Streaming services are swiftly becoming the preferred way to watch telly for households here in the UK. The convenience of a reasonably priced subscription service that allows you to watch on-demand movies and television shows is far too tempting to pass over – especially when a lot of them are cheaper than a TV license, and you can watch them through your weekly pay smart TV too!
From Netflix to Amazon Prime Video to Disney+, each service is trying its best to stand out against fierce competition in the online streaming market and, with several options to choose from, it can be tricky to pick which service to go for.
Whether you’re looking to mix and match the best of the bunch or trying to save your pennies and want to find that one perfect service – here’s a breakdown of the on-demand streaming services available to help you find the one that’s right for you. Especially if you rent a telly and your priority is keeping down costs!
Which service you decide to go for will ultimately depend on what you’re looking for. Each service will have its own monthly cost (as well as additional costs for optional extras or payment tiers), a limit on the number of screens you can watch at the same time, and what sort of content library you’ll have access to – from movies, to sports, to kids’ television, and more. We’ll mainly be focusing on movies and television as the world of sports streaming services is an expensive beast of its own, but many of the services below do feature sports content.
So, let’s have a look at what streaming services have to offer…
All 4, ITV Hub, BBC iPlayer
Without paying a penny you’ll be able to watch catch-up television on All 4 and ITV Hub and, as long as you have a TV licence, you’ll be able to watch catch-up on BBC iPlayer and live TV on any of these three platforms. These services are excellent, giving you great quality TV whenever you want it (as well as a small selection of movies). With All 4 and ITV Hub, you can watch for free and even pay £3.99 a month to watch without ads (All 4+ and ITV Hub+).
Just make sure to watch what you can, while you can! In order to compete with the likes of Netflix, BritBox will increasingly become the home of many BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 shows in the future. The amount of time that new shows are available on free platforms is going to get shorter in order to encourage more people to subscribe to BritBox. You may start to find fewer classic British shows on other streaming services (like Netflix) as well.
Verdict: Can’t be beaten on price, unless you want to avoid the ads (in which case you have to pay), with a great selection of up-to-date content across genres. Channel 4 has some incredible comedy box sets to choose from and the BBC is renowned for its dramas – so there’s certainly lots to enjoy here for free! A downside is that there is sometimes a time limit on content as it moves across to BritBox.
In response to the rise in popularity of streaming subscription services, the BBC and ITV have got together to create a British streaming service – the aptly named BritBox. After launching in the US in 2017, the service has been available to us Brits since 2019 and now boasts the largest selection of British box sets online.
As mentioned above, more and more content will be moving across to BritBox, making it the primary home of on-demand BBC and ITV content as well as a selection of Channel 4 and Channel 5 shows and movies. BritBox offers a 7-day free trial and will set you back £5.99 per month (or £59.99 if you pay for a full year – saving you just under £12) with the option to watch content on five screens at once.
As of spring 2021, Amazon Prime Video subscribers will be able to get three months of BritBox for £2.99 a month before it rises to its full price. So, if you’re a Prime subscriber and want to binge some British box sets for a couple of months, this deal is something to consider.
Verdict: Perhaps not worth a full subscription unless you’re really into British telly and want to watch the likes of Downton Abbey, Doctor Who, soaps like EastEnders or Coronation Street, and a vast back-catalogue of classics on-demand. BritBox is mainly targeted at Americans who don’t have access to the free catch-up services we do; but the back catalogue on iPlayer etc. is set to shrink – so this may be one to consider in the future.
Apple launched their own streaming service, Apple TV+, in 2019 and since then they’ve seen a relatively low subscriber count in comparison to the big hitters Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. While they can’t boast an extensive catalogue of popular movies, the big draw of Apple TV+ is their high-budget, star-studded originals like Ted Lasso and Foundation. With new drama series, comedies, and feature films released every year, it’s worth a look to see if any take your fancy – there’s certainly some quality content there to be enjoyed!
