Which streaming service should I get?

The on-demand video market is becoming very crowded - here's our guide to help you choose the best platform for you...

Streaming

With the proliferation of video on-demand streaming platforms, choosing the right service or services for you can be an increasingly daunting task. The original players like Netflix and Amazon Prime have been joined by NOW TV, Britbox, Apple TV+ and Hayu, with Disney+ soon to enter the fray in the UK.

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So, which should you choose? Well that depends on a number of factors, including price, the way you want to watch (whether it’s on your TV or other devices like laptops, tablets and phones), what kinds of shows and films you’re into, and who you’re catering for.

And RadioTimes.com is here to help, with a handy breakdown of everything you need to know about the main paid-for streaming services so you can make that all-important decision…

Netflix

Netflix
Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Price: £5.99-£11.99 a month

Devices to use: Gaming consoles, DVD and Blu-ray players, Smart TVs, set-top boxes, streaming sticks, home theatre systems and mobile phones and tablets

Best for: Original TV programmes and popular films

Despite the ever-increasing competition, Netflix remains the undisputed giant of the streaming industry. The service is something of a trail-blazer in the world of streaming, and has over 10 million subscribers in the UK.

What’s Netflix good for?

Netflix produces such a wealth of original content that even though it occasionally misses the mark there’s enough good stuff to bury the misfires, while a significant catalogue of non-original TV shows and films pads out the platform’s library.

Shows such as Orange is the new Black, Bojack Horseman and Stranger Things have proved their worth over a number of series and the service has also been putting an increasing focus on its film output in recent times.

One criticism that Netflix has faced is that it has been known to cancel shows before they’ve been able to finish – popular cult hit The OA was a recent victim of this strategy, not being renewed after its second season.

What original content does Netflix include? 

As mentioned above, Netflix produces an astronomical amount of original content – ranging from drama series to reality shows to documentaries. In 2018 alone, the platform hosted more than 1,500 hours of new original content – and that figure is only going to rise in the future. The service has also picked up series such as Black Mirror and Arrested Development – previously produced by third parties – as its own original content.

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What non-original content does Netflix include?

As things stand, Netflix has a substantial library of non-original content – comprising both films and TV. However as more streaming services emerge, it is losing some of this content – with Disney content relocating to Disney+ and BBC programmes set to move across to BritBox.

Still, a decent amount of TV shows and films remain – Netflix continues to be the UK home of 21st century classics such as Breaking Bad, Mad Men and Hannibal.

Is Netflix good for families?

Yes! One of many things in Netflix’s favour is that users are easily able to switch their account to the children’s setting – which includes a long list of kid-friendly programmes and films.

Top shows to watch: (*denotes Netflix original)

Bojack Horseman*, Orange is the New Black*, GLOW*, The Crown*, Stranger Things*, Mindhunter*, Mad Men, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Queer Eye*, Our Planet*, Dark*.

Check out our list of the best shows to watch on Netflix.

The Crown

Top films to watch: (*denotes Netflix original)

Roma*, Private Life*, To All The Boys I’ve loved Before*, Goodfellas, Blade Runner 2049, Jaws, Call Me By Your Name, Midnight Cowboy, Shaun of the Dead, Shrek

Check out our list of the 50 best films on Netflix.

Price and subscription details:

 A number of different subscriptions are available, with the most basic starting at £5.99 a month – this gets you access to all of the platform’s content but is limited to one screen at a time per account. HD is also not available with this plan.

The Standard plan is £8.99 a month, and allows you to watch on two screens at once, with HD available. A premium account allows an account to watch on up to four screens simultaneously and also offers ultra HD, and is available for £11.99 a month.

Is a free trial available for Netflix?

Yes – Netflix allows users to trial its platform for 30 days before committing to a plan, although you’ll have to enter your bank details before signing up for the trial.

NOW TV

NOW TV

Price: From £8.99 a month

Devices to use: Xbox One & PlayStation 4, YouView, Roku, NOW TV Box, EE TV, Apple TV, selected LG Smart TV models, blu-ray players and sound bars, Chromecast, Roku  Stick

Best for: Recent prestige shows from Sky and HBO, plus blockbuster films on demand

First launched in 2012, NOW TV is Sky’s on-demand streaming service. It provides users with several options: they can opt for a Sky Entertainment pass, giving them access to TV content, a Sky Cinema pass or a Sky Sports pass – or any combination of these three.

What is NOW TV good for?

NOW TV is an excellent place to catch some of the latest prestige dramas from Sky and HBO -with both juggernauts of TV such as Game of Thrones and more recent critical hits like Succession found here.

