Alternatives to watch tv if you don't have an aerial?

We have been with Virgin since 2017, every year going through the hassle of trying to get a discount when they put up the price. We were on a TV + broadband + landline deal (Maxit TV + M200 Fibre Broadband + Talk Weekends) which somehow included TNT Sports. With discounts, I was paying £35 a month. 

It has now gone up to £85 a month. I spoke to a rep on Whatsapp, and they offered me M350 broadband, Mega TV and weekends chatter for £51, or £61 to include TNT Sports. We don't use the landline, but we do need decent broadband for my job (plus for gaming and streaming), and my husband does like watching the football, but he's willing to give that up if needed.

Now, one of the reasons we have a TV package is because we don't have a working aerial. We had it fixed once, but it stopped working again shortly after. I think it would need to be completely reinstalled/relaid for it to work, which just seems a bit pointless in this digital age. So we got Virgin because then we didn't need an aerial to watch TV. We like that we can record shows and use the TV guide to browse channels. 

If you don't have an aerial, is there any way to watch and record channels without having to buy a package from Sky or Virgin? I know we can get BBC and Channel 4 through our TV/PS5, but it's not really the same. Basically, I need a Freeview box that simply connects to the internet rather than an aerial. :sweat_smile:


Comments

  • Krakkkers
    Krakkkers Posts: 1,096
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    Cancel your TV license and watch Youtube, catch up apps (not BBC)
  • Neil_Jones
    Neil_Jones Posts: 8,814
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    You can get PVRs with hard drive recording ability similar to Sky/Virgin, but these need an aerial connection.  If you had Sky you usually keep the dish and you can reuse that.  Or you can find somebody somewhere who will if you feed them tea, biscuits and a wodge of cash stick a dish on the side of the house for you.  Or fix your aerial.

    The internet streams are not designed to be recorded. 
  • ClaraSolis
    ClaraSolis Posts: 58
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    Krakkkers said:
    Cancel your TV license and watch Youtube, catch up apps (not BBC)
    BBC is one of the few channels we actually watch haha. Paid our TV license last month. 
    Don't really use YouTube much, no idea what you would watch on there to be honest?
  • ss2020jd
    ss2020jd Posts: 605
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    I was in this situation when I was renting and there was no aerial at the property. 

     I watched TV solely through streaming. I had a fire TV stick (about £30 one off cost then) and a Now TV stick (basically sky)  and paid £7.00 a month for the entertainment package on that. 

    Now I live somewhere with an aerial I still watch through streaming but have a TV (no box) that has access to Now TV without the stick. The apps on the Tv (and fire Tv stick) include iplayer, itv, channel 4, Netflix, Disney, Apple plus lots of other niche channels. A lot of the main apps have live TV option as well without a need for an aerial. The only time I now use the aerial is when the broadband is down. 

    With catch-up I don’t need to record but if I wanted to I could get a USB storage stick for the TV and record on that. 

    I switch paying between the subscription services based on when there is whole series I want to watch rather than subscribing to them all.  
  • Cornucopia
    Cornucopia Posts: 16,135
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    edited 30 January at 8:46AM
    The underlying question is whether you can live without recording (but will use Catch-up instead).

    If you can't you're going to need to get an aerial or dish (or try again to get some sense out of VM).   Do you really need 350 Mbps broadband - that may be their sticking point.  They are giving some good deals on 250 ATM.  I have 250 Mbps with VM (no TV) for £23pm, and others are reporting deals as low as £19pm on the VM deals thread.  

    If you can manage without recording, then there are plenty of TV "stick" devices that will give access to all the streaming apps. 
  • ss2020jd
    ss2020jd Posts: 605
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    Some good information here on recording, pausing etc TV using a USB stick:

  • We have been with Virgin since 2017, every year going through the hassle of trying to get a discount when they put up the price. We were on a TV + broadband + landline deal (Maxit TV + M200 Fibre Broadband + Talk Weekends) which somehow included TNT Sports. With discounts, I was paying £35 a month. 

