Personal Finance

TV Streaming Services: Your ABC Of What’s Available

The way we watch TV has become increasingly flexible, and the days of frantically setting your video recorder to catch your favourite TV show are long gone.

Streaming is a popular way to access entertainment as it allows you to view content on a range of devices, at a time that suits you. And the popularity of streaming services has surged during lockdown according to Ofcom, the communications market regulator, with time spent on streaming services doubling during the coronavirus pandemic.

Some 12 million people in the UK have signed up to new services.

But, with a huge range of companies offering streaming platforms, it can feel overwhelming trying to identify which is the right one for you and your family. To help you to decide on the best option, here we look at how streaming works and detail the main streaming services in the UK, including how much they cost and what you get for your money.

What is streaming?

Streaming services allow you to watch content instantly and on demand.

Using your internet connection, the streaming platform you’ve chosen will allow you to play the video you’ve selected from its library on demand, with the original file being stored remotely so you don’t have to download huge files to your device.

(Some streaming services do also offer the option to download content to enjoy while you’re offline, though.)

Streaming is very popular as you can watch your favourite TV programmes and films when you want, rather than being restricted to live schedules. It’s so popular that some programmes and even films are now made exclusively for individual streaming platforms.

Each streaming service is slightly different. Some, such as Netflix, have a broad range of content, including films and boxsets from a selection of studios, while others, such as Disney+, offer more niche options.

What do I need to stream content to my TV?

For all streaming services, you’ll need a strong internet connection. You may need to have a certain minimum broadband speed to enjoy a smooth service – Netflix recommends a broadband connection speed of 1.5 Megabits per second (Mbps) or 5 Mbps for HD quality.

If you have more than one device in your house seeking to access a streaming service at any one time, your internet service will need to be stronger still to sustain service.

Depending on the device you’re watching your content on, you may need to download an app to access content. If you’re watching content on your TV, you may need to buy a set-top box streaming player or a streaming stick – although smart TVs (those with a built-in capability to hook up to your internet provision) usually eliminate the need for these.

What are the main TV streaming services?

All 4 and All 4+

All 4 is Channel 4’s on-demand service, which allows you to watch its channels live (Channel 4, E4 and More4) or catch up on shows you’ve missed. It also has boxsets, classic shows and exclusive content.

All 4+ will allow you to watch the majority of shows on All 4 without adverts (‘watch live’ is excluded), but you’ll be charged a monthly fee for this.

How do you get the service?

You have to set up an All 4 account and register your details to use All 4. You’ll need an All 4 account to access All 4+ too, plus pay a monthly fee.

You’ll need an internet connection to access both services and you can use it online using a browser, or via an app on iPhones, iPads and Android devices. You can also access it through PS3, PS4, Windows 10/XBoxOne, YouView, Roku, Samsung, Amazon Fire, FreeviewPlay, Now TV, Sky and Virgin Media.

Price plans

All 4 is free but you must have a valid TV licence to watch programmes through its watch live service. You can sign up for a 14-day free trial of All 4+ and then it costs £3.99 a month. Find out more on All 4 and All 4+.

Amazon Prime Video

According to Amazon, its Prime Video service offers “thousands of popular movies & TV shows, award-winning Amazon Originals and live sports.”

With a subscription, you’ll have access to a broad range of content, from blockbuster films and popular TV series to its own exclusive content, such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Extra content is also available to rent or buy for an additional cost.

How do you get the service?

Prime Video is available for Amazon Prime subscribers or you can sign up for a stand-alone membership.

Once you’ve signed up, you can watch Prime Video content on a range of devices including Amazon’s FireTV and FireTV stick, compatible smart TVs, mobile phones, tablets and games consoles, laptops, and via other compatible streaming devices.

Price plans

To try the service out, Amazon offers a 30-day free trial and then it costs £5.99 a month for new members or £7.99 a month as part of an Amazon Prime membership, which gives you unlimited premium delivery from Amazon, access to free music through Prime Music, free Kindle ebooks through Prime Reading, and unlimited photo storage through Prime Photos.

