The advent of television streaming has allowed creators to operate more freely and with greater control, streaming sites can offer bigger budgets and longer timelines for success without the need to appeal to “core demographics”. In short, TV is great now, but with more and more companies providing great shows (and movies!) which should you choose? To find out, we at Techscheme have taken a look at the best options to watch telly on your laptop, smartphone or tablet.
This is the one that everyone’s heard of, mainly to due to its highly praised exclusive content. House of Cards, Orange is the New Black and the ever expanding range of Marvel shows are just a few, and with an increasing number of competitors for other content it’s an area where Netflix are doubling down. You can expect to see a load more exclusive shows and movies over the next few years.
In terms of ease of use it’s pretty simple. Netflix’s interface is clean and easy to navigate, it uses algorithms to suggest what you might like based on what you’ve seen before, but you can also create your own watch lists to store for the future. You can set up several accounts for different users so they can have their own favourites, and depending on the plan you pay for it’ll allow you to watch in up to four places simultaneously. Great if you’ve got kids (and there is a kid friendly mode), or worse teenagers.
Who’s it for? Binge watchers, if you like nothing more than a night in watching Daredevil for six hours straight then Netflix is for you. Not that there aren’t a ton of great movies available too. Except for the one’s they make themselves, you’ll find most of them are a year or two old.
Where can you watch it? There are a huge range of devices, apps, portals and services through which you can watch Netflix. It works on PC and Mac, games consoles, Virgin Media TiVo boxes, Apple TV, certain Blu-ray players and Smart TVs as well as any Apple or Android smartphone or tablets. Then there’s regions, can you take it abroad? Yes, it’s quicker to tell you where you can’t get it, namely, China, North Korea, Syria or Crimea – that’s it. The content will change country to country due to licencing laws but you’ll never be stuck with nothing.
What’s the alternative? Netflix’s huge back catalogue used to be its USP, but with other services flooding into the market we’ve seen a shift of focus. It’s now all about its original content, and it’s raising the game. They’re spending literally billions on original, exclusive content over the next few years and they’ve been at it since House of Cards first debuted 5 years ago. There’s nothing that can compete with that at the moment.
Amazon Prime Instant Video
Like Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video has an impressive array of older TV shows and movies on offer. You can sign up for a monthly subscription, but it also comes free if you’ve already got Amazon Prime, so it may be a better deal if you also want access to Amazon’s Music or E-book libraries (as well as free postage on most of what Amazon has in its store). It has a few exclusives in terms of TV produced elsewhere, but falls down slightly with its own content, not that there aren’t good shows just that there aren’t very many of them. So, if you’ve got a SKY or Virgin package on your regular telly it’s probably not worth it if that’s all you’re after.
A big bonus for Amazon though is that it offers far more recent content on a pay-per-view basis, so you can rent the latest movies or TV episodes for a small fee. That’s a handy option, but does obviously hike up the cost a bit if you’re paying extra fees. As a user experience it’s fine, it’s not as slick or clever as Netflix and it doesn’t let you set up individual profiles, but you can still mark shows for later viewing and it’s easy enough to navigate even if it doesn’t look that pretty.
Who’s it for? Prime users, primarily. If you’re interested in all the things that come with being a part of Amazon Prime then this is great, and its added pay-per-view options are a welcome way to access newer content. If you aren’t a big telly watcher though, you can just use it to buy or rent separately for the shows you want without subscribing. Ultimately there’s more potential here than Netflix with a more well-rounded offering, but it’s probably not up to that standard yet. Get it if it has the shows you want.
Where can you watch it? Like Netflix, you can get Amazon Prime on pretty much everything, PC or Mac, smartphone and tablet, Kindle, games consoles -you won’t be lost for a device to play it on or an app to help you do that.
Can I take it abroad? Not really, you can still access the purchase or rental titles, but when it comes to their free-streaming library Amazon won’t let you watch anything other than its own original content.
What’s the alternative? Essentially you’re looking at services like Blinkbox, Wuaki.TV or Sainsbury’s On Demand. They don’t have a subscription fee but act simply as rental and purchase services for digital TV and movies. This means you can’t sign up with a monthly fee for unlimited access to a back catalogue, but if you only fancy watching something now and again they’re perfect. There’s also similar services from Apple’s iTunes (but you’ll need an iPhone or iPad to watch on the move) and Google Play. All these services work on Android and iOS and through your browser as well as tons of other hardware options, and, given that they’re all purchase or rental, once you’ve paid for your content you can take it where you want.
What else is there?
Those are the famous ones, but many services offer similar packages to the six or seven we’ve already mentioned. However, there are a few others that provide something a little bit different. BBC iPlayer, for example, is free (as long as you’ve paid your TV license). It gives you all the shows you’d get on regular BBC as well as exclusive content available only online, you can livestream if you like watching TV as it happens and you can keep up to date in a way other websites can’t match. Namely, you can watch the news, or the sports highlights shows they make.
Of course, iPlayer won’t let you watch it outside of licence payer territory, but does let you download shows while at home to take away with you. In terms of what devices it works on, you can find apps for Android and Apple and Microsoft, so any tablets or phones will be fine. Additionally, you’ll find portals available installed or to download on games consoles and other hardware (like smart TVs).
Then there’s Now TV, which is essentially Sky TV through the internet. It gives you access to all the Sky channels through a number of different packages and payment plans, including one-day passes. The big draw here is movies and sport as SKY tend to get them sooner than anyone else. If you want to re-watch Deadpool as soon as you can, just pay for movies (or just that one specific movie). Don’t want Sky Sports but really want to see Leicester clinch the title? Pay for a day pass.
Now TV has its own box that you can buy for your telly, but will also work with smartphones, tablets and your PC or Mac. There are portals available for LG smart TVs as well as the latest Sony and Microsoft games consoles. It’s a UK only service.
Lastly we’ll talk about MUBI, which is a little different. It works in much the same way as other services, with a monthly subscription fee, but where the Netflix or Amazon approach is to fill their libraries with as much content from as many genres as possible in order to appeal to everyone, MUBI chooses to specialise. It’s a gallery for movies, a curated list of great indie, cult and classic films alongside in-depth information about their production. It’s for film buffs, plain and simple.
MUBI is available in over 200 countries around the world so you’d be doing well to find somewhere troublesome to access it on your travels. In terms of devices, MUBI works on iOS and Android devices as an app, on Sony PlayStation 3 and 4 as well as Samsung smart TVs, PC and Mac.
So now you’re in the know about streaming services it’s time to work out what’s right for you. It’s all about content, we can recommend a few but it’s up to you to take a look at the shows and movies they offer and make the final decision. Whatever you decide there are some truly brilliant options out there.