Tom Power, entertainment reporter
It's been a long time since we updated this buying guide, so we've given it an overhaul, added Paramount Plus to our list, and tweaked the order of our rankings based on updates each streamer has received in the past 12 months.
Determining what the best streaming service 2022 – in the UK, at least – is becoming more difficult. With the sheer number of options available to you, plus the amount of devices that support their apps, your head might be in a spin over which streaming platform is right for you.
Things get even harder when you consider the current economic climate. With the cost of living crisis biting as a result of the Russia-Ukraine war (and more besides), streaming giants like Netflix and Prime Video are finding it difficult to retain the large subscriber bases they currently have, let alone add to them.
So, of the major streamers available on British shores, which one should you pay for? Below, we'll run you through the best streaming service 2022, including Disney Plus, Apple TV Plus, and Paramount Plus, for UK audiences. We've rated each one – based on a number of factors – to determine who is the current king of the streaming scene, explaining why we've ranked them best (or worst) of the bunch as we go. We'll also reveal whether you can stream their movie and TV offerings directly to your TV, or on your computer, smartphone, or tablet.
Here, then, are your options for the best streaming service 2022 as of December 2022.
Best streaming service 2022 in the UK
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- BBC iPlayer
- Disney Plus
- Prime Video
- Apple TV Plus
- Paramount Plus
- All 4
Despite mounting competition, Netflix is still the best streaming service 2022. The content available is fantastic, the app experience is the best around, and it offers 4K resolution in its most expensive tier. If you can only have one paid streaming service in your life, you won't regret choosing Netflix.
We'd argue that Netflix UK is actually in better shape than its US counterpart these days. That's because it hasn't been hit by the same onrush of new services that have siphoned away some of its most compelling content, including Star Trek's vast catalogue, which is now only available on Paramount Plus or Prime Video.
What that means is alongside some of the best Netflix series – The Witcher, Squid Game, and Stranger Things to name three – you can enjoy Brooklyn Nine Nine, Friends, or It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. With plenty of new content released every week, too, you'll always find something new to watch.
The best Netflix movies feature fantastic classics, such as Taxi Driver, and Oscar-nominated Netflix originals like Marriage Story, The Irishman, and Roma. The service is committed to theatrical-level movies – although obviously not all of its original films are great. Quantity over quality applies a little bit here.
If you're looking for the cheapest subscription, you'll want to choose Netflix's ads-based tier, which sets you back £4.99 per month with standard definition (720p).. However, you'll have to put up with five minutes worth of adverts for every hour you stream.
After an ads-less experience? The basic tier is £6.99 per month for standard definition and one stream at a time, while the £10.99 standard tier will suit most households, with full HD and two simultaneous streams allowed. Finally, the £15.99 Premium Plan offers Ultra HD streams for content available in 4K, and allows four devices to stream Netflix at once. The cost is lean for just how much stuff you get to watch.
Try Netflix here (opens in new tab).
Free for anyone who pays a £159 yearly TV licence fee – a subject that's become more politicised in the UK in recent years – BBC iPlayer is an incredibly high-value offering and the app experience is world class.
The BBC has revised its licensing agreements to offer new BBC programming for more than just a month, too, with many shows available for around a year after airing.
Meanwhile, the BBC has a long-standing distribution deal with US cable network FX, so shows like What We Do In The Shadows, Mayans MC, and Pose are available to stream on a long-term basis. Its range of classic programming is surprisingly extensive and the service offers a regular rotation of great films to enjoy, though you usually only get a month to watch them. If you really don't like the idea of monthly subscription fees, there's enough to watch on iPlayer every day without you ever needing to spend a penny.
The BBC has trialled on-demand content in 4K, with some shows made available to watch in Ultra HD, such as His Dark Materials.
iPlayer won't always have the hottest new shows, but you can depend on it for more than just high-quality British entertainment. The app, available on most major platforms, is great, with profiles, saved progress, and a child-friendly content option.
Try BBC iPlayer here (opens in new tab).
Disney Plus has been around in the UK since March 2020 and it's really kicked into high gear in the two years post-launch.
