With Netflix no longer the only game in town when it comes to streaming video services, things have exploded to the point where it can be hard to keep up with what’s new, with offerings now available from the likes of Amazon Prime, Disney+, Paramount +, Apple TV and Now, among others.
It’s also incredibly easy to subscribe and set up most of these services, with the result that many of us probably have more subscriptions than we need.
Indeed, over a third of Irish households were considering cancellation of an online streaming service last year, according to a survey by online market research firm Momentive.
But there are lots of ways to bring down the cost of watching your favourite TV shows while still having far more programmes and movies to choose from than there are hours in the day.
But first, a quick look at some of the most popular services available and how much they cost:
Still the granddad of streaming services with a huge bank of content, Netflix’s Basic plan starts at €8.99 a month, although it only allows you to stream on one device at any one time and does not include streaming in high-definition (HD).
The Standard plan starts at €14.99 a month and adds HD streaming and the ability to view on two devices simultaneously, while the premium package is €20.99 a month, throwing in 4K and HDR streaming, as well as the option to stream content on up to four devices at any one time.
Some of the biggest new shows on the platform include Vikings: Valhalla; Break Point (from the makers of Formula 1: Drive to Survive); and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery. Meanwhile, That ‘90s Show releases on January 19.
Amazon Prime Video
In terms of household names in streaming services, Amazon probably ranks second only to Netflix, and majors in providing original content. The basic Prime Video package is £5.99 a month (approximately €6.80 — it only quotes the sterling price) but viewers also have the option of subscribing to Amazon Prime (which comes with Prime Video) for £8.99 (€10.20) a month or £95 (€107) annually.
Recent hits on the platform include The Rig, Hunters, and The Rings of Power. Meanwhile, Daisy Jones & The Six is due for release in March.
Now is Sky’s on-demand TV service. Subscribers can choose from a range of niche 'memberships'. Each membership comes at a different price for a varying time period.
The memberships available include, but are not limited to, the Entertainment membership and Cinema membership, which both come with a free trial for seven days and are then €15 per month. On the other hand, should you want access to Sky Sports, for example, daily, weekly and monthly memberships are also available at €10, €15 and €39 respectively. Rosie Molloy Gives Up Everything is a recent hit for Sky and available on Now.
Another big name that launched with a fanfare in 2019, Apple’s package starts at €6.99 a month, although anyone who buys a new iPhone, Mac or iPad will get three months' access for free.
“Compared to Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, the amount of content on offer is still relatively small,” said Daragh Cassidy of price comparison site Bonkers.ie. “This will no doubt improve as the service becomes more established.”
If you're a fan of binge-watching an entire series of your favourite show in one weekend as soon as it's released, Cassidy points out that Apple TV+ has decided to go against the grain of most streaming platforms nowadays by releasing most of its new shows on a weekly basis.
The hit shows on this platform in recent months include homegrown hit Bad Sisters, Severance and season two of Slow Horses.
The iconic entertainment firm arrived on the streaming scene around the same time as Apple TV+, but labours under the perception that it’s more for the kids with an admittedly rich back catalogue that includes the Star Wars franchise (including Andor) and all the well-known Disney and Pixar animations.
For €8.99 per month, subscribers also get access to the National Geographic channel as well as new channel Star, which is intended for a more adult audience and features a mix of original and iconic TV shows such as Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives along with award-winning productions Dopesick and Only Murders in the Building.
Hayu offers subscribers access to the most popular reality TV shows such as Keeping Up With The Kardashians and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
It’s €5.99 per month, while Sky’s Now is also offering customers access to Hayu for €6 per month.
“Although not for everyone and distinctively niche, Hayu provides a substantial catalogue of prime reality TV shows and is literally calling out to all reality fans out there,” said Cassidy.
For €7.99 a month, Paramount+ features both new and original content from Paramount-owned networks such as Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Showtime and will be home to well-known movie franchises such as Scream, South Park, Geordie Shore, and Transformers.
New shows include HALO, Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and The First Lady.
How to save on streaming services
You may not make savings on premium streaming services by switching alone, as your choice of provider will obviously depend on the kind of shows you want to watch. Instead, the trick is to game the system a little while keeping things simple, as these six steps show.
Dip in and out, or rotate
There are no sign-up or cancellation fees for most streaming services, so if you don't think you'll be watching anything for a while, just cancel your subscription. You can then resubscribe a few weeks or months later when a new show piques your interest.
With most of the providers, your account data and viewing history will remain intact for at least a year.
A similar strategy is to rotate your subscriptions. So instead of signing up to two or more subscriptions, just have one and switch to different providers each month, depending on what you want to watch.
For example, if you’ve got an annual Disney+ and Netflix subscription at a monthly rate, you would pay €197.78 a year. But by alternating months instead, you would end up paying just €107.88 a year for six months of Disney+ and six months of Netflix.
Take advantage of free trials
Most subscription services offer a free trial period, usually for seven days. So, as a variation on the advice of rotating your subscriptions every month, you could hop from free trial to free trial. Just remember to cancel before each trial period is up.
Note that Netflix used to offer a 30-day free trial period, but no longer offers a free trial period at all, while Disney + also eschews free trials.
A lot of Irish households share subscriptions already, as it’s very easy to do. According to Momentive’s 2022 survey, a whopping 70pc of Irish streaming customers share their subs among extended families, with 16pc sharing outside families. Platforms like Netflix are reportedly seeking to make this more difficult in the future, however.
Downgrade your plan
Go for the most basic plan. Netflix’s Basic plan is €6 a month cheaper than its mid-tier Standard plan, “which is hard to argue with when you take into account the sheer scale and bank of content that's now available to view”, said Cassidy.
Some subscription services offer the option of paying a cheaper annual charge. In the case of Disney+, the annual fee of €89.90 is €18 a year cheaper than paying €8.99 a month, while a year of Amazon Prime costs £95 (€107), which would save £12.88 (€14.50) over paying monthly.
Try All4 for free
If you don’t want to pay for a streaming service, All4 is the on-demand streaming service from Channel 4 and unlike its bigger cousin, the BBC iPlayer, is available to access in Ireland for free by everyone. Viewers can download the app for free and watch on their phone or tablet, or view on the web at Channel4.com.
How to switch
Step 1: Compare
With such a huge variety, check out which service provides the greatest volume of shows you most want to watch and choose that.
Step 2: Check what equipment you need
In order to avail of streaming services in the first place, you need a reasonably fast broadband service (at least 2.5 Mbps) and either a Smart TV (ie, one built after 2016 or so) or a device that allows you to broadcast services on an older TV (as long as it has an HDMI port), such as a Google Chromecast or an Amazon Fire Stick. You can also watch on your phone, a tablet or a laptop.
Step 3: Choose
Signing up and cancelling services can be done in a few clicks, and if you pay per month, you can cancel at any time.
Potential gain based on choosing a basic rather than premium streaming account and sharing it with an extended family member: €60-70
*All figures correct at the time of publication