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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 (opens in new tab), 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 (opens in new tab) is, the next you're wondering whether you need Disney Plus (opens in new tab) or if you should subscribe to 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 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 edition 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 networks plus Channel 4, Channel 5 and Comedy Central UK.

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 service 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 Plus or your Netflix subscription, but that’s not why they exist. You're much better off considering both BritBox and Acorn TV as supplements to your normal streaming habits.

Up until recently, BritBox has been a joint venture between BBC and ITV;  the Beeb revealed it had sold its share of the company to ITV when they announced 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: Prices and Free Trials

Acorn TV (opens in new tab) recently got a minor price increase in the US. The service now 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 save get you 12 months' access for the price of 10.

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

How much does BritBox cost? (opens in new tab) A BritBox (opens in new tab) monthly subscription costs $6.99 / £5.99, with annual subscription options available for $69.99 / £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; now that they're even closer aligned in terms of price, we'd suggest that you get more for your money with BritBox.

BritBox vs Acorn TV: Availability

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.

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: Content

Please note: 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, and most of its shows are comedies, murder mysteries, or crime shows.

Some of the service's most popular shows include 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 Line of Duty, Deadwater Fell, and Manhunt are already available on free alternatives like BBC iPlayer (opens in new tab), My5 (opens in new tab)and ITV Hub (opens in new tab), 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, and The Pembrokeshire Murders. 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, (opens in new tab)and Emmerdale. Like Acorn TV, BritBox has begun developing its own original shows such as Secrets of the Krays, Murder in Provence, The Dry and the Irvine Welsh adaptation, Crime (opens in new tab).

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. BritBox's collection is more impressive and plays host to Wild Rose, The Inbetweeners Movie, This is England and Sexy Beast right now (in the UK). 

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 and genre-specific lists with relative ease. 

There are only slight variations between the actual streaming services. Acorn TV offers the choice of streaming quality whereas BritBox doesn't yet, but BritBox has the option to skip ahead or backward by 10 seconds which is not available on Acorn TV. Neither interface is as feature-rich as the bigger services, but you'll find closed captions and the option to watch in full-screen on a computer easily enough.

Finally, both BritBox and Acorn TV have the ability to download shows to watch them offline.

BritBox vs Acorn TV. BritBox's UI.

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

So, which one should I get: BritBox vs Acorn TV? 

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 the library has grown more substantial in both the UK and the US, but it still looks leaner when weighed up against BritBox. BritBox is going to cater to a far broader audience, and it offers a significantly wider range of content for fans of British shows. 

As far as we're concerned, BritBox just squeaks ahead as the definitive home of British entertainment. That being said, you shouldn't discount Acorn TV entirely, and we still think you should grab a free trial to check whether you'd be interested in picking it up. 

Martin Shore
Staff Writer at WhatToWatch.com

Martin is a Staff Writer with WhatToWatch.com, where he produces a variety of articles focused on the latest and greatest films and TV shows. 

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.