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

BritBox vs Acorn TV. 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 is just the latest debate in the ever-growing world of streaming services. 

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. Now, there’s growing competition in the fight for British TV. 

Acorn TV has existed as a standalone service in the US since 2013, but BritBox’s launch back in 2016 meant there was a rival for being the home of British content.

We’ve put together a guide on everything you need to know about these two streaming services to help you decide whether Acorn TV or BritBox is the right one for you, whether you're in the US or UK.

BritBox vs Acorn TV: Overview

Neither of these services is going to change your mind about your Disney+ or Netflix subscription, but that’s not why they exist. BritBox and Acorn TV should be treated as supplements to your viewing diet. 

BritBox is a joint venture between ITV and the BBC and is billed as the home of British entertainment, bringing more complete box sets of old and new shows to viewers than any other streaming service on the market. 

BritBox has already gained over one million subscribers in the US, and has a steadily growing userbase in the UK which has already reached 500,000 people.

Meanwhile, Acorn TV is a targeted service aimed at bringing new shows from around the world to fans of detectives, police dramas and thrillers. 

Acorn TV reached its one million subscriber milestone back in 2019, which is equally impressive for its more niche, highly targeted content.

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: Prices and Free Trials

An Acorn TV subscription costs $5.99 / £4.99 / but you can also get an annual subscription for $59.99 / £49.99. In both the UK and the US, the annual subscription will save you the equivalent of two months’ monthly subscription.

Acorn TV’s free trial period lasts for just seven days in the US, but UK viewers get a 30 day period to try the service without paying a penny.

Meanwhile, a BritBox monthly subscription costs $6.99 / £5.99, with annual subscription options available for $69.99 / £59.99. Again, that’s 12 months’ access for the price of ten.

BritBox’s free trial lasts for seven days, regardless of which region you're watching in. 

It’s worth noting that UK readers can get six months’ worth of BritBox access for free if they’re a BT broadband customer, or if they pay for their mobiles with EE. Head to BT.com or EE.co.uk for all the details.

Overall, both BritBox and Acorn TV are priced very similarly to other competitors. Acorn TV wins as the cheaper service, but there's only one dollar difference between the two.

BritBox vs Acorn TV: Availability

Acorn TV and BritBox, like many streaming services these days, are both available in different areas, and on different platforms.

BritBox is currently available in Australia, Canada, US and the UK, with plans to bring the service to South Africa soon. Subscribers outside of the UK can use their subscription in any region. 

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 (their website recommends Chrome, specifically),  Apple TV, Roku and Fire TV devices, Chromecast, and on iOS and Android mobiles and tablets. 

Both Acorn TV and BritBox can also be added to your Amazon Prime Video subscription as Prime Video channels in the US. BritBox will be available as a Prime Video Channel for UK viewers soon!

BritBox vs Acorn TV: Content

Please note: any content mentioned may not be available in all regions. 

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, so most of its highlights are from within the crime and mystery genres. 

Some of the service's most popular shows include Keeping Faith, Law & Order: UK, Line of Duty, Agatha Raisin and new crime drama Bloodlands coming to the service very shortly. 

Acorn TV also features a small range of documentaries, most of which focus on British history, nature or culture.

It’s worth noting that the UK Acorn TV content library is significantly 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, more prominent services, the selection is limited for potential UK subscribers. Some series like Line of Duty, Deadwater Fell and Keeping Faith are already available on free alternatives like BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub, too.

By comparison, BritBox has a much larger and broader content library. Enduring faves like Gavin & Stacey, Sherlock, The Inbetweeners and Fawlty Towers stand alongside new shows like Dead Pixels, Finding Alice, Broadchurch and The Pembrokeshire Murders.

Fans of reality TV and soaps will also be well-served by the box sets of Love Island, The Only Way is Essex, Strictly Come Dancing, Coronation Street, EastEnders and Emmerdale, too.

Finally, both offer a range of films. Neither service will outperform the likes of Netflix or Amazon Prime Video in this space, though, as they’re both mostly related to the shows available on the platform. BBC iPlayer and ITV Hub will also continue to host shows, for free, and content will eventually migrate from these free streaming services onto BritBox at a later date.

Acorn TV's films are perhaps more obscure and more likely to be documentaries or TV specials, but BritBox does boast some surprising hits British hits like Under the Skin, Attack the Block and Trainspotting among its ranks.

BritBox vs Acorn TV: User Interface and Features

Both BritBox and Acorn TV opt for very simple, easy-to-use interfaces that are very similar and easy to navigate in your browser.

Both curate their content into helpful categories with navigation bars, and both showcase their recommendations in helpful carousels, too. Viewers can quite happily jump between TV shows and movies, A-Zs, and genre-specific lists with relative ease. 

Navigating around Acorn TV’s site did include some long load times in-between specific pages which I did not experience on BritBox, though.

The actual video player is essentially the same on each service, too, minus slight variations. For example, Acorn TV offers the choice of streaming quality whereas BritBox doesn't, but BritBox has the option to skip ahead or backward by 10 seconds which is not available on Acorn TV. 

Neither has the info-dense overlay you find on Amazon Prime, nor does either platform have the multitude of options available on Netflix, but you'll find closed captions and the option to watch in full-screen on a computer easily enough.

The big win in utility is Acorn TV’s picture-in-picture player, though. This will pop out a small player and pin it to your desktop as an overlay, allowing you to crack on with other tasks on a computer. 

However, BritBox users can opt to download their favourite shows on iOS and Android mobiles and tablets, which Acorn TV users cannot do.

BritBox vs Acorn TV. BritBox's UI.

BritBox as it appears in your browser. (Image credit: britbox.com)

So, should I get BritBox or Acorn TV? 

Both services are available to watch in a range of ways, both are similarly priced, and both offer fairly standard user experiences. This means there’s really only one way to decide which service is right for you: What’s on BritBox, and what’s on Acorn TV?

Although Acorn TV might have some hidden gems to offer to crime drama and thriller fans, the platform looks a little lean in comparison to its ITV and BBC-backed competitor, BritBox. 

BritBox is going to cater to a far broader audience, offering a wide range of British comedies, dramas and documentaries, as well as offering a bigger range of movies and shows for reality TV fans, too.

If the list of Acorn Originals intrigues you, or if you fancy taking a look at some international exclusives, give Acorn TV a trial run and see how you find its niche. If you can only want to subscribe to one new streamer, though, we would recommend you go for BritBox.