The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Best streaming services 2022: After another Netflix price rise, here’s how to find TV and movies on demand

Watch classic Simpsons episodes and the latest Marvel blockbusters with our pick of the best online streaming platforms around

Steve Hogarty
Friday 11 March 2022 13:59
<p>There’s more to streaming than Netflix</p>

There’s more to streaming than Netflix

Despite its prices going up yet again – and with new rivals continuing to surge in popularity – the best streaming service in the UK right now is still Netflix. The dominant platform boasts the greatest selection of shows and movies to watch, and while the cost of admission creeps ever upwards, less established streaming services struggle to match Netflix for its sheer breadth of content.

But those Netflix alternatives are still worth considering, and each has its own advantages. Amazon Prime Video is in its ascendency, consistently adding exclusive original TV shows to its library, as well as occasional live sport.

Many platforms are also luring in viewers with better value plans, higher quality video streams and the option to view shows offline.

Disney+ has the backing of the world’s biggest entertainment franchises (and their fanbases) and while cinemas were closed during the pandemic it became something of a proving ground for launching new releases directly into the living room. Cinema might not be dead, but the script has certainly changed.

Flexible streaming services like Now let you build your own subscription by picking and choosing from a selection of plans to suit viewers who want to watch movies, TV shows or live sports events.

Read more:

And free streaming platforms like All 4 and BBC iPlayer have grown their catalogues of films and classic TV box sets so much since launch that they’re now a serious alternative to paying a monthly subscription to stream.

Whatever you’re in the mood to watch, we’ve rounded up a selection of the best streaming services to suit a range of tastes, taking into consideration their cost, ease of use, and their best exclusives.

Netflix
  • How to watch: Compatible TVs, PC, Mac, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, iPad, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, PlayStation 3/4/5, Xbox one/360/series X and S, compatible set-top boxes and blu-ray players, Sky TV and Sky Glass
  • Price per month: From £6.99 (basic tier)
  • Price per year: £83.88
  • How many devices can stream at one time: One (basic tier), two (standard tier), three (premium tier)
  • Downloads possible: Yes
  • 4K available: Yes (Premium tier)
  • Free trial: No
  • Standout shows: Bridgerton, Squid Game, The Crown, Stranger Things, The Witcher, You, Inventing Anna, Sex Education

The king of the streaming services is still the best all-round solution to watching TV shows and movies on demand, though as it approaches the 10th anniversary of its UK debut, it’s becoming one of the more expensive streaming options in our list. Still, a near-psychic recommendation algorithm, unbeatable exclusive shows and a constantly refreshing library of new and classic content ensures you’re never short of something to watch.

With the platform’s push into original programming, Netflix is also now the only place to watch some critically acclaimed TV shows, including animated comedy BoJack Horseman, Eighties horror hit Stranger Things, and high-concept comedy-drama Russian Doll. You have to sift to find the real gold however – a recent spate of Netflix Original turkeys might make you hesitate before hitting that subscribe button.

Watch Netflix now

Disney+
  • How to watch: Compatible TVs, PC, Mac, iOS, Android, iPad, Amazon Fire tablets, Windows 10 and 11 tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV (4th generation onwards), Chromecast, Now, PlayStation 4 and 5, Roku, Sky, Xbox one and series X/S
  • Price per month: £7.99
  • Price per year: £79.90
  • How many devices can stream at one time: Four
  • Downloads possible: Yes
  • 4K available: Yes
  • Free trial: No
  • Standout shows: The Simpsons, Star Wars, The Mandalorian, The Beatles: Get Back, Wandavision, plus Disney, Marvel and Pixar films

Launched to deafening fanfare in the UK in 2020, Disney’s streaming service is currently rocketing in popularity thanks in large part to The Mandalorian and WandaVision, two series which were among the most talked about television shows of the past. The voracious media empire’s catalogue includes almost every entertainment franchise going, from The Simpsons and animated Disney films both classic and modern, to box office blockbusters from the Marvel and Star Wars universes.

Such a broad selection of favourites, from Frozen to Captain America, makes Disney+ the best streaming service for families. There are some holes in the content library – not everything under the Disney umbrella is on here – but if you, or someone in your home, is already a huge fan of Disney, this platform has plenty to offer.

