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BritBox review

Great content on a flawed platform

Britbox desktop homepage
(Image: © Britbox)

TechRadar Verdict

When it comes to good streaming content, BritBox might be niche but it does not disappoint, particularly if you’re an anglophile. There’s plenty of excellent British TV to choose from, whether you love the classics or want something new. However, the BritBox library is quite limited and the addition of new content is few and far between, and mostly significantly delayed. And given a lot of it is licensed to existing channels in Australia, both paid and free to air, its value is rather diluted.

Pros

  • +

    Great British programming

  • +

    Comparatively affordable

  • +

    Clean app design

Cons

  • -

    Limited original content

  • -

    Delayed new content

  • -

    Limited features

One-minute review

There’s no shortage of streaming services in Australia now, but BritBox tries to stand apart from the crowd by being a specialist platform. As the name suggests, all you get on BritBox is British TV – arguably the best of British TV – with a plethora of sitcoms, police procedurals and documentaries to choose from.

Unlike services like Netflix and Amazon Prime, however, the BritBox library is limited, and new content isn’t added as regularly as we see on most other streaming platforms. When something does drop, though, it’s usually worth your time to watch (or binge, as the case may be). From the Doctor Who catalogue to the latest season of Line of Duty, plus a lot of the old classics like Fawlty Towers and Absolutely Fabulous.

If that specialist programming is right up your alley, then BritBox is worth the subscription price, but you won’t find the app on all TVs. The desktop interface works a charm, and streaming on your phone is fine too – the problem arises when you want to cast to a TV. After practically every episode of whatever show we were watching, casting would fail. It was a rare occasion that we were able to watch two or three episodes in a row.

If you own a Samsung TV, for example, the app is available and works seamlessly, but strangely, despite there being an Android app, BritBox is not available on the Play Store on an Android or Google TV. We reached out to BritBox to ask if we could expect the app to have wider accessibility on more platforms and received a non-committal “it should be rolled out soon”. That was back in August 2021.

Whether you’re watching on the desktop app or streaming on your phone or compatible telly, the experience is quite smooth, although BritBox isn’t as full-featured as other streaming apps. If you don’t need to skip intros, for example, then there isn’t a lot of cause for complaints. 

Britbox browsing page

(Image credit: Britbox)

Pricing

Upon signing up for BritBox, you get an initial seven-day free trial to get a taste of the service. If you’re not happy with it for any reason, you can cancel any time before the week-long trial ends.

If you don’t cancel, you will be charged AU$8.99 a month. That’s the only pricing tier available for BritBox, but this gets you up to five simultaneous streams. Note that there’s not a lot of 4K content available, with the maximum resolution topping out at 1080p for the most part.

You can also choose to pay annually, which will set you back AU$89.99 for 12 months, saving you AU$17.89 on the total monthly cost.

Britbox program

(Image credit: Britbox)

Content

  • Niche content
  • BBC and ITV programs
  • No exclusive content

BritBox is essentially an online portal for British TV boxsets and original programming, bringing all sorts of modern and legacy content from UK’s biggest broadcasters – BBC and ITV. It’s in no way a Netflix killer, but it could be a potential disruptor if it continues to add to its library regularly.

Currently its real draw is legacy content – there are thousands of hours of great telly in the form of Gavin & Stacey, Miss Marple, Fawlty Towers, The Office, Black Adder and Red Dwarf. Want to get more serious? The entirety of the original Sherlock Holmes series is on BritBox, or if you want more modern police procedurals (that the British admittedly do rather well), then there’s DCI Banks, Bancroft, Endeavour, Inspector Morse, Spooks and more. More modern programming is also available – Line of Duty, Pembrokeshire Murders, Professor T, and Luther, just to name a few.

If you’re a fan of period dramas, there’s plenty to keep you occupied. From Jane Austin's stories (Northanger Abbey, Mansfield Park) to Charles Dickens (Oliver Twist, David Copperfield), Poldark to Cranford – it's all there.

Britbox program

(Image credit: Britbox)

You'll also find plenty of laughs with Jimmy Carr and his panel on 8 Out Of 10 Cats and on Would I Lie To You?, alongside classic comedy series like Yes Minister, Black Books, Black Adder and more. However, only limited seasons of the comedy panel shows are on BritBox, and there’s a whole plethora of those that are missing from the library.

Admittedly several of the shows mentioned above have aired on free-to-air TV in Australia (particularly on ABC), but they’re only available for a limited time on iview.

Until November 2021, there was no original content on BritBox, but that’s now changed with Trainspotting-creator Irvine Welsh’s new TV series, Crime. We’re hoping more original content will be added in months and years to come, with the library growing in leaps and bounds.

One thing to note is that BritBox has a strong focus on TV shows, but you will find the occasional made-for-TV movie in the library. And most of them are in Full HD (1080p) resolution. The only show we found that was in 4K was the remastered Brideshead Revisited.