If you’re a film fan keen to watch the latest blockbusters soon after they leave the cinema, this might also be the service for you – the films included with a Sky Cinema pass frequently include some of the biggest recent hits, and there’s a decent selection of classics as well.

What original content does NOW TV include?

All Sky originals go straight onto NOW TV, with recent hits including Chernobyl – one of the biggest critical darlings of 2019 – and Patrick Melrose, starring Benedict Cumberbatch amongst the highlights.

What non-original content does NOW TV include?

NOW TV is the first port of call for content produced by US behemoth HBO, including Watchmen, Big Little Lies and Westworld. It is worth noting, however, that this content does not stay on the platform indefinitely – with shows removed from the service a short while after broadcasting.

The platform is also home to an impressive back catalogue of classic shows, such as The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Dexter, so when combined with the excellent and constantly updated selection of films, the NOW TV catalogue is pretty formidable.

Watchmen

Is NOW TV good for families?

NOW TV does include a separate Kids pass – which costs users an additional £3.99 a month, so this is something to bear in mind if you’re looking for entertainment for younger viewers. A Sky Cinema pass does include a broad range of movies that are suitable for the whole family, however.

Top shows to watch: (*denotes Sky originals)

Succession, Chernobyl*, Britannia*, Patrick Melrose*, Big Little Lies, Watchmen, Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, Sex and the City

Check out our list of the best shows on NOW TV. 

Top films to watch:

The Shape of Water, Sunset Boulevard, Ladybird, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, The Apartment, Mission Impossible: Fallout, Groundhog Day, The French Connection, Halloween

Price and subscription details:

If you’re just looking for an entertainment pass, it’s going to cost you a monthly fee of £8.99. The Sky Cinema pass is slightly more pricey, at £11.99 a month – so if you’re looking for both film and TV it’s going to come in at a total monthly cost of £20.98.

As mentioned above, you can also add on a kids pass for an extra £3.99, while a Sky Sports pass is available for £33.99 a month.

Is a free trial available for NOW TV?

NOW TV allow new users a 7-day free trial for the entertainment package – but this is the only trial the service offers.

Amazon Prime Video

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Price: £7.99 a month or £79 for a full year

Devices to use: Smart TVs, blu-ray players, set-top boxes (Roku, Google TV, TiVo, Nvidia Shield), Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, game consoles, Android devices (Prime Video app for Android phones and tablets), iOS devices, Fire phone and Fire tablets

Best for: Original TV shows and recent films 

Amazon introduced Prime Video to the UK back in 2014 – replacing its previous video on-demand service Lovefilm. Since then it has added a host of original and non-original content to its library.

What is Amazon Prime Video good for?

For a long time, Amazon Prime Video has appeared to be Netflix’s closest competitor – and the two platforms do offer a very similar service, with both boasting a good range of original and third-party content across film and TV.

One of the biggest bonuses of Amazon Prime Video – and something that makes it stand out from Netflix – is that a subscription comes with some added Amazon benefits, such as unlimited one-day delivery on products ordered from the Amazon store. So if you’re a frequent Amazon shopper – this might be the one for you.

Prime has also been pushing its sports coverage – it is now the place to watch most tournaments on the ATP tennis circuit, and is preparing to show Premier League football for the first time this Christmas.

And another advantage Amazon has over Netflix is that it offers users the chance to instantly rent or buy films and TV shows that are not included with a subscription – meaning you can expand your choice if you’re willing to spend a little more.

One thing that can sometimes frustrate Amazon users is that not all video content on the service comes under the subscription price, with some additional shows only available at an extra cost.

What original content does Amazon Prime Video include?

Amazon has a good range of original content – including award winning shows such as Homecoming and The Marvellous Mrs Maisel. The channel is also home to motoring show The Grand Tour – which features Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May. More recent Amazon originals include Good Omens (co-produced with the BBC) and Hanna.

Like Netflix, Amazon has also shifted some of its focus towards film – often giving its movies a theatrical release as well as adding them to streaming.

Rachel Brosnahan plays Miriam Maisel in The Marvelous Mrs Maisel

What non-original content does Amazon Prime Video include?

Amazon’s catalogue of classic TV shows is also fairly impressive – with highly regarded shows including The Walking Dead and Vikings and classics such as The X-Files listed among its highlights. Its films library is equally commendable – with both recent hits and classics available with a subscription.

Furthermore, Amazon is particularly good at acquiring shows from other territories to air soon after they have broadcast in their home country. It is through this means that it has brought shows such as Mr Robot and American Gods to a UK audience.

Amazon also recently announced a new partnership with film studio Lionsgate. This deal means the streaming service has exclusive first window streaming rights in the UK for films such as Angel Has Fallen, Rambo: Last Blood, Knives Out, Midway and Bombshell. As Lionsgate was previously partnered with rival Netflix, this new contract represents a huge coup for Amazon.

