It’s exactly a year since Disney+ launched here in the UK and with a reported 100 million subscribers worldwide, it’s safe to say Disney+ has been a success! However, with recent price increases to both Netflix and Disney+, being able to watch all your favourite shows isn’t as simple or cost effective as it once was.
To help try to identify which streaming service reigns supreme in 2021, I’m going to look at and compare the UK’s biggest streaming services; Disney+, Netflix, Apple TV+ and Amazon Prime Video. It is worth noting that there are other streaming services out there too, such as NOW TV and Hulu, but I’ve opted to look at the more traditional streaming services and the ones which I can talk about from my own personal experience.
Arguably the biggest factor when it comes to subscribing to a streaming service is its exclusive, original content. We’ve seen all of the big streaming services up their game over the past 12 months with hits including The Mandalorian, The Queen’s Gambit and Hunters gracing our screens, but which streaming service offers the best original content as part of their package?
Netflix – Netflix have a huge catalogue of original content since they first released House of Cards back in 2013. From shows like Stranger Things, The Crown and Bridgerton to original movies like Outside the Wire, Extraction and The Irishman, you can’t fault Netflix’s commitment to creating new and original content. I would argue that their tv series’ are generally of a higher quality than of their movies, but that’s just personal opinion.
Best Netflix original content: The Queen’s Gambit, Stranger Things, Narcos
Disney+ – Disney+ has only been around for just over a year but it’s already made its mark in the world of streaming. With hugely popular original content like The Mandalorian and WandaVision, Disney+ have certainly created some of the hottest content of the past 12 months. It’s unsurprising how popular Disney+ has been given the number of licenses Disney own, but I think many people have been surprised at just how good the quality of original content has been. Their original content is in fine supply at the moment, but that is only set to increase with an exciting pipeline of content.
Amazon Prime Video – Amazon Prime Video surprisingly has a lot of new original content available to watch, many of which is often overlooked by Prime subscribers. Like Netflix, I’d argue Prime Video’s best original content comes in the form of their tv shows with hits such as Jack Ryan, Sneaky Pete and The Boys amongst some of their best originals. Prime Video’s original movies aren’t quite up to the same standard as their original series’ (with maybe the exception of Coming 2 America), but I’m hopeful that will change over time.
Best Amazon Prime Video original content: Jack Ryan, The Boys, Sneaky Pete
Apple TV+ – Apple TV+ is the least popular of the four streaming services in the UK, but it’s slowly making ground thanks to its original content. Whilst their catalogue of original content is currently pretty thin, it’s had great success with shows like Ted Lasso and Long Way Up. Given the small size of its catalogue, Apple TV+ does need to expand its library to ensure it doesn’t fall too far behind the pack.
Best Apple TV+ original content: Ted Lasso, Long Way Up, Central Park
Additional & Third-Party Content
As well as a plethora of fantastic original content, streaming services are also competing to provide the best third-party licensed content to their subscribers.
Netflix – Netflix’s current library of third-party titles is absolutely huge! Over the past few years Netflix have acquired a number of licensing agreements with Lionsgate, Sony and WarnerMedia to name but a few and it has seen their catalogue expand exponentially. I do feel as though the quality of third-party content has dropped as a result of the quantity of content increasing, however the number of varying titles available to watch is unrivalled.
Best Netflix third-party content: Peaky Blinders, Breaking Bad, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Disney+ – Thanks to the sheer number of licenses Disney own, Disney+ is home to some of the most popular franchises of all time. With every Disney, Star Wars and majority of Marvel films available to stream (I’m regarding these as additional content as not directly Disney+ originals), Disney+ is soon becoming a mandatory subscription service for even the smallest of Disney fans. Plus with the recent addition of Star to Disney+, bringing new adult-oriented content such as Big Sky, My Name is Earl and the Die Hard collection, Disney+’s growing offering is fantastic.
Best Disney+ third-party content: The Star Wars Saga, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Pixar movies
Amazon Prime Video – Prime Video has a decent selection of additional and third party content available, yet is some way off the number that Netflix and Disney+ currently offer. I do feel as though the quality of third-party content on Prime has improved in recent times, with a reduction in stale, z-list films and an increase in recent new releases, such as Bohemian Rhapsody and Academy Award winning film Parasite.
