With so many TV packages to choose from, as well as a host of online options, armchair sport fans are in their element nowadays. Broadcasters show sporting action from tournaments around the world, so there’s always something for sport lovers to watch.
So what’s the best way to watch televised sport in the UK and which packages include coverage of which events?
Free-to-Air Television Channels
The traditional “terrestrial” channels (the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) still broadcast a great deal of sport, including the events known as the “Crown Jewels”. Once you have a television licence, you can watch these channels free of charge via Freeview or online.
The organisers of the “Crown Jewels”, which include the Olympics, the Paralympics, the Grand National, the FA Cup final, the Wimbledon finals and more, signed up to a voluntary code in 2009, pledging to give free-to-air channels the rights to at least show highlights of the events, and agreeing to use 30 percent of the money received from the deals to fund grassroots sporting projects.
In addition to the “Crown Jewels”, the terrestrial channels also broadcast many other sporting events, including international football matches, the 6 Nations rugby tournament, golf championships, horse racing and more. Channel 4 also has the rights to broadcast ten of the 2017 Formula 1 season’s races live, along with highlights of the other ten, so you can see plenty of the action as the teams and drivers battle for this year’s trophies.
Customers of the BBC and ITV’s FreeSat service, a satellite alternative to Freeview, which is free of charge after you have purchased a satellite dish and either a FreeSat box or television with FreeSat built in, can also watch some free sport channels. Currently, these include a cycling channel (“Bike”), and an extreme and niche sports channel (“FrontRunner”). Sky also offers its own version of the FreeSat service.
Dedicated fans who can afford to do so may want to subscribe to paid services, as these have a much wider offering. One of the most famous is Sky Sports. With eight dedicated channels, Sky can broadcast action from a host of big sporting events.
In 2016/17, its football schedule included 126 live Premiership football games, and it also has the rights to broadcast every F1 race of the 2017 season live. Subscribers can also watch action from the World Rugby Sevens, as well as international cricket test matches, golf championships and more.
Subscribers to Sky’s basic packages can’t access the main Sky Sports channels, but do get access to other channels, such as Eurosport and Motors TV.
BT Sport has really taken off in recent years and has become a serious competitor for Sky. This season, BT Sport’s schedule included live coverage of 42 Premiership football matches and every UEFA Champions League tie. Subscribers can also enjoy watching live coverage of many Aviva Premiership Rugby matches, all MotoGP races and the 2017/18 Ashes.
Getting the Best UK TV Sports Package
The great thing is that most options are now flexible, so you don’t need to choose just one service. Sky customers can add BT Sport’s channels to their package, while Virgin Media customers can pay to access both Sky and BT channels.
If you have access to Now TV, you can even get a daily or monthly pass to watch Sky Sports, enabling you to watch one-off events or tournaments without needing to subscribe to the full package.
Most services also have associated apps, so you can watch your favourite sporting stars on your tablet or smartphone while you’re on the move too.
The best package for you will depend upon your budget, the type of sport you like to watch and the amount of time you’re likely to spend watching it. However, it’s worth taking time to compare a range of different packages to ensure that you get maximum value for money.
Which service do you think is the best? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook, or add a comment.