Streaming services are all the rage these days, completely revolutionising how and where we watch film and TV and even changing the way we speak as the word ‘streaming’ becomes a common everyday phrase.
However with the success of early services such as Netflix and NOW, it was inevitable that more companies would want a slice of the streaming pie – and now the likes of Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Disney+ are all in the mix here in the UK.
However with the combined monthly cost of every platform adding up to at least £35 a month (£420 a year!), it is likely that most of us will have to choose one or two services – which is becoming an increasingly daunting task.
Radiotimes.com is here to help however, breaking down everything including price, features, free trials and more, including the all-important shows and films.
Here’s everything you need to know about the main paid-for streaming services.
Which streaming services are available in the UK?
There are many streaming services available in the UK now – including catch-up services such as BBC iPlayer – but for now we’ll be focusing on the main platforms that require a paid subscription, namely Netflix, NOW, Amazon Prime, Apple TV+ and Disney+.
The first major streaming service was of course Netflix, which began in 1997 in the US as a DVD rental company, before launching their game-changing streaming service in the UK in 2012. Sign up to Netflix from £5.99 a month.
Then known as NOW TV, NOW joined the streaming wars relatively early in 2012 and offered Sky’s extensive library of films, TV shows and sports coverage to those without a pay-TV subscription. Start your 7-day free NOW TV trial now
Following the retail giant’s purchase of LoveFilm, Amazon Prime Video launched in the UK in 2014 as part of the site’s Prime subscription. Try Amazon Prime Video Free for 30 days
Apple was the next technology titan to get in on the streaming action, launching their own service Apple TV+ in November 2019 with original shows fronted by the likes of Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Jason Momoa. Watch the best TV, films and documentaries, all streaming now with Apple TV+
One of the newest streaming services but far from the smallest, Disney+ launched in the UK in March 2020 with the studio’s iconic back catalogue and the very first live-action Star Wars show The Mandalorian. Try Disney+ for £7.99 a month
You’ve likely heard of other major streaming services such as Hulu, HBO Max and Peacock – but (for now!) those platforms are not available in the UK, and are instead based in the US where there is even more choice of sites to stream from.
Netflix vs Prime vs Disney Plus vs NOW vs Apple TV+ price and features compared
While all five are streaming services requiring paid subscriptions, each platform can vary quite considerably – so we’ve made this comparison table for an overview of key features such as price and free trials. Streaming services will only allow you to stream on a certain number of devices at once – so families in particular will want to take note of the maximum number of screens the service will support simultaneously.
|Streaming Platform||Monthly starting price||Annual starting price||Free trial||Simultaneous streams||Maximum Resolution|
|Netflix||£5.99||£71.88||No||Up to 4 (with Premium)||4K (with Premium)|
|NOW||£9.99||£119.88||Yes||Up to 3 (with NOW Boost)||Full HD (with NOW Boost)|
Price: £5.99 (Basic), £9.99 (Standard), £13.99 (Premium)
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: Binge-watchers, film fans and lovers of original content.
Free trial: No
Maximum Resolution: 4K (Premium), HD (Standard), SD (Basic)
Simultaneous streams: 4 (Premium), 2 (Standard), 1 (Basic)
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 15 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.
Some of the best series on Netflix such as Orange is the new Black, Bojack Horseman and Stranger Things have proved their worth over a number of series, while the service has also been putting an increasing focus on its film output in recent times. After enticing directors such as Martin Scorsese and David Fincher to work for the streamer, the platform has also made quite a stir at the Oscars as some of the best movies on Netflix such as The Irishman and Mank scored multiple nominations.
One criticism that Netflix has faced is that it has been known to cancel shows before they’ve been able to finish – with fan-favourite shows such as Daredevil, Anne With an E and The OA cancelled ahead of their time despite positive reviews.
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 2021 alone, the platform released a new original film every week – and that figure may well 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.
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 several BBC programmes moving to BritBox.
Due to rights issues Netflix usually does not get new films until around two years after their cinema release – but the service has an extensive backlog of classic films in addition to their original output.
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, How To Get Away With Murder and Homeland.
