Ever since the digital switchover, Freeview TV has ruled the kingdom, which is great if you love ITV4, Dave and the shopping channels. However, those of us who don't want to cough up for premium services like Sky have been left out in the cold. But for those of us without oodles of cash, there are other options, and TalkTalk's TV is one of them.
So what exactly is TalkTalk offering with its TV service? Think of it as the best bits of Freeview, on-demand TV and premium channels, all crammed into a single package. The service centres around the free YouView box, which lets you watch and record live and on-demand TV; however, there's also the option to add on premium TV channels on a flexible, ad-hoc basis, without having to sign your life away with a giant monthly contract. Plus, as part of the £10/pm charge, you get unlimited broadband and phone service.
So (pause for breath), what makes all that better than bog-standard Freeview? Well, with a YouView box you're getting god-like access to catchup TV, for starters. YouView, in case you're not familiar, combines all the on-demand TV services you know and love (iPlayer and that ilk) into one package. You can either search for a specific programme, or browse back in the electronic programming guide to find last night's Eastenders. YouView also lets you access a fairly hefty back collection of TV, with 4000 shows and films from places like ABC On Demand and Sony.
Moreover, a YouView box also has a hard drive inside, which lets you record, pause and rewind programmes (or fast-forward through the ads). You can do that on any Freeview channel, so you can say goodbye to having to watch the sobbish backstories on Britain's Got Talent and skip straight to Simon Cowell berating a small child.
Want a third reason to upgrade (since good things, like buses, always come in threes)? The YouView box receives and records Freeview channels in HD, so if you're still stuck watching TV in SD (you poor 2006-ite you), you'll get bumped up to that sweet high definition.
Ok, so sure, you can get a YouView box without signing up to TalkTalk TV. But, it'll run you a whopping £299 upfront, which is, well, a lot of money. And, if you skip on TalkTalk's TV service, you're also passing up on another key feature: the ability to add or remove premium channels on an ad-hoc basis.
Normally, the footie on Sky Sports is exclusive to, you guessed it, Sky, but Boosts lets you add or remove premium TV services at will, without having to sign a contract or anything. That adds a degree of flexibility you don't get with other TV services -- if you only want a subscription to watch one TV series or nail-biting week of sports matches, you can. Individual Boosts can be had for as little as £5 per month, and each Boost contains a bundle of otherwise-unavailable channels.
For example, the Kids Boost has stuff like Nickleodeon and the Cartoon Network, and the Sky Sports Boost has the full gamut of Sky Sports channels (obviously). Considering a day's access to Sky Sports will run us plebs £9.99 per day, £30 for a month's access is a pretty great deal. Of course, it's not just kids' stuff and Sports -- there's Entertainment, Movies, Music; the whole nine yards.
More of a movie buff? TalkTalk's still got you covered, with exclusive access to Lovefilm's Box Office service. There's a library of more than 4000 films and TV box sets, instantly viewable on a pay-per-play basis.
All in all, it's a fairly compelling package. Yes, on-demand services and Freeview PVRs are available elsewhere -- heck, you can pick a YouView box up on Amazon -- and sure, you can subscribe to Sky Sports on a daily basis if you've got a small mountain of tenners down the back of the sofa. But you won't find it all so cheaply elsewhere -- especially not when you consider the broadband and phone stuff that you get for your fifteen sterling pounds. Yeah, splurging on TV is a bit of a luxury, but it's an affordable luxury -- dearer than Freeview, but a damn sight cheaper than premium services, that's for sure.