    It has now gone up to £85 a month. I spoke to a rep on Whatsapp, and they offered me M350 broadband, Mega TV and weekends chatter for £51, or £61 to include TNT Sports. We don't use the landline, but we do need decent broadband for my job (plus for gaming and streaming), and my husband does like watching the football, but he's willing to give that up if needed.

    Now, one of the reasons we have a TV package is because we don't have a working aerial. We had it fixed once, but it stopped working again shortly after. I think it would need to be completely reinstalled/relaid for it to work, which just seems a bit pointless in this digital age. So we got Virgin because then we didn't need an aerial to watch TV. We like that we can record shows and use the TV guide to browse channels. 

    If you don't have an aerial, is there any way to watch and record channels without having to buy a package from Sky or Virgin? I know we can get BBC and Channel 4 through our TV/PS5, but it's not really the same. Basically, I need a Freeview box that simply connects to the internet rather than an aerial. :sweat_smile:


     

    A couple of things to check first. 

    The Internet/Broadband

    So firstly, can you get an Internet connection (preferably a Full Fibre "FTTP/FTTH" connection) from a provider other than Virgin Media? For instance is the property able to get a Broadband connection via an Openreach based provider (e.g. BT, Sky, Vodafone, EE, Zen, Cuckoo, TalkTalk etc), CityFibre based provider (e.g. Vodafone) or Alternative network (e.g. regional networks like B4RN, Hyperoptic etc)? Even on the more expensive Openreach network providers, a Gigabit connection/900Mbps broadband could be had for around the £55 a month mark, some even on rolling 30 day contracts (and no price rises). 

    Or alternatively check if you can get a strong 4G signal at home from one of the mobile providers and explore getting an Unlimited Data SIM (on rolling contract, or fixed price 12 months contract) and that you can get high speeds (each 4K stream per device would need around 30Mbps of speed). Again, there are providers who do such SIMs for prices around £15-30 a month. Such SIMs could be placed in certain Routers or little Mifi hotspot. 

    Money saved on either of these options for Broadband (if available) could then be spent on a dedicated wired/wireless Mesh system to disperse that speed around the home.

    TV

    Option 1 - Paying monthly

    Are you happy without Recording? If you definitely need the ability to Record, then there is BT (or EE) who do Broadband and TV packages with their TV Pro box. The caveat will be (until the new regulations come into place in the Summer of 2024) there will be CPI based price rises on a long 24 month contract for both the Broadband and TV package. Sometimes there are offers for the TV component of the package. The channels come via the Internet with a Freeview style TV guide and the main box has the ability to Record as well. You have to have BT, or EE Broadband respectively if you go with them. 

    If you don't need Recording, there's "Sky Stream". It's rather pricey on its own, but gives you the Freeview channels and certain Sky Channels via a TV guide via the Internet either on a rolling contract, or long 18 month contract. Sky Broadband is not required. Though technically if you get Full Fibre broadband from them, the broadband gets discounted as well and makes the price perhaps more palatable, though it's then on a long 18 month contract and subject to price rises. 

    With either of these two choices you can add and drop packages on a monthly basis. 

    Option 2 - Another TV option with one off cost

    Apparently, there is going to be an Internet based version of Freeview called "Freely" coming out this year, but the details are not completely clear yet as to how one can get it (except in future televisions where it will be supposedly built in). If you definitely don't need Recording, there is potentially another way you could do it though.

    You can buy an Apple TV 4K Box for £169 (from either Apple directly who sometimes offer a Gift Card with purchase, or any retailer like Amazon, Currys, John Lewis etc). This TV box has a lot of processing power and operates smoothly when flicking through menus and loading up everything. This is what makes the difference. It genuinely is super fast to use and other than the 2-3 second boot up when it switches on, there is practically no wait time to respond to your commands on the TV remote. Unlike various Smart TVs. The User Interface layout is also nice and clear with big icons for the apps without the adverts that you get from the likes of Amazon or a lot of other streaming devices cluttering up the screen. 