Britbox genres

(Image credit: Britbox)

Interface

  • Works well
  • Clean interface
  • Limited features

Anyone who’s used a streaming service before will find the BritBox application, whether on desktop, phone or TV (where available) very easy to use. It’s that familiar Netflix-style setup that others have adopted, although BritBox isn’t as full-featured. For example, there’s no option to skip intros of each episode, so if you’re bingeing, you’re watching the opening credits each time. And while the desktop application provides plenty of information on shows’ cast and crew, year of production, etc, that’s oddly missing from the TV app.

At launch, the BritBox app didn’t remember the spot where you left off watching a particular episode or TV movie so you could resume when you logged in next. That’s thankfully changed and your place is marked across all devices you’ve logged into.

Britbox iOS app

(Image credit: Britbox)

The other important thing that's missing from BritBox is the ability to set up individual profiles. You are allowed to have up to five simultaneous streams but there’s no way to separate them out with a profile for yourself and anyone else using the account. So no matter who in the family is watching what, it all gets added to the one homepage. Perhaps profiles will be rolled out in the near future, but we’ve got no word on that yet.

Another feature that BritBox lacks is trailers. While this is available in the US and Canada, Australia misses out, but BritBox promises that trailers will be made available “in the near future”.

On the bright side, closed captions are available and you can choose from three different font sizes.

Britbox iOS app

(Image credit: Britbox)

Device compatibility

  • Available on select smart TVs
  • Cast via AirPlay and Chromecast
  • No offline viewing available

Another issue that BritBox has is device compatibility in Australia. While there is an Android app on the Google Play Store, you can’t access it on an Android or Google TV set locally – that’s available only in the US, Canada and South Africa. Why Australia has been left out of that equation is unclear. If you happen to own a 2016 or newer Samsung or an LG smart TV, you’re in luck as the app is available. Fetch TV and Telstra TV users will also have access to the BritBox app, but you will need to download it from the Apps section. It’s also available on 4th-gen Apple TVs in Australia.

You can, of course, cast using AirPlay or Chromecast, but we found that to be a bit hit and miss. Our test Android TV has Chromecast built-in and while connecting has never been an issue, we found that after one episode ends, it’s quite difficult to get the next one to play. Exiting the app never fixed it, trying to disconnect casting didn’t usually work and we found ourselves restarting the TV quite often. To be fair, this does not happen every single time, but it did happen often enough to wonder when the BritBox app would be more universally available on devices.

Christmas specials on Britbox

(Image credit: Britbox)

Verdict: should I subscribe to BritBox?

Subscribe if...

You love British TV

BritBox admittedly caters to a very specific audience, but we have to admit that the Brits do comedy and police procedurals really well. That’s not all, though – there’s quite a lot of excellent British TV to enjoy on BritBox and a substantial amount of new content has been added in the weeks prior to our initial review going live.

You’re tired of Netflix

If you feel you’ve run out of quality shows on other mainstream streaming services like Netflix, then there’s plenty to keep you stuck to your couch on BritBox. Admittedly the library is still limited but, as we mentioned earlier, it does seem to be growing at a slow and steady pace.

You want to revisit some classics

Whether it’s the old Doctor Who or A Bit Of Laurie And Fry, or you want to explore the natural world with Sir David Attenborough, BritBox has plenty of the classics. And across most genres – old documentaries, police dramas, costume dramas and comedy.

Don’t subscribe if…

You want a service with a large library

BritBox is not a Netflix killer, it’s always going to have a much smaller library than any other mainstream platform like Disney Plus or Prime Video. So if you’re a frequent binger, chances are high you might run out of things to watch on BritBox rather soon.

You want more variety

As the name itself suggests, the only productions on BritBox are from the BBC and ITV. If you’re not a huge fan of British TV, you’re not going to enjoy BritBox very much.

You’ve already signed up for multiple streaming services

If you already subscribe to a few other streaming services, you might want to think about whether BritBox adds any value to your entertainment. A lot of the shows on BritBox have or will air on free-to-air channels in Australia, and does reduce the value of an additional subscription.

[First reviewed December 2021]

Sharmishta Sarkar
Sharmishta Sarkar

Sharmishta is TechRadar's APAC Managing Editor and loves all things photography, something she discovered while chasing monkeys in the wilds of India (yes, she studied to be a primatologist but has since left monkey business behind). While she's happiest with a camera in her hand, she's also an avid reader and has become a passionate proponent of ereaders, having appeared on Singaporean radio to talk about the convenience of these underrated devices. When she's not testing cameras and lenses, she's discovering the joys and foibles of smart home gizmos. She also contributes to Digital Camera World and T3, and helps produce two of Future's photography print magazines in Australia.