Best streaming service in the UK

Last updated: 06 October 2023   By Dr Lucy Brown, Editor

Netflix is the most popular TV streaming service in the UK, with 60% of households subscribing, yet there are increasingly other options.

As well as being the most popular service, Netflix also has the largest collection of on-demand content, boasting a catalogue of over 7,000 titles.

Amazon Prime Video and NOW TV are also excellent options for households who want a variety of sports, movies and entertainment to watch.

Plus, the new streaming services from Sky and Virgin Media mean customers have a wide selection of platforms to choose from.

tv with remote

In this guide:


At a glance: the best streaming platform

There are two types of streaming service available to households; specific catalogue services like Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney Plus; and then larger providers like Sky and Virgin Media who now offer access to their TV platforms through streaming boxes.

Sky Stream and Virgin Stream, both launched in 2022, offer access to their well-known TV platforms over the Internet through dedicated smart TV boxes.

TalkTalk TV also offers a streaming platform through either Android TV or Netgem TV, with access to streaming sites including Netflix and NOW TV.

Here are the latest prices for Sky Stream, Virgin Stream, and TalkTalk TV:

Package Channels Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Sky Entertainment + Netflix 150 N/a £19 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Save £9/mth + Free setup (Ends 23/05/2024)
M125 Fibre Broadband + Stream 52 132Mb average £26 £35 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £26 per month + Get 10% Stream credit back on every subscription you add to Stream
TV Hub + Full Fibre 150 70 152Mb average £34 Free 18 months
offer Offer: NOW Entertainment just £4.99 for 12 months (was £9.99) + NOW Boost free + Free setup and P&P
Sky Entertainment + Netflix + Superfast Broadband 150 61Mb average £37 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Save £9/mth on Sky Entertainment & Netflix + Reduced price broadband + Free setup (Ends 23/05/2024)

Customers can add a range of premium channel packs to the above plans, with each provider offering access to Netflix, Prime Video, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, TNT Sports, and other apps such as BBC iPlayer and ITVX.

Read more on the differences between Sky and Virgin Media. For example, Sky Stream has access to Apple TV+, Discovery+, Peacock and Paramount+, while Virgin Stream misses out on Apple TV+, Discovery+ and Peacock, although customers did gain access to Paramount+ in May 2023.


Best streaming services

Ofcom's Media Nations report, published in August 2022, found as many as 5.2 million households had a subscription to Netflix, Prime Video and Disney Plus at the same time, while an additional 6.2 million had a subscription to both Netflix and Prime Video.

Fewer homes had a subscription to just one streaming service, suggesting a streaming platform could be worth considering for most people that combines multiple content providers in one package.

It's no surprise then, that Virgin Media launched a dedicated streaming platform in April 2022, and Sky followed suit with their Sky Stream Puck box in October 2022.

Sky Stream

The Sky Stream platform was initially launched on Sky Glass, but required customers to buy an expensive TV set in order to watch Sky via a broadband connection.

The launch of Sky Stream Puck boxes in October 2022 created an affordable alternative to Sky Glass, while also allowing people to access Sky TV without needing access to a satellite dish.

Sky Stream is now cheaper when compared to Sky Q TV, yet offers access to same range of on-demand streaming apps, including Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney Plus.

Here's the latest pricing for Sky Stream:

Package Channels Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
Sky Entertainment + Netflix 150 £19 Free 18 months
offer Offer: Save £9/mth + Free setup (Ends 23/05/2024)
Sky Glass 43 + Sky Entertainment + Netflix 150 £14
for 3 mths,
then £42
£10 48 months
offer Offer: Sky Entertainment & Netflix free for 3 months (Ends 23/05/2024)

Sky Stream comes with Netflix as standard, and customers can also add subscriptions to Disney Plus, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, TNT Sports, and many other on-demand apps.

Read more in our Sky Stream review.

Virgin Stream

Virgin Stream works a little differently to Sky Stream, it's only available to Virgin Media broadband customers, but once the upfront cost of £35 is paid it can actually be used without on-going monthly costs.