    You can download all your apps for watching the Freeview channels via the Internet much like the TV/PS5 method that you mentioned above onto your Apple TV 4K box.

    Then you can purchase as a one off the "TV Launcher" app and position it wherever you want on the Home Screen. From what I read, the App costs around the £4.99 mark. It effectively acts as a "TV guide" listing all the channels and information like a regular Freeview TV guide. In addition, for the main channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, UKTV (Yesterday, Dave etc), you can effectively just click the programme on the TV guide within the TV Launcher and in most cases, it just automatically opens up the relevant app and the Live Feed for that Channel for you giving you a "TV guide" experience if required. Of course, alternatively you can just go to each App for each Channel individually. The speed of the Apple TV makes the difference versus using a Smart TV where the Android or manufacturer operating system often gets clunky, slows down or freezes up etc and doesn't have the processing power. 

    This method is purely one off costs and you basically get Freeview TV via the Internet. You can of course also opt for an Amazon Firestick 4K Max or Firecube or something equivalent. Some might prefer those, though I do not think there is an App for a TV guide, and those operating systems have a lot of adverts on the Home Screen. 

    The money saved each month could effectively fund rolling subscriptions for you to dip in and out of any streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, BT/TNT Sports or NOW TV which you could use to watch Football matches or whatever you wish whenever you wish without being locked into contracts. 

    Like I said, apparently a "Freely" service is coming though it is unclear as of writing as to whether there will be an App released for pre-existing devices in the coming year.

    First things first though is to get an Internet contract for the best possible speed at a good price. Land based broadband or wireless mobile broadband are potential options (the latter could also be used as a temporary measure until other Land based broadband becomes available).  

    Anyway, hope that helps. 
  • ClaraSolis
    ClaraSolis Posts: 58
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    The underlying question is whether you can live without recording (but will use Catch-up instead).

    If you can't you're going to need to get an aerial or dish (or try again to get some sense out of VM).   Do you really need 350 Mbps broadband - that may be their sticking point.  They are giving some good deals on 250 ATM.  I have 250 Mbps with VM (no TV) for £23pm, and others are reporting deals as low as £19pm on the VM deals thread.  

    If you can manage without recording, then there are plenty of TV "stick" devices that will give access to all the streaming apps. 
    We are currently on 250 and I told them we don't need anything higher, but the deals I was offered were only for 350. I think it's just another tactic to get you locked into a higher priced package, so when the price rise comes up you end up paying more. 

    ss2020jd said:
    Some good information here on recording, pausing etc TV using a USB stick:

    Thank you, I'll have a look into this. :)


    Anyway, hope that helps. 
    Thank you for the very elaborate advice! I really appreciate it!  :)

    I've had a look online and we can get CityFibre, Toob and Vodafone are two of the options. Toob offers 900 mbps for £25, just not familiar with them as I think they are fairly new. I'm not sure about going with a 4G connection, as my phone connection isn't always reliable. 

    I had discounted BT as I thought you needed an internet to watch TV with them, but have they now got the option to watch without an aerial as well? If so, I could keep that as a backup option when discussing my package with Virgin. 

    I did notice the new Freeview service Freely being mentioned online, but not much has been announced yet as to when it will be available and what exactly it will offer. It does sound like something I would be interested in, though!

    I will also have a look at the Firestick and Apple TV etc. We have a very old Firestick connected to a very old TV and it's a bit !!!!!!/slow, but that might just be because it's quite old now.  :D
  • The underlying question is whether you can live without recording (but will use Catch-up instead).

    If you can't you're going to need to get an aerial or dish (or try again to get some sense out of VM).   Do you really need 350 Mbps broadband - that may be their sticking point.  They are giving some good deals on 250 ATM.  I have 250 Mbps with VM (no TV) for £23pm, and others are reporting deals as low as £19pm on the VM deals thread.  

