BT’s latest TV service might be free – at least for the first 18 months – but what do you get with the new TV Starter?
How does that new driveless YouView box measure up and is not being able to record stuff actually that big a deal when you’ve got a comprehensive catch-up suite at your fingertips?
More to the point, how does it compare to Essentials TV, TalkTalk’s rival budget TV service? Let’s take a closer look.
BT TV Starter: What you get
BT’s Starter Pack comes with a new type of YouView box, the DB T2200.
Like all YouView devices, this gives you access to all of the same channels you’d get on Freeview HD plus streamlined access to BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4oD (soon to be renamed All 4) Demand Five as well as catch-up content from Dave, Really, Yesterday, Quest, STV (in Scotland only) milkshake! and S4C.
There’s no hard drive, unlike the box which comes with the BT TV Essentials deals, so you can’t record programmes. With all that catch-up firepower at your disposal you should be able to watch most missed shows. Due to rights issues, not everything will be available on catch-up, so you won’t be able to watch absolutely everything you’ve missed.
For those moments when you want to be able to pause TV if the phone’s ringing (or you want to skip through the adverts) there’s a time buffer, which lets you pause standard definition TV for up to 30 minutes and HD TV for up to 14 minutes.
BT-branded YouView boxes also give you access to BBC Connected Red Button and Netflix, which is currently unavailable on TalkTalk’s Huawei-made hardware. You also get access to three BT Sport channels – BT Sport 1, BT Sport 2 and ESPN – for no extra cost.
BT TV Starter: What extras can I get?
You’ve got the option of getting all of the BT Sport channels in HD for an extra £3/month with the BT TV Starter Pack.
If you want to take the channels in HD you’ll also have to have a BT Infinity FTTC (Fibre to the Cabinet)-based service. BT Infinity is also needed if you want to take the HD Extra bolt-on (£3/month) which gives you access to 13 channels in high definition, including Comedy Central HD, MTV HD and Fox HD.
Other channel bundles including Kids (including Cartoon Network, Disney Channel, Nickelodeon) and BT Music, a music video karaoke service can be added to the BT Starter Pack for an extra £3/month each. BT Box Office lets you watch movies from £3.50 per film. Netflix can also be added on to any BT TV bundle for an extra £5.99/month.
You can also add Sky Movies for £16/month but note that if you’ve not got a BT Infinity subscription, you’ll only be able to access Sky Movies on-demand content – you can’t get the full set of channels if you’ve got an standard ADSL broadband service.
BT is also currently selling a bundle which includes BT Infinity 1 (up to 38Mbps, 20GB download cap) Netflix and the BT TV Starter Pack for a discounted price.
BT TV Starter: How much does it cost?
The BT TV Starter Pack costs nothing for the first 18 months but costs £5/month thereafter.
You’ll need to take a BT Broadband subscription in order to get BT TV. At the time of writing, the cheapest BT Broadband deal will set you back £7.50/month plus £16.99/month for line rental.
If you don’t choose to pay for 12 months of rental up front (£169.90) the total monthly cost works out at £24.49/month.
If you want things like get BT Sport in HD or take the HD Extra bundle, you’ll need a BT Infinity subscription. The cheapest Infinity service, Infinity 1, costs £15/month plus £16.99/month line rental. This works out at £31.99/month at the standard rate.
As BT Infinity 1 only comes with a 20GB usage cap, you might want to consider Unlimited BT Infinity 1, which costs £23/month plus £16.99/month for line rental (£39.99/month in total).
BT TV Starter plus standard BT Broadband comes with a one-off activation fee of £35 plus a £6.95 delivery charge for the BT Home Hub 5 wireless router, if you choose to take it.
TalkTalk Essentials TV: What you get
Like the hardware that comes with the BT TV Starter Pack, the TalkTalk Essentials TV box is what’s known as a ‘zapper’ in TV industry-speak – it doesn’t have a hard drive so you can’t record programmes.
Like the new BT TV box, you do have the option of pausing and rewinding live TV. For what it’s worth the Essentials TV box is slightly better in that it lets you buffer up to 30 minutes of live live standard definition TV and 15 minutes of HD TV.
As well as access to catch-up content from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, STV and UKTV channels you also get access to the TalkTalk Player. This lets you rent movies including X-Men: Days of Future Past as well as watch on-demand content from any extra channels, like Sky 1, Comedy Central and Sky Sports you might have subscribed to.
TalkTalk Essentials TV: What extras can I get?
