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Internet TV: What's the best way to watch TV online?

Internet TV enables viewers to watch shows from virtually any device with an internet connection. It’s flexible, convenient and cost-effective.

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Internet TV: What's the best way to watch TV online?
  • Internet TV, also known as streaming, involves watching content on a device via an internet connection.
  • That means no need for a TV – you can watch on computers, phones and tablets.
  • Some streaming services are free, like ITVX, iPlayer and All 4, though you’ll likely need a TV licence.
  • Streaming may be more cost-effective than paying for Sky TV or Virgin Media.

Internet TV: FAQs

  • Do I need a satellite dish to watch internet TV?

    You only need an internet connection and a device that supports video media via the web, like a smartphone or tablet. That could be WiFi or a 4G/5G connection from a mobile device. There’s no need for a satellite dish. The programs are distributed over the internet.

  • Do I need a phone line to watch internet TV?

    You don't need a phone line to enjoy internet TV. With advancements in modern technology and mobile devices, many households no longer have a traditional phone line. 

    You can opt for a broadband package with WiFi and no line rental to watch internet TV.

    Numerous broadband service providers offer Wi-Fi-only packages at affordable prices. This helps reduce costs if you don’t need a phone line. So shop for the best broadband deal you can find without worrying about line rental.

  • Can I watch internet TV on tablets and phones?

    You can watch internet TV on virtually any phone or tablet with a 4G/5G or WiFi connection. 

    That includes smartphones, iPads and laptops. Many streaming platforms, such as BBC iPlayer, allow you to download your favourite TV shows to your device for offline viewing. Once the programs are downloaded, you won't need a WiFi connection to watch them, making it ideal for long train, plane, or car journeys.

  • How much does internet TV cost?

    The services provided by terrestrial TV channels like the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 are free. However, you can pay for ad-free access and other premium features. 

    p>Other services offered by Amazon, Netflix, Disney, and NOW require a monthly subscription. 

    Amazon, Disney and Netflix are relatively inexpensive, costing less than £10 per month. NOW is more expensive, as it provides access to Sky channels. The Sky Sports package for NOW costs over £20 – but you get access to all Sky Sports channels without needing Sky, which suits some people.

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TV has migrated onto the internet. We can now enjoy live TV, TV from the past days, weeks and months, and films and programs with just an internet connection. 

This is called online streaming. Instead of watching the program live, recording, or downloading it, you stream it directly to your screen. 

And you don't even need a TV – you can use any internet-enabled device, from phones to computers and tablets. Stats suggest 9 out of 10 Brits have used streaming services in the last 12 months. 

There are so many choices for online streaming, and it’s tough to know what services best suit your needs. To help, we’ve put together this ultimate guide to internet TV and the best way to watch TV online. 

What is internet TV?

A deceptively simple question. Internet TV, also known as online streaming, involves distributing television content, including live channels, movies, and TV shows, over the internet. 

Instead of traditional cable or satellite connections, internet TV allows users to access entertainment from smart TVs, computers, smartphones, and tablets. 

You only need an internet connection. You can also use standard TVs with Roku sticks, Amazon Fire Sticks, and similar products that plug into the USB or HDMI of your non-smart TV. These gadgets can turn non-smart TVs into smart TVs. 

Internet TV is flexible, cost-efficient and enables you to watch terrestrial programs from the main channels, movies, documentaries and box sets. 

Why watch TV on the internet?

Internet TV is an alternative to Freeview, cable TV, and other options. It enables you to stream all sorts of TV and films to your screen via an internet connection only. 

Here are the benefits: 

Convenience and flexibility 

One of internet TV's most significant advantages is its convenience and flexibility. 

With a stable internet connection and streaming devices such as a smart TV, computer, tablet, or smartphone, viewers can access their favourite shows, movies, and live channels from anywhere and at any time. It’s worth mentioning that some services are restricted to certain countries, however. 

The ease of access provided by digital streaming has transformed how we watch TV, as we’re no longer limited by a) what we can watch and b) what we can record.

Moreover, internet TV eliminates the need for bulky set-top boxes, satellite dishes, or cable connections. 

