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What Is Streaming? The Ultimate Beginner’s Guide To TV Streaming Services

February 14th, 2023

Gone are the days of four channels and watching whatever was on at the time. Nowadays, according to a recent survey, paid streaming services are used by over 42 million Brits, meaning more people are watching what they want, when they want. With so many streaming services available, it can be overwhelming deciding which one to choose. Our beginner’s guide to streaming explains exactly what streaming is, what each of the streaming services offers, and how you can get started streaming TV and films. 

What Is Streaming?

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Streaming is a method of watching TV and films using an internet connection. Streaming allows users to choose what they want to watch and when via streaming services. You do not need to wait for a specific time for a TV or film to be on, but can watch it on demand. As streaming is usually done through an app, you can also stream anywhere you want from a compatible device – this could be a TV, a laptop or a tablet. You simply sign up to one of several streaming services, pay a monthly fee, and then you are free to stream your chosen entertainment wherever you are.

Why Use Streaming Services? 

Streaming services make accessing entertainment incredibly easy and convenient. There is no waiting around for your favourite TV show to come on and, because you can pause and rewind, you can enjoy everything in your own time without missing anything. What’s more, the choice available on streaming services is far bigger than anything you would find on television – if you’re in the mood to watch a Western, or want to enjoy a sitcom, you can access it right away. 

How To Stream

Streaming is usually done on an app. An app is an application or a programme that has been downloaded onto a device ready to use. A streaming app can be installed on a Smart TV or on a compatible streaming device that can be purchased from many high street stores. Once you have your device or have downloaded an app onto your smart TV, getting started with streaming is very simple:

  1. Download your preferred streaming app, like Netflix or Amazon Prime Video
  2. Set up an online account using an email address and a memorable password
  3. Enter card details to pay for your monthly subscription
  4. Start browsing available titles to watch
  5. Sit back and relax with your favourite TV shows or films

How To Use A Smart TV 

A smart TV is a TV that comes with streaming apps already built into it. These are usually the most popular streaming apps like Netflix, or free UK apps, such as BBC iPlayer or All 4

As the apps are already downloaded onto the television, you won’t need any additional devices. You will still need to set up accounts for your streaming services, but streaming using a smart TV is very easy and convenient.

Find Your Ideal Streaming Device

If you do not have a smart TV, the next option is to use a streaming device. A streaming device plugs into your television via a USB port and has a separate remote control. Once the device is plugged in, the streaming apps will show up on the screen. You also have the choice to download additional apps if the one you want isn’t already installed.

There are several options available and each streaming device broadly does the same thing. They are usually made and sold by the same people who make the streaming apps. For example, Amazon Prime has a Fire TV stick that shows a preference to Amazon Prime Video, while a Now TV box will promote its own Now TV & Entertainment service – you can still access the other streaming apps on each device though.

Another option is a Freeview box. This streaming device lets you watch certain satellite channels, as well as stream popular UK channels using apps like ITV Hub and BBC iPlayer. However, a freeview box is limited in some of the bigger paid-for streaming apps like Disney Plus, but it’s a sound choice if you only want to access free streaming services.

What’s The Best Streaming Service?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of what is streaming and how to stream, it’s time to look at the best streaming service. Each app has its own pros and cons, with different pricing structures and choice of entertainment. The choice will essentially come down to what you want to watch and how much you want to spend. 

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1. Netflix

Netflix is one of the most well-known streaming services and has over 230 million subscribers worldwide. Netflix has a huge selection of original content, making it popular with people who enjoy watching something new. Popular titles include The Crown and Stranger Things. Netflix also produces documentaries and docu series on a huge range of subjects. 

Netflix doesn’t always have the most up to date films, but does have some classic titles or movies that are a couple of years old. Netflix is probably the best streaming service for original content, but not for big movie lovers. 

Cost: Netflix has three subscription options. These are the basic package at £4.99*, a standard package at £10.99*, and a premium package at £15.99*. Having three price tiers helps to make Netflix affordable whatever your budget is.

2. Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is owned by Amazon and is included with an Amazon Prime subscription. You therefore get next day delivery on anything from Amazon, plus access to thousands of TV and film titles. It could be argued it is the best streaming service, because you get the bonus of Prime membership. Amazon does have some original titles on its streaming app, but the main selling point is that it has huge shows normally only found on Sky TV, for example, House of the Dragon

There are also some blockbuster movie titles on Amazon; however, for some of them, you’ll need to pay an extra upfront amount to watch.