If watching live Premier League football is a deal breaker for you, check out our guide to the best deals hereA whole host of extra channels can be bolted on to TalkTalk Essentials TV. For an extra £5/month you can get seven Sky TV channels including Sky 1, Sky Arts 1 and 2 and Sky Sports News with the TV Starter Boost.
The Entertainment Boost (£10/month) gives you over 30 channels including all of the above plus Comedy Central, Watch, Fox and others. The Kids Boost (£5/month) gives you 16 children’s channels including Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Scamp and the Music Boost (£5/month) gives you channels like MTV Music, Magic, Kiss and The Box.
Other extras include Sky Movies (£15/month) and Sky Sports (£30/month). Sky Movies gives you access to all of the Sky Movies channels live and on demand while Sky Sports gives you all six of Sky’s live sports channels – Sky Sports 1-5 and Sky Sports F1 – which gives you access to 116 Premier League football games.
TalkTalk Essentials TV: How much does it cost?
When bundled with TalkTalk’s basic up to 17Mbps unlimited ADSL broadband service Essentials TV costs £8.50/month plus £16.70/month for line rental.
This works out at £25.20/month unless you opt for the line rental saver option which sees you getting a year’s worth of line rental if you pay £172.20 up front.
Essentials TV with TalkTalk’s Fibre Broadband service (up to 38Mbps, unlimited downloads) costs £18.50/month. With the standard rate of line rental this works out at £35.20/month.
You’ll need to pay a one off connection fee of £20 with Essentials TV and a £5 delivery charge for the TalkTalk wireless router.
BT TV Starter vs TalkTalk TV: Price comparison
That’s how everything measures up in a nutshell. Let’s see how those prices compare directly.
|BT TV Starter + BT Broadband||BT TV Starter + BT Infinity 1||BT TV Starter + Unlimited BT Infinity 1||TalkTalk Essentials TV + TalkTalk Broadband||TalkTalk Essentials TV + TalkTalk Fibre|
|Download speed||Up to 17Mbps||Up to 38Mbps||Up to 38Mbps||Up to 17Mbps||Up to 38Mbps|
|Standard line rental cost||£16.99/month||£16.99/month||£16.99/month||£16.70/month||£16.70/month|
|Contract length||18 months||18 months||18 months||18 months||18 months|
|Line rental saver||£169.90 for 12 months||£169.90 for 12 months||£169.90 for 12 months||£172.40 for 12 months||£172.40 for 12 months|
|Total monthly cost||£24.49/month||£31.99/month||£39.99/month||£25.20/month||£35.20/month|
BT TV Starter vs TalkTalk TV: Summary and wrap up
BT’s TV Starter pack with BT Broadband is clearly the cheapest budget TV service on offer here. For £24.49/month you get access to BT Sport alongside the standard suite of YouView’s catch up services plus the option of Netflix.
If you want to add anything extra to a YouView-based TV service you might be better off seeing what TalkTalk has to offer.
To get things like BT Sport in HD, the Sky Movies live channels and the HD Extra pack, you’ll need to get a BT Infinity package. The basic BT Infinity service, Infinity 1, is inferior to the entry-level TalkTalk Fibre offer.
While the top download speeds are the same, you only get a 20GB monthly cap with Infinity 1. TalkTalk Fibre is unlimited. The nearest equivalent service from BT – Unlimited BT Infinity 1 with TV Starter – is roughly £5/month more expensive. For that money you could get Essentials TV with Fibre and a £5 boost that gives you channels including Sky 1, Sky Arts and Sky Living, which aren’t available on BT TV.
If extra TV channels aren’t a big deal for you, save that fiver and get an equivalent broadband service to Unlimited BT Infinity 1 for less money. Win-win.
Two clear advantages BT TV has over TalkTalk TV right now is the availability of the Connected Red Button interactive service and Netflix. As we stated above, these advantages are only temporary and TalkTalk TV customers will be able to enjoy them in time.
BT TV Starter vs TalkTalk TV: Verdict
The bottom line is, if you want to save money, pick a BT TV package. If you want low-cost pay TV with a few extra bells and whistles, TalkTalk TV might be more to your tastes, although if you’ve already got a Netflix subscription and you’re swayed by the idea of watching Marco Polo on your TV this December, then you should go for a BT TV package.
If you can wait until Netflix hits TalkTalk TV next year and superfast broadband is a bigger priority for you, then going for TalkTalk Essentials TV with Fibre might be a better idea.