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 on Netflix: (*denotes Netflix original)
Bojack Horseman*, Orange is the New Black*, GLOW*, The Crown*, Stranger Things*, Mindhunter*, Bridgerton*, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Queer Eye*, Our Planet*, Dark*, Friends, The Office US.
Read our guide to the best series on Netflix.
Top films to watch on Netflix: (*denotes Netflix original)
Roma*, Private Life*, To All The Boys I’ve loved Before*, Jaws, Shrek, Extraction*, Hot Fuzz, His House*, Easy Rider.
Read our guide to the best movies 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 £9.99 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 £13.99 a month.
Is a free trial available for Netflix?
No – Netflix previously offered a generous 30 day free trial, but this offer was removed in December 2019.
The first major streaming service and still one of the best, few can match Netflix for their impact on streaming and the world at large. The sheer deluge of content means there are a few misses, but Netflix swings big with impressive budgets, talent and production value – meaning their hits often become worldwide sensations.
Price: £9.99 a month (Entertainment Pass), £9.99 (Cinema Pass), £4.99 (Hayu Pass)
Devices to use: Xbox & PS4/PS5, 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
Free trial: Yes
Maximum Resolution: 720p HD (Full 1080p HD with NOW Boost for an extra £5 a month)
Simultaneous Streams: 1 (3 with NOW Boost for an extra £5 a month)
First launched in 2012, NOW is Sky’s on-demand streaming service. It provides users with several options: they can opt for an Entertainment pass, giving them access to TV content, a Cinema pass or Sports pass or a Hayu Pass – or any combination of these.
What is NOW good for?
NOW 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.
Like Amazon, Hayu is also available through NOW – offering over 8000 episodes of US reality shows such as Keeping Up With The Kardashians.
What original content does NOW include?
All Sky originals go straight onto NOW TV, with hits including Chernobyl – one of the biggest critical darlings of 2019 – and Patrick Melrose, starring Benedict Cumberbatch amongst the best shows on NOW.
What non-original content does NOW 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 – much like BBC iPlayer shows are removed from the service a short while after broadcasting, though usually return eventually as a box set.
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.
Is NOW good for families?
NOW previously had a separate Kids pass, but now children’s shows are now included as part of the Entertainment Pass for no extra charge. The Cinema pass also includes a broad range of movies that are suitable for the whole family, with parental PIN controls available on both passes.
Top shows to watch on NOW: (*denotes Sky originals)
Succession, Chernobyl*, Britannia*, Patrick Melrose*, Big Little Lies, Watchmen, Twin Peaks, The Sopranos, Sex and the City, The Undoing, The White Lotus
Top films to watch on NOW:
Sunset Boulevard, Mission Impossible Groundhog Day, Extinct, Knives Out, Midway, Bill & Ted Face the Music
Price and subscription details:
Both the Entertainment Pass and Cinema Pass cost £9.99 – each. So if you’d like NOW’s entire range of both film and TV shows that’ll set you back £19.98 a month. However, NOW is one of the few streaming services that will regularly offers deals and bundles – especially on Black Friday.
Hayu is an optional additional Pass also, allowing access to several US reality shows for £4.99 a month.
As mentioned above, you can also add NOW Boost for full HD playback on up to 3 devices at once for £5 extra a month, while a Sports pass is available for £33.99 a month.
You may also want to read our NOW smart TV stick review before signing up, especially if you don’t have a smart TV.
Is a free trial available for NOW TV?
NOW allow new users a 7-day free trial for each of their passes except Sport, so that includes Entertainment, Cinema, Hayu and NOW Boost.
Premium in price and content, NOW has firmly established itself as the UK home of prestige TV and recent blockbuster movies – if you can afford to pay up you’ll be treated to the latest and greatest from both sides of the Atlantic.
Amazon Prime Video
Price: £7.99 a month or £79 for a full year, or £5.99 a month for Prime Video streaming only
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: Large households, those on a budget
Free trial: Yes
Maximum Resolution: 4K
Simultaneous streams: 3
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 now shows show Premier League football over the Christmas period.
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.
