Self-isolation boredom is already setting in for many of us. Even if we’re not in a household that’s officially self-isolating, most leisure activities seem out of reach with our lockdown / social distancing instructions. Enter, streaming and subscription services!
Hanging out at home does mean you can get more chores finished, reconnect with your family, and take some well-needed rest.
But cleaning, Zooming and sleeping late gets boring pretty quickly, doesn’t it?
Luckily, streaming services could be a way to beat the doldrums. We’ve pulled together a list of the most popular subscription services in this guide to help you decide what’ll reinvigorate your time inside.
In this article we’ll cover:
- Free streaming services
- Splitting the cost
- Cancelling existing unwanted or unusable subscriptions
- Looking for free trials and referrals
- TV and movies on demand
- Music and audio streaming services
Save money on streaming and subscription services
Before you start forking out for paid services, find out if the free options will satisfy your entertainment needs.
If you’ve got a smart TV or a games console, or you can watch media on a computer or your phone too. Just look for media and TV streaming apps. And of course, there’s always social media. Here are a few options:
BBC iPlayer is a useful app for catching up on years’ worth of series in one go. You’ll need a TV licence to access it, but most of us have one of those anyway.
You might not think of social media as being useful for anything but scrolling. But an evolution in the way these channels are used means that you really can find high quality content – if you know where to look. Best of all, because it’s social media and largely paid for by ad revenue it means that the vast majority of this content is free.
IGTV is a standalone app from Instagram, which was launched in 2018. It allows users to post videos, making it a great platform for workouts, interviews, and snappy content for kids.
Celebrities have been using IGTV to great affect during the coronavirus lockdown. Miley Cyrus is hosting a mental health and pop culture show called Bright Minds every weekday, and Lady Gaga choreographer Mark Kanemura hosting a dance party every day at 5pm. Loads of musicians are also using the platform to live-stream themselves signing or playing their instruments.
Like the majority of social media, IGTV is free to use for both those creating and those watching the content.
YouTube is a go-to streaming service for those with children.It makes sense that it’s being relied on heavily whilst we’re all stuck in our homes!
The biggest YouTube success of the lockdown so far is arguably fitness instructor Joe Wicks. Wicks went to uni to train to be a PE teacher and took up this mantle online as soon as the lockdown was announced. “The nation’s PE teacher” is streaming a live workout for kids and adults every day at 9am. He’s regularly seeing more than 800,000 households tuning in. He’s also donating all his advertising proceeds to the NHS. Even more of a reason to get the kids off the sofa and join him!
Facebook Watch is the free TV streaming platform from Facebook, which sees celebrities including Russell Brand and Jada Pinkett-Smith creating loads of topical, popular content that’s available for anyone to watch. Popular comedians like Michael Macintyre and quiz shows like Would I Lie To You? are also featured on the platform. Find Facebook Watch by logging into your Facebook account, and clicking on the “Watch” tab on the left-hand side.
Paid-for streaming services mean more choice, no adverts, and often higher-quality options. However, if you’re in a shared house – or even if you have older children, or adult children living at home – make sure you split the cost.
Sharing subscriptions across the entire house instead of everyone having their own also makes financial sense. These services all have options for people to watch different things at the same time on separate screens, or listen to different music simultaneously. Companies have realised the power of sharing subscriptions – rather than try to combat it, they willingly offer it!
You may already have some services that you’ve realised you won’t be using in the foreseeable future. Sky Sports, for example, allows customers to pause their subscriptions now because… well, there’s no sport!
Contact your providers and find out if they’re offering membership extensions once all this is over – or if you can pause or cancel subscriptions without penalties. Act now – it could be several months until these services become relevant again, and you can use what you’ve saved towards a new streaming service instead.
Streaming services have tightened up their free trials lately. They used to be fairly easy to get around, but can be a bit trickier to track down these days.
You could still strike lucky and stumble across one, though. Alternatively, ask a friend who already uses the service if there are any referral deals – that could earn both of you some money off the service!
One brand that does offer an easy to access free trial is Amazon Prime, which allows 30 days free to access its excellent streaming service, Amazon Prime Video. You’ll be converted to regular membership and charged after the first month if you don’t cancel, so make sure you note when you signed up.
One sneaky trick to learn with many of these services is to go through the cancellation process once you’ve signed up. After your first month with the service, try to cancel your membership.
You’ll be presented with options like:
- An account suspension (where you pay nothing for a set period of time but can’t access the service)
- A free month
- Discounted payments for the next month, three months, or sometimes even six months
If none of these options come up when you follow the first ‘Cancel Membership’ step, hold your horses. You’re not going to get a discount at this point! However, at the time of writing all services mentioned in this guide have some kind of offer to entice you back and prevent you cancelling.
It’s not a long-term solution, but it’s a good way to save even a little extra cash.
Paid-for streaming options
This is the big one. There are so many streaming and subscription services for TV and films online these days! Let’s look at the major players and see how they stack up.
Starting from £6.99 a month, this is the original Big Daddy of film streaming. Thousands of films and TV shows are available on demand, whenever you want.
More expensive subscriptions allow you to download to watch offline, and let several people watch from the same account at the same time on different screens. Perfect if your teenager wants to watch a show while you’re settling in for a date-night film on the sofa!
You can also set up a separate account that’s just for children. It’ll only show your child age-restricted shows, so you can rest assured they’re not accessing inappropriate content.