However, without paying a subscription customers would get access to just Freeview and Freeview catch-up apps like BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All4, and other free apps like YouTube.

Here is the latest pricing for Virgin Stream with broadband:

Package TV Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
M125 Fibre Broadband + Stream 52 132Mb average £26 £35 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £26 per month + Get 10% Stream credit back on every subscription you add to Stream
M250 Fibre Broadband + Stream 52 264Mb average £29 £35 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £29 per month + Get 10% Stream credit back on every subscription you add to Stream
M350 Fibre Broadband + Stream 52 362Mb average £35 £35 18 months
offer Offer: Reduced price: £35 per month + Get 10% Stream credit back on every subscription you add to Stream
M500 Fibre Broadband + Stream 52 516Mb average £35 £35 18 months
offer Offer: 500Mb broadband for the price of 350Mb + Get 10% Stream credit back on every subscription you add to Stream

To get the most from Virgin Stream customers need to add channel packs, including Essential Entertainment from £8 per month, Netflix, Disney Plus, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, TNT Sports, Kids pack or Lionsgate+.

Uniquely, Virgin Stream offer a 10% credit deal on any channel pack subscriptions, so customers get a little money-back each month, as well as an incentive to subscribe via Virgin.

Read more about Virgin Stream in our full review.

TalkTalk TV

TalkTalk offer their broadband customers access to either an Android 4K TV box or a Netgem 4K TV box. Both services offer exclusive discounts on Netflix and NOW TV Memberships.

While both boxes support streaming apps including Prime Video and BBC iPlayer, full fibre broadband customers receiving the Android TV box will get the widest support through the Google Play Store.

Here is the latest pricing for TalkTalk TV with broadband:

Package TV Broadband Monthly price Upfront price Contract term
TV Hub + Fibre 35 70 38Mb average £33 Free 18 months
offer Offer: NOW Entertainment just £4.99 for 12 months (was £9.99) + NOW Boost free + Free setup and P&P
TV Hub + Full Fibre 150 70 152Mb average £34 Free 18 months
offer Offer: NOW Entertainment just £4.99 for 12 months (was £9.99) + NOW Boost free + Free setup and P&P
TV Hub + Full Fibre 500 70 525Mb average £44 Free 18 months
offer Offer: NOW Entertainment just £4.99 for 12 months (was £9.99) + NOW Boost free + Free setup and P&P

One of the main selling points for TalkTalk TV is they bundle NOW Boost for free, which is worth £6 per month and boosts viewing quality to full 1080p HD as well as providing ad-skipping.

Read more about TalkTalk TV in our full review.


Best streaming services

Individual streaming services or on-demand apps, cover Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, NOW TV, and a wide range of smaller services like Apple TV+, Discovery+, Paramount+, and Britbox.

Here's a quick look at the main options:

Netflix Prime Video Disney Plus NOW TV Britbox
Monthly price £4.99 - £15.99 £8.99 £7.99 £4.99 - £34.99 £5.99
Catalogue hours 40646 26536 13817 20600 11220
Unique content Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Resolution Up to 4K Up to 4K Up to 4K Up to 1080p HD Up to 1080p HD
Simultaneous streaming 1 - 4 3 4 1 - 3 5
Downloads Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

Overall, Netflix has by far the largest amount of content, as well as a range of unique movies and series, with some of the most popular Netflix titles including Stranger Things, Squid Game, Wednesday, Bridgerton, The Queen's Gambit, The Witcher, and Queen Charlotte.

Netflix

Best for: Original content

Pros Cons
Huge catalogue No free trial
Plenty of original content Extra costs for Ultra HD
Great interface
Wide app support

Netflix is the most popular streaming service in the UK, and Ofcom estimate around 60% of households have a subscription.