For a long time, the service's main selling point was Star Wars' The Mandalorian. However, with the arrival of many more top-tier Star Wars shows, including the amazing Andor, multiple Marvel TV series (which began releasing as part of MCU Phase 4), and licensed and more adult-oriented originals from Hulu, Disney Plus' back catalogue is as strong as it's ever been.
And that's not even mentioning the core part of the offering. The Disney Plus price point of £7.99 a month (or £79.90 for a year) unlocks a rich archive of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, and Star Wars movies – available to stream in 4K and HDR for no extra cost. In addition, you have a complete 31-season archive of The Simpsons, which is a real treat.
Disney Plus' main problem is that it's still considered a kids-first streamer, which is anything but true. The recent arrival of mature TV offerings means it's slowly adding content for adults. Even so, Disney's century-long image as a children-friendly studio means it has some way to go in order to shake off that established tag. And, with its most basic tier's price increasing to $10.99 a month in the US as of December 2022, it could become more costly to subscribe to over in the UK soon, too. Food for thought if you're considering cutting back on the amount of streamers you're signed up to.
Sign up to Disney Plus here (opens in new tab).
Sky has an existing streaming app for subscribers that's available on pretty much any device you can name. However, Now is its no-commitment streaming offering. Depending on the pass you get for one of the best streaming service 2022 offerings, too, you can watch Sky channels live as part of your subscription.
Now passes are divided across subject areas, each with their own monthly subscription fee: Sky Cinema (£11.99 per month), Kids Pass (£3.99 per month), Entertainment (£9.99 per month), and Hayu (£4.99 a month for all the reality TV you can handle). Sky Cinema covers movies, while the Entertainment pass covers TV shows.
The default streaming resolution is a not-so-great 720p, and an extra £3 a month (under the name Boost) unlocks 1080p streaming and the ability to stream on three devices rather than two. That's a weird thing to charge extra for, if you ask us. Annoyingly, the current sign-up page adds the Boost element as part of your free trial, though you can remove it in the basket.
The app experience could be better, but the programming is top exceptional. That's because Sky has overall deals with HBO and Showtime, so it can bring us quality series like House of the Dragon and The Last of Us. It's also spending all-time high amounts on its own original programming, like Chernobyl and Gangs of London.
The downside is that its US content can be more seasonal, with HBO shows vanishing from the service after a few months. Still, Now always tells you when a show is expiring weeks in advance so you can plan your viewing accordingly. Shows that disappear tend to return down the line anyway, so there's always a chance to catch them second time around. The two tiers for 720p and 1080p is a little weird, but £9.99 isn't bad at all for the well-maintained archive of HBO content.
In terms of movies, Sky still delivers on bringing you the best and most recent cinematic releases. Right now – pun completely unintended – you can stream The Batman, Ambulance, The Northman, and Morbius. With most theatrical releases unavailable anywhere else, Now offers something truly different.
Try Now here (opens in new tab).
Prime Video is one of the main perks of being a Prime member (which costs £8.99 per month or £95 for the year), along with priority delivery.
It's a great streaming service in terms of content, but one big thing counts against Prime Video: its overly busy user interface (UI). Prime Video's UI underwent a makeover in July, but it's still difficult to navigate at times. On a positive note, the single monthly fee gets you access to 4K streams, clearly marked as 4K UHD in the app. Outside of Amazon Originals, though, don't expect a vast selection of 4K content to watch right now.
Prime Video has a terrific range of content. The best Prime Video shows, for example, include megahit originals like The Rings of Power, The Boys, Invincible, and Reacher. Meanwhile, brilliant US options, such as The Office US and Red Dwarf, are also available.
Additionally, you've got the option to spend more on the best Prime Video channels, some of which are worthwhile (like Paramount Plus and Shudder), and others (Britbox and MGM Plus) that are more of an acquired taste. Prime Video doesn't offer quite as much original content as Netflix but, in the UK, it's definitely a solid choice.
Try Amazon Prime Video here (opens in new tab).
Apple's streaming service made a big splash at its November 2019 release with high-budget originals, such as The Morning Show and See. However, it also arrived without any older stuff to watch, which means it originally launched without much in the way of extra content to persuade people to sign up.
That's changed now – well, in the US anyway. Apple TV Plus somewhat turned itself into Netflix in November 2022 and began offering older movies (such as Argo and Semi-Pro) to subscribers across the pond. It's unclear if Apple will extend this to the UK but, for now, it hasn't, so Apple TV Plus' library is only stacked with its original content over here.
