In the UK, we're nearing the one-year anniversary of the day when the first nationwide lockdown was initiated. Since then, we as a nation have largely existed within the confines of our homes, with very limited options to live the socially diverse lives we previously saw as normal. To keep us occupied, a lot of us have depended more than ever on the many streaming services available in the UK, and so to mark this historic anniversary, we've ranked the best streaming platforms accessible in the UK.
It's hard to dispute this one really. Netflix is still the reigning monarch of streaming services, and while Disney+ and Amazon Prime are still trying to contend with this titan, Netflix is still very much the best platform on the market. Between its competitive pricing; boundless list of high-quality originals; and incredibly well adapted UI that works great on PC, mobile, tablets, consoles, and TVs, it's hard not to refer to Netflix as the gold standard of streaming services. Considering Netflix is also frequently updated with new movies and shows to keep you on your toes, and even is incredibly open to telling us about the new sorts of content on the way, we don't see any reason to give up your Netflix subscription anytime soon.
A few weeks ago, Disney+ would've been much lower on this list, however the recent introduction of Star to the service has elevated and expanded what we have come to expect from the platform. Disney+ was previously a family friendly-first service that offered limited options for those who didn't live and breathe Disney, but now you can catch plenty of great alternatives, many of which aren't for younger audiences. Whether you're a fan of crime shows like Bones, or animated comedies like Family Guy or the new Solar Opposites, Disney+ now has something for you, and considering the service is available on pretty much every piece of technology you can find, and at a very, very digestible price - there's not a lot to disagree with.
3. Now TV
Over here in the UK, we don't get HBO Max, or HBO GO, or any of the other HBO-branded services due to a deal between Sky and HBO. Instead, what we get is Now TV, which is essentially the way to watch Sky TV without the need for one of those archaic boxes. If I had to describe what Now TV offers over other services, it would be a curated collection of high-quality drama TV, box-office flicks, and live sports that quite frankly is unmatched. But, the catch is that it's all locked away behind a very steep subscription fee. Now TV is structured in a way that each area of its services can be paid for separately, and assuming you only want the Entertainment Pass, the Movie Pass and Sports Pass for one month, you're looking at over £55 worth of fees - and that doesn't even count the Kids Pass, the Hayu Pass, and the Now TV Boost to watch everything in 1080p HD.
4. BBC iPlayer
Out of all of the British broadcast titans, the BBC's iPlayer is by far the best streaming service. It's free to sign up and use, and offers a whole bunch of great shows from the many BBC channels. Between the high-quality documentaries and dramas coming out of BBC One, the daft humorous shows from BBC Three, or the ability to seamlessly watch live TV, news, or weather directly from the application, it really does offer a great service. However, with it being a BBC owned product, you don't exactly get a large variety of content from other platforms or channels, which makes it hard to binge and get stuck into it like its competitors.
5. Amazon Prime Video
It feels strange ranking Amazon Prime Video as low as this, considering how it fits into the package of Amazon Prime and comes with a broad selection of content to consume. But, its lack of great originals and poor UI that can be confusing to know what is included in the subscription lets it down significantly. You can watch this service on a broad variety of platforms, and it uses a player that displays movies and shows in high-quality with simple to understand options, but it just doesn't quite beat out the services listed above when it comes to finding some great content to binge, and at the end of the day, that's the real deal-breaker.
6. ITV Hub
The direct competitor to BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub is the place to watch all of your favourite ITV shows. This service, alike iPlayer is free to watch provided you create an account, but the catch is that there are advertisements to chew through. ITV also generally doesn't have all that many big name homegrown shows to be excited for, except for the likes of the eccentric comedy shows airing on ITV2 late at night. You can stream live programmes on ITV Hub, and it can be watched on a whole host of platforms, but it probably isn't going to be your first, second, or third choice when it comes to choosing something to watch.
7. Apple TV Plus
When Apple announced their move into the world of streaming, they kicked it all off with a list of big budget productions starring some of Hollywood's finest. But, a year and a half down the line, not much has changed at all. The service completely relies on its original TV shows and exclusive movies that for the most part are pretty great, but considering it's an Apple product, it has been quite difficult to watch it on anything other than Apple devices. Granted, we've seen a lot of developments to fix that over the past few months, but it's still difficult to recommend this service to anyone who uses a streaming platform more than once a week.
Out of the three streaming services solely dedicated to one of the big broadcasting channels in the UK, All4 is by far the worst. Like iPlayer and ITV Hub, it's free to use, but you do need to create an account to get what it has on offer, and aside from raunchy comedies, quiz shows featuring popular comedians, or a lot (and we mean a lot) of reality TV, there isn't really a whole bunch to look forward to. To really elevate the experience a little more, All4 has advertisements like ITV Hub, but you can check out live TV, if you don't have access to Freeview. Generally, we don't see much point heading to this service, unless there's a specific show you are interested in checking out.
With Discovery+ only rolling out last October in the UK, it is pretty much in its infancy and hasn't had as much time to build up a rock solid catalogue like its competitors. That said, it still does provide you with access to some of the biggest reality TV shows around such as My Cat From Hell and 90 Day Fiancé. It also has a pretty extensive catalogue of crime documentaries too that are exclusive to the service. Your mileage with this one will vary depending on your tastes, but it's obvious there are much more superior options out there.
Something had to bite the bullet and claim the bottom spot on this list, and that unfortunately fell to BritBox. This streaming service is the lovechild of BBC and ITV and it brings a variety of both broadcasters shows and productions for people to watch. Not only are there new shows from both organisations, but BritBox delivers a deep variety of older great British television and movies. The main catch however, is that it is a paid service unlike iPlayer, ITV Hub, and All4, and considering it doesn't offer anything excitingly unique to make you want to grab a subscription, we can't help wondering why you'd ever choose this over the free alternatives.
Honourable mention: Crunchyroll
Crunchyroll is quickly becoming a titan of streaming services, thanks to the increasing popularity of anime, and the reason we omitted Crunchyroll, and gave it a honourable mention spot instead is simple: Anime isn't for everyone. However, for those who do enjoy it, Crunchyroll offers an absolutely giant collection of content for a pretty reasonable price, and you can watch it on pretty much every platform you like. Crunchyroll even offers a free version for people who just want to dabble in the odd bit of anime, but you will have to struggle through a limited version of the streaming platform - but, that's a better alternative to nothing at all.
Loading next content