As well as television and film, Amazon Prime Video also broadcasts a number of different live sports, most notably the ATP World Tour, as well as broadcasting 20 live Premier League matches per season. The varying sports subscriptions available with different providers is a whole different ball game (no pun intended), but it’s interesting to see that Amazon are actively dipping their toe into the sporting world and offering sports related content as a part of Prime Video.
Best Amazon Prime Video third-party content: Parasite, Criminal Minds, Bob’s Burgers
Apple TV+ – It was only mid-2020 that Apple began to explore offering third-party content, having only offered original content up until that point. As a result of this late pivot to compete with other streaming services, Apple TV+ has had extremely poor growth. Currently, there is limited third-party content available to subscribers with classics like Fraggle Rock and the Peanuts series being the most notable.
Best Apple TV+ third-party content: Fraggle Rock, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Long Way Round
As well as offering great home entertainment as part of the subscription service cost, some streaming services also offer additional perks and benefits at no extra cost.
Netflix – Whilst Netflix don’t offer any additional perks to their subscription cost, it’s little known that Netflix actually have their own free-to-use internet connection speed tool called FAST. Whilst FAST can hardly be considered an additional perk, it’s a useful tool to test whether you can stream your favourite show without any interruptions!
Disney+ – Not applicable at present.
Amazon Prime Video – If you’re already subscribed to Prime Video then I’d hazard a guess that you’re an Amazon Prime subscriber. In fact, of the 150 million Prime Video subscribers, I’d guess the majority are Amazon Prime subscribers with Prime Video acting effectively a by-product of the subscription. That was certainly the case for myself and essentially this was how Prime Video came about back in 2014, simply an addition to the Prime subscription package. It was only until recently that I discovered you can actually subscribe to Prime Video as a standalone subscription, rather than as a part of Amazon Prime (although there is not much point!).
Amazon Prime is a paid subscription service from Amazon which comes with a whole host of benefits including premium one and two day shipping across the majority of all Amazon products as well as offering a basic music streaming service, free video game rewards and of course their growing library of original content on Prime Video. The benefits of being an Amazon Prime subscriber really are fantastic value for money, particularly if you do shop with Amazon regularly.
Apple TV+ – Whilst Apple TV+ doesn’t offer any real additional benefits, it is possible to access 1 year free of Apple TV+ when you purchase a new Apple device. There are some terms and conditions around this i.e. you must purchase certain Apple products and redeem the offer within 90 days, but still it’s nice to have the offer available to get a taster of what Apple TV+ has to offer.
Winner: Prime Video
With increasing subscription costs as well as a seemingly increase in subscription services available, it’s hard to tell which service is best value. To subscribe to all four of the popular streaming services for one year on their ‘basic’ packages would cost just under £300. Plus, add to that any terrestrial television you may pay for, your tv license as well as any trips to the cinema over the course of the year (when they finally reopen of course), watching the latest entertainment is becoming an expensive hobby!
In fairness, streaming services really are fantastic value for money, given the amount of content readily available to watch. Below is a table of current monthly and annual costs for each of the four streaming services, note Netflix and Amazon Prime Video have multiple plans available:
|Streaming Service||Monthly Cost||Annual Cost||Free Trial|
|Netflix||£5.99 / £9.99 / £13.99||£71.88 / £119.88 / £167.88||No|
|Amazon Prime Video||£5.99 / £7.99||£71.88 / £79.00||30 day free trial|
|Apple TV+||£4.99||£59.88||Seven-day free trial available|
As you can see, all of the monthly costs for each service are around a similar price, with the exception of Netflix’s Premium plan, priced at £13.99 a month. The varying pricing plans is my biggest gripe with Netflix, particularly when you consider their Premium plan is the only way to watch Ultra HD content. Compare this to Disney+, Prime Video and Apple TV+ whom all support up to 4K Ultra HD as part of their basic packages. Whilst Netflix have a huge library and are constantly releasing new original content, paying more than double the price than that of its competitors to watch its content in Ultra HD feels like a bit of a kick in the teeth!
Disney+ recently increased their prices to £79.90 a year, up from the £59.99 which they charged in conjunction to their initial UK release last March. Thankfully for existing subscribers, Disney+ allowed subscribers to renew their subscription at the same price, which was a nice show of loyalty to early adopters of the platform. Even with the recent price increase, Disney+ is still the best value for money in my eyes. With an absolute back catalogue of Disney classics as well as all of the fan favourite franchises, paying less than £80 a year to access it all is a bargain!
