How to avoid overpaying for Netflix, Disney and more.
One of the things I love about the likes of Netflix, Disney+ and NOW TV is they are each far cheaper than getting premium channels from Sky or Virgin.
The problem is it’s so easy to sign up for these monthly streaming services. And with yet more new streaming sites launched (hello Paramount+), the more you have, the less of a bargain they actually are.
And with inflation hitting all our other costs too, it makes sense to find as many ways as possible to reduce what you pay.
So if you want to take advantage of these sites but also make a saving, here are the rules I follow to make sure I get the best value from the money I spend on streaming film and TV.
Binge, cancel and swap
There’s no way you can get the most of every service at the same time. At a push you might be able to justify two, but I think you’ll get the best value from one at a time.
Fortunately, all these services have 30-day or month-long contracts, meaning you can dip in and out whenever you want and only pay for the months you are signed up for.
Focus on the shows you want to watch on that platform, and when you’ve had enough you cancel your monthly payment and move to the next one. And so on.
This obviously requires you to cancel one when you’re done with it, and restart another. But this is very simple with each service, and can be done with a few clicks. You’ll probably want to put a note in your diary to remind yourself to do it.
Streaming Service prices compared
There are so many options, I’ve focussed this table on the main services, then some of the next tier options.
|Monthly Cost||Annual Pass|
|Amazon Prime Video||£5.99 (£7.99 if full Prime)||£79|
|Discovery+ (Entertainment/Entertainment + Sport)||£3.99 / £6.99||£39.99 / £59.99|
|NOW Sky Sports||£33.99||N/A|
|Britbox (merging with ITVX in late 2022)||£5.99||£59.99|
So how much could you save having just one at a time? Let’s assume you can watch everything you need to in two months a year per main service. So that would be:
- two months of Netflix Standard @ £10.99 a month
- two months of NOW TV Entertainment @ £9.99 a month
- two months of Amazon Prime Video @ £5.99 a month
- two months of Disney+ @ £7.99 a month
- two months of Apple TV+ @ £4.99 a month
- two months of Paramount+ @ £6.99 a month
Paying full price each month would mean you pay £93.88 a year. That’s less than a year of Netflix on its own and you’ve got so much more choice. And if you nab deals, you’ll pay even less.
Avoid annual passes
This is an obvious extension of my first rule, but unless you know 100% that you are going to be watching one service at least 10 months of the year (most annual passes are 12 months for the price of 10), there’s no real saving in buying a discounted annual pass.
Of course, you might feel differently (especially if you’ve kids who are always on Disney+). So if you will watch it consistently then go for it, buy bear mind the cost when adding on extra ad-hoc subscriptions.
Watch out for extras
It’s tempting to upgrade Netflix to 4K quality, but I’d caution against it. Though it can make a difference, I’d argue it’s not worth an extra £5 a month over the HD Standard Netflix.
Likewise, the extra £2 a month to move from Prime Video to full Amazon Prime seems to make sense, but if you do this you will spend more money at Amazon – something I and many others are trying to avoid.
However, when it comes to NOW TV, the £5 Boost option is essential for basic HD and to avoid adverts (though I’ll always use the cancellation trick to hopefully bring this down to £1 or £2 a month).
Look for deals and freebies
Ok, an obvious one, but if you can pay less for a pass, then it’s a great way to save. Special offers are rare (though not impossible) to find on Netflix, but the other services all have promos and discounts, even freebies.
At the time of writing I’m on three months free Disney+, six months free NOW Entertainment, £2 NOW Boost for six months, one year free Prime Video, £1 NOW cinema for a month and I’ve got eight months of free Apple TV+ to activate before late August. That’s too much to watch, but it’s not costing me anything at all really.
These offers come and go, so check out my deal pages for the latest offers when I spot them.
Make the most of free trials
Though not all services offer free trials, a handful do, so make sure you use these. Plus, though you’re only allowed one free trial per person, that doesn’t mean your partner, housemates or (older) kids can’t sign up.
You might even be able to repeat a trial. Amazon let you take a free trial every 12 months, sometimes sooner. If there are two of you in the house, that’s two months free a year – which should be enough to binge most of the content you want to watch.
These are the standard offers. For the links and details, check my deals pages. I’ll also share short-term extended free trials (eg with Apple and Mubi).
- Amazon Prime Video – 30 days free
- Apple TV+ 7 days free
- Arrow – 30 days free
- BFI Player – 14 days free
- Britbox – 7 days free
- Mubi – 30 days free
- NOW Entertainment – 7 days free
- NOW Hayu – 7 days free
- NOW Cinema – 7 days free
- Paramount+ – 7 days free
- Shudder – 7 days free
You probably do this already! But it’s possible to share your account details with all the main services.
It’s likely we’ll see Netflix clamp down on this (they’ve trialled a few different methods), and once they do, others will follow. So make the most of it while you can!
Be careful not to become the one who pays for all the services. Either get those using your service to contribute their fair share, or get them to pay for a different service and share that with you.
There can be limits on how many times you can do this and how many people can watch at once. And of course, just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should. I’ve got more details in my article should you share streaming passwords and accounts.
Plan what to watch (and be picky)
With so much available, it’s easy to watch something just because it’s there. Yet so much of what’s available is trash. Really. Take a look behind the main titles and there are movies you won’t even believe were made. So I’m selective(ish). If there’s nothing I NEED to see, I’ll cancel.
And if there’s good word of mouth on programmes while I’m not subscribed, I’ll just add them to my list ready to binge when I next sign up. I’ll also time signing up for when all the episodes are available.
The only flaw in this plan is for shows on NOW as they come and go frequently, so if you miss it the first time around you might have to wait a long time for it to return.
Check where you can watch it
There are some shows and movies that are exclusive to one platform or another, but many others will move about, or even be found on more than one service.
For example at the time of writing, Icon Films is pushing cult Ryan Gosling movie Drive on it’s front page, but that’s also on Prime Video. Or the US remake of comedy series The Office is on NOW, Netflix and Prime Video!
So before you sign up to watch that specific thing, check if you can watch it for less on another service. I use JustWatch for this.
Watch free catch up
And don’t forget, as long as you pay the licence fee, you’ll still have access to iPlayer along with All 4, ITV Hub and other free streaming services if you are stuck for things to watch.
There’s always a new drama or comedy to watch on the BBC (homemade and imported) along with some decent boxsets. There are new and recent programmes on Channel 4’s All4 along with a great back catalogue (The IT Crowd, Father Ted, Shameless). It’s well worth taking a break from the paid services every now and then to catch up on this classic TV.
If you hate adverts (I really do) you can pay extra to watch C4 and ITV catch up ad-free.