Is Amazon Prime Video good for families?

There’s a reasonable selection of kids movies on Prime Video – you can see our list of the best of them here.

Amazon also produces a range of original children’s programming, including Kung Fu Panda: The Paws of Destiny and Lost in Oz.

Top shows to watch: (*denotes Amazon original)

American Gods, The Man in the High Castle*, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel*, Good Omens*, The Americans, The Romanoffs*, Mr Robot, Outlander, The Grand Tour

Check out our list of the best shows on Amazon Prime Video.

Top films to watch: (*denotes Amazon original)

Oceans Eleven, Fight Club, Dunkirk, Hereditary, It, Mamma Mia, Manchester by the Sea*, Paddington 2, Inside Llewin Davis, Whiplash

Check out our list of the best films on Amazon Prime Video.

Price and subscription details:

An Amazon Prime membership – which includes not just video but also music, free delivery and a range of other benefits – costs £7.99 a month. Alternatively, you can save if you pay for an entire year’s membership at once, with this coming in at £79 all in.

Is a free trial available for Amazon Prime Video?

Yes – like Netflix, Amazon offers new users a 30-day free trial.

Apple TV+

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces Apple tv+ during a launch event at Apple headquarters on March 25, 2019, in Cupertino, California. (Photo by NOAH BERGER / AFP) (Photo credit should read NOAH BERGER/AFP/Getty Images)

Price: £4.99 a month

Devices to use: iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Mac, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and some new sets from Samsung, LG, Vizio, and Sony

Best for: Brand new original big budget dramas

Apple created quite a fanfare with the launch of its much-anticipated new streaming service on 1st November. It remains to be seen how successful the platform will be – but it looks set to be another major player in the streaming battle.

What is Apple TV+ good for?

Apple TV+ has already put a lot of money into original programming, in addition to signing various studio deals – such as with the Oprah Winfrey Network and independent film studio A24.

If you’re all about staying ahead of the curve then this would be the perfect time to get a subscription – it looks like a lot of big names will be arriving on the platform soon.

What original content does Apple TV+ include? 

Amongst the raft of originals that launched with the platform on 1st November are See, a Jason Momoa vehicle set in a world where humankind has lost the ability to see, and The Morning Show, a #MeToo focused drama that stars Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carrell, although critical reviews have been mixed.

The service also has a host of other exciting projects in the pipeline, including a revived Steven Spielberg anthology series called Amazing Stories, a TV series from La La Land and First Man director Damien Chazelle and Little Voice – a series from Star Wars director JJ Abrams and singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles.

The Morning Show

What non-original content does Apple TV+ include?

The Apple TV app gives you access to UK streaming services including BBC iPlayer, All4 and ITV Hub, plus a dedicated kids’ section.

The service will also include Apple TV Channels – which acts as a gateway to content from networks such as HBO, Showtime and Starz.

Is Apple TV+ good for families?

So far three family orientated shows – a Sesame Street spin off called Helpsters, cartoon Snoopy in Space and a remake of 90’s kids show Ghostwriter – have all debuted on the platform, suggesting that Apple are aiming to provide content for the whole family.

Top shows to watch: (All original Apple content)

See, The Morning Show, Dickinson, Snoopy in Space, The Elephant Queen, Helpsters, Ghostwriter, Oprah’s Book Club, For All Mankind

Price and subscription details:

A subscription currently costs only £4.99 a month – putting it on the cheaper end of the streaming spectrum. If you don’t currently have a compatible device (this includes most Apple products and many Smart TVs which feature the Apple TV+ app) you could decide to buy the Apple TV HD box for £149 or take the cheaper option and purchase a streaming stick such as Roku or Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, which plug into your TV.

Is a free trial available for Apple TV+?

Yes – any new user can sign up for a seven-day free trial – and Apple is offering a year-long free trial to anyone who purchases an Apple device.

BritBox

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Price: £5.99 a month

Devices to use: Samsung Smart TVs (2016 and onwards models), FreeviewPlay devices, YouView devices, iOS Pphones and tablets, Android phones and tablets

Best for: Classic British television and recent hits on the major domestic channels

A collaboration between the BBC and ITV this brand-new streaming service will also include content from Channel 5 and Comedy Central.

Following a Beta testing phase, the service launched in the UK in the first week of November 2019.

What is BritBox good for?

If you’re a fan of good old-fashioned British TV then this is without question the one for you. Boasting an unrivalled selection of the best British television has to offer, BritBox will also feature new content made specifically for the platform.

What new content will BritBox include?

That remains to be seen. Although it has been confirmed that BritBox will include original programming – with the budget set to be in the tens of millions of pounds – we don’t yet have details of what these shows will look like, but we imagine that it will cover a range of genres.

