BritBox vs Acorn TV — which streaming service is better for you?

BBC's Line of Duty (pictured) is available on both streaming services.
Steve Arnott from BBC's Line of Duty, available to stream on both Acorn TV and BritBox. (Image credit: BBC/World Productions/Ed Miller)

BritBox vs Acorn TV, which is better? We've put together this guide to help you decide.

It feels like viewers need to make more and more decisions about streaming services every day. One day you're trying to decide what the best streaming device is, the next you're wondering whether you need Disney Plus or if you should subscribe to Apple TV Plus, Paramount Plus or Peacock. If that wasn't enough, there are even streaming services duking it out to be the best place to watch British TV!

Acorn TV has existed as a standalone service in the US since 2013 and expanded to the UK in 2020, and plays host to a range of gripping crime dramas and intriguing mystery stories from the UK and Ireland as well as other parts of the English-speaking world like Australia and Canada. 

BritBox, meanwhile, was launched in the US in 2017 before a separate UK rolled out in 2019. The service was founded by the BBC and ITV, and plays host to content from many of the UK's own broadcasters including both founding networks plus Channel 4, Channel 5 and Comedy Central UK.

Below you'll find our breakdown detailing everything you need to know about these two streaming services to help you decide whether Acorn TV or BritBox is the right service for you.

BritBox vs Acorn TV: Overview

To start off, we'd like to suggest that neither BritBox nor Acorn TV is looking to become your primary streaming service; neither one is going to replace the likes of Disney Plus or Netflix, for example. You're much better off considering both BritBox and Acorn TV as supplements to your normal streaming habits.

Up until this year, BritBox has been a joint venture between BBC and ITV, though the former broadcaster sold its share of the company to ITV when they announced their new streaming service, ITVX

The platform is billed as “the home of British TV” and offers a curated library of content that includes complete box sets of old and new shows along with a growing range of original programming.

BritBox has already surpassed the one million subscriber mark in the US, and the UK version of the service had attracted more than 700,000 subscribers as of March 2022. 

Meanwhile, Acorn TV is a targeted service aimed at bringing new shows from around the world to fans of detectives, police dramas, and thrillers, all ad-free. New shows and hard-to-find gems are added on a regular basis. 

Acorn TV surpassed the one million subscriber mark back in 2019.

BritBox vs Acorn TV. Acorn TV's UI.

Acorn TV's interface as it appears in your web browser. (Image credit: acorn.tv)

BritBox vs Acorn TV: Pricing & Free Trials

Acorn TV currently costs $6.99 / £4.99, but you can also get an annual subscription for $69.99 / £49.99. In both the UK and the US, the annual subscription will get you 12 months' access for the price of 10.

Acorn TV’s free trial period lasts for just seven days in the US. UK users can instead try the service for a slightly more generous 14-day trial period.

How much does BritBox cost? A BritBox monthly subscription costs $7.99 / £5.99, with annual subscription options available for $79.99 / £59.99. Like Acorn TV, that's 12 months for the price of 10. BritBox’s free trial lasts for seven days, regardless of which region you're watching in. 

Overall, both BritBox and Acorn TV are priced very similarly to competing streaming services of similar scope, though as they're priced so similarly, we'd say BritBox offers you more bang for your buck.

BritBox vs Acorn TV: Where are they available?

Acorn TV and BritBox are both available in different areas, and on different platforms.

BritBox is currently available in nine countries: Australia, Canada, the US, the UK, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and South Africa. 

Subscribers in the US and Canada can use their subscription in the other region, but show availability may vary between the two. Likewise, subscribers in EU countries can switch regions to find different shows but UK members cannot use their accounts in other areas. 

You can watch BritBox on: Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV devices, Chromecast, YouView set-top boxes, select smart TVs, iOS and Android mobiles and tablets, Roku devices, and in your browser.

Acorn TV is available in many more regions right now, including the US, Canada, the UK, parts of Southern America, the Nordics, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico.

You can currently watch Acorn TV in your browser (they recommend using Chrome), Apple TV, Roku and Fire TV devices, Chromecast, and on iOS and Android mobiles and tablets. 

Finally, you can find both Acorn TV and BritBox available as Prime Video Channels in both the US and the UK.

BritBox vs Acorn TV: What's on?

Please note: content mentioned may not be available in all regions and is subject to change

At a glance, Acorn TV has a smaller library of content when compared to BritBox. As we've already mentioned, it's targeting a specific market, and most of its shows are comedies, murder mysteries, or crime shows.

Some of the service's most popular shows include Doc Martin, Keeping Faith, Dead Still, Whitstable Pearl, Agatha Raisin, All Creatures Great and Small, Blood, Detectorists, Bloodlands, and Queens of Mystery.

It’s worth noting that the UK Acorn TV content library is smaller than the US offering. Whether this is due to the service only launching in 2020 in the UK or due to competition with other streaming platforms, the selection is limited for potential UK subscribers. 

UK Viewers should also note that some of the high-profile shows like Line of Duty are already available on free alternatives like BBC iPlayer, My5 and ITV Hub, too.

By comparison, BritBox has a much larger and broader content library. Enduring favorites like Gavin & Stacey, The Thin Blue Line, The Vicar of Dibley, and Fawlty Towers stand alongside new shows like Grace, New Spitting Image, Angela Black, Crossfire and Karen Pirie. BritBox is also the exclusive home of Line of Duty Season 6 in the US and classic episodes of Doctor Who.

Fans of reality TV and soaps will also be well-served by the box sets of Love Island UK, The Only Way is Essex, Strictly Come Dancing, Coronation Street, EastEnders, and Emmerdale. Like Acorn TV, BritBox has begun developing its own original shows such as Secrets of the Krays, Murder in Provence, Magpie Murders, Crime Why Didn't They Ask Evans? 

You can also find movies on both services, although neither library rivals the likes of Prime Video or Netflix. Acorn's selection is primarily feature-length episodes of some of their hit shows and some TV movies, whereas BritBox has counted films like Attack the Block, Wild Rose, The Mummy, Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz among its roster.

BritBox vs Acorn TV: Our Verdict

Both services are available to watch in a range of ways, both are similarly priced, and both offer fairly standard user experiences, meaning your decision will come down to one thing and one thing only: what do you want to watch the most?

Acorn TV definitely has some hidden gems, and they've got some solid exclusives outside of the UK, but their library still looks a bit leaner in comparison to BritBox's offering. BritBox is going to cater to a far broader audience, and it offers a significantly wider range of shows and movies. 

So, if you're only interested in picking one of them up, BritBox just squeaks ahead. However, we'd still recommend at least grabbing an Acorn TV free trial to check out what they've got on offer before picking it up.

Martin Shore
Staff Writer at WhatToWatch.com

Martin was a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produced a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. Now he works for our sister site Tom's Guide in the same role.

Some of his favorite shows are What We Do In The Shadows, Bridgerton, Gangs of London, The Witcher, Doctor Who, and Ghosts. When he’s not watching TV or at the movies, Martin’s probably still in front of a screen playing the latest video games, reading, or watching the NFL.