TV streaming services explained
These days, we have more channels than ever before - more than 70, in fact, with even the most basic Freeview boxes. Of course, that’s not enough for most of us. In the last few years, different ways of watching TV programmes have sprung up, in the form of on demand services, ready and waiting for us to stream over our broadband connections whenever we want to watch. Let’s take a look at what those streaming services are, what they offer, and how you can get them.
Catch up TV
Seven-day catch up is available on most TV packages. The main services you’ll find are BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, 4OD, Demand 5, STV Player (Scotland only), UKTV On Demand, and S4C Clic.
These let you scroll back and watch the episodes of your favourite programmes that you missed on live TV. You’ll find them on nearly every TV package from Virgin Media, Sky, BT, and TalkTalk. They’re also available through set-top boxes from YouView, Freeview+, and Freesat - though you’ll need to upgrade to Freetime to get any more than iPlayer and ITV Player.
You can also find catch up services online, through smartphone and tablet apps, Smart TVs, and various streaming sticks.
We all know Netflix as one of our favourite online streaming sites, but you can also watch the likes of Breaking Bad, Orange is the New Black, and Daredevil on your TV set.
You’ll find the Netflix app on Freeview and Virgin Media TiVo, or through your YouView box - so it’s available with BT TV and TalkTalk TV packages as well. The latter two will even let you add the cost of a Netflix subscription to your monthly TV bill.
Amazon Instant Video
The TV and movie streaming service from Amazon is a comprehensive one, with thousands of titles available to watch and download, but unfortunately it’s not easy to get it on your TV. There’s a dedicated app through Freeview, though not through any other provider. Still, it’s available on Smart TVs, streaming sticks, and certain set-top boxes and Blu-ray players - all of which are compatible with TV packages from the likes of Virgin Media, Sky, BT, and TalkTalk.
Sky Go, and Sky on demand if you have a Sky+ HD box, lets you stream your favourite Sky TV shows. That includes everything you find on Sky Witness and Sky Atlantic, like Game of Thrones, Hannibal, and Mad Men. Plus, on demand content from Sky Cinema and Sky Sports is available too if you subscribe to them.
All Sky TV subscribers can access it for free, but if you’re not a customer you can still watch shows for a monthly fee. You’ll even find it on some Smart TVs and streaming sticks, and on NOW TV, so you can watch Sky programmes on your telly while still subscribing to a Virgin Media, BT, or TalkTalk TV package.
There’s also the option of upgrading to Sky Go Extra if you want to download videos as well as stream them.
A YouView box will not only let you watch dozens of live TV channels: it also has streaming services in the form of seven-day catch up and box sets. Plus there are apps for Sky Cinema, NOW TV, and Netflix for even more shows.
YouView is available as a standalone box, or as part of a BT TV or TalkTalk TV package - and with TalkTalk, you’ve also got the option to add Boosts to stream even more TV. Read our full guide to the YouView box for more.
Owned by Sky, Now TV has all kinds of stuff available to stream: recent blockbusters, Scandinavian dramas, and some of the more popular shows Sky has to offer like Penny Dreadful and Modern Family. As well as that, you can buy passes to watch Sky Cinema and Sky Sports on demand.
Now TV has its own dedicated set top box - which you can combine with broadband - but if you don’t fancy splashing out on that, you can also access the app through most devices, including smart TVs and streaming sticks. It’s also available through YouView - meaning you can watch it with a BT TV or TalkTalk TV package too.
PictureBox and TVBox
PictureBox offers movie streams on demand, on a monthly subscription basis - again, that’s through its website or apps for various devices. But TalkTalk TV offers it right there through your YouView box via a TV Boost.
There are two on offer: PictureBox, for a hand-picked selection of films on demand that rotates every month; and TVBox, for some of the best on demand box sets from the US, like Suits and The Mindy Project. Or, if they both sound good, you can double them up into a single Boost that costs a little less overall.
Curzon Home Cinema
Curzon Cinemas are best known for their dedication to independent, arthouse, and classic films - and that extends to their Home Cinema service too, which has a good rotation of those movies to stream or rent. It’s available online or through an app on most devices, but if you have BT TV you’re in luck - you can stream Curzon Home Cinema through your YouView box. You’ll also find it on Freesat if you upgrade to Freetime.
YouTube isn’t just available on browsers and apps these days - you can watch as many cat videos as you want through your telly, if you have a Virgin Media TiVo box or Freetime from Freesat.