THE days of tuning into one of the terrestrial TV channels, or even to Sky, to watch the programmes everyone else is talking about have long since passed. Today, they are just as likely to be on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
These services are no longer just online versions of your local video library, stuffed with movies and TV shows from long ago: both commission their own productions which you can’t view anywhere else. Netflix made The Crown, last year’s expensive and acclaimed drama about the Queen’s ascent to the throne and is the exclusive UK outlet for American shows like the Breaking Bad spin-off, Better Call Saul. Amazon produces Jeremy Clarkson’s car show, The Grand Tour.
Sky, meanwhile, owns the UK rights to many shows from America’s Home Box Office, not least the fantasy drama, Game of Thrones, which returns next week for its seventh season.
Whether any of those is your cup of tea isn’t the point: there will be something else on those services that is - but the cost of subscribing to all three soon begins to add up. A standard Netflix package is around £7.50 a month. Amazon Prime Video is £6 a month, and Sky costs at least £22 on an 18-month contract, rising to £74 if you want all the channels, including movies and sports. Add in multi-room capability and ultra high definition, and you could easily be paying out more than £100 a month, on top of your TV licence.
That’s fine if you have a houseful of people to consume all the content. If not, it’s like buying a free pass to everything in Tesco when all you want is a box of corn flakes.
Getting selective is easy with Amazon and Netflix because neither ties you into a contract; you can turn the service on and off as you please and you can reduce the cost by opting out of high-def, ultra high-def and, in Amazon’s case, free next-day delivery of other goods. You can also get free one-month trials of both services.
Sky’s equivalent no-ties service is Now TV, which lets you buy month-long “passes” for its entertainment and movies channels, and day, week or month packages for sport. The cost of these adds up quickly if you want all three - but if you just want the entertainment bundle, it’s a reasonable £7 a month, on just the months you need it.
You don’t need a satellite dish to get Now TV but you do need a decent broadband connection, and some sort of smart device on your TV. This could be a Chromecast or other streaming device, a YouView box or a gaming console, and if you have a recent Samsung or LG smart set, the functionality is already built in. If you don’t have any of these, one of Now TV’s own boxes - widely available on the high street - will do the trick. The basic box costs £15 or £25 with a three-month entertainment pass thrown in, and also gives you access to BBC, ITV and Channel Four catch-up services and to YouTube. It does not, however, let you access Sky’s rivals, Netflix or Amazon Prime. Conversely, the equivalent hardware from Amazon isn’t compatible with Now TV, though it does work with Netflix.
This competition between services will only increase, and that means it makes more sense than ever to cherry pick your viewing. Today, that means cherry picking your subscriptions as well.