Should I Get BritBox or Acorn TV?

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Acorn TV or BritBox? Which is best for your British TV needs?

One of the most common questions we’re hearing lately is whether a British TV lover should get BritBox or Acorn TV. Now, before we get into the differences, I want to be very clear about one thing. I recommend them both. If your budget allows and you have time to watch programs from both, then definitely sign up for both. There’s little to no overlap in terms of what they offer, and they both have somewhere around 250 titles at any given time.

A Compromise

If subscribing to both Acorn TV and BritBox is out of your budget, the second best option would be to sign up for one, keep it for a few months, then switch for a few months. In my experience, only about 10% of the programming changes each month on either service, so you’re not going to miss much going back and forth like that. Just keep a close eye on the “Leaving Soon” programs and you should be fine. The only real hassle is just the fact that you have to remember to go in and cancel/re-sign up somewhat frequently. You’d also miss out on the annual subscription benefit for paying 12 months in advance on Acorn TV.

But if I MUST Choose?

A lot of people just want to know: Which is better, Acorn TV or BritBox? Unfortunately, there’s no single answer that will be right for everyone. To help you figure out which is best for YOU, let’s take an in-depth look at both.

Acorn TV

As most people know, Acorn TV has been around quite a bit longer than BritBox. They’ve had years to work out the bugs and improve customer experience – and believe me, there were issues in the beginning. It didn’t always stream well, billing between the catalog site and the TV site was a bit wonky, and I sent quite a few emails to customer service that never received a reply. Those days are over, though, and Acorn TV is a pretty solid product now.

The Roku app is probably the most common means of accessing Acorn TV and it offers a very functional, no-frills experience. The menus don’t look fancy, but they’re lightning fast and it all just works. I love that. There are few things more irritating than a company with a pretty interface and no functionality – or worse, a company that just keeps redesigning things to keep their designers busy, all the while making things more difficult for those of us who have to figure out where they’ve moved things.

If you have a Prime Membership and Fire TV/Fire Stick from Amazon, you can buy your Acorn TV subscription directly from Amazon instead, and use their app to stream shows. This can be very convenient if you wish to stop and start, as Amazon makes it quite easy to cancel channels. You can sign up here for the free trial (billed at $4.99/month afterwards).

In terms of programming, Acorn TV currently has slightly more than BritBox, at 271 offerings (as of November 2017). Not all of Acorn TV’s programming is British, and you’ll generally see a handful of shows from Canada, Australia, Ireland, Scandinavia, etc. Not all are in English.

Still, the majority of Acorn TV’s programming is British. They offer a number of the really big, popular recent shows like Doc Martin, the various Agatha Christie programs (RLJ Entertainment, owner of Acorn TV, also owns much of the corporation that owns the Christie rights), Midsomer Murders, and Vera. If you enjoy those and want to stay current as the new seasons come out, Acorn TV is the service to have.

Doc Martin

One thing I’ve noticed with Acorn is that it does seem to have slightly more cross-over with Netflix – though in many cases, Acorn gets the content faster and holds exclusivity on new seasons for quite a while. At the time of writing (July 2017), Netflix also offers Doc Martin (S1-6), Midsomer Murders, Poirot, Rake, The Code, Miss Fisher’s, Foyle’s War, The Delivery Man, Deep Water, Hinterland, Detectorists, Jack Taylor, Republic of Doyle, Black Books, Jamaica Inn, and quite a few others I’ve seen on Acorn TV. Ā If your household already subscribes to Netflix, you should take a careful look to see what you want on Acorn that isn’t on Netflix.

View all Acorn TV offerings HERE.

 

BritBox

In early 2017, BritBox came along to give us more wonderful British programming and complicate the lives of those who now have to make a choice between two great services. I’ve been using BritBox since it became available – first through my browser, and later on Roku.

As a brand new service, BritBox is not without its problems.The interface is pretty, but still extremely awkward and clunky. They’ve made some improvements, but it can still be hard for some people to find all the programming that’s offered. My grandmother is constantly telling me there isn’t much on BritBox, then I’ll recommend a show and she’ll be surprised to learn it’s on there.

They also lack a good “auto-play next episode” feature, and it’s not always easy to navigate back and see where you were on a show you’re watching. Sometimes I have to look at several episodes before I remember which one I need. EDIT: They’ve since added auto-play for the next episode. They’re definitely listening to users and making improvements based on feedback.