This includes add-on subscriptions – users can subscribe to Amazon Prime Channels such as StarzPlay and Hayu for an additional monthly fee, and access those platform’s shows through the Prime Video interface.
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. However Amazon has since added a ‘Free to Me’ section, making it clearer which shows and films are available for no added cost.
Amazon also offers a range of streaming devices, which our Technology experts have put through their paces:
What original content does Amazon Prime Video include?
Amazon has a good range of original content – some of the best Amazon Prime series include the award winning 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, as well as their individual spin-offs such as the popular Clarkson’s Farm. Other Amazon originals include Good Omens (co-produced with the BBC) and Nine Perfect Strangers.
Like Netflix, Amazon has also shifted some of its focus towards film – check out our list of the best movies on Amazon Prime Video.. Amazon also bought the rights to several high-profile films during the pandemic, including The Tomorrow War, Without Remorse and Borat Subsequent Moviefilm.
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 on Amazon Prime: (*denotes Amazon original)
American Gods, The Man in the High Castle*, The Marvellous Mrs Maisel*, Good Omens*, The Romanoffs*, Mr Robot, Outlander, The Grand Tour*, Nine Perfect Strangers*, Clarkson’s Farm*, Modern Love*
Top films to watch on Amazon Prime: (*denotes Amazon original)
Oceans Eleven, Fight Club, Manchester by the Sea*, The Tomorrow War*, Borat Subsequent Moviefilm*, Palm Springs, The Sound of Metal*
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, or you can save if you pay for an entire year’s membership at once at £79 all in.
Alternatively you can pay £5.99 a month for Amazon Prime Video only, without the extra Prime benefits such as free next-day delivery.
Is a free trial available for Amazon Prime Video?
Yes – Amazon still offers new users a 30-day free trial.
Amazon Prime offers the bestvalue of any streaming service out there due to all the extra consumer-friendly features – but its streaming service stands on its own due to a number of award-winning shows, a film selection that is steadily improving and the unique ability to purchase content not included in Prime.
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, children’s shows
Free trial: Yes
Maximum resolution: 4K
Simultaneous streams: 6
Apple created quite a fanfare with the launch of its much-anticipated new streaming service in November 2019, with a whole host of Hollywood stars ushering in the new platform – and many more have joined since.
What is Apple TV+ good for?
Apple TV+ has gone for quality over quantity, focusing on star-studded big budget originals with exceptional production values rather than acquiring a back catalogue of older shows.
The best TV shows on Apple TV+ include a mixture of hard-hitting dramas, experimental comedies and a growing range of documentaries, almost always with a household name attached either in front of or behind the camera.
The best movies on Apple TV+ tend to be more adult-oriented dramas, again with huge names such as Tom Hanks and Bill Murray attached – but other offerings include a Billie Eilish documentary and a Meghan Markle-narrated nature documentary.
What original content does Apple TV+ include?
Amongst the raft of originals that launched with the platform 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.
However a whole host of shows have launched since, with Jason Sudeikis football comedy Ted Lasso arguably becoming becoming the service’s flagship series. Mythic Quest, Schmigadoon! and Servant have become other TV highlights, while film offerings include Tom Hanks’s return to World War 2 in Greyhound and Bill Murray reteaming with Sofia Coppola in On The Rocks.
Steven Spielberg is on board also helming a reboot of Amazing Stories, while Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry have worked together on mental health documentary The Me You Can’t See.
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.
However there is very little in the way of non-original content that is actually part of the Apple TV+ library – but Apple has since started licensing older content, buying the rights to children’s series Fraggle Rock and the Peanuts franchise.
Is Apple TV+ good for families?
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 in addition to the above acquisitions, suggesting that Apple are aiming to provide content for the whole family.
Top shows to watch on Apple TV+: (All original Apple content)
See, The Morning Show, Dickinson, Snoopy in Space, The Elephant Queen, Helpsters, Ghostwriter, Oprah’s Book Club, For All Mankind, Ted Lasso
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 three months free trial to anyone who purchases an Apple device.
Apple TV+ was always tempting by offering the work of A-List talent at a competitive price – and its finally starting to realise its potential by filling up its library and producing quality content that is permeating pop culture.
