I have been a Sky customer since the days of analogue satellite. I originally subscribed mainly for the sports and movie channels, but dropped the movies in favour of DVD rentals (see this previous post). I upgraded to SkyHD in May and was hugely impressed with the superior clarity (particularly football), but all this comes at too high a price. Subscribing to the sports premium mix to watch the occasional FA Premier League football match was costing me Â£19 a month. I probably would not have cared so much had my team actually won the odd game, but paying Â£228 for the ‘privilege’ of regular disappointment was a bitter pill to swallow. As a result I jettisoned sports and reduced my subscription level to the minimal two entertainment mixes (Â£15/month) and Sky+ service (Â£10/month).
Â£300 a year is still quite a chunk of change to hand over on top of the mandatory annual Â£131.50 TV Licence fee. I am a great advocate of the Sky+ service, which has undeniably revolutionised viewing habits, and I was quite prepared to pay the tenner a month for the simplicity and convenience that it provides. However when I analysed what I was actually recording the vast majority were programmes from the terrestrial broadcasters.
So what was I paying Sky for when I so rarely watched their programming?
After some careful research I purchased a Humax PVR-9200T (affectionally dubbed “Hummy” by it’s devotees). This set top box comprises a terrestrial twin-tuner and capacious 160GB hard disk for recordings. It has a similar programme guide and planner to the Sky+ system and works every bit as well, in fact I would argue that it includes more functionality that Sky+ and so far has proven to be more stable.
I receive all the regular terrestrial channels that you would expect (BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel4, five) – plus some others that perhaps you would not expect if you were not a Freeview aficionado: BBC3, E4, Film4, ITV2/3/4, Sky News and Sky Sports News. I didn’t even receive Sky Sports News with my basic Sky subscription!
So I am now a happy Freeview user, with no perceived differences in viewing choice or quality and for no monthly outlay. Ask yourself, is it really worth Â£300 a year for 24-hour Simpsons?
There is a life after Sky – be free!