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Never before has so much entertainment been available to so many. But how do you find the right streaming service for you? With a streamer to suit every proclivity, and a plethora of exciting new series landing this autumn, now’s the time to take stock.
So whether you’re all about The Crown, juicy supermodel docs, arthouse cinema or repeats of The Idol, belt up, lean back, and wedge matchsticks under your eyelids as we present our streaming guide …
Best for... High-class history
Free ad-supported tier, £5.99 a month premium tier
ITV’s attempt to grab a chunk of the streaming pie features a combination of terrestrial shows plus ambitious originals such as A Spy Among Friends, a lavish period spy caper starring Damian Lewis and Guy Pearce. Recently, meanwhile, the service debuted Love & Death, the true story of two couples living regular lives in 1980s small-town Texas – until somebody picks up an axe. It’s by hit-maker David E Kelley (Big Little Lies, Ally McBeal) and stars Marvel’s Elizabeth Olsen.
Later this year, it will debut Three Little Birds, a collaboration between Lenny Henry and Russell T Davies telling the story of Henry’s Windrush family, and Archie, a four-part drama about the life of Cary Grant, starring the irresistible Jason Isaacs. And don’t miss Bernard Cornwell’s The Winter King, based on Arthurian legend.
Best for... Families
For all the Beeb’s faults, it has one of the UK’s most watched, comprehensive and user-friendly streaming services, featuring repeats of current shows and a catalogue of classics, such as Doctor Who, Blackadder and EastEnders. David Tennant is back as the Doctor in November for three special episodes to celebrate the show’s 60th anniversary, but before then, Whovians can catch his much-loved original stint as the Time Lord – and in fact all 13 series released since the show’s 2005 reboot – on iPlayer.
Best for... Good, old-fashioned boxsets
Catch up with Channel 4 favourites such as Taskmaster and Hollyoaks, plus movies such as Transformers: The Last Knight and “box sets” of ER, The West Wing, Cheers and Frasier – shows that remind us how great the world was before the internet came along and messed up everything. Coming up: The Couple Next Door, a six-part thriller starring Eleanor Tomlinson and Outlander hunk Sam Heughan, which has binge-able written all over it.
Best for... True crime
Did somebody say true crime? All you ever wanted to know about some of the most notorious killers in history is answered by a channel specialising in crime docs, soaps, and that rushed-to-air film about the tragic Titanic submersible called – with notable originality – The Titanic Sub: Lost at Sea.
Plus, older box sets such as the adaptation of Stephen King’s Under the Dome and the acclaimed reboot of All Creatures Great and Small.
Best for... Star Trek and culty vibes
The home of Star Trek and its modern spin-offs, such as Discovery and the excellent Strange New Worlds, and cult horror-drama Yellowjackets. An adaptation of Lucy Clarke’s best-selling plane-crash suspense novel The Castaways (starring Sheridan Smith and Céline Buckens), and Fellow Travelers, a McCarthy-era (clandestine) romance starring Matt Bomer and Bridgerton’s Jonathan Bailey, round out the season’s mix.
Best for... Blockbuster TV
It’s got all the biggies: Stranger Things, The Witcher, Squid Game. Plus, hit reality content such as Too Hot to Handle, Selling Sunset and Love Is Blind. But when you get past hits and deep dive, is there enough on Netflix to keep us coming back?
Highlights on the horizon include All the Light We Cannot See, in which Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) adapts the Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, a story of a blind French girl and a young German soldier during the Second World War. Hugh Laurie and Mark Ruffalo top the cast; the series arrives on November 2. Oh and, of course, there’s the final series of The Crown, exploring the death of Diana and its aftermath.
Best for... Free shipping (but not JRR Tolkien)
Amazon’s taken several big fantasy swings with the controversial $1 billion adaptation of The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power – disliked by many Frodo fanatics – plus The Wheel of Time, starring Rosamund Pike and just back for a second season.
Otherwise, the streamer’s biggest hit is Clarkson’s Farm, but oddly, its best is the wildly idiosyncratic superhero parody, The Boys.
Best for... Star Wars and Marvel
The home of Marvel, Star Wars, Pixar and Disney itself. But with the mothership buffeted by financial setbacks, the pace of new content has slowed (Disney is even pulling shows, such as the enjoyable Willow sequel, to avail of tax write-offs). Worse yet, the once reliable Marvel fare is declining in quality, as demonstrated by the stonkingly glum Secret Invasion. That said, the new Star Wars show Ahsoka has some of the old George Lucas oomph.