Cost: Amazon Prime with the video streaming service included is £8.99* a month or £95* annually. There is a 30 day free trial when you sign up too. You can also buy a Fire TV stick for your steaming services, which costs approximately £30*.

3. Now TV

Now TV is the best streaming service for accessing Sky TV channels without an expensive Sky subscription. It allows you to watch sports found on Sky Sports and films and TV shown on channels like Sky Atlantic; for example, Game of Thrones was available through Now TV. 

Cost: Now TV has multiple pricing options. You can choose an entertainment or a cinema package at a cost of £9.99* a month. Entertainment plus cinema is £12.99, giving you movies for an extra £3. The sports membership is £25 a month.

You can buy a Now TV box to stream from for around £20 to £30*. 

4. BritBox

The best streaming service for British TV is, arguably, BritBox. It has nostalgic TV shows like Only Fools and Horses alongside modern classics like Downton Abbey. You’ll also find new and original dramas. There is less in the way of films on BritBox, and you won’t find big Hollywood blockbusters all that often.

Cost: You can try BritBox free for 7 days and then pay £5.99* per month when the trial ends. There is also the option to pay for a year at £59.99*, saving you £11.98. 

5. Paramount Plus

Paramount Plus is one of the newer streaming apps and is home to some of the most popular movies of all time, such as Top Gun and Pulp Fiction. It also has classic TV shows like Star Trek and Frasier. It’s a great streaming service for those who love to rewatch their old favourites, but does have some original titles too.

Cost: Paramount plus is £6.99* a month after a 7 day free trial and you can cancel at any time.

6. Disney Plus

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Disney Plus is, as you’d imagine, the best streaming service for fans of Disney. It also has films and TV from the entire Marvel and Star Wars collections. It’s particularly good for any grandchildren, with films from Pixar or timeless titles like The Lion King readily available.

Disney is somewhat limited in its range of other movies and generally only shows recent titles from the Disney studio.

Cost: Disney Plus is £7.99* a month, but you can get 12 months for the price of 10 even if you sign up to an annual subscription.

7. Apple TV

Apple TV is surprisingly small still, with less of a library than some of the other streaming apps. It does have some big hitting TV dramas that you may not get elsewhere, and so could be the best streaming service to sign up to as a one-off to watch something you’re desperate to see.

Cost: Apple TV is £6.99* a month after an initial 7 day free trial. You can also get Apple TV free for three months when you buy a new iPhone, Apple TV, or iPad.

If you still aren’t sure which is the best streaming service for you, it might be worth trying out justwatch. The website lets you search for TV shows and movies to see which streaming service they are available on. You might find that some of the titles you want to watch the most are all on the same streaming app, making your decision a little easier. 

Free Streaming Services

You can always take advantage of the free trials available on each of the streaming services above. This not only lets you try before you buy, but you can enjoy some great TV and film for free.

If hopping from one free trial to another isn’t for you, and you’re happy with the entertainment on offer from the main UK TV channels, then you can simply stream these for free using the streaming apps available for each channel. 

BBC iPlayer, All 4, ITV X and My5 all have a huge catalogue of old and new shows available to steam for free. With these free options, you do have to watch adverts but you can choose to upgrade to paid versions on All 4 and ITVX if you wish. 

Streaming Services & Your TV Licence

If you are only using one of the paid for streaming services like Netflix or Apple TV and are only watching on-demand content then you do not have to have a TV licence. If you’re watching anything live on any subscription services, for example football games on Amazon Prime, then you will need a TV licence. If you watch anything on BBC iPlayer, even on-demand content, then you also need a TV licence. 

You do not need a TV licence at all if you are aged 74 or older and you or your partner receive Pension Credit. 

If you are moving into a care home, are under 74 and will be taking your television with you for use in your own private room, then you will still need to have a TV licence. It’s easy to move your existing one across to your new address. At New Care Homes, we can help with this and any other practical arrangements. Please contact us to find out more.

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Streaming Services For Beginners

All of this should hopefully have given you enough information to take away and decide which streaming apps you would like to try, and whether you want to invest in a smart TV or use a streaming device. Once you get used to using streaming apps, you can install them on a tablet or even a smart phone and have on demand entertainment wherever you go. You can revisit old classics and firm favourites, or try out new and original shows that everyone is talking about. You can find inspiration in our guide, “10 Brilliant Films For Seniors With Older Main Characters.”

*all prices correct as of February 2023