(Pocket-lint) - It is inevitable that paid TV bills have been rising rapidly in recent times, especially with increasing numbers of TV channels and enlarged costs of sports rights. However, there are other options to a monthly TV subscription, ones that give you access to many of your favourite shows, films and events but for less cash. And you don't have to sign a long term contract either.
If you're in the market for a new TV or happy to shell out a one-time payment on a new set-top-box, you can build your own TV package that suits you but doesn't cost the earth each month.
Step 1: Decide on a new TV or set-top-box
When you're considering a new TV or set-top-box you should think about the sort of shows, events and films you want to see on it. Whether you're opting for a 4K HDR TV or just adding a connected box to give your existing set smart features, you might find that you can live without a paid monthly plan with one of the big TV providers and opt for free-to-air services, supplemented with catch-up and on demand content.
There are plenty of Smart TVs and boxes available that provide access to free to use catch-up services, plus some paid movie and entertainment streaming platforms. These could ensure your monthly bills are much lower.
Step 2: Ensure it has Freeview Play and other catch-up services
Freeview Play is an extended service by the free-to-air digital TV provider in the UK. It too is a free technology, although you do need to ensure the TV or box you choose has access to it. Many TVs from Panasonic, LG, Finlux and JVC and set-top-boxes from Panasonic and Humax are Freeview Play enabled. You can find out a complete list of compatible devices here.
Freeview Play is the system that simplifies catching up with your favourite programmes. Most but not all TVs have access to the major broadcasters' catch-up services, but Freeview Play-enabled sets and boxes guarantee it. They ensure you have access to catch-up content from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and UKTV's suite of channels: Dave, Yesterday, Really and Drama.
With Freeview Play all you have to do is scroll backwards through the electronic programme guide (EPG), click on the content you want to watch and it will open the respective app and play the show automatically.
All you need is a half-decent broadband connection to link your TV or set-top-box to. You can do so wirelessly with most devices.
Step 3: Choose your add-ons
You might be thinking that it's all well and good, but the terrestrial channels don't give you the same access to films and/or sporting events that you currently watch from the main providers. However, you can opt to pay for more content from other services on an ad-hoc basis. For example, if you have bought a new LG Smart TV, you can get your main catch-up content through Freeview Play and pay a non-contract, occasional fee for Now TV - Sky's own on demand platform.
Now TV offers different Passes that can be paid for when you want, rather than be locked into a long term contract. It has Movies, Entertainment, Sports and Kids packages, which give access to an enormous amount of content. Because you're only paying for a day, week or 30-days access, you can only choose to subscribe when what you want to watch is on.
If you're a big Game of Thrones fan, you can pay for the Entertainment Pass for three months or however long the show lasts, and then stop subscribing after it finishes. It is only on Sky Atlantic but you don't need a lengthy Sky contract to see it. Football and other sports can be paid for in this way too. If you only want to watch a specific match, you can even pay for just one day's access to keep down cost.
Apps like Amazon Video and Netflix also provide limitless access to thousands of TV shows and films to watch whenever you want, and all for a much lower fee than a conventional TV package.
Step 4: Count your pennies
And that's all there is to it. With a Freeview Play device you can ensure you are getting a free, simple catch-up system that keeps you on top of all the terrestrial TV shows you don't want to miss, while other paid services can expand your entertainment choice dramatically, but without breaking the bank.
By supplementing your viewing rather than paying extra for channels you don't watch, you can ensure you keep the monthly bills down to a minimum.