There’s also the option to pay £79 a year for Prime membership or £39 through Prime Student. Find out more here.

Apple TV+

The Apple TV+ streaming service allows you to watch content that’s made exclusively for Apple, known as “Apple Originals”.

Apple says these are “award-winning series, compelling dramas, ground-breaking documentaries, kids’ entertainment, comedies and more — with new Apple Originals added every month.” You can also buy or rent films.

Stand-out Apple Originals include The Morning Show, starring Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, and Greyhound, starring Tom Hanks.

How do you get the service?

To watch Apple TV+, you’ll need to download the Apple TV app or watch it online at

The Apple TV+ app is on Apple devices, including iPhones, iPads and Macs. You can also watch it on compatible smart TVs and streaming boxes, through an Apple TV 4K Box, or online.

Price plans

Apple TV+ is available free for a year to customers buying an Apple device. Otherwise it’s £4.99 a month after a free seven-day trial. You can share your subscription with up to five family members. Find out more here.

BBC iPlayer

The BBC iPlayer allows you to watch BBC channels online and the majority of its programmes shortly after they’ve been broadcast, for a set amount of time (many for 30 days, some longer).

You can also watch some shows from BBC archives and use its Live Restart to go back to the beginning of a programme that’s currently being shown.

How do you get the service?

The BBC iPlayer is available on connected TVs, games consoles, set-top boxes, streamers and platforms including Freesat, Sky, Virgin Media and YouView.

If you’re in the UK, you can watch content on the BBC iPlayer app on Amazon Fire, Android and Apple devices, or on the BBC iPlayer website. You’ll need to set up a BBC account and sign in.

Price plans

It’s free to watch programmes on the BBC iPlayer, but you’ll need to have a valid TV licence or you could be prosecuted and fined up to £1,000. Find out more here.


Britbox was created by the BBC and ITV and says it offers “Your favourite British programmes all in one place. Ad Free.”

It offers a selection of British dramas, comedies, films and documentaries from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5.

Popular programmes on offer include Doctor Who, Love Island and Peep Show. It says that it has the biggest collection of British boxsets in comparison to other subscription video on demand providers.

How do you get the service?

To access Britbox, you’ll need an internet connection and to create an account. It is only available to UK residents. You can sign up via the web, on an iOS device, on an Android device and on supported smart TVs.

Price plans

You can sign up for a 30-day free trial and then it’s £5.99 a month. Find out more here.


BT TV is available for BT broadband customers. You’ll get a recordable TV box when you sign up (unless BT has already provided you with one) and then can select the viewing package you want, with Sky channels provided through Now TV.

How do you get the service?

BT broadband customers can add TV packages to existing broadband packages for an extra monthly charge – and with a 24-month minimum contract. These are watched through a recordable TV box. Current flexible packages include:

  • “Entertainment”, with channels including Sky Atlantic, Sky One, Discovery and Comedy Central, plus more than 300 non-demand box sets from NOW TV
  • “Big Entertainment”, which includes everything from the Entertainment package, all the Sky Cinema channels and more than 1,000 movies on-demand from NOW TV
  • “Sport”, with all four BT Sport channels and BoxNation, including 52 live Premier League matches and every UEFA Champions League game
  • “Big Sport” which has everything from the Sport package plus all 11 Sky Sports channels
  • “VIP” which includes everything from the Big Sport and Big Entertainment packages.

There’s a “Classic Entertainment” package too but, unlike the flexible packages, you can’t swap it for another one during your contract.

You can also choose monthly add-ons, such as Netflix access and Amazon Prime Video, with all packages.

Price plans

Packages cost from £10 a month for Entertainment and Classic Entertainment (and, at the time of writing, Sport, which is on offer) up to £60 a month for VIP. You’ll also have to pay a £29.99 one-off charge to cover an activation fee and delivery charge for the new kit.