Wealth of content

Online streaming provides access to more content than you could ever watch.

From local and international channels to genre-specific on-demand content, online TV caters for everyone. Popular streaming services like Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video offer extensive libraries of TV shows, movies, and documentaries, ensuring that there is always something new and exciting to watch.

In addition to mainstream content, streaming platforms provide access to many niche channels. 

For example, you might enjoy international sports that aren't screened on the main channels - Amazon Prime often screens live tennis from the Australian and US Open, for example - or you might want to watch box sets of older TV shows. ITVX, iPlayer and Channel 4 are great for that. 

Personalised recommendations

Stuck and don’t know what to watch? Streaming services will provide you with personalised viewing choices and allow users to create profiles, curate watchlists, and receive tailored recommendations based on their viewing preferences. 

This level of customisation enables viewers to discover new content they might not have found before. 

Furthermore, features such as multiple user profiles and parental controls enable viewers to manage and regulate their household's viewing habits. Don’t let someone else’s viewing preferences mess up your recommendations! 


Online TV is cost-effective compared to traditional cable or satellite TV subscriptions like Sky TV or Virgin Media. Many streaming platforms offer affordable monthly subscriptions or even free, ad-supported content. 

You can watch a vast amount of free content using Channel 4, iPlayer and ITVX. But, of course, you will still need a TV licence for iPlayer or to watch live TV on other streaming services. 

Viewers can select a plan that suits their budget and entertainment needs without being tied down to costly long-term contracts or expensive channel bundles.

In addition to the cost savings, internet TV offers viewers the freedom to cancel or change their subscriptions anytime. 

This enables users to explore different platforms and services, ensuring they always have access to the content they love at a price they can afford.

The main internet TV options

Please note that all prices are correct as of 3rd May 2023. AgeGroup is not responsible for content on third-party websites.


Netflix is a global household name and streaming giant with a massive library of movies, TV shows, and documentaries. Some 62% of Brits have used Netflix.

They're constantly updating their content, offering a mix of classic titles, new releases and original productions. Netflix is relatively inexpensive and runs off phones, tablets, laptops and desktops. It's easy to use, too, with an intuitive user interface. 

Subscription plans range from the basic single-device plan (just £5.99 as of 2023) to premium multi-device plans with ultra HD.


  • Create multiple user profiles 
  • Compatible with a wide range of devices, including smart TVs, game consoles, smartphones, tablets, and computers
  • Easy to use


ITVX, formerly ITV Hub, is the official online streaming service for ITV channels, providing access to virtually all their content. 

It's free, and you can access it via any device, including your smart TV. In addition, ITV has started loading their prime-time series onto ITVX so you can watch them before they screen on ITV – perfect for binge-watching a series!


  • Access live TV channels, including ITV, ITV2, ITV3, ITV4, and CITV
  • Catch up on shows from the past 30 days
  • Compatible with smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, and computers

BBC iPlayer

BBC iPlayer is a beloved British streaming platform that offers content from the BBC, including a vast range of TV shows, movies, documentaries and live TV channels. 

iPlayer’s depth of offerings is excellent, with old and new programs across virtually every category. Its film section is much more extensive than it used to be. 

It’s easy to access, free, and simple to navigate. 


  • Stream live TV channels, including BBC One, BBC Two, BBC News, and more
  • Catch up on your favourite shows from the past 30 days
  • Compatible with smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, computers, and game consoles

All 4

All 4 is Channel 4's online streaming service, providing access to content from Channel 4, E4, More4, Film4 and 4Music. 

It’s very similar to ITVX and iPlayer, offering recent shows and programs from the past, including box sets. The box sets are superb for binge-watching well-known series from the past and present. 


  • Stream live TV channels, including Channel 4, E4, More4, Film4, and 4Music
  • Access exclusive All 4 Originals and box sets
  • Compatible with smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, and computers


NOW is a subscription-based streaming service that offers access to Sky channels. So if you don’t have Sky but want to access Sky channels, including Sky Sports, without subscribing to Sky itself, then NOW is the answer. 

