Watch TV on your Mac: the definitive guide


Expensive compared to a subscription fee
No AirPlay mirroring
Doesn't offer much more than iTunes



Netflix has gained a lot of attention recently because it has started creating its own content. The US version of House of Cards is exclusive to Netflix and you can watch it in a browser or an iOS app, as well as on Apple TV.

Like LoveFilm, you pay a monthly fee, and there are no recent blockbusters. But there's some good content, including Breaking Bad and Arrested Development. The first month is free, so you can cancel before paying anything.


Original content is promising
Available on Apple TV without AirPlay
Decent TV catalogue


No recent movies
If you don't watch, you still pay
Web-browser interface makes searching for what you want tricky


LoveFilm is best known as a mail-order DVD rental service, but also offers movies and TV via LoveFilm Instant. You pay a monthly fee, then watch whatever you like, either in a browser or via the iPad app.

Content is limited: you won't find the kind of blockbusters that are on iTunes or Blinkbox, and new releases are only available on disc. If the content suits you, however, the subscription is good value. And the first month is free.


First month free
Good iPad app
Can use app to rent discs by post


Content is very limited compared to others
Can feel like a second-rate service compared to its disc rental sibling
No AirPlay mirroring to Apple TV


If you're a subscriber to Sky, SkyGo allows you to watch live TV from your subscription package or choose from a large on-demand library. If you subscribe to the movie and sports channels, you'll be able to watch those too.

SkyGo is available on a Mac in a browser or in the SkyGo app. For £5 a month you can download programmes and increase the number of mobile devices registered to use your account to four.


Can watch Sky TV channels on your iPad
Extra fee option to enable downloading
Big library of content


Only available with a Sky TV package
Only two registered devices at any time without extra payment
No AirPlay mirroring

Virgin Media TV Anywhere

TV Anywhere is a bit of a mish-mash. If you're a Virgin subscriber, you can watch live or on-demand TV on its website, as well as manage your TiVo box. You're limited to channels you subscribe to, so if you're on one of the larger packages, there's more content.

The iPad app allows you to watch a very limited selection of live TV and manage your TiVo box, but you can only watch on-demand content if your Tivo box is connected to your network by Ethernet.


Virgin on-demand content on your Mac
Control your Tivo box from Mac or iPad
Watch some live TV channels on iPad


Only two devices registered at one time
Need to be a TiVo customer
No AirPlay mirroring

The iTunes Store

Apple provides a bulging library of content to buy or rent

iTunes Store

The gateway to watching and listening to music and video on your Mac, and to transferring it to your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, iTunes is also an excellent way of buying and renting movies and TV. The app on your Mac will play any music file encoded as MP3, AAC or Apple Lossless, and any QuickTime compatible or MPEG-4 video file with the suffix .mov, . mp4, or .m4v. Files in those formats can be imported to iTunes using File > Add to Library or by dropping them on to iTunes' main window.

If you've checked 'Copy files to iTunes Media folder when adding to LIbrary' in iTunes' preferences, the files will be copied. If not, they'll stay where they are on your hard disk.