You can change flexible packages every 30 days and opt for different add-ons, but the minimum contract for the service is 24 months. Find out more here.


Disney+ is a streaming service with a selection of films, programmes and documentaries from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars and National Geographic. It includes classics and new Disney+ Originals, such as High School Musical – The Musical: The Series.

How do you get the service?

Once you’ve signed up to Disney+, you’ll be able to watch it through compatible smart TVs, streaming set-top boxes, through your web browser, on Amazon Fire tablets, Android phones and tablets, iPhones and iPads, and through the PS4 and Xbox One games consoles.

Price plans

Disney+ costs £5.99 a month or £59.99 a year. Find out more here.


hayu is a streaming service that specialises in reality TV shows. Its strapline is “Reality on demand.”

It says that it includes “loads of shows on the same day as the US” with over 250 shows included. Popular shows include those from The Real Housewives repertoire and Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

How do you get the service?

To access hayu’s content, you’ll need to download its app. You can then watch its reality TV programmes on Android and Apple phones, Apple tablets, and compatible TV devices including Apple TV, Amazon FireTV and Samsung smart TVs.

Price plans

You can sign up for a one-month free trial and then it’s £4.99 a month. Find out more here.

ITV Hub and ITV Hub+

ITV Hub allows you to watch shows from the ITV channels: ITV, ITV2, ITVBe, ITV3, ITV4 and CITV. You can live stream channels or catch up on what you’ve missed.

ITV Hub+ is ITV’s premium subscription service which allows you, for a monthly fee, to enjoy ITV Hub without the adverts. You can also download ad-free shows.

How do you get the service?

You’ll need to set up an account on the ITV site or through its mobile app to access the ITV Hub. You’ll be able to stream shows through supported connected TVs, games consoles, iOS devices, Android devices and online through up-to-date web browsers.

You’ll need to subscribe to access the ITV Hub+ too and pay a monthly fee.

Price plans

ITV Hub is free but you’ll need to have a TV licence if you watch or record live TV. You can sign up for a seven-day free trial of the ITV Hub+ then it’s £3.99 a month. You can get two months free with an annual subscription. Find out more on ITV Hub here and ITV Hub+ here.


My5 is Channel 5’s on-demand service allowing you to catch up on shows from Channel 5, 5STAR, 5USA, 5SELECT and the Paramount Network, as well as giving access to some exclusive content, boxsets and premieres of new shows.

How do you get the service?

You don’t need to register for My5 but, if you do set up an account, you’ll get a longer window to catch up on shows and will have access to more content.

You can access it via compatible set-top boxes, on the My5 website, via iOs and Android devices, through compatible streaming players and devices, and through compatible streaming players, smart TVs and Blu-ray players. See a full list here.

Price plans

My5 is free but you’ll need a TV licence if you’re watching any live content. Find out more here.


Perhaps the best-known option for streaming, Netflix has 193 million paid members in more than 190 countries.

It says that it has: “an extensive library of feature films, documentaries, TV programmes, anime, award-winning Netflix originals, and more.”

Popular programmes such as Stranger Things and Orange is the New Black are Netflix originals.

How do you get the service?

You’ll need to choose between one of three membership plans to sign up to Netflix:

  • Basic Plan allows you to watch on one device in Standard Definition
  • Standard Plan allows you to watch on two devices at a time in High Definition, where available
  • Premium Plan allows you to watch on four devices at a time in High Definition and Ultra High Definition, when available.

Netflix says that its streaming software allows you to “instantly watch content from Netflix through any internet-connected device that offers the Netflix app, including smart TVs, game consoles, streaming media players, set-top boxes, smartphones, and tablets.”

You can also stream Netflix from your laptop or computer.

Price plans

Netflix plans cost from £5.99 to £11.99 a month. You can start and stop your account at any time. Find out more here.