You can even get a day membership to watch big fixtures, e.g. Saturday’s football games and other live sports. 

Membership passes:

  • Entertainment (£9.99/month): Access to Sky channels, including Sky Atlantic, Sky Witness, and more
  • Cinema (£11.99/month): Access to Sky Cinema channels and over 1,000 movies on demand
  • Sports (from £9.99/day, with a monthly option also available): Access to Sky Sports channels, with daily, weekly, and monthly pass options
  • Kids (£3.99/month): Access to kids' channels, including Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, and more

Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video is Amazon’s streaming network, with a vast range of films, TV, exclusive sports and more. Around half of Brits have used Amazon Prime Video.

It comes with Amazon Prime subscriptions (for the Amazon Prime £7.99/mo deal). Prime has a massive range of American TV shows and a healthy selection of blockbuster movies. 


  • Rent or purchase select movies and TV shows not included with a Prime membership
  • Compatible with a wide range of devices, including smart TVs, game consoles, smartphones, tablets, and computers
  • Cheap when bundled with Amazon Prime delivery and other Amazon services 


Disney+ offers a vast library of Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic content. It’s perfect for fans of superhero films, TV and animated content, including Disney+ originals. 

An excellent streaming service for kids and adults. 


  • Access to Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic content
  • Exclusive Disney+ Originals, such as The Mandalorian, Loki, and more
  • Compatible with smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, and computers

The cost of internet TV

Let's break down the various costs of internet TV. Prices vary widely, from free and ad-supported platforms like iPlayer and ITVX to premium services like NOW. 

Free and ad-Supported platforms

Many free and ad-supported platforms are available for anyone who simply wants an online form of terrestrial TV. 

These services provide access to a wide range of content, including movies, TV shows, and documentaries, without subscription fees. Some popular ad-supported platforms include:

  • BBC iPlayer: Offers a vast library of BBC content, ranging from TV shows to movies and documentaries, free of charge with a valid TV licence.
  • ITVX: Provides access to live and catch-up content from ITV channels, including popular shows, news, and sports.
  • All 4: Channel 4's streaming platform features a mix of live channels, catch-up TV, and exclusive content.

It’s worth noting that ITVX and All 4 have small subscription offerings, too, if you’re looking for ad-free experiences and access to exclusive premium content. However, you don’t need to pay to access most of their catalogues. 

These platforms offer the kinds of TV and films you’d expect from each channel. Of course, that includes all the latest series, whether it’s Happy Valley, The Bay, The Bodyguard, Silent Witness or Line of Duty. 

You'll also find legendary TV shows like Fawlty Towers, The Vicar of Dibley, and Downton Abbey. There are many documentaries and docu-series from the likes of Louis Theroux, Stacy Dooley, and Ross Kemp. And you’ll find soaps like Coronation Street and EastEnders. 

If you have a program or series in mind, you can usually search for it in Google and find which service offers it. Remember, you'll generally need a TV licence, although you should be prompted when you go to watch something that requires one. 

Subscription-based streaming services

Subscription-based streaming services have become the backbone of online TV. These platforms offer extensive content libraries, including original programming, movies, and TV shows. 

Some of the most popular subscription-based services include: 

  • Netflix: Plans range from £5.99 to £13.99 per month, depending on the streaming quality and the number of simultaneous screens.
  • Amazon Prime Video: Available for £8.99 per month or part of the £95 per year Amazon Prime membership.
  • Disney+: Priced at £7.99 per month or £79.90 per year, Disney+ offers content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic.

These platforms often provide a massive range of content, catering to various tastes and preferences. Netflix is world-leaders in streaming and has built an excellent reputation for its exclusive TV, films and documentaries. Netflix has something for all tastes and ages. 

Amazon Prime Video is excellent for blockbuster films and American TV series. They also stream some live sports that aren't available elsewhere. 

However, the costs can add up, especially if you subscribe to multiple services to access all your favourite content. 

Live TV streaming services

Live TV streaming services are slightly different – they stream TV programs screening right now. 

These platforms offer access to various live channels, including news, sports, and entertainment, without subscribing to services like Virgin or Sky. 

