TV and film on demand guide: which streaming service should you choose?

What is the best streaming service in the UK? Netflix, Amazon Prime, BBC Store and more compared

97420

There are so many on demand film and TV services these days that it’s sometimes impossible to know where to start.

Advertisement

Yes, there are the big players like Netflix and Amazon, but do they really give you value for money? And what are the alternatives if you’re after the best service in the UK?

Check out all the options below.

Netflix UK

Do you have to subscribe?

Yes.

How much does it cost?

Netflix starts at £5.99 a month for a basic account and goes up to £8.99 for premium access.

What do you get?

Unlimited access to thousands of films and TV series to stream, all in HD (if you go for standard or premium options.)

Original content?

Yes. Netflix boasts a large number of original series like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Narcos, Marvel’s Jessica Jones and Making a Murderer, as well as shows like Breaking Bad which haven’t aired in full on TV in the UK.

Free trial?

Yes. You can try the service for one month.

Adverts?

Nope.

What can you watch it on?

Your smart TV or using a PS3, Wii, Xbox 360 or any other Netflix-enabled device. Most modern set top boxes will have some kind of Netflix functionality. You can also watch Netflix on any android, Windows or Apple smart phone or tablet.And on your computer. You must be connected to the internet, though. You can watch on up to four screens simultaneously if you have a premium account.

Parental controls?

You can set controls on individual profiles to four maturity levels, or make a “kid friendly” profile for children under 12.

Amazon Prime

Do you have to subscribe? 

No. You can rent or buy movies and TV shows from Amazon Video without a subscription.

But you can subscribe? 

Yes. You can become an Amazon Prime member.

How much does it cost?

Amazon Prime membership costs costs £79 a year, or £7.99 a month.

What do you get?

A monthly membership gets you unlimited access to thousands of movies and TV shows to stream instantly.

Prime membership also gives you access to a whole bundle of services, from free next day delivery, music streaming service Amazon Music, as well as, of course, TV series and films.

Original content? 

Yes. The service boasts Amazon Original Series like Transparent, Hand of God and Man in the High Castle as well as some content exclusive to Amazon Video, like Outlander.

What can you watch it on?

Your Kindle Fire HC, iPad, iPhone, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii, Wii U, smart TV, set-top box and Blu-ray player from LG, Sony and Samsung. And on your computer, of course. If you are buying without a Prime subscription you can also download content for watching whilst offline.

Free trial?

Yes. 30 days. If you’re a student, you can get a six month trial.

Adverts?

No.

Parental controls?

You can apply a pin to authorise video purchases as well as set a restrict content on Amazon Video by classification certificates.

BBC Store

Do you have to subscribe?

No. You can use it as much or as little as you like.

So how does it work?

You can buy BBC content to own digitally and watch again and again. You can purchase individual episodes or entire series, as well as themed collections collated by the BBC.

How much does it cost?

Around £7.99 for a series and £1.89 for single episodes.

What do you get?

Access to hours and hours of BBC content, from the latest shows the day after they’ve been on TV, to classic titles from the archive.

Original content?

Yes. Some of the BBC’s back catalogue is only available on the BBC Store.

What can you watch it on?

You can stream programmes you’ve bought online instantly when signed into BBC Store and BBC iPlayer via your browser on mobile, tablet, PC or Mac. To watch purchases without an Internet connection or when you’re abroad, download them to your PC or Mac using the BBC Store Downloader.

Free trial?

No. But remember you can still catch up on TV from the past 30 days for free on BBC iPlayer.

Adverts?

Nope.

Parental controls?

You can set up a Parental Guidance Lock, which lets you control what content can be viewed from your account. Once activated you will only be able to play ‘G-rated’ content if you have the four digit PIN.

iTunes

Do you have to subscribe?

No, but you do need to download iTunes and sign up for an Apple ID to use the service.

So how does it work?

You can rent or buy films and TV series. When it comes to TV, you can buy individual episodes or entire series – or you can purchase a series pass which gets you every episode as it airs on TV. If you rent a film you have 30 days to start watching – and 48 hours to finish it once you press play.

You can watch purchased content anytime again and again – and you don’t need to be connected to the internet to do so.

How much does it cost? 

Prices vary, but buying an episode of a TV series costs around £1.89 while film rental starts at around £3.49.

What do you get?

Access to brand new releases and thousands of films and TV series.

Original content?

No. But iTunes does offer some films and TV series before any other on demand providers.

What can you watch it on?

Your computer, iPad, iPhone, iPod or Apple TV.

Free trial?

No. But the iTunes store does sometimes offer free episodes or films.

Adverts?

No.

Parental controls?

No. But you can set up parental controls on Apple products to restrict access to certain types of content or for content with certain ratings.

Disney Life

Do you have to subscribe?

Yes.

How much does it cost?

Disney Life costs £4.99 per month.

What do you get?

It’s not just about watching Frozen on repeat. You get unlimited access to all sorts of Disney content, from animated classics to Pirates of the Caribbean. Disney TV series are also available to stream, plus there are games, Disney soundtracks to listen to, digital picture books and novels

Original content?

Yes. Disney Life is the exclusive UK home of Disney Kids TV boxsets.

Free trial?

Yes. You can try the service free for one month.