Apple TV+ is slightly cheaper than most of its competitors with a price tag of £4.99 a month and the offer of a 7-day free trial. You’ll also be able to enjoy Apple TV+ on an incredible six screens at once and one of the best cost-saving features of Apple TV+ is that if you purchase any Apple device (such as a MacBook or an iPhone), you’ll be entitled to 3 months of Apple TV+ for free and you’ll have 90 days to redeem this feature – it’s definitely worth taking advantage of if you have the opportunity. You’ll also have the option to add HBO, Showtime, or Starz onto your subscription for a small additional cost per month.
To try and compete with the vast libraries of Netflix etc., Apple are beginning to expand theirs with the acquisition of film and TV content, such as the Charlie Brown Peanuts franchise, in order to draw in audiences – and they may continue to do so to help them grow in the next few years.
Verdict: Perhaps Apple TV+ doesn’t have the substance to compete with the likes of Netflix or Disney+ quite yet, but it’s definitely one to watch. The content is very good and, if they continue to expand their catalogue, it could be a market leader in the future. In the meantime, take advantage of a free trial or free months with your Apple device purchase and stick around if you like what you see! That being said, if you’re looking for the cheapest pay per month option for content you won’t find on free TV, this is the best deal you’re going to get!
Previously known as NOW TV – recently renamed to recognise their broad range of content, from movies to sports – NOW has been Sky’s on-demand subscription offering since 2012. Unlike most other streaming services, NOW offers live content as well as on-demand movies and TV.
NOW certainly boasts the most up-to-date content including access to fresh Sky movie premieres and features some of the very best classic Sky and HBO TV shows in its back catalogue – such as Game of Thrones, The Wire, and The Sopranos. You’ll also get new shows such as Succession and Curb Your Enthusiasm each week as they release on Sky.
However, NOW is anything but cheap! Alongside a 7-day free trial offer, a NOW Entertainment pass (which includes all of NOW’s kids shows) will set you back £9.99 a month for TV shows. A Sky Cinema pass will cost you £11.99 a month for movies. A sports pass will cost you £33.99 a month (or £9.98 a day). All of these prices are for two screens at once. If you want to watch NOW in high definition or stream on three screens, you’ll have to pay for NOW Boost which will cost you an additional £5 per month!
Verdict: NOW probably has the best content on offer, but you’ll pay a lot for it! If you want a service that offers both movies and television, NOW is probably not the one for you as it would cost £21.98 a month for only two screens (£26.98 if you have a family that want to watch three different things simultaneously). If you want to binge a box set, you might get away with squeezing what you can into a free trial!
Since launching in 2019, Disney+ has been taking the streaming industry by storm. The service has an impressive offering of Disney animated classics, Pixar movies, Star Wars movies, Marvel movies, and an increasing catalogue of original shows. To top it off, Disney+ launched Star in 2021 which includes a great selection of more mature content – movies and TV shows targeted more at adults – something which makes Disney+ an even bigger threat to the streaming juggernauts Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Disney+ is on the more expensive side, though certainly not the worst considering what there is on offer! You’ll find no free trial here; the service will cost you £7.99 a month or £79.90 if you pay upfront for the full year (saving you just shy of £16 over the year, or the equivalent of two months). You’ll be able to stream Disney+ on four screens at once. By paying an additional price for Premier Access, you’ll also be able to enjoy brand new Disney movies that you’d typically have to visit the cinema to see. While this is a bit pricey, if you wait a few months, you’ll be able to watch the content through your standard subscription.
Verdict: Disney+ has got a hell of a lot to offer for what is a relatively reasonable cost per month for so many screens. If you’re financially limited to one subscription, you’d have a lot to enjoy before you got bored of Disney+; especially now they’ve launched Star! It’s a no-brainer for families (and Star Wars or Marvel fans). The option to pay for a full year also makes it a great gift if you’re looking to spoil someone! Perhaps the only downside is that Disney+ probably won’t get refreshed with lots of new content quite as often as its competitors. That being said, its back catalogue isn’t budging – so you won’t have to worry about binge watching something before it disappears off your service!
Amazon Prime Video
Since acquiring LoveFilm in 2011, Amazon Prime Video has been one of the biggest on-demand streaming services on the market for customers in the UK and around the world. Offering movies, television, and sports – Amazon boasts an impressive catalogue of content which is consistently refreshed with new things for subscribers to enjoy.