Price: £7.99 a month or £79.90 for a year
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 4/5, Roku, Samsung devices, Xbox One and Xbox Series S/X
Best for: Families, as well as fans of Disney, Marvel and Star Wars
Free trial: No
Maximum Resolution: 4K
Simultaneous streams: 4
Disney Plus only launched in March 2020, but it’s safe to say it has made a pretty significant impact in the streaming landscape. As well as valuable back catalogue boasting Disney classics and over 600 episodes of The Simpsons, the service has had huge TV hits based on the Star Wars and Marvel franchises.
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?
Some of the best series on Disney Plus include spin-off shows to the mega franchises that are Star Wars and Marvel, with The Mandalorian, WandaVision and Loki dominating pop culture during their release with more on the way.
However Disney’s other franchises have made an appearance also – the best movies on Disney Plus include new Pixar offerings Luca and Soul which debuted exclusively on the service, while classic franchises such as The Mughty Ducks and Turner & Hooch have received reboots.
During the pandemic Disney also introduced Premier Access, allowing users to purchase new cinema releases such as Black Widow for £19.99.
In February 2021 Disney Plus also added a new section called Star, which featured more mature content from other Disney-owned properties, including the Oscar-winning Nomadland and new episodes of The Walking Dead.
For a fuller list – check here or see below.
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!
Disney Plus has since introduced Star, a section that houses more adult-oriented content – however parental controls have also been implemented also, keeping all inappropriate content neatly locked away behind that one segment if needed.
Top shows to watch on Disney+: (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, Loki
Read more: Meet the cast of Marvel’s What If…? on Disney Plus, and browse the best series on Disney Plus
Top films to watch on Disney+:
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?, Hamilton, Luca, Nomadland
Browse the best movies on Disney Plus
Price and subscription details:
Disney Plus has had a price increase since launch, and now costs £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year.
Is a free trial available for Disney+?
No – a free trial was previously available at launch but was removed in summer 2020.
Offering big-budget blockbuster TV and films based on some of the most beloved franchises in the world, Disney Plus is excellent for families and big kids alike – though its Star section is quickly becoming a game-changer offering quality adult drama on par with its rivals.
Which is the best streaming service in the UK?
There’s no easy answer here – the best streaming service for you will depend entirely in your taste in film and TV, as well as the value of any additional features on offer.
In terms of sheer content it’s hard to compete with Netflix which outputs an incredible amount of original film and TV each month, on top of a decreasing but still impressive back catalogue. It’s fair to say that with this much content the quality can be a bit of a mixed bag, but every now and then a huge word-of-mouth hit such as Stranger Things or The Crown will land on the service, while a few of their films have become legitimate contenders at the Oscars.
However with Netflix losing much of their licensed back catalogue, franchise fans may well be better off heading to Disney Plus. The streaming service includes the very best of Disney, Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel, and will be the only place to see many of the spin-off shows from each of those universes. The addition of Star also means there’s plenty more mature content also, including hit new US imports and classic films from Disney-owned studios such as 20th Century Fox.
For those who prefer more of a range however, it’s hard to deny NOW’s catalogue. It may be one the more expensive options, but you do get a premium service – it’s the first platform you’ll find most films after their cinema release, and it’s the only place to find prestige HBO shows and Sky Originals without a TV contract. The option of Hayu and Sport is an added bonus, and you can sign up for either TV shows or films without having to pay for the other.
However if budget is very much an issue, Amazon Prime is by far one of the best value streaming services out there. It’s up there with Netflix with a steady stream of hit original films and shows, but also allows you to buy or rent content that is not included in the service. If you opt for the full Prime package rather than just the standalone streaming service, you also get free next day delivery, and access to Amazon Music, Prime Reading, Amazon Photos, exclusive deals and gaming benefits. Phew!
Apple TV+ is another great budget option, and as the cheapest streamer out there may well make an excellent choice for a second service. Apple TV+ had some teething problems with a star-studded but sparse library at first, but their catalogue is steadily growing and Ted Lasso is their first bonafide sensation – and with serval Hollywood A-listers partnered with the service it is likely there will be many more.