Watch Disney+ now

  • How to watch: Amazon Fire TV devices, Amazon Echo Show, Fire tablets, compatible TVs and blu-ray players, Android, iOS, iPad, PC, Mac, PlayStation 3/4/5, Apple TV, Xbox one and series X/S
  • Price per month: £7.99
  • Price per year: £79
  • How many devices can stream at one time: Three (but the same content to just two)
  • Downloads possible: Yes
  • 4K available: Yes
  • Free trial: 30 days
  • Standout shows: Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan, Vikings, Mr Robot, The Man in The High Castle, Star Trek: Picard, Clarkson’s Farm

Amazon’s own streaming service crept in through the back door, as anyone who was paying for an Amazon Prime subscription for its one-day shipping option also unlocked full access to Prime Video and Amazon Music. Since launch, Amazon Prime Video has grown to become the second biggest streaming platform in the UK, expanding its streaming catalogue to include a bunch of highly rated original programming, such as The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Expanse, and The Boys.

Much of the content on the platform can only be rented or bought for an extra charge, which is frustrating when searching for something to stream for free. The Amazon Prime Video interface is tricky to navigate and persistently highlights paid content ahead of free streams, but learn to negotiate its menus and your reward is a streaming service excellent enough to topple Netflix.

Watch Amazon Prime Video now

BBC iPlayer
  • How to watch: Compatible TVs and blu-ray players, PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, Apple TV (4th generation onwards, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox one and series X/S
  • Price per month: £13.25 (TV licence paid monthly)
  • Price per year: £159 (TV licence paid annually)
  • How many devices can stream at one time: N/A
  • Downloads possible: Yes
  • 4K available: Yes
  • Free trial: No
  • Standout shows: Line of Duty, Doctor Who, Fleabag, Peaky Blinders, Vigil, Top Gear, Call The Midwife, Killing Eve

While sometimes overshadowed by flashier premium services, the humble BBC iPlayer remains one of the best streaming services in the world thanks to its expanding collection of world-class titles from British telly and beyond – and it’s free for anyone who pays for a TV licence. It’s the only place to catch up on some of the best shows on telly right now, including the entire boxset of British cop drama Line of Duty.

BBC iPlayer is also home to internationally acclaimed shows like Normal People, Killing Eve and the multi-award winning Fleabag. The platform has top movies available to stream (though usually only briefly) and offers on demand access to most CBeebies content – a lifeline for many parents.

Watch BBC iPlayer now

Carey Mulligan in Promising Young Woman, available on Now
  • How to watch: Compatible TVs and blu-ray players, PC, Mac, iOS, Android, Android TV, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, Apple TV (4th generation onwards, PlayStation 4/5, Xbox one and series X/S
  • Price per month: From £9.99
  • Price per year: £119.88
  • How many devices can stream at one time: Three
  • Downloads possible: Yes
  • 4K available: Yes
  • Free trial: Seven days
  • Standout shows: Succession, Game of Thrones, True Detective, Chernobyl, The Sopranos, Broadwalk Empire, The Wire, Billions, live sport from Sky Sports.

Now (formerly called Now TV) is a streaming service operated by Sky, and whose catalogue of shows most notably includes big hitters from HBO and Showtime. The service soared in popularity at the height of Game of Thrones mania, when it became the only place in the UK for non-Sky customers to watch the show live (it became so popular in fact, that the streaming platform infamously crashed during the season finale). Since then the streaming service has improved immensely, and it’s been home to brilliant shows like the unmissable docu-drama Chernobyl and science-fiction horror Dark.

Now uses “memberships” to give viewers access to different sections of Sky’s enormous library of movies and TV shows, as well as live entertainment and sport, so you can mix and match to create a streaming service that suits your tastes, and all without locking into an annual Sky contract. Now is a flexible streaming platform with a selection of reliably exceptional shows.

Watch Now now

All 4
  • How to watch: Compatible TVs, PC, Mac, iOS, Android, iPad, Amazon Fire tablets, Windows 10 and 11 tablets, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV (4th generation onwards), Chromecast, Now, PlayStation 4 and 5, Roku, Sky, Xbox one and series X/S
  • Price per month: Free (£3.99 for All 4+ and no adverts)
  • Price per year: Free (£47.88 for All 4+)
  • How many devices can stream at one time: Two
  • Downloads possible: Yes
  • 4K available: No
  • Free trial: N/A
  • Standout shows: The Great British Bake Off, Gogglebox, First Dates, Hollyoaks, Grand Designs, Made in Chelsea, The Last Leg, Taskmaster

We blame All 4 for the invention of the word “bingeable”. Channel 4’s ad-supported, free streaming service is the place to catch up with the absolute finest reality television the UK has yet created, including Made In Chelsea, Naked Attraction, Gogglebox and The Great British Bake Off.