NOW TV is a streaming service owned by Sky which allows you to access the content you want through a choice of passes, including an entertainment pass with more than 300 boxsets on demand and a Sky Sports pass to give you access to the 11 Sky Sports channels.

You aren’t tied into a contract with NOW TV, and you can swap and cancel passes at any time.

How do you get the service?

You’ll need to sign up and choose the NOW TV Pass you’d like. These include:

  • Entertainment Pass, with more than 300 boxsets on demand, including Sky Originals
  • Sky Cinema Pass, with thousands of films on demand from Sky Cinema and Sky Disney
  • Sky Sport Pass, with access to the 11 Sky Sports channels
  • Kids Pass, which has thousands of ad-free kids’ TV episodes
  • hayu pass, with thousands of episodes of reality TV shows.

You can combine passes too – such as Sky Cinema and Entertainment.

You can stream NOW TV through its app on compatible tablets and smartphones, on a desktop or laptop through the NOW TV player, on a compatible games console, on a compatible smart TV, and through a compatible set-top box or streaming device. You can also buy a NOW TV Smart Stick streaming stick.

Price plans

You can sign up for a seven-day trial and then plans range from £3.99 a month to £36.99 a month. You can also buy Sky Sports passes by the day. Find out more here.

Sky Q

Through a Sky Q box, you’ll be able to access content from Sky TV, Netflix, YouTube, Disney+, Spotify, BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4. It’s not solely a streaming service as the majority of content is downloaded to your box, but it allows you to keep all of the TV content you consume in one place

There’s also the option to watch content on other screens around your home using Sky Q Mini boxes.

How do you get the service?

You’ll have to sign up to Sky TV for a minimum of an 18-month contract and choose a package. You’ll need to have a dish installed if you don’t already have one as well as broadband being required for parts of the package, including on demand and multiscreen subscriptions.

Packages include Sky Signature TV, with 300 channels, 40 catch-up channels and 500 boxsets, as well as the Sky Go app which lets you stream live and catch-up TV from your package to your phone, tablet or laptop, and Sky Ultimate TV, which includes everything from Sky Signature plus Netflix Basic.

You can add extras to packages such as Sky Sports, BT Sport, Kids, Sky Cinema, Multiscreen, Disney+ and more.

Price plans

Packages start from £25 a month on an 18-month minimum contract, plus a set-up fee of £20 for new customers. Add-ons start at £5 a month for Kids up to £25 a month for BT Sport. Find out more here.

Virgin Media TV

Virgin says that it brings “the TV world together with live TV, Catch Up, TV Box Sets, Netflix (if you subscribe), BT Sport, Sky Sports, Sky Cinema and more. Plus, you can now access award-winning shows on Amazon Prime Video on your Virgin TV box (if you subscribe).”

Through its V6 box, you can watch programmes in 4K, and stream anywhere in the UK where there’s WiFi, 3G or 4G through its Virgin TV Go app.

How do you get the service?

You’ll need to sign up to a minimum of an 18-month contract with Virgin and take out its broadband service as well. You’ll be given a V6 box and can choose a bundle to suit you. These include:

  • Big Bundle, which includes more than 115 channels, such as Dave, BBC One HD, Film 4, Sky News, Sky One HD and MTV Music
  • Bigger Bundle, which includes more than 221 channels, such as BT Sport Ultimate, Discovery Channel and Fox
  • Bigger Bundle + Sports, which includes all of the entertainment picks, plus Sky Sports HD channels and BT Sport in 4K
  • Ultimate Oomph, which it says includes the best of everything. Highlights include Sky Sports HD, Sky Cinema HD, entertainment picks and Kids Pick.

There’s an offer with free set-up at the moment, otherwise it’s £35.

You can also download the Virgin TV Go app to watch live TV on compatible mobiles and tablets where there’s 3G, 4G or WiFi.

Price plans

The Big Bundle starts at £33 a month while the Ultimate Oomph package is £89 a month.Find out more here.

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