Amazon Prime Video actually has two plans available, the basic plan offering just Prime Video and their ‘Prime Plan’ offering access to all the benefits of Amazon Prime. Frankly it’s a no brainer. For only a £2 a month more, or just over £7 a year if purchasing an annual plan, the benefits of Prime are certainly well worth it. If you are just looking at subscribing to Prime Video without any of the other added benefits, I still think the pricing is decent value for money, even if a little thin on content compared to Netflix or Disney+.
Apple TV+ is the cheapest of the four streaming services and rightly so by all accounts. With very limited content currently on the platform, I think the monthly pricing is about right, although the annual cost should offer some form of discount. Due to the lack of content, it’s perfectly reasonable to use the seven-day free trial and maybe purchase a one month subscription to watch the bulk of content available on Apple TV+ currently. Apple’s current offer allowing recent purchasers of Apple products to access 1 years’ worth of Apple TV+ is probably the best way to try out the streaming service, if of course you are applicable.
It’s worth noting that if you are a student, you can actually claim a student discount on an Amazon Prime account and apply for Prime Student, which offers all of the same benefits as Amazon Prime, but for only half the price. This means a one year subscription to Prime costs just £39, which is amazing value for money.
Apple TV+ doesn’t offer a reduced pricing plan for students like Prime, however if you are subscribed to the Apple Music Student Plan, access to Apple TV+ is free. It’s worth noting that this is a limited-time offer and free Apple TV+ access ends when you no longer qualify as a student or do not renew your Apple Music Student subscription.
With a vast number of original content in the pipeline and the Coronavirus pandemic emphasising that home entertainment is only set to grow, the future looks bright for streaming services.
Netflix – Netflix have committed to releasing new, original content on a weekly basis throughout 2021 which is truly remarkable. Whilst we don’t currently have a release date for new seasons of Stranger Things, Sex Education or Ozark, Netflix’s pipeline is gigantic, with so much content on the horizon for both popular existing shows as well as new and original movies and television series’.
Disney+ – Disney+’s pipeline of future content looks truly fantastic! With a host of new Star Wars and Marvel content set to grace our screens over the next 18 months, pop culture fans really are living their best life at the moment! Granted the quantity of original content in the pipeline isn’t as large as Netflix’s, but if Disney can maintain the quality which we’ve seen already from shows like WandaVision and The Mandalorian, then we are in for a treat.
Amazon Prime Video – Prime Video’s upcoming content looks highly promising too, with huge franchises now on their roster such as The Lord of the Rings and the popular video game series Fallout. With The Lord of the Rings TV series set to air later this year and with fans having extremely high expectations, time will tell whether Amazon can deliver and dominate the world of streaming. If you’re a sports fan it’s also worth keeping an eye on Prime Video too, given Amazon’s focus on expanding their sporting broadcasting rights.
Apple TV+ – Apple currently plan to launch new, original content every month. Whether COVID-19 will have a knock on effect and delay this, time will tell, but for now they seem to be releasing at least one new film or TV series on a regular basis. It’s still very early days for Apple and in recent months they’ve acquired partnerships with a number of production companies including Leonardo DiCaprio’s production company as well as Martin Scorsese’s production company. Apple certainly have the budget to build something great with Apple TV+, they just need to get a move on as they are currently playing catch up.
All four of these streaming services are brilliant in their own right and it’s unsurprising that many people, myself included, subscribe to multiple services to access the freshest content.
Ultimately, picking just one streaming service will come down to personal choice. If you watch a lot of content with children then maybe Disney+ is for you, or perhaps you’re looking to combine the cost of your subscription with additional benefits like a premium delivery service and you’d be better suited to Amazon Prime Video.
Either way, each streaming service offers something slightly different from one another and if you’re unsure on which to go for, giving each one a try couldn’t be easier. All four of these streaming services are contract-free with their monthly plans, meaning you can cancel at any time, allowing you to pick and choose which service you want to subscribe to and when.
Of the four however, I think there is one streaming service which has blown away all my expectations and with big plans for the future, it looks to be the streaming service to beat…
With a fine catalogue of content and a commitment to creating fantastic, new and original material, Disney+ is undeniably fantastic value for money and offers something for the whole family. Since its inception a year ago, Disney+ has become a staple service of home entertainment.