There are three package choices for subscribers to choose from:

Basic with ads Standard Premium
Price per month £4.99 £10.99 £15.99
Definition 1080p HD 1080p HD 4K Ultra HD
Downloads No Yes Yes
Advert-free No Yes Yes
Number of simultaneous screens 2 2 4

Netflix introduced their cheapest Basic with ads plan in November 2022, when they also boosted their Basic plan to 720p HD as standard. However, they've since removed the 'Basic' plan, but boosted Basic with ads to full 1080p HD.

It's possible to access Netflix for as little as £4.99 per month, and customers can also choose to upgrade to an ad-free and even 4K Ultra HD plan with Standard and Premium.

Netflix has made a name for itself as the home of quality original content and it's the only place to see popular series like Stranger Things, Squid Game, The Crown, The Witcher, Bridgerton and more.

For customers looking for top original content, Netflix is hard to beat and it also maintains a huge rolling catalogue of other films and series too, recently adding popular film series like Harry Potter and Bridget Jones.

On the flip side, there's plenty of content on there that customers are never going to watch and it can feel like wading through treacle to find something you're in the mood for. Netflix's intelligent recommendations system helps with this, but you might still spend a little time scrolling.

There are other things to like about Netflix, not least the integration with billing on Sky TV, BT TV and Virgin Media TV, plus it has great availability across smart devices, streaming sticks and set-top boxes.

It's worth noting Netflix do have a habit of increasing the prices of their higher tier packages and they no longer offer a free trial which may frustrate some potential customers.

Read more on the best ways to get Netflix on TV.

Amazon Prime Video

Best for: Entertainment and sport bundle

Pros Cons
Original content available Pushing towards paid content
Includes sports fixtures Clumsy interface
HD and UHD as standard
Flat £8.99 fee

Amazon Prime Video is the streaming arm of Amazon and is part of the Amazon Prime service. It costs £8.99 per month and includes other Amazon perks such as music streaming and free one-day delivery.

Around 46% of UK households have a subscription to Amazon Prime Video and it experienced a subscription boost in late 2020 thanks to its live sport coverage.

Over recent years, Amazon Prime Video has become a player in the sports TV market and offers streaming of 20 Premier League matches that aren't on Sky Sports or BT Sport plus they are the home of ATP and WTA tennis in the UK.

This is a major distinguishing feature compared to other streaming services, especially for tennis fans who can't see much content elsewhere. But Amazon also combine it with original TV and film content such as Outlander, Wheel of Time and Hanna. Like the original series on Netflix, much of this content can't be seen elsewhere.

There are some niggles with Amazon Prime Video, however.

The interface is difficult to navigate and it sometimes feels as though priority is given to additional content that customers would have to pay extra to access. It can also be pretty frustrating to find that some seasons of a TV show are available to watch free through Amazon Prime Video while the later ones must be paid for.

Amazon Prime Video keeps its ranking behind Netflix thanks to its original content and sports streaming, but it doesn't have the smooth experience of its more popular rival.

NOW TV

Best for: Sky content, including Sky Atlantic, Sky Cinema, and Sky Sports

Pros Cons
Way to watch top content from Sky without long term commitment Only watch on 1 screen as standard
Good range of options Now Boost is required for HD and simultaneous screens
Day pass available for Sky Sports Viewing via browser is frustrating

NOW TV is the fourth most popular streaming service in the UK with around 7% of households having a subscription.

The major selling point for NOW is their status as a sub-brand of Sky TV. It means the channels and content they include in their memberships is harvested from the huge catalogue Sky have and spread across four distinct membership options:

Content Monthly price
Entertainment Sky Entertainment, including Sky Atlantic and kids £9.99
Cinema Over 1,000 movies, Sky Cinema and Sky Originals £9.99
Sports All 11 Sky Sports channels £34.99
hayu Reality TV shows £4.99

There's enough variety here for everyone, although it's worth highlighting that taking all membership options would cost almost £60 per month. It's more likely customers will pick the bits that appeal to them such as Entertainment and Cinema or Sports.

People can get a discount on NOW TV Memberships by bundling the service with a NOW Broadband package.

