To pay for streaming content in the UK, you’ve basically got 3 options: Netflix, NOW TV or Amazon. If you have the cash to splash around, why not get all 3 and live the couch-potato dream? But if you’d rather same some of your cash for other hobbies (maybe some outside?) then we can help you narrow your options down.
Netflix is the most ubiquitous streaming addon, and its name has almost become short-hard for online streaming. ‘I’ll just Netflix it’ sounds as natural as ‘Just Google it’, and it’s not hard to see why the service has become so popular. They really pioneered the whole idea of a subscription streaming service, and some sources say that as much as 36% of downloading web traffic at any given time is Netflix – that’s a massive amount of video streaming.
Availability + Usability
Netflixs popularity means it’s available on more devices than any other streaming addon. Or people it’s so popular just because it’s so freely available. Basically every single cordcutting device works with Netflix.
Netflix also works amazingly well. You won’t be waiting around for content to stream with Netflix, if you have a good internet connection it jumps to life almost right away, and it remembers where you got to in your film or TV show and it can instantly resume just where you left off when you sit down again.
The smart interface is easy to navigate, and Netflix famously puts films and TV shows into categories to help you find what you’re looking for. These categories range from things like ‘Romantic Comedies’ or more specific categories like ‘Goofy Dance Musicas’. The more you watch, the more content will be recommended to you. You can also add your favorites to your ‘List’ for easy access to all your films and TV shows.
The standard Netflix UK service is £5.99 per month or £7.49 if you want high definition streaming. Ultra HD/4K streaming is £8.99 per month, but it’s only worth getting the top package if you have a 4K TV or if you have a few devices in the house that need to stream at the same time.
The TV shows and films offered by Netflix are pretty solid, you’ll find a selection that satisfies almost any taste and there are some major hits like Breaking Bad and most of the Marvel films available to watch. The newest films don’t normally appear on Netflix for a couple of years, due to Sky having a deal with movie studios, but Netflix have started producing their own Films and TV Shows, and it’s really stellar stuff. Some of the best TV available over the past 3 years hasn’t been on broadcast TV – it’s been on Netflix. Shows like Daredevil, Orange is the New Black, Bojack Horseman and Bloodline have all been met with critical acclaim.
Now TV is Sky’s answer to Netflix in the UK, and due to Sky having some long-established distribution deals with American TV and Movie studios they have a really good collection of content. You’ll find new Movies on NOW TV first and because of Sky Atlantic you’ll be able to watch some of the biggest TV shows of the day. For example, if you want to watch Game of Thrones in the UK, legally and without a costly TV-Bundle subscription, NOW TV is the only game in town.
NOW TV doesn’t offer everything all the time though. Older seasons of popular TV shows aren’t always available to watch, so if you want to catch up from the start you’ll have to find the episodes elsewhere.
Availability + Usability
The biggest downside to NOW TV is that they don’t make themselves available on all devices. They have the their own NOW TV Box, which has access to all the free streaming services, but lack the other premium services so no Netflix or Amazon Instant. If you’re using a Chromecast or Android TV you can cast the films and TV shows, but there is no native app.
The second downside is the pricing is a little complicated. TV, Movies and Sport are all separated out into separate packages and the cost-per-month all depends on how long you subscribe for. The best offer is 6 Months of the Entertainment and Movie bundles, which costs £49.99 which works out at £8.33 per month – but you have to pay that all in one. If you don’t want movies, and just TV you can get a 6 month pass for £24.99 which works out at £4.16 per month – cheaper that Netflix.
Sports is another pack all together. You can get access to ‘the biggest and best sport live’ with a Sports Pack, but you’ll need to pay £6.99 for a single day or £10.99 for the week. If you want to watch the occasional game, that’s not too bad, but if you like to watch a lot of sport then the Sports package can be a big expense.
As well as the On Demand content, NOW TV give you access to some live channels not available on Freeview: : Sky Atlantic, Sky One, Fox, Gold, Sky Living. Comedy Central, Discovery Channel, MTV, ITV, Nickelodeon, Nickelodeon Jnr, ABC and Sky Arts. Not to be sniffed at if you’re making the jump from Over-The-Air TV.
A lot of currently airing TV shows have a limited life span on NOW TV: featured programmes tend to appear within 24 hours of transmission. One of the frustrating things about NOWTV is content can quickly disappear. This is especially the case for shows on Sky Atlantic.
If NOW TV was available on more devices, and the cost of TV and Movies was just a little lower, AND content stuck around for longer than it currently does, I’d say it was a better option than Netflix.
However, if you want the latest and greatest films and TV shows, it’s the best option, and the best way to experience it is a NOW TV box.
One more thing to note: NOW TV has really, really bad reviews on Trustpilot. Most people took out the free trial, but ran into some issues when cancelling. You have to take these reviews with a grain of salt, as people are much more likely to leave a review if they have a mad experience when compared to a good one, but to be on the safe side we’d say always cancel by phone and get confirmation from whoever you talk to that no more money will be taken – and keep an eye on your bank account.
Amazon Instant – despite its TV campaign – can be a little over looked. Like NOW TV, it only really plays nice with its own devices (the FIRE Range), but if you already have Amazon Prime it’s a no brainer. If not, it’s worth considering if you buy a lot of stuff on Amazon and want to make some savings, or if you want to take advantage of the Amazon Music service as well as the video.
Availability + Usability
As we’ve said, Amazon Instant is only really available on Amazon’s own devices, as well as on PCs. There are some work arounds to get the App working on Android TV. Some people have complained that the Amazon library feels like a shop – which I guess is what happens when the biggest shop in the world designs something. If you’re already locked into the Amazon ecosystem, with Kindle Fires and Fire Sticks then Prime
The pricing is quite simple. It’s £5.99 per month for just Amazon Instant Video – but if you’re going to pay monthly, you might as well pay an extra £2 a month for the full Amazon Prime subscription, which comes with Amazon Music (which is a little like Spotify) as well as free next day delivery and a few other perks. You can also pay £79 upfront to get access for the whole year (or half that if you’re a student).
As we just mentioned, Amazon Instant works best with Amazon’s own family of devices, and if you’re looking for a cord cutting device you could do worse than the FIRE TV. Its very quick, works with voice commands, and you can also run Netflix on it (but no NOW TV).
Amazon’s video and film selection is decent, they probably have newer movies than Netflix but the range is a lot smaller. They do have some original content like the cast of Top Gear’s new show, and the excellent Preacher. The focus seems to be on quality rather than quantity. You can buy or rent any titles that aren’t covered by the subscription service to fill any holes in the library.
If you’re a student and looking to stream some content, Amazon FIRE boxes are quite low prices and you can get 6 months of free Amazon Prime, followed by half price annual costs after that so it’s almost definitely worth picking one up. The extra content that comes with Prime make it a really attractive option.
Sign up for a free month of Amazon Prime here or check out the FIRE TV Range here
So which is the best? Well… there isn’t one. Sorry. It all depends on what you want to get from the service. If you’re looking to keep on top of all the newest films and TV shows, NOW TV is for you. If you’re looking for the best all round streaming service – then Netflix or Amazon Instant is for you.
Gun to our head, we’d have to say Netflix edges out the competition. Its great value, works on basically all devices and has a wide and diverse selection of films and TV shows.