All 4 isn’t just a catch-up service. There’s an eclectic selection of brilliant shows to be found in the archives – including complete box sets of classics like ER, The West Wing and Buffy the Vampire Slayer – as well countless episodes of world-class comedies like Derry Girls, Peep Show and Taskmaster. The app is available on most devices, and allows certain shows to be downloaded and viewed offline.

Watch All 4 now

National Theatre at Home
  • How to watch: Compatible TVs, iOS, iPad, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Roku
  • Price per month: £9.99
  • Price per year: £99.99
  • How many devices can stream at one time: One
  • Downloads possible: Yes but not all content
  • 4K available: No
  • Free trial: No
  • Standout shows: Oliver Twist, London Assurance, Twelfth Night, Peter Pan, East is East, Romeo and Juliet, Hamlet, Frankenstein, Othello

Like every other live venue across the country, last year’s lockdowns left the National Theatre facing an existential threat. When theatre audiences were unable to attend in person, the company turned to novel ways to fund itself and continue paying actors and staff. And so the National Theatre at Home – a streaming platform allowing viewers to watch beautifully produced live recordings of a selection of stand-out plays from a handful of associated London theatres – was born. Its success during the pandemic was such that the theatre decided to continue running the service even as crowded venues reopened.

There’s the option to rent a single show or subscribe to unlock the full catalogue, which changes from month to month, and currently includes a breathtaking performance from Andrew Garfield in the epic Angels in America, and enduring stage classics like Amadeus. National Theatre at Home might not be the ideal way to watch theatre, but it’s the perfect stopgap for those who can’t visit in person or who missed out on some incredible live entertainment.

Watch National Theatre at Home now

Apple TV+
  • How to watch: Compatible TVs, Apple TV (4th generation onwards), Mac, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, Google TV, iOS, iPad, Mac, Windows, Chrome OS
  • Price per month: £4.99 a month
  • Price per year: £49.99
  • How many devices can stream at one time: Six
  • Downloads possible: Yes
  • 4K available: Yes
  • Free trial: Seven days, or three months with purchase of certain Apple devices
  • Standout shows: Ted Lasso, The Morning Show, Trying, Long Way Up, For All Mankind, Foundation, 1971: The Year That Music Changed Everything, Little America

Apple doesn’t make it easy to understand the difference between Apple TV and Apple TV Plus, so let’s try to clear up that confusion. There’s the Apple TV product, a physical set-top box you plug into your TV. There’s the Apple TV app, which comes installed on iOS devices and pulls together content from other streaming services into one place. And then there’s Apple TV Plus, a stand-alone, Netflix-style streaming service where you can watch Apple’s own original programming.

The choice of shows to watch on Apple TV Plus is relatively anaemic, as the streaming service only hosts its own, self-made, big-budget originals, though there are rumours Apple is planning to license older shows to bolster its catalogue. If you’ve bought an Apple device recently, you’ve likely been given a year’s free access to Apple TV Plus, so it’s worth checking out some of the better rated shows in the library, such as the Jason Sudeikis fronted comedy Ted Lasso, and the star-saturated The Morning Show, with Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon and Steve Carell.

Watch Apple TV Plus now

Britbox
  • How to watch: Compatible smart TVs, iOS, iPad, Android, PC, Mac, Apple TV (4th generation onwards), Chromecast, Xbox, Fire TV, Roku, Freesat
  • Price per month: £5.99
  • Price per year: £59.99
  • How many devices can stream at one time: Five
  • Downloads possible: Yes, but only through Apple TV for now
  • 4K available: Yes
  • Free trial: Seven days
  • Standout shows: Broadchurch, Doctor Who, Life On Mars, The Thick Of It, Only Fools and Horses, Our Friends In The North

A streaming service created by the BBC and ITV, Britbox offers around 290 box sets of classic British TV shows like Doctor Who and ‘Allo Allo, as well as over 60 films including such classics as Attack The Block and, who could resist, the entire set of Carry On films.

Though much of what’s available here can be found for free on iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4, you can’t fault the service’s laser sharp focus on British entertainment – and unlike those rival platforms, Britbox can be streamed abroad in the US and Canada. For UK viewers however, there’s perhaps not quite enough original content here yet to justify the subscription.

Watch Britbox now

Voucher codes

For the latest discounts on streaming devices, try the below links:

Get your hands on a new TV for less with our pick of the best TV deals this month

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in