Online streaming services are changing the way we watch television, but which one should you be using? We teamed up with Pollyanna Woodward, the tech-obsessed presenter of Channel 5's The Gadget Show, to find out...
Now TV, £8.99 per month
Powered by Sky, Now TV is the multimedia company’s first foray into subscription-based streaming. Any film available on the service remains exclusive only to Now TV for one year.
It doesn’t feature any TV shows (yet), but does give you access to more than 600 films, with more UK box office movies than any other service. You can also buy a Sky Sports day pass for £9.99, giving you access to all six channels.
Woodward: “This is for movie buffs who want the latest releases. They have a limited amount of movies, but I like the selection. The interface is nice, and I love that you can watch sporting events with a day pass.”
Woodward: “It’s more expensive than Netflix, and it’s not a massive library. But that isn’t as important as what’s on there – there’s no point having 10,000 films if you don’t want to watch any of them.”
The fact that it’s missing any TV content is a serious downside, but once telly gold from Sky Atlantic and Sky1 is included, it’ll be like having a cheaper Sky subscription.
Netflix, £5.99 per month
With 37 million subscribers in three continents, Netflix is the California-based king of the online TV world. They’re now looking to compete with traditional television channels too.
It boasts a library of over 3,000 movies and TV shows, including original content like House Of Cards and the latest series of Arrested Development. The recent-to-classic film ratio is higher than LoveFilm.
Woodward: “It gives you a personalised homepage and makes recommendations based on your viewing habits, which is a nice feature. It has a massive library as well. At that price, it’s an absolute bargain.”
Woodward: “It doesn’t have the most up-to-date film library. If you want the biggest movies from the last year, then maybe this isn’t for you.”
A great mix of big-name TV shows and a mahoosive back catalogue makes this the best all-rounder. The simple interface is the icing on the digital cake.
Lovefilm, £5.99 per month
LoveFilm has grown to a massive two million subscribers, making it the largest streaming outlet in Europe. And for £2 a month extra, it offers a physical DVD rental service.
With over 4,700 films and TV episodes in its database, LoveFilm has by far the largest library, including an incredibly comprehensive collection of British telly from The Office to Luther. It doesn’t do “recent” quite so well, but pretty much every classic box set is on there.
Woodward: “It does have a fair bit of TV, including older and less well-known series. If you want a big library and you’re not fussed about the latest movies, this is great.”
Woodward: “There aren’t many, or really any, recent films on there. It doesn’t have the greatest interface either, so the library may be huge but it isn’t that easy to navigate through it and find what you want.”
Pretty much useless if you’re after the most recent movies, but its vast catalogue of TV series and classic films means there’s always something to watch.
The internet, as free as prison
There are thousands of websites that allow you to stream everything from live sporting events to the latest cinema releases. The only catch: it’s not legal for the sites to stream content.
You name it, the internet’s got it. Everything. It’s all there. From this week’s episode of Homeland to Bullock’s new space-fest Gravity, you’re only a handful of clicks, pop-ups and grainy footage away from (illegally) experiencing your TV and film dreams.
Woodward: “Obviously the plus side is you get to watch movies and stream content without having to pay. The quality can be good, too – sometimes the same as TV.”
Woodward: “It might have everything, but half of it is going to be cack quality. Plus I still feel bad about doing it.”
There’s no guarantee of quality, no one to complain to if you run into technical issues, and, oh yeah, it’s illegal. For a saving of £5.99 a month, it’s really not worth it.