We have many options when it comes to streaming services. But with so many options to choose from, which one is the best for you?
There is no shortage of streaming services to watch in the UK, but with so many options available at different prices, which ones are really worth it? We break down the pros and cons of the top five UK streaming services, namely Netflix, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime Video, Now TV, and Britbox.
Each of the services is aimed at slightly different audiences and is available at different prices; some even have a free trial that you can take advantage of, while others don’t. Read on to find out if you’re getting your money’s worth in terms of content, video quality, concurrent device usage, and offline content.
How to choose the best streaming service for you
What do you want to see?
Regardless of what your interests are, you are likely to find a service that suits your tastes. Looking for something for the whole family? Disney Plus and Now TV Kids have you covered. Nostalgic for some British sitcoms? Try Bitbox. Want a great mix of movies, TV shows, and original content? Look no further than Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.
Is there a free trial and can I cancel it at any time?
All streaming services except Disney Plus offer a free trial for new customers. The length of this trial period varies from service to service, from one week to one month. While all streaming services require your UK bank account details when you first sign up, you can choose to cancel the service within the first few days without being charged. Disney Plus recently canceled its free one-week trial service.
Most streaming services have a monthly and yearly plan. While an annual plan is cheaper in the long run, you won’t be able to cancel at any time, so if you’re unsure, go for the monthly plan because this gives you more cancellation flexibility until you make up your mind. If you have made up your mind, you can always change your plan from monthly to yearly.
What devices can I watch on?
The five streaming services mentioned below work on multiple platforms: PCs, laptops, and mobile devices, including phones or tablets. Most even have apps for smart TVs and game consoles. Other ways to watch are through streaming sticks like the Google Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV Stick, and the Roku Streaming Stick, which are inexpensive ways to turn your old standard TV into a Smart TV.
Can I download content for offline viewing?
The ability to download content differs from service to service, but almost all streaming services offer the feature in some form. Services such as Disney Plus allow you to download the entire catalog of the platform to watch it offline, while Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Now TV have the function in a more limited capacity depending on what you intend to download offline.
Do i need a fast internet connection?
An average of 5 Mbits / sec is recommended for streaming content in Full HD (1080p). Considering that the average internet download speed in the UK is around 30Mbits / sec, these requirements shouldn’t be a problem for most people. You can check your internet speed here if you need to.
How much data does the stream use?
On average, standard quality streaming uses about 1GB of data per hour, while HD streaming can use up to 3GB for the same duration. However, watching a long movie in 4K (Ultra HD) can use more than twice that data. Regardless of your mobile data plan, you should always download offline content on your home Wi-Fi network before starting your trip.
The best streaming services in the UK
1. Netflix: best overall
The coronavirus pandemic has shown why no other streaming service comes close to competing with Netflix. Not only did he release fresh new content regularly in the last six months, but he also intelligently bought content that was on other platforms to popularize it on Netflix, namely Cobra Kai that was previously available on YouTube and the BBC series, The Fall.
Since its launch in the UK in 2012, Netflix has shifted its focus from third-party content to original programming. From pop culture hits like The Last Dance and Tiger King to new seasons people are waiting to enjoy like The Witcher and Stranger Things, the N logo is used to denote a portion of Netflix’s original content in the service catalog. it has quickly become synonymous with quality.
Other than that, Netflix also seems to cater to regional content, often popularizing regional shows and turning them into global hits (we’re looking at you, Money Heist). It’s also the only place to watch every episode of Friends and Big Bang Theory, two cults hit series that defined a generation.
On the movie front, Netflix offers decent value too. Your original movie slate has improved dramatically after a rocky start. Recent hits include Oscar nominees The Irishman and Marriage Story, and the service also offers a decent, if a bit small, selection of well-known blockbusters. In terms of functionality, the Netflix experience on the market shows, making it one of the easiest platforms to use and navigate. Most of Netflix’s content can also be downloaded offline, including all Netflix Originals.
Our biggest complaint with Netflix is its prices, which tend to go up slowly every year. The standard plan will cost you over £ 100 / year and this restricts you to HD quality streams on two simultaneous devices. To unlock UHD content and streaming on four devices, you need the Ultra plan, which costs £ 144 / year.
Netflix cleverly demonstrated why capitalizing on a head start is important. He lured people in with movies that other services like Disney Plus have now pulled from their platforms. However, at the time, they created great content of their own that people will gladly pay (a slowly increasing cost), or share a Netflix account because they are invested in great international and regional content.
Key specs – Free trial: Yes, 30 days; HD content: On standard and Ultimate plans Offline downloads: Yes; Simultaneous users: Basic (1); Standard (2); Last (4)
2. Disney Plus: the best value for money
While Netflix has been getting hit after hit since the pandemic hit, Disney Plus has been spluttering and relying on its existing catalog to gain new subscribers. Mulan became the first massive movie to be released exclusively on the platform, but you have to pay and an additional amount to see it. Artemis Fowl was created with hype only to be criticized by critics.
New movies like Onward and Frozen 2 have proven to be kind of exciting, while Disney Plus original series like The One and Only Ivan and The Right Stuff haven’t been released to enough reviews that they will force people to log in to their subscription to Disney Plus. The service still attracts fans of The Simpsons, Marvel, and Star Wars, and those with children who need to be entertained while parents continue to work from home.