Unlike other streaming services, Prime Video can be paired with Amazon’s convenient Prime next-day-delivery service. So, you’ll be able to enjoy Amazon Prime Video for a reasonable £5.99 per month, and if you want to utilise Amazon Prime’s free delivery it will only set you back an additional £2 a month (£7.99). Prime Video offers a generous 30-day free trial period and can be enjoyed on three screens at once.
You’ll also have the option to subscribe to StarzPlay or the reality streaming service Hayu for an additional cost and you’ll have the convenient option of renting movies or shows not included for free on Prime with one-off payments. This is great if your cashflow is inconsistent and you have the extra pennies now and again to rent a title that you’re particularly interested in – Amazon has a huge library of options to choose from!
Verdict: There’s a reason it’s one of the market leaders – Amazon Prime Video has a lot to offer for a good price. It features lots of diverse content for adults and kids alike and its convenient one-off rental option is a bonus. Also, its cheapest option is only £1 more expensive per month than the cheapest streaming service, Apple TV+ – so a solid choice if money is your main concern. It also has far more current and up-to-date content available than its primary competitor, Netflix, so you’re keen to keep updated on the latest movies and TV then this could be the one for you!
The streaming giant Netflix has been offering on-demand content since 2007. Netflix boasts an enormous library of movies and television across many genres as well as a collection of popular and critically acclaimed original content. In recent years, Netflix original films have been making waves at the Academy Awards – taking home seven Oscars in 2021.
While they offer no free trial, Netflix have a unique tiered pricing structure which allows you to tailor your package depending on how many screens you’d like to use at once and whether you’d like HD content. For one standard definition screen you’ll pay £5.99 a month, for two HD screens you’ll pay £9.99 a month, and for four ultra-HD screens you’ll pay £13.99 a month.
Unlike other services, what you see is what you get with Netflix – no extra costs and no additional streaming add-ons. Netflix’s biggest draw, other than its broad catalogue of movies, is its binge-worthy television shows which get everyone talking – the likes of Stranger Things, Bridgerton, Squid Game, The Queen’s Gambit, and Sex Education are must-sees!
Verdict: There’s a lot here to like about Netflix and there’s a reason it’s one of the most popular choices! Although Netflix certainly has some cons – it isn’t the cheapest (unless you’ll only be watching one thing at a time, in standard definition), it won’t be updated with content as often as its competitors, and its library shrinking thanks to the likes of Disney+ and BritBox – it’s still got so much exceptional content to choose from that you’ll be hard pressed to run out of things to watch! If money is your main concern, Netflix probably isn’t your first choice, especially if you’ve got a large family wanting to watch content separately.
Our top tips for saving while you stream…
If you want television for free – your catch-up services like iPlayer, All4, and ITV Player are fab! If you’re looking for the cheapest on-demand paid content then the budget options of Netflix, Apple TV+, or Amazon Prime Video are great choices. If you’re looking for something mid-priced that’s really going to keep you (and your whole family entertained) then Disney+ is a really good pick, too.
Many subscription services have the option to start a free trial. Some are more generous than others – such as BritBox and Amazon Prime Video’s 30-day free trials. If there’s something you want to watch and it’s only available on one service and you’re not ready to subscribe – sign yourself up for a free trial! This is a great idea if you’ve got your eye on a specific box set that you can only find on one service, and you’ve got the time to binge watch it before your free trial expires. Though don’t forget to cancel your trial otherwise it will auto-renew, and you’ll be charged the full amount for the month!
If you want to be really thrifty, sign up for one subscription service at a time and binge all you can from that service – then cancel your subscription and move onto the next service. For example, you could subscribe to Netflix for three months, work your way through those incredible Netflix originals and then switch to Amazon Prime Video for the next three months. This way you’ll only be paying for one subscription at a time (so you can stay on top of the costs), and you’ll be able to watch fresh content. By doing so you’ll also be able to avoid paying for something you’re not using and stay up to date on the latest movies and television.
At hiya! we provide pay weekly smart TVs with no deposit and no credit check. We believe everyone should have access to quality smart televisions within their budget, even if they’ve got bad credit. So if you’re looking to rent a cheap smart TV in the UK – regardless of what you like to watch – we want to help you find something that works for you!