Savings of up to €500 are available if you switch to the TV and broadband combination that suits you best, says Sinead Ryan
Whether it's watching Marty in action on Dancing with the Stars or settling in to see Louis on Ireland's Got Talent, a cosy night in front of the television is what January means to most of us.
But what if the kids want to watch cartoons, or your other half prefers a film? Many homes now have multiple screens so everyone can do just that. And whether it's Netflix on the laptop or terrestrial on the telly, it means you're paying two bills: one for the cable and another for your high-speed broadband.
Cobbling together your packages seems the obvious solution, but many of us still doggedly pay Sky or Virgin for one, and Vodafone or Eir for the other. Is it worthwhile and how can you save some money by switching your TV/broadband bundle?
'Dual-Play' deals are on offer from all the major providers. Some require you to tack on a home phone to the bundle, but as all calls could be free, this is rarely a problem. Then, they become 'Triple-Play' which sounds better in the marketing literature! If they add in a mobile phone too, it's akin to putting all your eggs in one basket, but you may get a better bargain if you shop around. Sadly, this isn't called 'Four Play', but a more circumspect 'Quad-Play' option.
Expert Eoin Quinn of Switcher.ie says, "Generally, providers will offer a discount if you bundle products, and you'll also only have to deal with one provider - and one monthly bill - instead of several.
"The best way to make savings on your broadband and TV is to switch to a new provider with an introductory offer: if you haven't switched in a while, you could save hundreds of euro immediately by doing so.
"At the moment, with the various January sales that are going on, there are savings of up to €500 available on some plans. Contracts are generally 12-18 months long and you'll be free to switch again at the end of your contract term if you want to make further savings."
But many people are reluctant to switch if it means new boxes, dishes and cables.
Mr Quinn's advice is that even if you're happy with what your current provider is offering, you can still make savings by swapping for different services.
"If you spend most of your time streaming content via the likes of Netflix, NOW TV or Amazon Prime, you will make huge savings by ditching your TV plan, switching to a broadband-only plan and simply paying your subscription to your preferred streaming service," he explains.
"Likewise, if you have a home phone that you never use, you could be paying line rental each month for the privilege. If you don't use this element of your plan, you should cancel it.
"You could also take a look at your plan and usage, and if there are elements of your plan that no longer suit you, try getting in touch with your provider to see if they can offer you a deal that suits better."
To get a signing-on deal with say, Virgin Media or Sky, you'll normally be expected to sign up for a minimum of 12 months. This is why so many discounted offers are only over the first three or six months: they know they'll have the higher amount for at least half the contract.
Others, such as Vodafone or Eir, might contract you in for 18 months, but may be cheaper for the first year.
Always ask how long you'll need to pay. If you decide to break the contract mid-term, you may be hit with a hefty 'exit fee'.
However, if the provider suddenly increases the price during your contract time, by law you have the right to leave and switch to another company without a break fee being charged. You may have to say so in writing and within a specified time, but it must send you correspondence outlining this.
What's right for me?
It can be hard to know which provider is best. Some don't operate country-wide, and Sky dishes may be banned if you live in an apartment block which may be tied to one provider, so that can be restrictive.
Switcher.ie's comparison tool will show you by location what TV bundles are on offer in your area.
In Arklow, for instance, Sky's Original TV and Broadband costs €64.50 per month, while EirVision is €50 with a free tablet.
In Kilkenny city Vodafone is €25 p/m for six months, including anytime calls, while in Inchicore, D8, Virgin's €59 p/m plan has 240 mbps broadband with free mobile calls.
Some providers will offer freebies to entice switchers. While all will give you 50+ television channels, you'll normally pay extra for film or sports packages, or multi-room viewing so everyone can watch something different.
Savings are made by tailoring the package you actually want, rather than lumping for the one that looks the cheapest.
Sports, by far, are the most expensive element, so if you don't watch them, you should definitely not be paying for them.
The Eir Sport pack is free, for instance, with its Vision TV plan, but you're signing up for 18 months. Virgin Media has the highest broadband speeds but you'll pay more after the first six months, while Vodafone doesn't offer a stand-alone TV service, but you will get a heavy initial discount.
It's all about finding out what's right for you, and your viewing habits.
And remember, it may be that the ultimate 'switch' for you is to ditch cable altogether and stick with online providers and Saorview for the basic Irish channels for free.
How to switch TV and broadband
Check your current broadband speed on bonkers.ie to see what you’re getting.
Check TV/broadband bundle options on switcher.ie for your area to see what providers are available.
Carefully read the terms and conditions of switching — contract length, freebies, discounts and the full price you’ll pay in a year.
Contact your current provider to see if it’ll match the lower offer; if not, switch, but only if you’re out of contract.