If you consider yourself an Anglophile and you just can’t get enough of British television programming, two great direct to consumer streaming services offer a bevy of options, Acorn TV and BritBox. Between the two you can find dozens of British mystery series, medical dramas, gardening shows, soap operas, and classic comedy programming, as well as exciting new series. But what’s the difference between the two?
While the two services have some overlap, the majority of the offerings on each is different, so you may have to do some comparison to find which is best for you. While Acorn TV has been around much longer (it was previously the distributor of British programming VHS and DVD to the U.S. as far as the mid-1990s), BritBox is making up for time with fresh offerings and some true classics of U.K. television. We dive into each option and look at a few of the things that make them unique.
What is on Acorn TV
Perhaps the biggest thing that Acorn TV has going for it is age and connections. The heaviest content is in mystery series, from dozens of police dramas to classic British “cozies.” Due to a relationship between parent company RLJ Entertainment and the licensing arm of the Agatha Christie estate, Acorn TV is able to carry the most content from the great mystery writer’s work. This includes David Suchet in Poirot, Agatha Christie’s Marple, and more recent specials as The Witness for the Prosecution and the stylish 2015 BBC co-production of Partners in Crime. (BritBox does have Christie’s Poirot: The Early Cases, seasons 1-6, and three seasons of Miss Marple.)
Acorn TV is also producing original works, including the award-winning comedy Detectorists, about the eccentric and odd friends in a metal detecting club, and charming family drama Pitching In, about life in a “camping-park” or motor home community in Wales.
In addition to programming from the United Kingdom, Acorn TV brings to American audiences shows from Ireland, Canada, Spain, New Zealand, and Australia. From the latter comes not only the great Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (beloved by many, and currently also still on Netflix), but as part of its original programming it is the only source of the show’s snappy mod 1960s spin-off, Ms. Fisher’s Modern Murder Mysteries, which fans of the original will be very excited to get a taste of. Acorn TV will likely be the primary source of the Miss Fisher movie coming out later this year, Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears.
Acorn TV also offers a fair share of other British series, including comedy series and an extensive collection of documentaries. Favorite find of this writer? Saville Row, a three-part documentary on the bespoke tailors of the namesake neighborhood, looking at their centuries-old history and modern challenges of today’s clothing market.
Acorn TV Price and Supported Devices
Subscribing to Acorn TV is easy. The service offers 1 free week and then charges $5.99 a month, with a discount if you subscribe for a year, costing only $59.99. In addition, Acorn TV can be purchased as an Amazon add-on for only $4.99 after the free trial week.
Apps for Acorn TV are available for Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Chromecast, or it can be watched online at Acorn.tv.
What is BritBox
BritBox is one of the newer up-and-comers in subscription on-demand services, launching in 2017. The service focuses on a mix of current and classic series from BBC and ITV. Its biggest win is probably ongoing popular soaps and dramas, as well as classic comedies of the ilk that any Anglophile who grew up hearing the names of classic series from the 1970s and ’80s would be able to identify, from EastEnders to Blackadder.
When it comes to the still-current soaps, such as EastEnders and Coronation Street BritBox offers next-day availability of new episodes a la Hulu. Like Acorn TV, while some of its programming is available through Netflix or Hulu, rarely are they the most recent seasons, and if available elsewhere (like Amazon), you’re paying by the episode or season instead of streaming all of them as part of a monthly package.
While some popular British mystery series on both services are available elsewhere, more recent seasons are only available online. Both Acorn TV and BritBox get the newest seasons of the perennial Netflix binge of murder mystery fans, Midsomer Murders, and while Acorn TV has seasons 1, 2, 6, and 7 of the popular series Vera, more recent seasons (as well as the interim 4 and 5) are only available through BritBox.
Britbox is also getting into original programming through spin-offs of existing series, such as last summer’s The Bletchley Circle: San Francisco, its first original series.
For fans of medical dramas, BritBox also carries the two longest-running medical dramas, Casualty and Holby City—the former of which beat out Grey’s Anatomy by about 18 seasons. The service also has a hearty dose of truly classic British comedies including Absolutely Fabulous, Blackadder, Are You Being Served?, Fawlty Towers, and Keeping Up Appearances, as well as the cult favorite, Red Dwarf. Sci-fi lovers will also appreciate access to all of the original Doctor Who series through 1989 and the sixth Doctor.
Finally, rounding out the new dramas and classic series, Britbox offers an extended list of lifestyle and current event options, from life on an English farm to specials on the Royal Weddings.
BritBox Cost and Devices
BritBox also offers a seven-day free trial and then runs $6.99 a month or $69.99 a year with an annual subscription, making it slightly pricier than Acorn TV. It is also able to stream through the web, Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, as well as mobile devices.
It is likewise available as an Amazon add-on channel, however, the price is the same as a direct subscription, $6.99. However, watching through Amazon does give viewers the ability to stream through Amazon-friendly devices like game consoles and smart TVs.
Both services offer a plethora of viewing fun, and the price isn’t bad for the quantity of content. The final decision of which one to choose is best left up to the individual, as it largely depends on your preferences and which shows hold the most appeal.
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