Welcome to our guide to the best UK streaming service for you. There’s a streaming service out there for everyone. Horror fans can flock to Shudder, Mubi caters to the independent cinema crowd and BritBox has old episodes of Grange Hill. If you’re in the US, check out our guide to the best US streaming service
In a crowded field, it’s difficult to know which streaming platform is right for you. Netflix still reigns supreme numbers-wise (just), but Amazon Prime Video is more affordable. Disney+ is the home of masked superheroes and Cinderella, but Apple TV+ comes with a bunch of worthwhile extras. Nobody wants to be forking out upwards of £40 a month on multiple subscriptions just to watch their favourite TV shows, so picking wisely is advised.
Here, we run down the ups and downs of the top paid-for and free streaming platforms out there – Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Apple TV+, BBC iPlayer, ITVX and All 4 – to help you decide which is the best UK streaming service for your needs.
Best subscription services
The original film and TV buffet service, Netflix paved the way for today’s streaming dominance, with Stranger Things, The Crown and Orange is the New Black helping make Netflix the most popular streaming service out there (for now).
Netflix also boasts one of the biggest libraries of film and TV content out there. It’s the streaming home of countless anime TV shows and films, documentaries, crime shows and kids favourites. There is almost too much on Netflix at times, with some of the best shows lost in a sea of content (or cancelled after two series).
Netflix’s reign may soon be coming to an end, though. Earlier this year, Netflix posted the first drop in membership since 2011. Job cuts and a drop in its share price followed. The company has since clawed back some 2.4 Million subscribers, but not before Netflix made some changes to its membership tiers.
In the UK, a ‘basic with adverts’ membership costs £4.99 a month. It comes with adverts (unsurprisingly), access is only available on one device and some films and TV programmes are unavailable. It’s £6.99 a month for the basic plan, which includes ad-free viewing on one device, and £10.99 a month for the standard package, which includes ad-free viewing on two devices. Premium is £15.99 a month, which offers ad-free streaming on up to four devices.
2. Amazon Prime Video and Freevee
It’s no secret that Amazon is working hard to muscle in on some of that sweet, sweet streaming revenue. Bezos spent an eye-watering $13 billion on film, TV and music content in 2021, reports Variety. Amazon also produced the most expensive TV series ever with 2022’s The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, and the company has been busy securing exclusives on the TV shows Jack Ryan, All or Nothing and The Boys.
An Amazon Prime membership (£8.99 per month, £4.49 per month for students) gets you a whole host of perks and extras. You get Prime Video, which comes with thousands of TV shows and films free to stream. A Prime subscription will also give you access to twenty free to watch Premier League matches per year. There are occasional offers on other Amazon services, from discounts on Audible memberships and Amazon Music, and Prime members can get free delivery on Amazon products. Prime also works seamlessly with the Fire TV Stick, which offers fast performance for a reasonable price.
In April, Amazon announced Freevee, the streaming service formerly known as IMDb TV. Freevee is a free streaming service hosting thousands of TV shows and movies, as well as exclusive series such as the crime comedy Sprung and British spy thriller Alex Rider. Fans of Australian soap operas will also be happy to hear that the recently cancelled Neighbours is returning for Freevee viewers in the UK and US (the series will also stream on Prime Video in Australia, New Zealand and Canada).
Since launching in 2019, Disney+ has been quick to make its presence known in the streaming wars and has rapidly become a contender for the best UK streaming service. The streaming platform recently reported that 221 million people have signed up to Disney+, compared to around 223 million Netflix subscribers.
Disney+’s popularity is, in part, thanks to the sheer amount of film and TV assets owned by Disney. The Mickey Mouse company owns the rights to Star Wars, Marvel and The Simpsons. The 2019 full merger of Disney and Fox, which cost a cool $71.3 billion, brought the X-Men and Fantastic Four characters into the Disney universe, alongside a slew of movies such as the fantastic Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
Disney+ currently offers better value for money over Netflix. For £7.99, members can access Disney+ and enjoy unlimited downloads on up to 10 devices and 4K UHD streaming, while up to four screens can stream simultaneously at no extra cost. Right now, members can also get 12 months for the price of 10 when you sign up for a yearly Disney+ subscription, compared to monthly.