I’ve seen many people talk about technical issues with BritBox, but I’ve set it up for several people now and I haven’t had a single problem. My recommendation is to go to the BritBox website and sign up there rather than trying to set up the subscription through your viewing device of choice (Apple TV or Roku). Once you do that, you can install the channel on your device and sign in. If you still have trouble, check out their Amazon channel here – you may find it easier.

BritBox does have a webpage to view all their programming from A-Z, but it’s dreadfully annoying because they show you a handful of shows and you have to scroll down and hit “Show More” before they give you another 9 shows. EDIT: They fixed this! Now it auto-loads the next set of titles when you reach the bottom. Because they have around 260 programs, it takes a while to see everything. One thing I DO like about that page, though, is that it gives you a brief description of the show, the date, whether it has captions, and how many seasons they have. That’s particularly useful when you’re trying to quickly determine whether they have the classic version of a show, or the reboot (as with something like Father Brown or Poldark).

Jonathan Creek

While Acorn excels at offering recent, well-known shows, BritBox has an enormous back catalog of classic content like Inspector Morse, Cadfael, Dalziel and Pascoe, Classic Doctor Who, Fawlty Towers, Gavin and Stacey, Jonathan Creek, Keeping Up Appearances, Lark Rise to Candleford, Porridge, Rosemary and Thyme, Red Dwarf, Prime Suspect, Inspector Lynley, Upstairs Downstairs (original and re-boot), Wycliffe, and A Touch of Frost. They also have great lifestyle content, if you enjoy things like Countryfile or Fantasy Homes by the Sea.

If you follow one of the major British soaps (Emmerdale, EastEnders, or Coronation Street), you’ll be very pleased to know that BritBox offers next-day viewing for these, along with a few other shows. You can view their “Now” page to find out more about the programming you can get quickly after its original air date.

I’ve found far less overlap between BritBox and other services, but as with anything, that could change. To view their current list of all shows, visit the link below and just keep scrolling down until you reach the end of the alphabet.

View all BritBox offerings HERE.

So What Should I Choose?

Woman confused about whether to get Acorn TV or Britbox

Like we said in the beginning, it really depends on your situation, and no matter what we recommend, it’s very possible your decision will boil down to one or two shows that one service has and the other doesn’t. If you’re into Emmerdale or EastEnders, for example, BritBox is definitely the service for you. Still, here are some general guidelines to help you decide.

Note: All stated program availability is based on what was current in July 2017. Please check the programming links I’ve provided above to see what’s currently on offer if you’re reading this much later.

You Should Get Acorn TV If…

  • If you’re newer to British TV and you want a great introduction to many of the most popular, current shows that are loved stateside
  • If you’re wary of a few technical glitches here and there, stick with Acorn TV for now – I haven’t had technical issues with BritBox, but it has frustrated many
  • If you’re a die-hard Doc Martin, Midsomer Murders, or Vera fan (especially if you don’t have Netflix, which also carries Midsomer Murders and Doc Martin)
  • If the slightly lower price matters, definitely go for Acorn TV – plenty of great content here at a slightly lower price
  • If you enjoy the occasional Canadian or Australia show in the mix, go with Acorn TV

Sign up for Acorn TV directly at their website here.Ā 

OR Sign up for Acorn TV’s Amazon Channel here.

You Should Get BritBox If…

  • If you’ve had Acorn TV for years and you’ve watched much of the programming they offer
  • If you’ve watched a lot of British television on Netflix/Amazon/PBS/Acorn and you want to see fresh shows that often can’t even be found on Region 1 DVDs (Some shows are only released on Region 2 DVDs, meaning you have to have a region-free DVD player to play them. Learn more about that by clicking here.)
  • If you appreciate older British shows from the 70s, 80s, and 90s – BritBox has a great selection of classics like Keeping Up Appearances, Hetty Wainthropp Investigates, Fawlty Towers, and Are You Being Served?
  • If you love British soaps – BritBox has next-day availability for Emmerdale, Coronation Street, and EastEnders (along with a few other shows with next-day availability)
  • If you enjoy a lot of lifestyle content like Countryfile, Coast, Fantasy Homes by the Sea, Flog It, and The Hairy Bikers
  • If you’re not afraid of an awkward interface or the occasional technical glitch as they work the kinks out of their service (or if you don’t mind using their Amazon channel instead)

Sign up for BritBox at their website here.