Disney Plus faces its biggest challenge as it approaches a year-long international launch of the service. Yes, the second season of Mandalorian is on the horizon, but is that reason enough for them to bring out an annual subscription to Disney Plus again? Strategically, Disney Plus has placed two of its biggest new shows in December to entice them to do just that with Pixar’s Soul set to skip theaters entirely for its on-service launch and Marvel TV’s first series, Wandavision also slated for its launch. launch in the same month.
Fortunately, Disney Plus has priced its offering at an attractive £ 60 / year, which is currently cheaper than Netflix and Amazon Prime Video but, unlike last year’s launch, this no longer includes a seven-day free trial. While most of the content is in HD, all Marvel and Star Wars movies are available in UHD, and you can download everything the service offers to watch it offline on up to 10 different devices.
Key specs – Free trial: No; HD content: Yes; Offline downloads: Yes; Simultaneous users: 4
3. Amazon Prime Video: Best for Content Variety
When it comes to content diversity, Amazon Prime Video is unmatched. From blockbuster American television series such as Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Walking Dead, to an entire collection of classic and contemporary films, Prime’s catalog has a lot to do with it.
The service has also recently ventured into streaming live sporting events, earning it a PVU that no other streaming service can boast. The service recently broadcast live coverage of the 2020 US Open tennis tournament and will broadcast 20 Premier League matches live in December. If Amazon can capitalize on expanding this part of its repertoire, it will certainly stand out from the other streaming services on this list.
Prime Video has its own rapidly expanding collection of original programming, and while some of them, like The Man in the High Castle and The Boys, is worth your time, overall, the quality of Prime Originals is a bit hit and miss. especially when you compare it to Netflix. The service’s search functionality still needs work and its user interface seems counterintuitive, confusingly mixing free content with paid movies and channels. Fortunately, most of the content that is available on Prime can be downloaded offline.
For £ 79 / year, you get a full subscription to Amazon Prime, which not only includes Prime Video, but also unlimited one-day delivery on thousands of products, streaming music through Prime Music, unlimited photo storage, and various other benefits. To boot, so we can’t really complain about Amazon Prime Video included in that price.
Key specs – Free trial: Yes, 30 days; HD content: Yes; Offline downloads: Yes; Simultaneous users: 3
4. Now TV: the best streaming service on demand
Sky TV is the UK’s largest television subscription service, but it subjects you to setup fees and long-term contracts that can often end up costing you more than a few hundred pounds a year. Now TV is an à la carte version of the service, which basically allows you to access different types of Sky TV content on a monthly contract by purchasing specific passes.
There are five different passes: Entertainment Pass, Sky Cinema Pass, Sky Sports Pass, Kids Pass, and Hayu Pass. The Now TV Entertainment Pass lets you watch over 300 box sets, including Watchmen, Gangs of London, Succession, Game of Thrones, Chernobyl and Curb Your Enthusiasm for £ 9 / month. If you prefer to watch movies then the Now TV Sky Cinema Pass has over 1,000 movies for £ 12 / month. Similarly, the Hayu Pass and the Kids Pass have more than 5,000 reality TV episodes and more than 1,000 children’s shows, respectively. Both cost £ 4 / month.
Now the jewel in the crown of television is the Now TV Sky Sports Pass, which has different tiers, ranging from the Mobile Monthly Pass at £ 6 / month to the Sky Sports Monthly Pass at an astronomical £ 34 / month. However, it is the only place where you can watch live broadcasts of the Premier League, EFL, and even American sports like the NFL and NBA. It is also the only pass that does not include a free trial.
The downside to Now TV is that you can only watch content in HD (720p) and on two devices at the same time. To watch it in HD (1080p) and upgrade to watch it on three devices at the same time, you need to get Now TV Boost, which costs an additional £ 3 / month. Unlike Disney Plus, Netflix, and Amazon Prime Video, Now TV doesn’t stream 4K content even if you have a compatible 4K TV.
Key specs – Free trial: Yes, 7 days; HD content: No, unless you get Now TV Boost; Offline downloads: Yes; Simultaneous users: 2; 3 if you get Now TV Boost
5. Britbox: best for British content
Britbox, a brainchild of BBC and ITV, is a streaming joint venture of the UK’s two largest networks. For £ 5.99 / month, the service gives you access to hundreds of BBC and ITV boxes, from classic comedies like Absolutely Fabulous and Blackadder to modern dramas like Broadchurch and Downton Abbey.
Britbox also features all six Love Island series and over 600 episodes of the classic Doctor Who, which is the first time they are available to stream anywhere. BBC and ITV have extremely deep archives, so it’s a shame Britbox doesn’t dig a little deeper into them. Shows like Dad’s Army are curiously lacking, and we think the catalog could, and really should, offer more.
Britbox in terms of features is also lagging behind the competition. There is no option to download content for download, almost a necessity for streaming services at the moment, and the lack of subtitles on much of the content will be a deal-breaker for some.
Britbox promises a list of original content in the coming months, the first offering will be a drama called Lambs of God, as well as the Channel 4 series, so we definitely see the potential for this service in the future. There is definitely still value to a Britbox subscription as-is, offering a stronger collection of British TV than any of its competitors, it’s not an unappealing proposition, even if a few key features are missing.