Movie TV packages – what you need to know
In this guide
- What are movie TV packages?
- Providers that offer Sky Cinema
- Streaming services
- Frequently asked questions
Movies are shown on TV all the time but if you want the latest releases and just more choice in general, you need a TV package that comes with a subscription to a film streaming service.
This will most likely be Sky Cinema, although increasingly you can subscribe to Netflix through your pay TV provider and simply add the cost to your monthly bill. On this page we'll talk you through the options offered by the big pay TV providers as well as the online alternatives.
What is Sky Cinema?
Sky Cinema is the thing that turns a TV package into a TV movie package. It has thousands of movies available to watch on demand including Sky Cinema Original films, which are available to watch on Sky Cinema on the same day as they are released in cinemas.
There is a premiere shown every day and there's also 11 live channels to watch. The names often change in honour of a particular event, season or film release, but at the time of writing they are Sky Cinema Premiere, Hits, Superheroes, Disney, Family, Action, Comedy, Thriller, Drama, Sci-Fi & Horror and Select.
What providers offer Sky Cinema?
Sky Cinema is offered by all of the UK's 'big four' providers (Sky, Virgin Media, BT and TalkTalk TV) either as part of a bundle or as an add-on. It's also available as a standalone service in the form of NOW TV's Sky Cinema Membership.
- Sky TV – With Sky it all starts with the basic TV package, Sky Entertainment. This gives you a Sky Q box, hundreds of channels including Sky Atlantic and loads of catch-up TV. You can then add extra packages such as Sky Cinema to your bundle. To get even more movies you can add Ultimate On Demand, which includes Netflix.
- Virgin Media TV – Sky Cinema is included as standard in two of Virgin's TV bundles, the Full House Movies bundle and the Ultimate Oomph Bundle. You can also add it onto Virgin's cheaper packages. All of Virgin's TV packages come with the V6 box, which is 4K-ready and can record six channels at once.
- BT TV – You can add Sky Cinema to your BT TV package but how much you get depends on what type of BT broadband you have. If you have standard broadband you'll get access to all of Sky Cinema's on-demand movies. If you have BT fibre, you'll also get the 11 live Sky Cinema channels.
- TalkTalk TV – Sky Cinema isn't included automatically in any of TalkTalk's TV bundles, but it is available as one of its 'flexible TV boosts'. The add-on includes all 11 live Sky Cinema channels and the full selection of on-demand movies.
- NOW TV – With NOW TV, you buy memberships for the content you want. The Sky Cinema Membership gives you access to all 11 channels as well as the on-demand movies. You can watch NOW TV on devices including smart TVs, games consoles and mobile phones and there's no minimum contract so you can cancel whenever you like.
There are a number of streaming services that offer an alternative to Sky Cinema, and can be enjoyed alongside a pay TV subscription. Some offer a free trial and the beauty of all of them is that you won't get tied into a long-term contract – you can cancel whenever you like.
- Netflix – Netflix has a good selection of movies, although it doesn't match Sky Cinema for blockbusters that have recently been in the cinema. There's an increasing focus on Netflix original movies, which you can't find anywhere else. You can get a 30-day free trial and there's three plans to choose from.
- Amazon Prime Video – There's a mix of new movies, including a few Prime originals, and older films included in a Prime subscription as well as the option to buy or rent many more. You can get a 30-day free trial that also includes free delivery on Amazon packages among other benefits.
- DisneyLife – DisneyLife offers more than 450 classic and newer Disney movies as well as box sets, songs and more – and you can try it for seven days for free. It's not yet clear what will happen to DisneyLife when Disney's new streaming service, Disney+, is launched.
- MUBI – MUBI offers a rolling line-up of 30 films, with a new one introduced each day. MUBI costs a bit more than some of its rivals and offers less choice but has a more curated feel, with a focus on cult classics and independent movies.
- BFI Player – You can rent new movies as you go, get a subscription for classic and cult movies (following a 14-day free trial) or explore thousands of archive films for free courtesy of the BFI.
- Curzon Home Cinema – Curzon focuses on independent, art house and foreign language films, with some available to watch on the same day as their cinema release. You create a free account then pay for each film you want to watch.
- Sky Store – A service that lets you buy and keep digital copies of films, and have the DVD or Blu-ray sent to you in the post as well if you want. Sky Store mostly features new releases, with films available not long after they've been in the cinema. You don't have to be a Sky customer to use it – you just need to register for a Sky iD.
- TalkTalk TV Store – Formerly known as blinkbox, the TalkTalk TV Store offers new films to buy or rent. Purchases and rentals can be watched on up to four devices. Like Sky Store, you don't have to be a TalkTalk customer in order to use it.
- Virgin Media Store – Like its rivals, Virgin has an online store where you can buy digital copies of films before the DVD is released, pre-order them as soon as they're in the cinema and rent films and box sets. You can watch on the Virgin website, on a Virgin TV box or on the app.
- BT Film Store – As the name suggests, this is the place for BT customers to buy and rent movies. You can access the store via the BT website, BT TV app or through your YouView box.
- Rakuten TV – An alternative to the likes of Sky and TalkTalk's own movie rental services, Rakuten claims to offer the widest selection of Ultra HD content so if you have a 4K TV then it might be worth a look.
Frequently asked questions
How can I watch movies on the go?
Most of the services we've mentioned here are available in app form from both Google Play and Apple's App Store. Pay TV providers like Sky and Virgin also offer their own apps, allowing customers to watch their TV content on mobiles, tablets etc.
Where can I watch movies online for free?
The BBC's iPlayer always has a selection of films on there – this tends to be things that have featured on BBC TV in recent weeks but not always. Bear in mind that while there are no subscription or rental fees involved with the iPlayer, so it's free in that sense, you do need to be covered by a TV licence in order to watch or download almost anything from the app.
Can you watch Sky Cinema on Sky Go?
Sky Go is only available to Sky TV customers. If Sky Cinema is part of your subscription then yes, you'll also be able to watch on-demand movies and the Sky Cinema channels on the go.
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