That's not to say that Apple TV Plus' back catalogue isn't any good. In fact, it's quietly assembled a brilliant range of TV and movie offerings. Some of the best Apple TV Plus shows include stellar series like Foundation, Slow Horses, and Severance, as well as multi-award winners such as Ted Lasso. On the best Apple TV Plus movies front, it even has an Oscar Best Picture winner in CODA – an award Netflix is still yet to win.
At just £4.99 per month, Apple TV Plus is the cheapest streaming platform around, too. Still, its content package isn't as stacked as the likes of Netflix, so you're only getting your money's worth if you watch everything available on this service.
Try Apple TV Plus here (opens in new tab).
As the newest kid on the UK streaming block, Paramount Plus has a lot of catching up to do if it's to begin competing with the titans of this industry.
Luckily for Paramount's streamer, it's got a few good things going for it. For starters, its UI is incredibly easy to use, meaning it won't take you long to find a great TV series or film to watch.
If you're at a loss over what to look for, our best Paramount Plus shows and best Paramount Plus movies guides have got you covered. From megahit Showtime show Yellowstone and fan favorite series Yellowjackets, to entertaining movies including Sonic the Hedgehog and Top Gun: Maverick (the latter arrives on December 22), there's plenty to wrap your eyeballs around when it comes to Paramount Plus.
Where Paramount's streaming platform falls down is its price point compared to what it offers. Yes, there are plenty of other channels available as part of the package, including MTV and nickleodeon, and Paramount's originals line-up is better than expected. But, for £6.99 per month, you can get an immeasurable amount of shows and movies from Netflix instead. You're not getting 4K or Dolby Atmos for that amount of cash, either – if those were supported, you'd definitely get more bang for your buck.
If you're looking to stretch your money as much as possible, Paramount Plus has to give way to other streamers with way more content. If you're still on the fence, though, a seven-day Paramount Plus free trial is available to test it out before you purchase a subscription.
Try Paramount Plus here (opens in new tab).
Channel 4's free, ad-supported (though you can remove ads for £3.99 per month) streaming option is impressive and incredibly varied. As well as classic homegrown series like The Inbetweeners, Stath Lets Flats, Peep Show, and Friday Night Dinner, All 4 has a payload of US boxsets to stream. That includes every episode of classic US sitcoms, such as Seinfeld and Malcolm in the Middle, as well as all seasons of ER.
Additionally, All4 has three other great show categories worth mentioning – the service features anime in its library, as well as numerous shows from the Adult Swim network in the US and Vice's series of documentaries.
You can watch live TV through the All4 app, which is available on most major platforms, and you can download some shows to go. It's a terrific free option, that combined with iPlayer, means you've got plenty to stream without spending anything. Still, you can watch most of its offerings elsewhere, hence why All4 is so far down our list of options – even if it is free. If you're not a fan of Channel 4's slew of comedy shows, too, this probably isn't the one for you.
Try All4 here (opens in new tab).
If you love British TV but somehow feel your needs aren't being serviced by the older stuff found on iPlayer and All4, Britbox is another option.
It hosts the sort of content we're traditionally used to seeing on Netflix and iPlayer, and brings together old and new shows from UK broadcasters BBC, ITV, and Channel 4. If you want a complete archive of classic Doctor Who episodes, for example, this is the way to go. BritBox has more British boxsets than anyone else, including harder-to-stream stuff like Thunderbirds.
While competition is theoretically good in the world of streaming services, we're yet to be convinced this is always the case. More specialist services offer greater focus and depth, yes, but if the price per month to get it all is always going up, is it worth the trade-off?
In the case of BritBox, we think you can live without it. Paying an extra £5.99 a month (or £59.99 for a year) for this kind of programming isn't that compelling. Great British programming can be found on All4 and iPlayer already, though admittedly this offers a deeper overall selection.
In terms of exclusives, you'll find a few on BritBox, like the Australian drama Lambs of God, the revival of ancient sketch show Spitting Image, and new drama The Beast Must Die. None of them, however, are truly worth the price.
Try BritBox here (opens in new tab).