The UK now has no fewer than five major video streaming services to choose from, each delivering something a little different. So which one – or perhaps two? – should you choose? Read on and we’ll clue you in on what you can get, what you can expect to pay for it and what you can watch it on.
Despite being owned and operated by BSkyB, Now TV is run completely separately from the company’s satellite TV service. Mixing live sport with on-demand movies, it’s pricier than Netflix and LoveFilm but boasts a better selection of films – and gets movies, especially big-name blockbusters, far earlier than its main rivals (a year, in fact).
Its sports service is totally unique in the world of streaming, too: for a tenner, you can access all Sky Sports channels for 24 hours. That might not seem like a particularly good deal at first, but it’ll save you plenty of money if you’re only interested in the occasional football match, cricket test or grand prix. One thing worth noting about the on-demand movie service: it’s available free for 30 days, then £8.99 for the three months after, then it rises to £15 per month.
Available on: Windows, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, Roku, Now TV Box, iOS, Android, LG smart TV
Prices: from £8.99 per month for movies, £9.99 per day for Sky Sports
Best for: Movie addicts and occasional sport fans
Tesco’s blinkbox service is pure per-item on-demand – there’s no subscription available, and each film or TV show is purchased or rented separately. blinkbox has an impressive selection of stuff that you won’t find elsewhere – such as Game of Thrones – and gets films at the same time as Sky (and ahead of DVD releases in most cases).
You can also purchase TV shows as season box sets. Season 3 of Game of Thrones, for instance, can be bought in its entirety for £17.99, or £23.99 in HD. This means blinkbox works well paired with services like Netflix, because you can “fill in the gaps” by paying just for the content you want – and not a second monthly subscription fee.
Available on: Windows, Mac, Xbox 360, PS3, iOS, Android, Samsung smart TV
Prices: from 99p, no subscription
Best for: Light users who want to watch the odd “new release” film or show
Netflix is arguably the biggest player in subscription services – the “Hoover” of streaming, as it were. Despite the “flix” part of its name, it’s not a particularly impressive purveyor of movies, especially in comparison to blinkbox and Now TV: it doesn’t get new films until quite late, and its selection of older movies lacks too many classics to impress cineastes.
Where Netflix excels is television shows, and as well as a fine collection of old and new programmes from established broadcasters, it also makes its own original series. And for the most part they’re great: House of Cards, Orange Is the New Black and the resurrected Arrested Development are all as good as anything you’d find on the networks. Netflix is also available through a wider selection of hardware than its rivals, meaning you probably have several ways to watch it in your house already.
Available on: Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Wii U, iOS, Android, Kindle Fire, Apple TV, various smart TVs/Blu-ray players/set-top boxes, Chromecast
Price: £5.99 per month
Best for: TV fans, especially those interested in original shows
Netflix’s main rival, Lovefilm is veteran of the UK living room, establishing itself through its DVD-by-mail rental service. This continues today, and in fact is available (pretty cheaply) in conjunction with Lovefilm Instant, the on-demand streaming service. That helps make up for Lovefilm Instant’s somewhat lacklustre movie selection (which is nonetheless arguably better than Netflix’s line-up). An extra £2 a month will allow you to rent one disc at a time, an extra £4 two at a time, and for £13.27 you can rent three at a time.
Lovefilm offers a broadly different selection of films and TV shows to Netflix, so it may appeal more depending on exactly what content you’re looking for. It doesn’t really deal in original shows yet, although it will be producing them in the near future and does have exclusive UK rights to certain new shows, like Vikings.
Available on: Windows, Mac, Chrome OS, Xbox 360, PS3, Wii, Wii U, iPad, Kindle Fire HD, Apple TV, various smart TVs/Blu-ray players/set-top boxes
Price: From £5.99 per month
Best for: Those who want to combine streaming with physical disc rental
Wuaki.tv, Play.com’s new service, combines unlimited subscription-based streaming AND rentals – it claims to be the first in the UK to do so – and if you sign up early enough the latter is available for the low price of £2.99 a month – for life (it’ll revert to the “normal” £5.99 price on 13th September).
Available is a mixture of movies and TV shows, with certain content – such as Tom Cruise film and new release Oblivion – only available for rental. The selection isn’t particularly inspiring, but as the service is less than a month old at the time of writing we’d expect things to improve over time. Currently, it’s only available for streaming on a computer, but other devices will follow.
Available on: Windows, Mac (tablets, smart TVs and consoles “coming soon”)
Price: from £2.99 per month
Best for: Thrift-mongers looking for a cut-price subscription deal