fan and get frustrated as virgin do not have the red button option so when my team (Ospreys) are not being shown, I have to go to relatives house who have sky. The choice of HD channels on virgin is growing and this is now my main reason for staying with pay to view TV.

Bill says:
16 January 2011

I work as a volunteer adviser dealing with people with debt problems. I’m all too often horrified at what they are paying out of limited incomes (often only benefits) for Sky in particular – they live under a delusion that they can’t get anything more than the 5 basic channels unless they subscribe to Sky, that they can’t get HD except via Sky and that nobody else shows kids channels or any sports. They also don’t understand that Sky broadband is as restricted as BT’s or anybody else’s that has to come down a phone line and paying Sky for extra bandwidth is money for nothing!

Freeview/Freesat really needs to up its game and prove to the great British public that the Sky propaganda about “Only on Sky” is for the most part untrue and misleading (Advertising Standards Authority actionable??) as it would benefit many families on low incomes to abandon their Sky dishes.

If you need bandwidth on broadband you need at the moment to be in a cabled area (usually Virgin) or adjacent to a business park to which BT has already brought fibre optic.

I like the catch up tv you get with virgin.
Its nice to watch a good documentary when there is only rubbish on the “live channels”