Netflix has its own massive movie studios – which means you get access to some brilliant (and, let’s face it, some not-so-brilliant) shows and films, too. The most talked about Netflix Originals of 2020 so far include reality dating show Love is Blind, teen comedy drama Sex Education and Harlan Coben thriller The Stranger. You’ve got lots to catch up on!
The newest kid on the block, Disney+ has finally arrived (and with huge fanfare). We can’t think of a better way to keep the kids entertained than with the entire back catalogue of Disney classics, stretching from Cinderella to Moana. There’s stuff there for the adults too: why not escape the confines of your home by delving into National Geographic?
As well as Disney and National Geographic, the £5.99 per month (or £59 per year) subscription also includes Pixar, Star Wars and Marvel. For entertaining the kids, it’s basically priceless. Read more about the free 7-day trial with Disney Plus here.
Amazon Prime is an all-singing, all-dancing subscription. It encompasses next-day delivery or free delivery on hundreds of thousands of products, as well as music, film and TV streaming.
It’s £7.99 a month or £79 a year. You can share it in your household, too.
The number of films and shows available for free feels more limited than Netflix. However, the big difference between the two is that you can also buy or rent films and shows through Amazon Prime.
That means that if you want to watch a film but it’s not available for free, you can pay to view or buy it. Sometimes, Amazon runs offers that’ll help with this. This might defer your next-day delivery to a three-day delivery, to earn £1 credit on your movies subscription.
(That’s just one example. Expect to see promotions similar to that throughout the year).
You might not have heard of MUBI, the streaming service for independent films. A hand-picked selection of the best of independent cinema is available. A new film can be downloaded or streamed from anywhere every day. Highlighted films at the moment include Park Chan-Wook’s Oldboy from 2003, 2002’s Secretary (starring Maggie Gyllenhaal), and Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata (1979). You’ll find more recent films in there too – Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel is one of many from the last decade that are available.
This is the streaming service for those who like foreign films, those who want to pontificate about mid-late 20th Century cinema, and those who want something (whisper it!) a little bit more intellectually challenging than Netflix. Think of it as the bigger streaming services’ quirky, interesting little sister.
You can get a free trial of MUBI just like you can with other streaming services; this one last for seven days.
It was only a matter of time before Apple got in on the streaming boom. Another new streaming service, Apple TV offers up TV and film that we’ve loved elsewhere but that you might have missed first time round (Fleabag, Aquaman, The Favourite – yes, variety is the spice of life here!) with new content like the Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston drama The Morning Show. Boxes start from £179 for use through your TV or streamed through an app, making this is pricier option than the other streaming services.
Listening to music is a great way to boost your mood or find a calming moment. It can help you stay motivated too, whether you’re working from home or pushing through the difficult last stretch of your daily run. Taking time away from screens is also important.
If music isn’t your thing, podcasts could be. If you’re used to working in a busy office, the comparative quiet of working from home can be unsettling. Sticking a podcast or streaming radio can add to the background noise.
Podcasts and audiobooks are also a great way to learn new things. Stop your brain turning to mush by “reading” the books you’ve always wanted to, or listening to a fun-yet-educational podcast like No Such Thing As a Fish, from the geniuses behind hit TV show QI.
Try these streaming services for the audio fix you need:
Audible is the streaming service that lets you “read” books by listening to them. It’s a great platform for when you’re stuck in the house but still need to get things done. Like you might with music or with a podcast, just plug yourself into Audible. You’ll find that your cooking/cleaning chores go much faster! Plus, you’ll be catching up on all those books that you know you should read but have never quite got round to. Everything from The Handmaid’s Tale to Harry Potter is included, so there’s something for every mood you might be in.
Audible costs £7.99 per month (you’ll get a new audiobook every month for that) and also includes original podcasts. There’s also a free 30-day trial, which we recommend you snap up.
You need to sign up to an account, but the BBC Sounds radio app is totally free. It’s available online via any browser on a computer or mobile phone. You can download the app to a phone or tablet, too.
Live stream any current radio station or listen to previous programmes to stay up-to-date with the latest news or music releases. Or browse the range of podcasts – there are lots of one-off specials and entire series to listen through. Personally, BBC 6 Music and the Desert Island Discs back catalogue are the twin distractions that are getting us through this period.
There’s something for every taste on BBC Sounds, from pop music right through to fun podcasts like history-focused You’re Dead to Me. If you’re home schooling your children, you may find some useful episodes to get them to listen to, as well!
If you don’t know about Spotify we’re here to let you know that you need to sign up immediately.
Spotify is the world’s premier music streaming service, with over 217 million daily active users globally. With music from over a million artists and helpful suggestions on what you should listen to based on your listening habits, you’ll always find something to act as a soundtrack your day. This is true whether you’re cleaning the house, pounding the pavement in your running shoes, or just looking to unwind with something laidback after a long day of juggling work and home-schooling.
You can use Spotify for free with adverts, or can upgrade to the paid version (£9.99 per month) for an ad-free experience. You can also set up a family account, which all members of your family can access.This is great for money saving, as it means you don’t all have to pay for account individually! Spotify often runs free trials or reduced Premium membership for those newly signing up. Make sure you’ve looked into all the options available.
We hope this has given you some inspiration to start streaming your TV, music and books whilst we’re on lockdown. There’s so much great content out there just waiting for you to discover it. Most of it doesn’t cost more than a few pounds a month. What are you waiting for?