    If you can manage without recording, then there are plenty of TV "stick" devices that will give access to all the streaming apps. 
    We are currently on 250 and I told them we don't need anything higher, but the deals I was offered were only for 350. I think it's just another tactic to get you locked into a higher priced package, so when the price rise comes up you end up paying more. 

    ss2020jd said:
    Some good information here on recording, pausing etc TV using a USB stick:

    Thank you, I'll have a look into this. :)


    Anyway, hope that helps. 
    Thank you for the very elaborate advice! I really appreciate it!  :)

    I've had a look online and we can get CityFibre, Toob and Vodafone are two of the options. Toob offers 900 mbps for £25, just not familiar with them as I think they are fairly new. I'm not sure about going with a 4G connection, as my phone connection isn't always reliable. 

    I had discounted BT as I thought you needed an internet to watch TV with them, but have they now got the option to watch without an aerial as well? If so, I could keep that as a backup option when discussing my package with Virgin. 

    I did notice the new Freeview service Freely being mentioned online, but not much has been announced yet as to when it will be available and what exactly it will offer. It does sound like something I would be interested in, though!

    I will also have a look at the Firestick and Apple TV etc. We have a very old Firestick connected to a very old TV and it's a bit !!!!!!/slow, but that might just be because it's quite old now.  :D

    Oh that's awesome.

    That's really lucky then as that "alternative network" provider is cheaper than Openreach providers right now. If you have a FTTP provider available, then you won't need the 4G option for home broadband. That was a potential plan B.

    So I would say go for Toob for £25 a month for the 900Mbps service. That covers your internet. Vodafone (or any mobile provider with a strong signal) could be utilised for a mobile phone plan to cover Calls. You can always look at MNVOs who use the main network for SIM contracts as well (as an example on Vodafone, there is Lebara) who are usually cheaper/fixed price and short contracts. 

    And for TV, I would highly recommend the Apple TV 4K yes. It's a one off cost and works wonders. And for the "TV guide" experience, there is the TV Launcher app (again a one off cost). You won't have any monthly costs for Freeview channels then. All the money saved on the broadband bill can go towards any technology like Mesh systems, computers, the new Apple TV, or for streaming subscriptions to NOW Sports/Netflix/Amazon Prime etc as and when.

    Yes, I had a very old Firestick and it was painfully slow! The Apple TV 4K and Firecube are much quicker than older Firesticks or Smart TVs in general because they have a lot more processing power. I would say the Apple edges it in terms of ease of use and a cleaner operating system/interface. It's almost like an instant response when you press the Remote, smooth flowing menus as you scroll through the screen and makes for a nice experience. The screensavers are also nice. It'll probably last years and can also just be connected to any new TV in the future. I believe there are Youtuber reviewers showing even with voice functionality just holding the Voice button on the Remote and saying "BBC One Live" just opens up the BBC One HD Live feed from iPlayer instantly which is impressive. The Apple Operating system on their TV box just looks a little cleaner than Amazon's or Google Android TV without the various large adverts covering most of the Home Screen. As in the actual App icons are the prominent ones. It'll probably boil down to which "ecosystem" most devices are in the home. All the Apple devices, Amazon Alexa devices, Samsung devices and Google devices connect with their own respective brands very simply.

    Yes as for Freely, I also cannot see much online as of yet. It sounds like they will either offer it as a new Tuner within new TVs over time, or some type of Smart TV Box to buy. Hopefully as an App for pre-existing devices. As for BT, yes their TV Pro package is coupled with BT Broadband and you can either use an aerial or the Internet (via Ethernet or Wifi) for receiving TV channels. However, given you have to pay a monthly fee, it's really only for if one needed a Recording box. For BT Sports channels though, I believe there is a rolling 30 day subscription (it's undergone some rebranding as TNT Sports apparently) which is via an App just like Netflix and you don't need to be either a BT Broadband (or TV) customer. Sky Sports can be accessed via the Now TV app and rolling subscriptions also if required. 

    All the best!
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