OR Sign up for BritBox’s Amazon channel here.

If All Else Fails…

If you still can’t make up your mind, remember that each service offers a free trial. In fact, they both offer a free trial on their website AND through Amazon channels – so you can try them both under each format to see what you like best.

Your Thoughts?

Please feel free to add your advice and opinions in the comments. Have we overlooked any major decision-making factors? Which service have you enjoyed more?

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30 Comments

  1. Mary

    I had Acorn for over a year, but checked out Britbox for the free 7 day trial, and they offered so much more, I switched. It is worth the $2 difference. I will miss a couple of the shows from Acorn, but in the long run, I like Brit.

  2. Wanda Dougherty

    I have Acorn, Britbox and Netflix. So I am all set. I have had Netflix for many years. I got a Roku about 4 months ago and got Acorn and Britbox at the same time. Love all 3. I was a long time fan of EastEnders years ago when PBS showed it. Now I can see it again. I have also discovered Emmerdale. Love it too. I love Vera that used to ne shown on PBS. Hopeing one will pick up. DCI Banks.

    1. I Heart British TV

      Acorn has definitely gotten better – and the Acorn TV streaming experience through Amazon Channels seems even faster. If you have Amazon Prime, I’d definitely recommend giving Acorn on Amazon a try with their free trial (assuming that’s not where you tried it before).

    2. To the person who had ACORN and had to cancel… I went through that as well…it just wouldnt stream… now I have ACORN through Amazon and it works great! I have Netflix, Acorn , Amazon Prime and Britbox… but I can always drop one for awhile if I want to.. Ive never dropped Netflix in all the years Ive had it… Id probably do something like going back and forth between Acorn and Britbox if I do anything. I have seen so many of the British shows over the last few years that sometimes its hard to find things ot ny taste but , usually, I can. I had Hulu but gave it up…just didnt suit me and I objected to having to pay more NOT to put up with commercials… Im older and retired so I have more sites than perhaps I should… Still, as te admin said, I can go back and forth.. For instance… I will pick up STARZ through Amazon when Outlander comes back… and will “juggle” things for that time frame. I enjoyed DCI Banks too.. and Id love to see ALL CREATURES come back on either Netflix, or Acorn or Britbox… its older so Im not sure its available. Another series Id love to see is the Dalgleish series with Roy Marsden.

  3. Arizona

    I have both and love the content of both. I only watch British programs, so this is a total win for me. I started with ACORN and added BritBox when it became available, stateside. I’m never disappointed with either.

  4. Carol Palombo

    I would very definitely get both if BritBox were available on Amazon Fire TV. I currently have Acorn, PBS Masterpiece and Netflix. I do not want to have to buy Apple TV, Roku or the like to view Britbox. I’ve seen way more British TV than the average American so would love to expand with BritBox, but will wait. I am hoping they negotiate a deal with Amazon Streaming. Britbox’s business would expand enormously.

  5. Barbara Fielding

    I have had Acorn for a long time and I like it… I also like britbox and find the programming a bit different. I also liked that I could watch The Queens Birthday Parade and the Trooping of the Color live from London on britbox.. I live in Nevada USA so had to jiggle the times but it was great. I am from Liverpool originally so love keeping in touch with the UK so bottom line is get both!

  6. Nina Walker

    I’ve had Acorn since it’s streaming onset. I really do recommend the Australian and Canadian additions to the choice. I also enjoy some of the Scandinavian choice too. One of the problems with those however is: You make get hooked on Series 1 and never see another follow-up series.

    I will try Britbox but I’m also hoping the competition will fix some of the Acorn issues, including the very annoying ‘one episode a week’ control (for new series) that they and many other of these smaller streaming sites have.

  7. Judy Williamson

    I just subscribed to Acorn & have watched all of A Place to Call Home & am now watching The Heart Guy..love both shows, no commercials is a plus. Can’t wait to check out more programming. I also subscribe to Netflix but changing over to Acorn is a change I enjoy.

