Streaming services have been taking the world by storm in recent years, revolutionising the way we watch TV and films – but over the past year, as we’ve had little choice but to spend more time at home thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, they’ve really come into their own.
In 2020, with the average Brit estimated to be spending around 40 percent of their waking time watching TV at the height of the first lockdown, the number of those subscribing to streaming services in the UK reached 32 million – that’s twice as many compared to those paying for a cable TV service.
While Netflix – which now has upwards of 13 million subscribers all on its own – has long been the market leader thanks to its huge selection of TV shows, films and original series that can’t be seen anywhere else, these days there’s an increasing number of rival services on the block that are giving it a run for its money. From Amazon Prime and Now TV to Disney+ – which executed the perfectly timed launch on the very first day of lockdown last year – there is now a bigger range to choose from than ever before.
In the USA, the competition is even more fierce, withe likes of Hulu and HBO+ battling it out for the streaming crown – and there are hopes that both might at some point become available in the UK, too.
If you’re feeling a little too spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the best streaming service for you, then we don’t blame you – but luckily, the experts at Streaming Rant have you covered. Here, we asked them to break down the best of the bunch, including all of the key selling points of each.
Netflix – £5.99 – £13.99 per month
Offering up over 6,500 films and TV shows from around the world as well as its own popular ‘Netflix Originals’, it’s little wonder that Netflix has amassed a huge subscriber base that now exceeds 15 million. Although there has been plenty of competition brought to the table in recent years, the provider has never been one to rest on its laurels, and is continuously adding new titles to its catalogue, seemingly every day.
From old classics to the latest hit series, Netflix remains a cut above, and offers its entire range to customers for a single monthly subscription fee. Currently, it is one of the only providers to do so, with others requiring an additional fee to rent or buy the most popular listings, so it’s little wonder that it has so far retained its title as the UK’s top choice.
Amazon Prime Video – £7.99 per month plus extras
Free to subscribers of Amazon’s ‘Prime’ next day delivery service, which comes with a price-tag of £9.99 per month, Amazon Prime made a name for itself in the UK when it signed contracts with former Top Gear presenters Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May for a rival show after the trio left the original BBC show several years ago. Since then, it has gone on to offer an increasing catalogue of TV programmes and films to rival Netflix’s – but customers are required to pay extra to watch some of its biggest blockbuster movies, which has perhaps left it lagging a little further behind.
Even older TV shows often come with an additional price tag, which has led to criticism from subscribers – but nonetheless, it has won itself 10.1 million of them thanks to its unique selection of titles. Some may argue that it has work to do before it can truly compete with Netflix, but ultimately, it all comes down to personal preference – especially where money is no object.
Apple TV Plus – £9.99
Apple is used to being the leader of the pack when it comes to mobile tech, but when it comes to its current TV and video streaming service, it doesn’t quite make the cut. Despite an ever-increasing subscriber base, it still lags behind Netflix and Amazon Prime Video – but we can expect to see it up its game over the next year, so watch this space.
As well as its own original series, the Apple TV app provides access to other streaming services that are available for free nationwide – including BBC iPlayer, All4 and ITV Hub. While some see this as a bonus, for many it makes little difference since these are widely available with most TV packages and online anyway – however, it does centralise everything for easier access.
Disney+ – £7.99 per month
The dedicated streaming service for films and TV shows from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic and more, this relatively new service is fast becoming a popular choice amongst families with children, and many parents have likely found it a godsend over the past year with schools closed and kids to keep busy.
There’s plenty on offer for adults here, too, and we could see it eclipse many of the other providers over the next year if they don’t keep up the current level of momentum.
The bottom line
When it comes to choosing the best streaming service, each of the market leaders have plenty to offer, so it all comes down to personal preference. However, with such low prices, you could easily subscribe to them all and have your pick of the bunch, keeping the entire family entertained for hours with an endless selection of TV programmes, films and original series.