The Disney+ library may seem a little restricted compared to its competitors, at least on first impressions. Disney+ goes big on original programming, from Marvel exclusives like She-Hulk: Attorney at Law, Hawkeye and Moon Knight to Andor and The Mandalorian. The addition of Hulu, FX and National Geographic shows are welcomed, but there may be too few options for those who don’t like superheroes or lightsabers.
4. Apple TV+
It’s been a rocky road for Apple TV+ since it launched in 2019. There have been ups, with Apple’s CODA winning an Oscar for Best Picture. The streaming service has struggled to attract subscribers, though. Apple is usually very coy when it comes to releasing subscriber numbers, but some estimates suggest the streaming platform has somewhere between 20 – 40 million paying subscribers.
Compared to its competitors, Apple TV+ is a little thin on the ground when it comes to original programming, but it is constantly expanding. For £6.99 a month, members can access exclusives such as the Emmy-winning Ted Lasso, Mythic Quest, the sci-fi epic Foundation and star-studded drama The Morning Show. Here are some of our personal favourites. Apple TV+ membership is also part of Apple One, a bundle of Apple services that includes various combinations of Apple Music and Apple Arcade – giving access to over 70 million songs and 100+ games with Apple Arcade – Apple News+, Apple Fitness+ and some iCloud storage, depending on how much you fork out each month. Everything is ad-free and available to stream or download in 4K. If you purchase a brand-new Apple product like an iPhone, iPad, or Mac, you will also get three months free trial for Apple TV+.
Best free subscription services
1. BBC iPlayer
Few free services offer more breadth of content than BBC iPlayer. Originally launched on 27 July 2007, BBC programming was available to download on PC for up to a week after transmission. Now, iPlayer is the home of EastEnders, David Attenborough, The Traitors, BBC radio programming, and pretty much everything you could want to watch from the British institution.
In the UK, all you need to access BBC iPlayer is a free to create account, and a TV license. In the UK, pretty much all connected TVs, games consoles, set-top boxes and streamers support iPlayer, as well as Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media, and YouView. It’s also available on smartphones and tablets, internet browsers and via dedicated Amazon, Apple or Google Play store apps.
The ITV Hub is dead, long live ITVX, a one-stop shop for exclusive new shows, films, live events and boxsets. There was around 15,000 hours worth of TV available on ITVX when it launched on 8 December 2022. This was built from an expansive library of vintage and new ITV series, from Broadchurch, Cold Feet and Taggart, to Love Island. ITV has also already commissioned several new titles for the platform. This includes dramas Tell Me Everything and the Vicky McClure starring Without Sin, as well as A Spy Among Friends with Damian Lewis.
Viewers have a choice of free-to-watch, or a paid for Premium subscription when it comes to ITVX. A free-to-watch subscription only requires an account, but comes with adverts. For £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year, an ITVX sub delivers an ad-free service as well as access to UK streaming platform BritBox and ‘Best of British’ boxsets featuring Only Fools and Horses and Downton Abbey.
3. All 4
The service formerly known as 4oD threw the first punch when it came to the terrestrial streaming wars. Launched in November 2006, 4oD, now called All 4, has grown over the years to be a home for oddball comedy, leftfield documentaries, and The Great British Bake Off. An All 4 subscription gains access to Channel 4, E4, More4, Film4, 4Music and 4Seven channels, alongside some content from Adult Swim and Vice.
All 4 plays host to all series of Peep Show, Spaced, Derry Girls, Gogglebox and much more, entirely for free. The service is ad-supported, and unlike ITVX offers no paid-for service. The All 4 app can be downloaded on most connected TVs, games consoles, and streamers like Roku, and All 4 content can be streamed through your internet browser, smartphone and tablet.
- Also don’t forget to check out: Best streaming device: top sticks and boxes reviewed
Tune in with a VPN
Want to watch the NBA with American commentators? Or tune into the football with Gary Neville? With a VPN, you can watch sports coverage from outside your own country. We’ve already compiled the best paid-for VPN services, as well as which free VPN services can help you surf the internet in privacy. But all the major services have deals pretty much tailor-made for whatever protection and features you need from a VPN service. A few of our personal recommendations are: