HOME broadcasters are taking on the US streaming giants, with the first British telly streaming service debuting last night.
ITV, BBC, C4 and Channel 5 hope their BritBox service will rival the likes of Netflix, Amazon, Disney and Apple.
BritBox has a tiny fraction of the US giants’ budgets but can draw on a back catalogue of telly favourites, from Love Island and Downton Abbey to Fawlty Towers and, from Boxing Day, all 627 episodes of Doctor Who made between 1963 and 1989.
Currently, many BBC shows disappear from its iPlayer service after just a month.
Apple has just launched its on-demand channel over here and Disney will join the fray soon.
The iPhone maker has signed up Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell and Reese Witherspoon for its flagship drama The Morning Show, while Disney+ is developing shows featuring Marvel’s comic-book characters.
Anyone wishing to stream video will need a strong broadband connection too.
Here, Grant Rollings assesses the rival stream teams and rates each out of five.
COST £5.99 per month.
THE PITCH If you aren’t tired of repeats on normal telly, you can see them all the time on BritBox, a one-stop shop for the best of the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5. There will be no ads interrupting any of the shows.
ITV shows will migrate to BritBox 30 days after airing but it will take a year for the Beeb’s productions to fully switch over from the iPlayer. From next year, Channel 4 and Film4’s back catalogue will come on-stream. Some shows now on Netflix will move to BritBox.
ITV’s Reemah Sakaan said: “BritBox has the widest range of UK box sets of any service. The other streamers are US-focused, so they make dramas for the US market, whereas BritBox is the people and places you know.”
Shows are not expected to appear on BritBox until they have dropped off iPlayer, ITV Hub and All 4, none of which require a paid subscription. The BBC was recently given permission to keep its shows on iPlayer for a year.
THE DOWNSIDE Viewers might wonder why they should pay for content they currently get for free, or the cost of the TV licence fee.
There is a budget of “tens of millions” for fresh shows but only Lambs Of God has been announced, plus two new episodes of Midsomer Murders (which will air on ITV anyway).
HOW TO WATCH To catch costume drama Victoria again, users must register then download an app to use on mobiles and smart TVs.
COST From £5.99 a month.
THE PITCH The streaming giant that the new kids on the block need to beat. With 11million UK subscribers tuning in for hits such as Stranger Things, The Crown, House Of Cards, Orange Is The New Black and The Good Place, the US company is well established.
Plenty of exciting original movies are on the way this year, including Martin Scorsese’s lauded crime drama The Irishman, which reunites Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.
Netflix has an estimated budget for new programming of £12billion and in July struck a production deal with Shepperton Studios in the UK.
It is certainly outspending rivals.
THE DOWNSIDE Netflix doesn’t own enough content to make it immune to challengers.
Licensed content makes up two thirds of viewing on Netflix, so if rivals pull their shows, it could run into trouble. Disney, which owns a vast catalogue of shows and films, has confirmed it will pull its movies from Netflix.
And a “vast majority” of hit British shows, including The Office and Gavin And Stacey, will move to BritBox.
You could soon find yourself paying for a service with a much more limited offering.
HOW TO WATCH Available on most smart TVs, set-top boxes, game consoles, Blu-ray players, smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. One account can be used across multiple devices.
COST From £8.99 a month.
THE PITCH You can get Sky’s best content without signing up for a long-term contract or having a satellite dish installed.
NowTV offers a range of monthly deals that you can cancel at any time.
The £8.99 Entertainment Pass promises channels such as Sky One and Sky Atlantic, as well as plenty of on-demand blockbuster boxsets such as Big Little Lies, Game Of Thrones and Chernobyl.
An £11.99 Sky Cinema pass allows you to access more than 1,000 movies, while a Sky Sports monthly pass starts at £20. And if football fans want to watch a one-off Premier League match, they can buy a day pass for £9.99.
THE DOWNSIDE Boxsets including Tin Star aren’t available indefinitely. Most of them expire 30 days after they first air. So you have got to be organised if you want to keep up with several shows at once.
Buying multiple passes can get expensive, so this is better for one-off sporting events and must-see telly rather than a long-term commitment. And then you must remember to cancel.
HOW TO WATCH NowTV can be accessed via 60 devices, including desktop players, games consoles and smart TVs. Alternatively, buy a NowTV set-top box to turn your telly into a smart device.
Amazon Prime Instant Video
COST £7.99 a month for the full service or £5.99 for Amazon Prime Instant Video.
LAUNCHED 2014 in the UK.
THE PITCH Like other streaming services, you get entertainment shows and films – but Amazon now also offers live sport. Having already screened the US Open tennis, Prime Video will broadcast 20 Premier League matches live in December.
Amazon is also investing heavily in original content, including a Lord Of The Rings fantasy series and a reported £50million deal with Fleabag creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge.
It has already spent a fortune on programmes such as The Man In The High Castle, Good Omens and Jeremy Clarkson’s The Grand Tour.
Prime members also get next-day delivery on many shopping items from Amazon, plus discounts on the site, meaning you get a lot for your money.
THE DOWNSIDE No Amazon Original has yet caught the public’s imagination in the manner of Netflix’s Stranger Things or HBO blockbuster Game Of Thrones.
If you don’t have the service, you may feel you are not missing out on much.
Even if you do have Prime, you may be frustrated to find that a lot of the content is only available to rent or buy and is not included with your package.
HOW TO WATCH Download the app to stream on most devices.
COST £4.99 a month.
LAUNCHED November 1.
THE PITCH Apple is pouring £800million into its new venture, in the hope that it will do for telly what Apple did for phones.
A whopping £115million has been splashed on flagship drama The Morning Show, luring Hollywood big-hitters Jennifer Aniston, Steve Carell and Reese Witherspoon.
Subscribers also get a sci-fi series titled For All Mankind imagining Russia landing on the Moon first, Hailee Steinfeld in a modern take on the life of poet Emily Dickinson and Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club in which she talks to top authors.
Next year, film lovers can expect Bill Murray teaming up again with Lost In Translation director Sofia Coppola for On The Rocks and Samuel L Jackson in The Banker.
THE DOWNSIDE Lots of money and some famous faces don’t guarantee quality.
The Morning Show has been panned by critics, with Rolling Stone magazine calling it “a well-polished snore”.
It doesn’t bode well for the rest of the catalogue. Also, for one of the world’s richest companies, an £800million budget for content seems miserly when compared to Netflix’s reported £12billion spend.
HOW TO WATCH You will need to download the Apple TV app in order to watch it on a Smart TV, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV or iPod. But the app only works on a limited number of smart TVs at the moment and a plug-in device such as a Roku stick might be needed.
COST Not yet confirmed, but in the US it will be £5.50 a month.
LAUNCH Next year; November 12 in the US.
THE PITCH A treasure trove for movie fans, it’s expected to offer everything ever made – or now owned – by Disney. That includes Star Wars, Marvel’s Avengers, Pixar greats such as The Incredibles and Disney’s own animated classics, including The Lion King. Fans can also expect plenty of TV spin-offs from Disney’s back-catalogue.
A Star Wars bounty-hunter action drama series titled The Mandalorian, a High School Musical series and a She-Hulk show have all been commissioned. Disney+ will also offer National Geographic and stream new films, including a live-action remake of Lady And The Tramp. Films from 20th Century Fox, another subsidiary bought by Disney, are expected to be added later.
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THE DOWNSIDE The offering is relatively narrow. If you want anything beyond movies and movie spin-offs, such as live sport, you will not find it here.
As you would expect from Disney, the service is very much pitched at younger viewers. It may not offer enough to keep the whole family interested.
HOW TO WATCH Details for the UK launch have yet to be confirmed.
In the US, Disney+ can be viewed via PlayStation 4 and Xbox One consoles, plus selected smart TVs, Android devices and Apple devices.
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