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We get a lot of emails from people asking us why Acorn TV or BritBox (or occasionally another service like Sundance Now or HBO) is suddenly showing them commercials during their favourite British TV shows.
The short answer? They aren't.
The longer answer is more complicated – but we'll do our best to explain why you're seeing commercials and how you can avoid it in the future.
And no, you're not silly for thinking it. It's a common question, and the fact that you arrived here on this page puts you light years ahead of all those people who are just sitting at home wondering and getting angry 🙂
Does Acorn TV Have Commercials? No? So Why Am I Seeing Commercials on Acorn TV?
Acorn TV is a paid, commercial-free subscription service. If you're watching a show on Acorn TV, you will not see commercials.
Every time we've ever encountered someone who claims to be seeing commercials, it's been someone who subscribed via Amazon – but again, it's not a case of Acorn TV showing commercials.
To understand what's going on, you need to understand how Amazon sells videos. Amazon is a giant video marketplace, and there are several ways you can get content there:
- You can pay to subscribe to channels like Acorn TV, Sundance Now, BritBox, or AMC+ (or many others). These channels charge a monthly fee and unless specified when you sign up, there are no commercials. The ones that do have commercials are rare. Paramount Plus is a great example. They offer two price points, one of which includes commercials.
- You can watch free content that's included with a Prime Video or Amazon Prime subscription. These shows don't have commercials, but they do occasionally have very short promos up front about various Amazon productions. As of April 2021, they ARE skippable, and they don't interrupt the programming.
- You can pay to buy or rent shows. If you buy it, it's yours to stream forever. If you rent it, the rental time will be stated up front. These shows do not have commercials.
- You can watch IMDb TV – a free, ad-supported viewing option. Since Amazon owns IMDb, they've integrated IMDb TV with their main search, and this is where much of the confusion comes from. If you watch something on IMDb TV, it will have commercials – a lot of them. You don't need an Amazon Prime account to watch IMDb TV. It's free to anyone willing to watch the ads.
99% of the time when someone complains that Acorn TV is showing commercials, one of two things has happened.
The person is watching a show that isn't an Acorn TV show.
Acorn TV has a lot of wonderful British TV shows, but they don't have ALL British TV shows. That would be completely insane (and certainly not possible for such an affordable subscription fee). There are thousands upon thousands of British TV shows in existence.
In the US right now, you can stream more than 2200 British TV shows across 20 major streaming services (that's roughly how many we found and included in our most recent edition of the British TV Streaming Guide: US Edition). At last count, Acorn TV accounted for roughly 300-something of those shows.
It's really easy to see a British show on Amazon and think it's an Acorn TV show when it's not. Two Thousand Acres of Sky is a great example (accurate as of 23 April 2021). It's a fantastic Scottish show, but it's not on Acorn TV. It's on IMDb TV – so it has commercials. If you watch it and see commercials, it's not Acorn that's showing them to you.
The person is inadvertently watching a non-Acorn TV version of an Acorn TV show.
Some shows are on both Acorn TV and IMDb TV (or Prime Video). It's not a huge number, but there are some.
If a show is available on both, you have to make sure you're watching the Acorn TV version of it. It's not a huge deal if you watch the Prime Video version, since that will just have a quick promo at the beginning – but if you accidentally watch the IMDb TV version, the commercials can be annoyingly frequent and very jarring.
Detectorists is a great example. All three seasons are available on Acorn TV. At the same time, series 1 and 2 are on IMDb TV, and Series 3 is on Prime Video. They have entirely separate pages on Amazon:
If you're browsing from your Roku or Fire Stick, it can be annoyingly hard to navigate the options and figure out which is which. It's often easier to use a computer/phone/tablet to add things to your watchlist first to make sure you get the right one.
It was never a big deal before they insisted on integrating IMDb TV and adding previews to Prime Video titles, but now it's a bit of a nuisance for many.
What Can I Do to Avoid Seeing Commercials?
There are two main things you'll want to do:
- Make sure the show is actually an Acorn TV show. You can get a copy of the British TV Streaming Guide: US Edition if you want a print guide that tells you what's available on the various services (we divide them up by sections and include descriptions in a format that makes for easy browsing). You can also check the official Acorn TV website at any time to see what's available. Whether you subscribe direct or via Amazon, the show offerings are the same.
- Use your desktop/laptop or tablet/phone to add shows to your watchlist, making sure they say Acorn TV on the page. Many shows have two separate pages, and it's pretty easy to select the wrong one.
Does This Mean I Shouldn't Subscribe to Acorn TV Via Amazon?
Maybe – but not necessarily. A lot of it comes down to preference. Some people find that the convenience of having all their channel subscriptions in one spot far outweighs the minor inconvenience of finding that a few shows have multiple entries.
Other people find they get better streaming quality from one or the other, especially on slower internet connections. I have relatives in a rural part of the Midwest who get much better streaming quality from Amazon – but our office is located in a major city and there's basically no difference for us.
If you're not sure, we recommend testing both and sticking with whatever works best for you. They're two entirely separate accounts with two entirely separate free trial periods. Amazon maintains subscriptions set up through their site, and Acorn TV maintains the direct ones. You can't sign up for one and then watch through the other without paying for a second subscriptions.
Questions? Let us know in the comments!
Hopefully, this explanation will help those who are confused about why they seem to be seeing commercials on Acorn TV.
After founding I Heart British TV in 2016 as a resource for her granny, Stefanie has grown I Heart British TV into a resource that serves millions of British TV fans every year. When not writing posts or editing contributions to the site, you can probably find her working on the latest print edition of the British TV Streaming Guide.