Some popular live TV streaming services include:

  • NOW TV: Offers various flexible passes, such as Entertainment, Sky Cinema, Sports, and Kids, with prices ranging from £3.99 to £33.99 per month.
  • BT Sport: Priced at £25 per month, BT Sport provides access to live sports events, including Premier League, UEFA Champions League, and more.

While live TV streaming services can be a cost-effective alternative to traditional cable or satellite subscriptions, the costs can still be substantial, particularly if you require additional channel packages or premium channels. 

Premium channels and add-ons

Many internet TV platforms offer premium channels and add-ons. These extras can include additional live channels, sports packages, or access to exclusive content. Examples of premium add-ons include:

  • Sky Sports: Available as an add-on to NOW TV, Sky Sports offers a variety of sports content, including football, cricket, and golf. Prices start from £9.99 for a Day Pass to £33.99 per month for a Monthly Pass.
  • Sky Cinema: Also available as an add-on to NOW TV, Sky Cinema features a comprehensive selection of movies across various genres. Prices start at £11.99 per month for a Sky Cinema Pass.

Bundle deals and promotions

Many providers offer bundle TV deals and promotional offers to help reduce the overall cost of online TV. Offers include discounted subscription rates, free trials, or reduced prices for combining multiple services. Some examples of bundle deals and promotions in the UK are:

  • Virgin Media: Offers various broadband and TV packages, including access to popular streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, alongside live TV channels.
  • Sky Q: Provides a range of TV packages, including access to exclusive channels, such as Sky Atlantic, and popular streaming services like Netflix and Disney+.
  • Apple TV: Apple TV is similar but primarily focuses on US shows. Apple TV packages include various add-ons from different services, too. 

Virgin Media and Sky Q are probably the best options if you're looking for a complete TV, sports and cinema package. Sky Q is Sky's flagship product, combining all sorts of entertainment into one slick box. It's pricey but is about as comprehensive as it gets. 

Sky also offers Sky Go as part of their packages, so you can access TV via mobile devices. 

Can I watch live TV on my mobile device?

Yes, it is entirely possible to watch live tv on your mobile phone, whether an iPhone or Android phone. You only need to download one of the relevant apps, such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, or whatever else you want to watch.

You can access the app via your App Store on your mobile phone – whether an Apple iOS device or an Android phone. 

Once you’ve downloaded the app, you can log in and watch from your phone or tablet. 

Be aware that you do require a television licence to access live television from your mobile device, irrespective of the fact that it’s not a television!

Accessing on-demand and catch-up content

As well as having access to live TV channels, you can also access catch-up and on-demand through streaming services like iPlayer and ITVX. This lets you catch up on main-channel shows you’ve missed or not recorded. 

You'll need to use the app corresponding to the channel that screened the content. So, for example, if ITV showed a series and you missed an episode, you can access it from ITVX – and it's free. 

You no longer need to worry about recording everything you miss. 

What broadband speed do you need for internet TV?

Modern broadband connections are high-speed, so you'll likely be okay with virtually any UK provider. Functionality is best with super-fast broadband; however, streaming apps are efficient at moderating the picture quality to reduce lag if your connection is slow. 

Can you watch TV offline?

Many streaming platforms allow you to download content to watch offline. This enables viewers to view movies and TV shows without an active internet connection – convenient for travel, or when you know you'll have no or limited connectivity. 

Popular streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney+ offer offline viewing.

So do iPlayer, ITVX and All 4. To watch content offline, you simply need to download the desired titles to your device while connected to the internet. 

However, not all content may be available for offline viewing, and there may be restrictions. Plus, it’ll take up a lot of device space. 

It's best to download large files using WiFi, not 4G or 5G. 

Streaming and internet TV

Internet TV is an alternative to traditional TV, where shows and programs are sent to your screen over the internet. WiFi and 4G/5G mobile connections support streaming services so you can watch on your phone, tablet, computer or smart TV.

You can even download programs to watch offline if you expect not to have a reliable internet connection. 

Streaming your favourite films, TV, and sports is cost-effective, but watch out for spiralling costs if you subscribe to too many services!

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