BT TV VIP full review
In 2020 BT updated its TV offering, most notably adding Sky channels and bunding literally everything it offers into one mighty VIP package.
Being able to watch Sky channels on your BT TV box without having to stick a satellite dish on the side of your home is pretty handy, and you also get access to Sky content via the NOW TV app on your phone, tablet and other devices.
The package comprises the NOW TV Entertainment Pass, Sky Sports Pass, Sky Cinema Pass, Sport from BT and the AMC HD channel via BT Entertainment. Plus, as of 1 March 2021, there's also Eurosport 1 and 2, which addresses one of the criticisms we originally had with the package.
Of course, all of this is on top of all the Freeview channels that you get via a TV aerial through BT’s 4K set-top box. The box has pre-installed apps for Netflix and Amazon Prime video which you can pay for via your BT bill if you want to. Really, the only notable missing service is Disney+.
The £65 monthly price saves a few pounds compared to subscribing to NOW TV and BT Sport separately, but if you don’t need all those entertainment channels BT offers Big Sport for £40 per month which ditches the Entertainment and Cinema Passes (but now includes Eurosport 1 and 2 as well), or there’s Entertainment (£12) and Big Entertainment (£22) if you’re not into sport. Just note that the HD channels aren’t available in some packages and that none of the Sky channels are available in Ultra HD: that’s limited to BT Sport, Netflix and Amazon Prime.
Also, there’s a one-off £29.99 fee for activation and this includes the delivery of the recordable Ultra HD BT TV box and powerline network adapters, since the box doesn’t have Wi-Fi.
BT has also subtly updated the user interface of its TV box to make it easier to search for shows: there’s now an onscreen keyboard in addition to the traditional SMS-style text entry.
Results from all possible sources are shown, even those for which you don’t have a subscription, and are divided into ‘on now & next’ and ‘on-demand’ so it’s clear whether you can watch something instantly or not.
Plus, since there are so many available channels, you can press the blue button on the remote to filter the channels to see only those you are subscribed to, or only HD channels.
The other major improvement is that on-demand shows you’re watching now appear in the My TV section (above) of the main menu. Previously this only contained shows you’d recorded, but now means you don’t have to remember which app or channel you were watching a particular series on: you just look for the show and select it, and it’ll load the episode and resume playback from wherever you stopped.
Unfortunately, the feature doesn't work with Netflix so you won't be able to use it as a shortcut to continue watching the next episode of The Queen's Gambit or The Crown.
Stream & Record
When it comes to watching live TV, over-the-air channels and those delivered via broadband live together in the EPG, which happens to be one of the best around.
It’s easy to jump forward up to seven days in the future and even for internet channels you still get the same options to set alerts, record a particular show or record the whole series.
Unfortunately, not present among the recent updates is an option to stream recordings to a phone or tablet on your home network, nor any way to download recordings to watch offline on your phone as you can with Sky Q. If you opt for an Extra Box to use with a TV in a different room, which costs £5 per month, you get a non-recordable one and there’s again no way to access recordings on your recordable box.
Remember, too, that if there’s any problem with your broadband connection recordings or live broadcasts could falter or fail. BT also says that your broadband speed will determine whether you can stream internet channels to two boxes simultaneously: it’s recommended that you have at least 23Mbps, and that you might have to switch to an SD version of a channel if two HD streams aren’t working properly.
But Sky and BT Sport channels work exactly like regular channels: you can pause, rewind and fast-forward them.
While you can’t stream recordings from your BT set-top box, you can watch live on your phone or tablet using the NOW TV app or the BT TV app for Sky and BT channels respectively. Plus, there are hundreds of shows, box sets and movies to stream on demand.
Chop and change each month
The VIP package does tie you into a 24-month contract, but you’re free to switch to one of the other TV packages each month, so you can downgrade and upgrade up to 24 times if you really want to.
You can also add bolt-ons to any package which doesn’t already include them. Here’s what’s on offer:
- NOW TV Sky Sports Pass (Daily £9.99, weekly £14.99 and monthly £33.99)
- NOW TV Sky Cinema Pass (£11.99 pm)
- NOW TV Entertainment Pass (£8.99 pm)
- BT Sport (£15 pm)
- BT TV Kids (£5 pm)
- HD & 4K (£5 pm)
- Amazon Prime Video (Six months on us*, then £5.99 pm)
- Netflix (from £5.99 pm)
- NOW TV Kids (£3.99 pm)
- NOW TV hayu (£3.99 pm)
- NOW TV Boost (£3 pm)
If you already get your broadband from BT and would like Sky without switching providers or having to get a satellite dish installed, then the new TV packages – including VIP – are a great option, especially as they’re well integrated into BT’s YouView box.
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