Since undergoing a makeover back in 2012, TalkTalk's burgeoning television service has emerged as a viable fourth horse in the UK TV race. But does it really compare to the might of Sky, BT and Virgin?
TalkTalk TV was originally pitched as something of a budget alternative to the "big three", offering users a streamlined package within a more affordable price-range. This mission statement has since been - if not abandoned, then at least revised - commensurate with the addition of some extra channels and a slight cost increase.
Of course, users are still free to pick and choose to which channels they want to subscribe, but the premium of Sky's expensive sports and movies packages unfortunately effects the average user as well as devout Premier League followers. You are essentially paying for a greater array of choice.
Despite this, the standard TalkTalk package - which includes a serviceable broadband internet connection and a telephone landline (TV is currently unavailable as a standalone subscription) - will still only set you back a base fee of £23.95 a month, with new customers afforded a generous 25% discount for the first six. If you want fibre broadband then the monthly prices rises to £25.95 per month.
The TV Plus box (nominally £100 worth of kit) that comes with a TalkTalk subscription now boasts a little over 70 channels, which is some way short of the 400+ available with Sky - though many of these, it should be noted, cater to particularly niche audiences and will go largely unmissed by most.
You can also supplement the basic package with various "boosts" - including a selection of general Sky channels (Sky , Sky Sports News, et al) for £5 a month, a £10 broad entertainment set (think Comedy Central, MTV, SyFy) and some kids TV for £5 - the latter of which is currently being offered at half price for the first year and a half. Those prime sports and movies packages, meanwhile, tally in at £30 and £15 respectively (and are best avoided if you are on a tight budget).
Happily, users are given the opportunity to update their subscriptions on a monthly basis rather than being forced into committing to rigid long-term contracts. This allows you to test-drive a particular channel boost and ensure your monthly usage justifies the cost, or perhaps even set your subscriptions up to correspond with the run time for your favourite TV series.
On the downside, those who opt for Essentials TV - the cheapest option - will find their catch-up options fairly limited; live television may not be rewinded more than 30 minutes, and programmes are only available for a second viewing one week after their original air time, with no option to record. The bumper Plus subscription is more compatible with a busy lifestyle, though it is not without some extra cost.
TalkTalk's rather dubious customer service record also bears mentioning. As recently as this year, subscribers have complained that their grievances regarding substandard connection speeds have gone unaddressed, while the ease and immediacy with which the company are able to alter subscriptions appears not to extend to ending them outright: users looking to switch providers can expect hefty cancellation fees.
Prices on all contracts are fixed until 2022 so this is worth mentioning when thinking if we should give Talktalk the green light or no.
With low start-up fees and short-term contracts, TalkTalk TV represents simplicity and flexibility at a price matched only by BT (with the latter currently boasting the kind of comprehensive customer support TalkTalk are yet to perfect). For the casual television viewer, it is a more than palatable service - but obsessive fans will probably be better served with Sky or BT, which offer a larger volume of channels, exclusive content and better catch-up options.
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