What stops Now taking second place in this guide is mainly their Now Boost system.
Now Boost costs £6 extra per month and it's the only way customers can:

  • Watch Now TV without adverts
  • Watch Now TV content in full 1080p HD and surround sound
  • Watch on more than 1 device (up to 3)

It feels that Now Boost is a premium tier by stealth and many customers will receive it free for a week or a month as a free trial, getting them used to the high-quality streaming before it disappears.

So, on the one hand, Now is the best place to watch premium Sky content without subscribing to Sky but, on the other, getting the full ad-free experience costs extra.

Watching Now via a browser is a frustrating experience too, with the viewing experience targeted far more at mobiles, tablets, smart TVs and similar devices.

Disney Plus

Best: Family-friendly films

Pros Cons
Great range of family friendly content Some set-top box integrations missing
Grown-up shows available too Premier Access costs extra
HD and UHD included No free trial

Disney Plus launched in March 2020 and quickly became the third most popular streaming service in the UK. The latest figures we have from Ofcom suggest 23% of households have a Disney Plus subscription.

Thanks to their tremendous back catalogue of films and shows, Disney+ is the best streaming service for family content. It features separate categories for its Disney and Pixar brands alongside special Marvel and Star Wars areas on its app.

To top it off, there's documentary content through National Geographic and popular content for grown-ups through their Star category. This includes drama and comedy in an ever-evolving roster of content.

One thing we appreciate about Disney+ is the flat £7.99 fee, although occasionally customers can pay extra to unlock a film early using the Premier Access scheme. Unlike Amazon Prime Video, however, this is a rare experience and the majority of subscribers will never need to opt for Premier Access.

Disney Plus is also now available through both Sky and Virgin Media, although it's not yet available on BT's TV Pro Box.

There are workarounds for customers with smart TVs and, again, many customers won't find this to be a problem, but it's worth knowing about.

Read more on how to get Disney Plus on TV.

BritBox

Best for: British television

What we like What we don't like
Place to see British TV and film No UHD content
Cheaper than many streaming services Latest TV shows not always available
No hidden fees

BritBox first launched in 2019 as the British answer to Netflix and, although only around 2% of UK households subscribe to it according to Ofcom, it definitely has some selling points.

As the name suggests, BritBox is the only streaming service on this list focused on UK content so, while there are some British boxsets on services like NOW, the amount of American content tends to dwarf it.

That means BritBox is the place to go for classic episodes of Doctor Who, classic and modern crime dramas, comedy shows, factual programmes and British films. Because all four major UK broadcasters (BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) are on board, there are plenty of different programmes available at any one time.

A major caveat with BritBox is that the latest programmes don't necessarily appear thanks to contractual issues. While ITV often transfer some of their most popular programmes directly to BritBox, the BBC has to keep them on iPlayer for a set amount of time, so it might not be the place to watch the latest shows.

BritBox is one of the few streaming services that still comes with a 30-day free trial and then renews at £5.99 per month, making it one of the cheaper streaming subscriptions out there.

Best of the rest

Our top five streaming services listed above offer a diverse range of content including TV shows, movies, kids' content, sports and more.

Yet there are some more streaming services to be aware of which we'll just touch on here.

Broadcaster streaming services

All four major UK broadcasters have their free own streaming services in the form of BBC iPlayer, ITVX, All 4 and My5. In addition, the Scottish version of ITV called STV Player is available too and UKTV Play offers content from across their TV channels too.

These services have different audience sizes but plenty of customers watch them:

Service Households who watch it
BBC iPlayer 74%
ITVX or STV Player 45%
All 4 41%
My5 26%
UKTV Play 10%

There are also paid upgrades for ITV and All 4, although these only have 3% and 2% of households subscribing to them.

These services are great ways of catching up with recent content on demand and other gems pop up when broadcasters look through their back catalogue and add TV shows and occasionally films. However, it can be a little hit and miss when it comes to on-demand content and they are much better for viewing recently aired content.

