Whilst I’m quite happy with my Roku box (see my review here), it only supports two out of the main five paid-for streaming video sites in the UK. I’ve done a bit of research, and here are my findings, based on the three most popular streaming devices – the Roku range, the Apple TV, and Google’s Chromecast. This is up to date as of late July 2014.
On a Roku box, you can watch Netflix and Sky’s Now TV. At the moment, support for Amazon Prime Instant Video (what used to be Lovefilm Instant) is only available in the US, and not the UK. Hopefully that will change in future but it’s been several months since Amazon launched Prime Instant Video in the UK, with no change. There’s currently no support for Wuaki TV or BlinkBox.
Sky also sell an own-branded Roku box, but this does not work with Netflix.
Netflix has been available on the Apple TV ever since Netflix launched in the UK. The Sky Sports content on Now TV can be watched on an Apple TV device, but not movies or entertainment.
There’s no official app for Amazon Prime Instant Video, and the iPad app does not work with AirPlay, but if you have a modern Mac which supports AirPlay mirroring then there is a workaround. BlinkBox and Wuaki TV require you to use AirPlay mirroring from their iOS apps.
Google’s Chromecast will work with Rakuten’s Wuaki TV, Netflix and, as of today, Tesco’s BlinkBox. Amazon Prime Instant Video can be made to work with a workaround, but isn’t officially supported. At present, Now TV isn’t available – Sky was ‘considering it’ in March this year.
If you are considering purchasing a Chromecast, then Wuaki TV are bundling a one season pass for either Game of Thrones, The Sopranos or Blacklist with a free Chromecast. The season passes are £24-£29, which is actually less than a Chromecast on its own (£30 RRP), so this is a very good deal, especially as free shipping worth £5 is thrown in too. I don’t know how long this offer will run for but if you are in the market for a Chromecast this is well worth considering.
Ultimately it’s a shame that not all services run on all devices. But then Google and Apple are also content sellers through their Play and iTunes stores, and who are in competition with Amazon, Tesco and Rakuten. Roku is now partly owned by Sky as well (I believe). And Amazon will probably launch its own Fire TV device in the UK eventually too.
Alternatively, buy a new TV
What I have noticed is that all five are supported by LG’s smart TVs. If your budget stretches to buying a completely new television, rather than just a plug-in box or adaptor, then you may wish to consider an LG Smart TV. However, of the big four free services, LG only seems to offer BBC iPlayer and Demand 5, and not ITV Player or 4oD.