Streaming Services

Andrew Rowland | 30 October 2020 | 0 comments

Updated 14 Jul 2022 to clarify that Disney+ on LG TVs requires WebOS models and to update the price table.

Last time, we looked at the television services available through your aerial or a satellite dish, and noted that these days, they are all hybrid services that optionally offer channels or programmes through the Internet. They may be subscription channels that you watch live in the same way as any other channel, catch-up or video on demand (VOD) where you choose what you want to watch and when. BBC 3 was an example of the latter from 2016 to Feb 2022, as it was only available through BBC iPlayer and did not have a schedule.

There are new services and more choice

Today we are going to look at the ‘pure play’ Internet-only services available for a subscription or pay per view (PPV). The most popular are:

Each has its strengths and weaknesses, and all bar one are from American giants, which is reflected in the choice of programmes. BritBox, as its name suggests, is the exception, and it was created by the British broadcasters to compete with the Americans. While it does have the occasional ‘original’ to boost sales, such as the revival of Spitting Image, it mostly features shows that have retired from catch-up and ‘classic’ series. Who knew that one day we would pay extra to watch repeats?

Shows come and go

Unlike recordings you make at home, online services are free to remove programmes from their line-up at any time. Pay attention to the ‘available until’ dates to avoid the disappointment of getting into a series that is pulled when you’re part-way through watching it. Some American networks like HBO only put programmes up for quite a limited time. In the UK, it is films that are often quite restricted for licensing reasons.

When it comes to originals, the programme-making budgets of the international players dwarfs that of the UK, and they use it to make unique content to differentiate themselves from the competition. But beware of being too influenced by one or two attractive films or big-name series when choosing. Once you have watched those, what else is there? Most services have films and TV shows, and they compete strongly for content they don’t own. Again, you sometimes see shows being poached by another service – when Disney+ started in 2019, for example, a number of Disney shows disappeared from their previous homes – so check that you may cancel at any time in case you want to swap ships.

Watch out for hidden costs

Costs vary from £5 to £16 a month; sports may be much more. See the summary below. The problem comes with services like Amazon and NowTV that do PPV too. You might think your subscription entitles you to the company’s entire offering (especially when they use words like ‘unlimited’), but that is not the case: you have to pay extra for many popular films. When you get to the end of watching one of the films they used to entice you to subscribe, what you see listed under ‘You might also like…’ are all PPV items.

Can you download?

If you want to download items to view offline, for example while travelling or on your phone or tablet, check the T&Cs for your chosen service.

Is the family included?

Some services allow you to watch on more than one device at the same time and some don’t. If you have family members who might want to watch something different from you (teenagers in their bedrooms, for example), watch out for that.




Free trial

Simultaneous Users









 1, 2, 4

Amazon Prime Video



30 days





7 days


Apple TV+



7 days (3 months free with some Apple devices)


Disney +





Now TV

Entertainment £9.99, Cinema £9.99, Sports from £25 p.m. (offer) / £11.99 day, Hayu £4.99 at 720p. +£5 for ‘Boost’ (HD 1080p)

7 days¹

1 (3 with Boost)

TV Licence




 Unlimited at same premises
¹ excluding sport
Correct as of July 2022 E&OE

You may have the player already

Once you have chosen a service, you need to check what equipment you need to watch it on. It is hard to find a device without Netflix, and your smart TV, set top box or Sky Q box may already have the service or let you add it. So might a games console like the PS4 or Xbox One or even your Blu-ray player. If not, check the websites and the summary below to see what kind of box you need, and get one that supports a good number of services to give you flexibility in future. They tend to cost £30 to £50. You could also use a computer, but that is less convenient when sitting on the couch in the TV room.

Correct as of summer 2020 E&OE

© Andrew Rowland 2020

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