  8. Karen119

    In reading all of the information about the different subscriptions offered for TV viewing that I have read over the past few months I still have no clue as to the devices needed for viewing. What exactly are Roku, Firestick, Apple TV, etc? I mean what does the device actually look like? How does it attach to my TV? I do not have a smart TV. My sets are flat screens on the den and bedroom walls. I have a feeling they need to attach in some way to the back of the set. If true, it ain’t happening in my house. šŸ˜¢

    1. Lee

      Cut the cord 4 months ago. Bought a Roku 2 on sale at Best buy. It took about 4 minutes to attach to my not smart TV. Simple connections from cable or router to TV HDMI input. A click and you are done. Netflix, Amazon prime and either acorn or britbox are all you need. Monthly bill went from 148 to 84. Give it a try! No commercials if you so chose. Good luck!

  9. Susan

    I got rid of cable quite a while ago and bought a Roku..I have both Acorn and Britbox which I absolutely love and also I subscribe to Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, so I can watch regular tv programs when I want, though I tend to watch Acorn and Britbox the most..

  10. Karen119

    I just bought a Roku a couple of days ago. After hooking it up I joined Acorn TV but cancelled a few minutes later because the content seemed limited to me. I immediately signed up for BritBox and am quite satisfied. I also have Amazon Prime as well as Netflix, both of which I enjoy.

    1. I Heart British TV

      That’s very odd Suzanne – I see it as available when I look. Did you try the link in the post? It should go directly to the subscription page. Are you in the United States?

  11. Pam

    I have to use closed captioning when watching British TV or I can’t understand the dialogue. I signed up for a 7 day free trial of BritBox so I could watch the Vera series. There were captions, but they were for some other episode. I can’t find any way to contact them to let them know.

    1. I Heart British TV

      Hi Pam – I agree, some accents (particularly northern ones) are harder to understand than others. You’ll get better over time, though! If you need to contact BritBox, this is the contact information from their website: Send an email to help-us@britbox.com or please call customer service Monday – Sunday, 24 hours a day at 1-888-636-7662.

      1. I have been trying to sign up for Britbox for almost a week. The customer service is crazy making. I have been told there is no technical help on the weekend and rep couldn’t help me as they only do billing at this number???? Yesterday I got a very helpful customer rep who located a supervisor and came back with the message that there was some kind of computer glitch and the supervisor would get back to me later in day. No phone call!! Called again today and asked for a Supervisor and was told there are no Supervisors at this number. When I informed her I had been assisted by Supervisor yesterday rep said she’d look into it and I was disconnected. Next call I clearly said what I needed and the rep responded with “how can I help you today” I was so frustrated I could have screamed! Then a woman comes on and says she is a Supervisor, why should I believe her I ask when I was told by rep no supervisors there. Supervisor looked in system and was possibly the one who was supposed to call back yesterday, her answer to my problem is they don’t know why my enrollment has not been completed and no time frame on when they will know. Really, I did ask if they wanted to do buisness with people because based on their customer service it would appear they did not. When I said forget it I will go with Acorn the Supervisor sounded only too happy to get rid of me. When I asked for a number to call to relay my frustrations the answer was “we are in Philadelphia and they are in New York and we instant message, I have no telephone numbers to give you.” Who is running this show? I feel like I am out in the Twilight Zone when I get such conflicting information from these reps. At this point in time I am still no closer to being able to get Britbox. I went to their site, put my enrollment information in including my card every indication was I was good to go. I chose a show and pressed to play and I went straight back to the enrollment page. This has been since Friday night and actually FIVE customer service reps and ONE possibly TWO Supervisors.
        This is really awful, my feeling from the reps is they could care less, well at least two of them and I was left with that feeling at the end of my conversation with the Supervisor this morning. I do not know if this is just my unique and unfortunate experience but this is what happened to me. The website is not helpful at all as far as getting anything resolved.

    1. I Heart British TV

      At the moment, neither one offers any kind of profile or different watcher accounts. Then again, each platform has around 200-250 titles in total at any given time, and the genres don’t vary as wildly as you might see with Netflix or Hulu. It’s not like your child would be watching cartoons and messing up your recommendations or flooding your watchlist šŸ™‚

  12. Margaret Jones

    I have both Acorn and BritBox and am happy with both. However, I signed up with BritBox through Roku and instead of $6.99/month, I’m charged $7.27. I’ve asked why, but Roku has not responded.

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