Apple TV+

Apple TV+ has a 6% audience share in the UK and the service includes Apple Originals and other content from £6.99 per month. There are bundled offers for customers who purchase some Apple products too, giving them a few months of free viewing.

Apple TV+ can be shared with up to five family members and content can be downloaded for viewing offline. The app also serves as a gateway to other apps such as the best of broadcaster-specific services we've mentioned above and things like Acorn TV and StarzPlay.

One of the problems with Apple TV+ is there doesn't seem to be as much content on there as we find with other providers and whether it's good value will depend on whether customers are invested in the shows they specialise in.

Discovery+

Discovery+ is a factual streaming service that includes some free content such as live TV channels and 30-day catch up but otherwise costs £3.99 per month for Basic entertainment alone, £6.99 to add some sport to that, including Eurosport, or £29.99 for the Premium tier with TNT Sports (previously known as BT Sport).

The documentary content on Discovery+ makes this streaming service different to most others and the sport element includes things like Australian Open tennis, Grand Tour cycling and motorsports.

There are also some original programmes in their discovery+ Originals range and access to pay TV on-demand content from Discovery and TLC.


Streaming service popularity

Dedicated streaming services include content producers like Netflix, Prime Video, and Disney Plus.

Netflix is arguably the best streaming service in the UK with the biggest catalogue of on-demand content and the highest take-up among households, with 60% of homes subscribing.

Customer satisfaction

Ofcom's latest Media Nations report 2022, found Netflix had the highest level of satisfaction among its customers with 57% saying they were very satisfied, and a further 29% being quite satisfied.

Disney Plus also has a high number of satisfied customers, with 50% being very satisfied with the service.

Very satisfied Quite satisfied
Netflix 57% 29%
Disney Plus 50% 31%
Prime Video 41% 39%
Sky Go 40% 37%
YouTube 39% 34%
Britbox 38% 35%
NOW TV 36% 36%

Catalogue size

Netflix has the largest catalogue of on-demand content across the main streaming services in the UK, with over 40,000 hours of viewing available.

Amazon Prime Video is a close second for sheer amount of content however, and actually had a greater amount of content than Netflix in 2020, with over 46,000 hours. Now they have around 27,000 hours of content.

Catalogue hours 2022
Netflix 40646
Prime Video 26536
NOW TV 20600
BBC iPlayer 14491
Disney Plus 13817
Britbox 11220
Discovery+ 11258
Apple TV+ 585

Household take-up

Paid streaming services were used by 67%, or 19.2 million, households in the UK by Q2 2022, with an increase in the number of homes who have more than one subscription to an average of 2 per home in Q1 2022.

While services including Netflix and Prime Video have seen a slight decrease in subscribers since the peak viewing during Covid-19, they are broadly holding onto many of their new customers.

Household take-up 2022
Any paid streaming service 67%
Netflix 60%
Prime Video 46%
Disney Plus 23%
NOW TV 7%
Apple TV+ 6%

Overall, Netflix clearly offer the best subscription based streaming service, with the highest levels of satisfaction, content hours, and take-up.


Verdict: Which is the best streaming service?

While Netflix leads the pack as the best streaming service for sheer catalogue size, ease of use, and accessibility, the increase in the number of people taking two or more streaming services, means a streaming platform may be a better choice than taking individual subscriptions.

Virgin Media's Stream service offers access to a range of on-demand apps and channel packs, including Netflix, Prime Video, Disney Plus, Sky Cinema, Sky Sports, TNT Sports, and kids channels.

Customers also get 10% credit, making Virgin Stream a cheaper way to access more content with exclusive discounts.

Sky Stream is also a strong contender, with broader app support than Virgin, and access to exclusive Sky programming including Sky Atlantic and Sky Originals.

Want to stream but don't have a smart TV? Check out our guide to the best smart TV sticks.

And for those who want to stream on the go, check out our guide to the mobile networks who offer free data on certain streaming services.

Which broadband & TV deals are available in your area?

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