Sunday, January 16, 2011

Musings about TV channels

Oh hey! It's blog time! (not that there is a scheduled time for blogging since I rarely have more than 140 characters to say).

A long time ago, in a room where I'm sitting now, I had Freeview for watching TV. I still do, but I don't use it much. I heard about this amazing new service called "Top Up TV". You bought a viewing card for your Freeview box with a slot, and then paid £8 a month and got access to about 10 channels like UKTV Gold, E4 (before it became free) and a few others. I thought this was awesome, especially since you got access to Cartoon Network, Boomerang and Toonami (before it closed down). This was great because my parents refused to get Sky because it was so expensive (and still is) and the only other times I could watch these channels was at my grandparents' house (who had Telewest cable) or at a friend's house who had Sky. So I got my parents to reduce my pocket money and get me that instead.

It was awesome for a while. Since the channels were timeshared, sometimes at rubbish hours, I would record the programming on some channels either overnight or while I was at school onto a VHS on longplay mode (around six to eight hours) then watch it when I wake up/get back home. It was awesome....until it started going wrong.

First it was E4. E4 became free on Freeview. I wasn't too fussed at the time since I was too young to like any of the stuff on there. Then, some channels got less hours. In the end, even Top Up TV themselves realized that it would be pointless to continue. They're now doing some crazy on demand thing that would be cool if the programming was better.

That's not the point of this blog post. I'm missing watching Cartoon Network, Boomerang and UKTV Gold, among others. So I started thinking, could I justify buying a subscription to Sky? I have a satellite already installed into my room for Freesat, but what about other channels?

Well, Sky sell their packages with "packs" of channels: Variety pack, Children's Pack, Knowledge Pack, Style and Culture Pack, Music Pack and News & Events Pack. They also have their premium Movies Packs, as well some Sports channels. They don't have a world cinema movie channel, and sports are a waste of time and money, so I'll ignore them.

Currently, Sky are charging £19.50 for one normal pack, then £1 per pack after that. So minimum a month is £19.50. But what's actually in these packs? Sky only has "X Pack includes..." then lists some channels. "Includes" says to me, that's not all of them. So I went to ask Uncle Jimmy over at Wikipedia. There's a LOT of channels. So I'm gonna list ones that are not free that I would watch on a regular basis, along with which pack they are in:

Kerrang! - Music Pack (they used to be good but some say they're rubbish now)
Cartoon Network - Children's Pack
Boomerang - Children's Pack
Sky1 - Variety Pack
Sky2 - Variety Pack
G.O.L.D. - Variety Pack
Comedy Central - Variety Pack
FX - Variety Pack (they are now home to Adult Swim)

I'd like to say Nickelodeon too, but the only thing I'd watch on there is Fairly Odd Parents.

So that's 8 channels which are NOT free-to-air/view and which aren't available for free through Freeview.

In order to get all those channels, I would need the Music Pack, the Children's Pack and the Variety Pack. That's £21.50 a month. For 8 channels, that's roughly £2.69 a month per channel. If I include Nick, a few +1 channels and Comedy Central Extra, that works out at £1.43 a month per channel. HOWEVER, Sky don't offer the non-plus box any more. So you HAVE to get the Sky+ box. That generally makes the +1 channels obsolete.

To make things worse, you then have to pay £49 for the Sky+ box (unless you sign up for Sky Broadband and Phone, which I know is bloody awful) and a £30 set-up. So that's £79 one-off cost as well.

So, taking into account that £79 one-off fee, that's £337 for a year. Or the equivalent of £28 a month. For 8 channels, that's £3.50 per month per channel.

I don't think so Sky.


  1. Anonymous6:02 pm

    Many people boycott Sky because of the way they treat their workers. Some would say "ride roughshod", I couldn't possibly comment.

    Also their % of media ownership (in many countries, not just the UK) is said by some to seriously compromise democratic media. See!/BoycottMurdoch

    Well I'm a little sunbeam of happiness and joy aren't I.

  2. I just think it's too expensive.

  3. As opposed to a Crunchyroll sub, which is £4.40/mth at current rates, for a lot less hours of programming (although
    I know you haven't taken the plunge with that yet either!).

    Sky packs do mean you usually end up with channels you've for no interest in, but their prices aren't totally unreasonable. Lower cost per channel than Virgin Media, for starters.

  4. Thing with Crunchyroll is that it's primarily on demand with the exception of "simulcasts" which may or may not actually be simulcast.

    On crunchy this season are 4 shows I'd actually watch (5 if I was suicidal 'cos I'd watch Lilpri to numb my brain). So, for 4 shows, that's £1.10 per month, per show. But then you've got the back-catalogue of shows for on-demand as well.

    The on-demand thing can also count for both Virgin Media and Sky. If my Internet connection was faster and more reliable (or even just reliable), then I'd take on demand into account.

    Check back in March when my area is supposed to get fibre broadband. I might compare alternate internet-based services then!