Plus, there are a few classics knocking about: Tom Hiddleston’s Loki was worth watching (and is back this year), as is series one and two of The Mandalorian (let’s pretend part three does not exist), and Andor, Tony Gilroy’s grimdark take on Star Wars. Plus, you have the entire Marvel back-catalogue to gorge on, including the excellent early Avengers films. And that’s not all: Disney+ is also the home of premium US dramas (Dopesick, The Bear, The Dropout) and future-classic comedies (What We Do in the Shadows, and Abbott Elementary).
Best for... Quality over quantity
With all the money in the world, Apple has delivered shiny content, including an adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation and Jennifer Aniston’s The Morning Show – AKA the morning TV soap that seemingly foretold the Holly Willoughby/Phillip Schofield saga. There’s the durably entertaining Ted Lasso, the new Idris Elba vehicle Hijack and
the superb but overlooked Korean drama Pachinko.
There is no deep back catalogue as Apple does not churn out material as Netflix does – but its shows, good or bad, tend to have exceedingly high production values. There is a lot to look forward to, too. Series three of The Morning Show landed this week. Next week, Apple will debut The Super Models, a documentary about the queens of the 1990s catwalk – Naomi Campbell, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista and Christy Turlington. And then, on October 15, comes Lessons in Chemistry, with Brie Larson playing a 1950s chemist-turned-cookery-show host, in a wry adaptation of Bonnie Garmus’s bestselling novel.
Best for... Sports and spice
Part of the Sky group, Now hosts a variety of movie and sports streaming packages. Regarding television, it’s the exclusive home of HBO favourites such as (dreadful) Sex and the City spin-off And Just Like That…, Succession and – well, we could all do with a laugh – pop sleaze-fest The Idol. There’s also timeless classics: The Sopranos, Game of Thrones, Porridge, Only Fools and Horses and more...
Later this year, look out for Mary & George (a scheming, homoerotic drama about the plot to bring down James I, starring Julianne Moore and chisled Brit Nicholas Galitzine), and series two of Paapa Essiedu sci-fi series The Lazarus Project.
Best For... Carry On aficionados
Initially a collaboration between ITV and the BBC, but now part of the ITVX service (see left). BritBox carries classic comedies and dramas such as the original 1960s and 1970s Doctor Who series, Carry On… movies and a reboot of latex political parody Spitting Image. They also have a strong line in original crime dramas, with the fun Agatha Christie adaptation Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?, starring Will Poulter and Lucy Boynton, and the potent The Beast Must Die.
Best for... Sharks
For when you need more than one series about sharks. And also a lifetime supply of documentaries about serial killers (The Atlanta Child Murders) and romance behind bars (Love and Lockup). This is all the documentary TV you can handle.
Best for... Arthouse movies
Movie… Mubi… get it? Happily, everything else about this arthouse film service is smarter than its name. Stream avant-
garde classics such as John Cassavetes’s The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, alongside new hits, including Aftersun, starring Paul Mescal, and Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Drive My Car.
Best for... Maths nerds
If your documentary tastes run deeper than Real Housewives, this smarty-pants streamer has science, natural history and popular culture. Most of the fare has an intellectual twist – for example, Mad Men: Layers of Meaning is a deep-dive into the subtexts behind the Don Draper prestige classic. Subscriptions are in dollars – but you can sign up from anywhere.
Best for... Hardcore cineastes
Another movie rental portal, this time from the BFI. Watch archive content for free, access new and classic movies with a subscription, or rent new features such as Judy Blume adaptation Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret (starring Kathy Bates).
Best for... Scandi crime
Nordic noir isn’t quite as zeitgeisty as it was. It still has an audience, though, who will love a streamer promising “ice-cold, dark and brutal Nordic storytelling”. Think The Protectors, about the “elite protection unit” in the Danish government, and Huss, about a female Gothenburg cop.
Best for... Classy documentaries
Tragically, not a pet-centric streamer but another doc channel. It offers documentaries about figures such as Vivienne Westwood, Halston, David Lynch and others, as well as acclaimed titles from the past few years, including The Act of Killing, All That Breathes, and Blackfish. You don’t subscribe: instead, movies can be rented for around £5 or purchased for around £10.
Best for... Royal gossip
The first streaming service dedicated entirely to the Royal family, with documentaries about Diana, King Charles’s Coronation, the life and times of Kate Middleton and the relationship between Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Margaret. We bet Harry and Meghan subscribe.
Best for... Reality TV
From US network NBCUniversal, it has access to cult reality shows such as Below Deck, The Real Housewives and repeats of Keeping Up With the Kardashians (before they went to Disney+).
Best for... Anime
A one-stop shop for the latest cult Japanese cartoons such as Demon Slayer and One-Punch Man. There are several subscription tiers, but you can try the service for free. Parents should note age ratings are vague, with most shows categorised as “age 14 and up”.