MILLIONS of people flocked to Netflix last year and at the end of 2018 it had more than 139million subscribers.
Shows such as the thriller Bird Box starring Sandra Bullock and the critically acclaimed Roma are helping to boost numbers.
Over on Sky it is True Detective that has been attracting viewers, while Amazon Prime has been trying to claw back customers with The Marvellous Mrs Maisel and Homecoming with Julia Roberts.
But what’s the cheapest way to watch one of these programmes and do you need to sign up to all three services separately?
Aside from signing up directly, there are lots of ways to access Netflix, Amazon Prime and Sky content and we’ve crunched the numbers to find you the cheapest ways to watch.
Once you’ve signed up to Netflix you can watch it on your TV, smartphone or tablet.
If you have a smart TV which has Netflix access, you can watch it directly on your TV, simply by signing into your Netflix account.
If you don’t have a smart TV you can watch it with a USB stick, such as the Amazon Fire Stick or the Google Chromecast. These cost between £30 and £70.
You can also watch via a set top box such as YouView, which you may have included with a TV subscription or you can buy on its own, with prices starting at £49.99 for a standalone box.
To sign up directly with Netflix there are three different packages on offer, basic for £5.99, standard for £7.99 and premium for £9.99.
The bog standard package lets you watch Netflix on one device, but doesn’t allow HD or Ultra HD viewing.
The standard package lets you watch it on two screens at the same time and includes HD, while the premium package has access to four screens with HD and Ultra HD viewing.
The first month is free and you can cancel at any time without penalty.
Now TV shows Sky content including films, TV programmes and sport and there are a range of different packages available.
You can sign up for a day pass, such as if you just want to watch a specific sports game, or you can buy a monthly pass to its film or TV shows, or both.
Passes cost between £3.99 and £9.99 depending on which you go for. The Entertainment Pass, for example, costs £7.99 per month, with a 14-day free trial.
But there are usually introductory offers to cut the cost and right now it costs £14.47 for three months, £27.27 for a six-month pass and £51 for a six-month pass which also includes Sky Cinema.
There are a variety of ways you can watch, and Sky says the service is available on more than 60 devices.
If you want to watch through your TV, you can do so with a Now TV set top box, which starts at £45.99.
You can also buy a Now TV smart stick, which you can plug into your TV or laptop. It costs £14.99 and is powered by the company Roku which makes other USB sticks.
You can also watch it through a set-top box such as YouView, an HDMI cable to plug into a laptop or tablet, or a USB stick, such as the Google Chromecast.
You can also watch on a smartphone, tablet or computer.
As with Netflix and Now TV, there are a variety of ways to watch Now TV. This includes via your TV, with a USB stick or set top box or on your laptop.
Videos and TV programmes are available through Amazon for £5.99 per month.
If you’re already an Amazon Prime member video and TV access will be included in your membership which costs £79 a year or £7.99 a month.
How to cut the cost of a set top box
If you want to buy a set top box, you can get one directly from a shop such as Argos or John Lewis or you might be able to get a free box with an existing TV subscription.
There are a number of brands offering these boxes so it’s worth checking what channels are included in each before you buy.
Freesat, for example, has a box with prices starting at £49.99 and this includes Netflix access – although you’ll still need to take out a subscription on top – but not Amazon or Now TV.
A YouView set box has more channels included, but with a higher price starting price tag of £125.
If you sign up to BT or TalkTalk, or if you’re already a customer, you will get a set top box included in your package.
With all of these set top boxes you will also need to take out a subscription to a digital streaming service separately in order to watch.
There are lots of options to choose from but it may work out cheaper than buying a box outright as you can also add broadband and phone services.
Mark Pocock, home communications expert at Broadbandchoices.co.uk, explains: “If you want to watch free TV (legally) make sure you have a Smart TV. If you haven’t got a Smart TV, make it smart for around £30!
“Amazon firestick, Chromecast, and Roku devices etc give you loads and loads of content without the need for paying a subscription.
“Not only will you get all the Freeview channels for live content through your TV, most of the big channels now allow you to watch content on demand. Load up BBC iPlayer or ITV Hub apps for example and you can watch yesterday’s Soaps at the click of a button, without any expensive subscriptions.”
Don’t pay twice for the same subscription
Many TV providers offer free access to streaming services if you’re already a customer. So if you’re thinking about signing up to one, it’s worth checking with your TV provider first.
Non Sky customers can access content via Now TV, but if you’re already a Sky customer you may have this included for free already.
Sky’s On Demand service is available for all TV customers and it has access to all Sky TV shows. To access films on Sky you’ll either have to sign up for the Sky Cinema service, which costs £10 per month, on top of your existing package.
You can also buy or rent individual films in the Sky Store, which cost around £7.99 for a rental, or £12.99 to buy a film and you’ll also get a DVD sent in the post.
Sky has also added Netflix access to some of its ‘Ultimate On Demand’ packages.
If you already have an existing Netflix subscription, or you decide to sign up with Netflix directly, you can now watch this via your Sky box, although you have to pay Netflix separately.
Alternatively, you can sign up to Netflix through Sky, so the cost is included in your Sky membership. This costs £10 extra a month for customers who already pay for Sky Entertainment.
As with Sky, you can automatically add an existing Netflix membership to your BT box to watch through your TV. The cost is the same as signing up directly with Netflix.
Virgin Media customers can also access Netflix through their set top box. The price is the same as signing up directly to Netflix but you can choose to include the price in your monthly Virgin bill.
If you’re thinking about signing up for a new TV or broadband package, and you are out of your current minimum term you may be able to find a better deal.
This is because the best deals are usually reserved for new customers, and the cost of staying loyal to your existing provider could be as much as £220.
If you’re trying to cut back this year, our article on the best ways to make £2,019 in 2019 is a good place to start.
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