Television viewers wanting more choice over Christmas can watch online paid-for subscription channels – for free.
More than a third of households now watch shows over the internet – ‘streaming’ them to their TVs and computers. This provides additional viewing choice to traditional terrestrial television.
Providers such as Netflix, Amazon and Now TV can charge £8 a month for access to their channels. But in a bid to lure in new customers, these paid-for services are offering trials with up to 30 days of free viewing before charges are introduced.
Did you know? More than a third of households now watch shows over the internet – ‘streaming’ them to their TVs and computers
Cancel during this period and it will cost you nothing, although of course you may choose to keep the service and start paying.
Most new televisions sold are now ‘smart’ – allowing immediate access to online TV. Older sets can also be brought up to date by plugging into their back either an internet-connected set-top box or something called a wi-fi dongle – a mini version of a streaming player – costing £30.
Netflix gives access to hundreds of movies as well as popular shows such as House Of Cards and The Crown. Although a subscription costs between £5.99 and £9.99 a month – more if you want to watch in high definition – Netflix offers a free trial month.
Cancel at any point and you still get the rest of the 30 days offered from the moment you signed up at no cost.
Amazon Prime has a similar offer. Although it usually costs £7.99 a month you can also try it out with a 30-day trial – again cancelling at any point during this period to avoid having regular payments taken out of your bank account.
It has lots of movies from which to choose as well as a selection of shows such as Jeremy Clarkson’s The Grand Tour. Another popular video-on-demand option is Sky-owned Now TV. It has a shorter 14-day free trial period before a £7.99 a month charge kicks in.
It also provides access to movies as well as shows such as The Handmaid’s Tale.
Warning: Be aware that if you fail to cancel a deal during a trial period with Netflix, Amazon and Now TV, you can end up paying for a monthly subscription through a continuous payment authority rather than a direct debit with the bank
Film fans might be tempted by a specialist movie-streaming provider such as Mubi. But you will only get seven days of free films before a £7.99-a-month charge is applied. Dani Warner, TV expert at comparison website uSwitch, says: ‘Providers rely on you staying put to make money – which could be £79 if you agree to Amazon Prime for a year.
‘So, turn off any auto-renew option via your online account settings. While Netflix sends an email reminder three days before its trial ends, others do not.’
Be aware that if you fail to cancel a deal during a trial period with Netflix, Amazon and Now TV, you can end up paying for a monthly subscription through a continuous payment authority rather than a direct debit with the bank.
These allow money to be taken directly from your debit or credit card. A provider can take more if it puts up prices.
For internet streaming, you will need a minimum download speed of two megabits per second – five megabits if you want to watch in sharper high definition.
For those with poor internet speed, you are better off renting DVDs to watch at home. Film rental provider Cinema Paradiso offers a free 14-day trial period – just enough for the festive season.
After this you must pay from £5.18 a month to enjoy DVDs being posted to your home.