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 or original content 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 a service 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, allowing you to watch current cinema content in the comfort of your own home.
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 Premiere, Sky Select, Sky Hits, Sky Greats, Sky Animation, Sky Family, Sky Action, Sky Comedy, Sky Thriller, Sky Drama, and Sky SciFi Horror. Sky sometimes adds temporary channels, like Sky Cinema Christmas during the seasonal months.
Sky Cinema subscribers that sign up with Sky directly get the added benefit of 20% off Sky Store rentals, subject to Sky’s terms and conditions.
Which providers offer Sky Cinema?
Sky Cinema is offered by all of the UK's 'big four’ providers (Sky, Virgin Media, BT, and TalkTalk. It's also available as a standalone service in the form of NOW TV's Sky Cinema Membership, which is included with BT TV and available as an add-on with TalkTalk TV.
- Sky TV – With Sky it all starts with the basic TV package, Ultimate TV. This gives you a Sky Q box, Netflix, and 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.
- Virgin Media TV – Virgin lets you add the Sky Cinema package to your existing Virgin Media bundle to instantly upgrade your viewing options. And, for the ultimate premium viewing experience, you’ve also got options for streaming and watching on the go with the Virgin Media TV app. Sky Cinema is included as standard with three of Virgin's TV bundles, the Bigger bundle + Movies package, the Bigger bundle + Sports & Movies package and the Ultimate Volt 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 BT TV to your existing broadband package, which includes a NOW Membership (bringing you the Sky channels). Sky Cinema is also included in BT’s Entertainment, Big Entertainment and VIP bundles, via NOW Membership.
- TalkTalk TV – Sky Cinema isn't included automatically in any of TalkTalk's TV bundles, but it is available as an add-on for an additional low monthly fee. The add-on includes all 11 live Sky Cinema channels and the full selection of on-demand movies.
- NOW Membership – With NOW Membership, 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 films on NOW with different 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 alternatives to Sky Cinema, and can be enjoyed alongside or instead of a pay TV subscription. Some offer free trials, and streaming services offer the added benefit 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. Netflix does not offer free trials, but you have the freedom to change your plan or cancel online at any time if you decide Netflix isn't for you. There are three different plans to choose from, prices vary depending on the streaming quality, number of devices, and other factors.
- Amazon Prime Video – There's a mix of new movies, including Amazon Prime original and exclusive films, 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.
- Disney+ – Disney+ (also known as DisneyPlus) is the streaming home for entertainment from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic, and Star. A Disney+ subscription gives you access to over 500 films, 15,000 episodes, and 80 Disney+ originals for subscribers. Disney+ is available by monthly or annual invoicing, though the annual subscription will save you 15% compared to 12 months of the monthly subscription. At the moment, Disney+ is not offering a free trial at sign-up, but subscribers can cancel at any time.
- MUBI – MUBI is a global curated film streaming platform that also produces films by emerging and established filmmakers, which are exclusively available on its platform. MUBI used to offer a rolling line-up of 30 films at a time, with a new one released each day, but the database has grown substantially since its inception, and now MUBI allows subscribers access to more films at a time. MUBI costs a bit more than some of its rivals and offers less choice but has a more curated feel for film buffs, with a focus on cult classics, international cinema and independent movies.
- BFI Player – BFI Player is a video on demand service from the British Film Institute, streaming acclaimed, landmark and archive films. BFI Player content focuses on British and European independent films, as well as international releases.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, many of which are available to stream in HD Digital. Some films are available to purchase digitally with the option to receive a DVD in the post as well. 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.
- Virgin Media Store – Like its rivals, Virgin has an online store where you can buy or rent the latest movies straight from the cinema plus own much loved TV Box Sets. Rent on your Virgin TV or buy using the Virgin Media Store app and watch on up to five devices.
- 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 – Rakuten TV is a video-on-demand streaming service, offering movies and TV series for subscription, rental and purchase. Rakuten has a decent catalogue of content available for free, including films, TV and original sports series.
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. Some streaming services offer free trials, and a few like BFI Player and Rakuten TV offer some content for free.
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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