What other content does BritBox include?

Lots! An archive of British show makes up a large part of the library, while BritBox will also broadcast shows once they have been taken off BBC and ITV’s respective catch-up services. In the case of the ITV Hub this is 30 days after original broadcast, while it is 12 months for BBC iPlayer.

Love Island, Downton Abbey, Les Miserables, Gavin and Stacey, Broadchurch, Gentleman Jack, Happy Valley, and the UK version of The Office are all already included, and you can get a full list here.

Downton Abbey

Is BritBox good for families?

Given the long list of family favourites that have broadcast on BBC and ITV over the years, we definitely think so!

Price and subscription details:

A BritBox subscription costs £5.99 a month.

Is a free trial available for BritBox? 

Users can currently sign up for a free trial of the Beta version for a “snapshot of what will be there at launch”.

Disney+

DIsney+

Price: $6.99 a month or $69.99 for a year in the US, TBC in UK

Devices to use: Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, Android devices and Android-based Sony Smart TVs, Apple TV, Google Chromecast and Chromebooks, iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV LG devices, PlayStation 4, Roku, Samsung devices, Xbox One

Best for: All the latest and archive blockbusters from Disney, Marvel and Star Wars, including exclusive TV shows

As if there weren’t already enough big entertainment names in the market – one of the biggest companies in the industry is entering the fray. The service launched in the US in November 2019 and will arrive in the UK and across Europe on 31st March 2020.

What is Disney+ good for?

Its huge archive of animated classics, alongside everything Marvel and Star Wars. Quite a package.

What new content does Disney+ include?

The service is set to include a broad range of brand new content – including shows connected to both the Marvel and Star Wars universes. Announced so far have been WandaVision, The Mandalorian and a reboot of Lizzie Maguire.

For a fuller list – check here or see below.

The Mandalorian (Pedro Pascal)

What existing original content does Disney+ include?

If it’s Disney – it’s probably there! Go here for an A-Z of shows and films on Disney+ available on the service.

Is Disney+ good for families?

There’s not a brand more synonymous with family entertainment than Disney – so the answer to this one is a pretty straight-forward yes!

Top shows to watch: (all Disney+ originals)

The Falcon and The Winter Soldier, The World According to Jeff Goldblum, WandaVision, Lizzie Maguire, Marvel’s What If…?, Toy Story: Forky Asks a Question, Muppets Now, The Mandalorian, Ms Marvel, Love, Simon: The Series

Top films to watch:

Avengers: Endgame, Beauty and the Beast, Toy Story 3, Mary Poppins, The Muppets, The Parent Trap, Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, The Jungle Book, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Fantasia, Aladdin, Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

Price and subscription details:

The price plan for Disney+ in the UK has not yet been announced, but in the US the service will cost $6.99 a month or $69.99 for a year.

Is a free trial available for Disney+?

In the US, users can sign up for a seven-day free trial before committing to a subscription.

Hayu

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Price: £4.99 a month or £3.99 via Amazon Prime

Get a 30-day free trial of Hayu via Amazon Prime

Devices to use: iOS Android, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Channels, Virgin Media, Now TV, Roku, Netgem, Samsung TV, Android TV

Best for: Reality TV

Some streaming services aim to bring people in by offering as broad a range of programming as possible, and others look to hit upon a specific niche. Hayu undeniably falls into the latter category – focusing exclusively on reality TV.

What is Hayu good for?

If you’re a fan of reality TV, then look no further. This platform has been created to serve as the one stop shop for all things reality. Hayu has over 200 shows in its library, including big hitters such as Keeping up with the Kardashians, Real Housewives and Made in Chelsea – in addition to smaller shows as well.

What original content does Hayu include?

As things stand Hayu does not produce is its own original content – and nor have any plans been announced to change this in the future.

What non-original content does Hayu include?

As mentioned above, the service contains a wealth of reality TV to choose from.

Get a 30-day free trial of Hayu via Amazon Prime

Kardashians

Is Hayu good for families?

You won’t find any kid’s cartoons or family friendly dramas here – it’s probably fair to say that it’s not really aimed at a family audience.

Top shows to watch:

Keeping up with the Kardashians, Made in Chelsea, The Real Housewives, Don’t Tell the Bride, Bad Girls Club, Vanderpump Rules, The Millionaire Matchmaker, Million Dollar Listing, Southern Charm

Price and subscription details:

A Hayu subscription currently costs £4.99 a month. You can also add a subscription on to an Amazon Prime membership for a  slightly reduced monthly cost of £3.99.

Is a free trial available for Hayu?

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Yes – Hayu allows users to trial the service for 30 days before signing up.