Adverts?

No.

What can you watch it on?

You need to download the Disney Life app to any Apple and Android device. You can also watch via Airplay and Chromecast. A limited version of the service is available on desktop. You can register up to 10 devices and utilise 4 concurrent streams per account.

You can also access unlimited temporary downloads per device for as long as you have an active DisneyLife account. You can access the content downloaded to your device whilst you are in offline mode for up to 30 days.

Parental controls?

Yes. You choose which content is available on each profile based on the age rating as well as limit screen time. You can set the times of day that each profile will have access to DisneyLife. These can be different for weekdays and weekends. Clever, right?

TalkTalk TV

Do you have to subscribe? 

No.

So how does it work? 

You can rent or buy films and TV series and watch them instantly without a monthly fee. Once you rent something you have 30 days to start watching – and 48 hours to finish it once you press play. Once you own something you can watch it again and again, as long as you are connected to the internet.

How much does it cost? 

Prices vary, but you can rent new film releases from £3.49 and buy episodes of TV series from £1.89.

What do you get?

Access to thousands of TV series and films. And lots of new releases. Often much more quickly than they become available on subscription services.

Original content? 

No. But TalkTalk does offer some films and TV series before any other on-demand providers.

What can you watch it on?

Your computer, smart TV, set-top box, blu-ray player and tablet. You can only watch when you are connected to the internet.

Free trial?

No.

Adverts?

No.

Parental controls?

No.

Now TV

Do you have to subscribe?

Yes, on a daily or monthly basis.

How much does it cost?

You can pay £14.99 for a NOW TV box and hook it up to your TV. Or you can access content through YouView or online.

To access content you buy packages, so the Entertainment Month Pass starts at £6.99, the Sky Movies Pass starts at £9.99 and the Sports Day Pass costs £6.99 (It’s £10.99 for a week and £31.99 for a month). Both the movie and entertainment passes automatically renew unless you cancel them.

What do you get?

You can stream the latest movies or watch live events from Sky’s six sport channels. You can also watch pay TV channels like Sky1, Sky Atlantic, Sky Living, Comedy Central, FOX, Disney and MTV live, catch up on current series or watch whole TV box sets from the beginning.

The Now TV box turns your TV into a smart TV, where you can also watch catch up like BBC iPlayer and All 4.

Original content?

No, but it gives you access to content on paid-for TV channels before it’s available anywhere else.

What can you watch it on?

A Now TV box, LG Smart TV, YouView, Xbox 360, Roku or PS3, as well as android phones and tablets, iPhone, iPad or your computer. You can register four devices and watch two at the same time, but you have to be connected to the internet.

Free trial?

NOW TV offers a 14-day free trail for Sky Movies Pass and Entertainment Pass.

Adverts?

Only brief Sky teasers.

Parental controls?

You can set a parental pin to restrict access to different age certificates.

Hayu

Do you have to subscribe?

Yes, but there’s no contract so you can cancel at any time.

How much does it cost?

£3.99 a month. Or nothing, if you’re a Virgin Media TV XLTiVo customer.

What do you get?

Hayu an all-reality on demand service so it’s jam-packed full of series like Made in Chelsea, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Real Housewives, Don’t Tell the Bride and RuPaul’s Drag Race. You can watch complete box sets, as well as new episodes which debut on the service the same day as they air in the US.

The Hayu app also features shareable, short-form video as well as news about your favourite stars alongside their integrated social media feeds.

Original content?

No, but it gives you access to American series that aren’t available anywhere else in the UK – and new episodes the same day they air in the US.

What can you watch it on?

IOS and android smart phones, tablets, laptops and connected TVs. You must have an internet connection, though. You can’t download Hayu content or watch offline. And you can only watch on one device at any given time.

Free trial?

Yes. You can have a 30-day free trial.

Adverts?

Nope.

Parental controls?

Hayu describes itself as an an 18+ service. You can activate a pin to keep content protected.

BFI Player

Do you have to subscribe?

No, you can rent films from BFI Player as and when you want to watch them. Some of the archive footage is even free of charge.

But you can subscribe?

Yes. You can subscribe to BFI Player+ and stream 100s of film classics.

How does it work?

You can either rent as many or as few films as you like (once purchased you have 30 days to start watching the title, and 48 hours to complete once you’ve started watching) – or you can sign up to BFI Player+. There’s no contract so you can cancel at any time.

How much does it cost?

BFI Player+ costs £4.99 a month. Films start from £2.50 to rent. BFI members get a 15% discount on all film rentals.

What do you get?

BFI Player is home to everything from classic films and new critically-acclaimed releases to gems from the British Film Institute National Archive, which aims to promote and preserve filmmaking.

Original content?

Yes. The BFI is home to some of the world’s most important film collections and much of what is available to watch on the BFI Player is only available there.

What can you watch it on?

BFI Player is available on desktop, android, iPad and iPhone. You can link up to four devices to your account at any one time, but you can only watch one device at a time.

Free trial?

Yes. BFI Player+ offers a 14-day free trial.

Adverts?

No.

Parental controls?

Advertisement

The first time you try to watch a film with an age restriction you’ll be prompted to set up a parental control PIN. You can choose which ratings you want to restrict.