Best TV shows: where to watch and download your favourite programmes

It's full stream ahead for Video on Demand, but how do the top online services compare?

Lovefilm Instant and Netflix's big TV land grab

Lovefilm Instant and Netflix are playing a fantastic game of oneupmanship at the moment, which is leading to some of the more obscure shows and labels being snapped up by the services.

Here's a rundown of recently announced shows that you will see on each of the platforms.

Lovefilm Netflix

Lovefilm Instant

  • A deal has been signed with NBCUniversal, which sees a number of kids' TV shows come to Lovefilm Instant. Pick of the bunch is Rastamouse, Curious George, Barbie: Princess Charm School and The Land Before Time.
  • Lovefilm Instant's Original Series content is set to land in 2014, with five new shows announced as being made into fully fledged series.

Two of these are adult comedies. The first is Alpha House, A political comedy John Goodman with Bill Murray cameoing. The second – and following on the Greek alphabet trend – is Betas, a show being dubbed as 'Cheers' for the Silicon Valley.

Three children's shows have been commissioned as well: Annebots, Creative Galaxy and Tumbleaf.

  • Another deal signed, sealed and delivered was with BBC Worldwide. Again, the content added to Lovefilm Instant is for kids with the following added: The Story of Tracy Beaker, Teletubbies, The Sarah Jane Adventures and Balamory.
  • As part of the BBC Worldwide deal, Lovefilm Instant also landed streaming rights to a number of UK shows. These included: Luther, The Office, Extras, Primeval, Jonathan Creek, Top Gear, Ashes to Ashes, Spooks and Planet Earth.
  • And as if there wasn't enough children's shows on Lovefilm Extra, a deal made back in 2012 with DHX Media meant that Mona the Vampire, Paddington Bear, Sonic the Hedgehog, Inspector Gadget and Dennis The Menace can all be enjoyed on Lovefilm Instant.
  • The same Twentieth Century Fox deal that saw one of our top 10s come to Lovefilm Instant (Sons of Anarchy) also brought a number of shows to the service, including: all seasons of 24, Prison Break, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel.
  • Lovefilm Instant also has a deal in place with Disney UK which means ABC TV on-demand content comes to Lovefilm Instant. Shows include: Desperate Housewives, Happy Endings, Grey's Anatomy, Ghost Whisperer, and every episode of Brothers & Sisters.
  • If you like your cartoons with a superhero flavour, then you are in luck as Lovefilm has acquired the rights to Warner's fantastic Batman: The Animated Series - all 15 years' worth of it. As well as this you can get both the '80s series of Thundercats and the more Manga-esque recent series.
  • For those who like a bit more reality, then Lovefilm's latest deal with Viacom means that you can get entire series of The Hills, Teen Mom and Jersey Shore, as well the British smash-hit spin-off Geordie Shore. Oh, and you also get access to SpongeBob SquarePants and Dora The Explorer.
  • Lovefilm has revealed that in the US at least its first original shows Alpha House and Betas will arrive 15 November. A UK premiere date is still to be announced.
  • Crossing Lines, a US show that follows the International Criminal Court investigating serialised cross-border crime is available exclusively on Lovefilm in the UK. A second season is currently in the works.
  • US show Copper also made its UK debut in the UK on Lovefilm. The show has unfortunately since been cancelled in the US.

Netflix


Netflix

  • Not content with nabbing the UK rights of Breaking Bad, Netflix has also been busy snapping up television programmes. It has also added a new profile option so what you watch now doesn't have to clash with your better half.
  • When it comes to original content, Netflix has tried its hand at a Nordic-flavoured Sopranos, Lillyhammer, gone to jail with Orange is the New Black (which has been renewed for a second season) and added some scare factor with Hemlock Grove. Its most-successful homegrown show, however, was the Kevin Spacey vehicle House Of Cards.
  • Given that Netflix has its own dedicated kids' portal, there is a lot of unique content just a stream away.
  • Recent additions include a host of Scholastic Media shows. This means The Magic School Bus (seasons 1-4; all 52 episodes) and Goosebumps (seasons 1-4; all 74 episodes) are exclusively available on the service.
  • Although Lovefilm Instant has Ricky Gervais' Office and Extras, Netflix will be airing the critically lauded Derek as of 12 September.
  • Netflix, in 2014, will also be airing new shows from Kung Fu Panda studio DreamWorks Animation. So far not much is known, other than: "The new shows will be inspired by characters from DreamWorks Animation's hit franchises and upcoming feature films."
  • When it comes to US comedy, although Parks and Recreation is infuriatingly missing from both Netflix and Lovefilm Instant you can settle down to all seven seasons of the frankly brilliant It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.
  • But you can now watch Park and Rec's Aziz Ansari in Buried Alive on Netflix, a stand-up show that is exclusive to the streaming service.
  • Netflix has been on something of a comedy bender of late and is also producing Notorious, a 70-minute stand-up special that is set to air 14 October 2013, and comedy documentary series Russell Peters vs The World.
  • Marvel has joined forces with Netflix to produce what is an epic task: to bring multiple original series of live-action adventures of four of Marvel's most popular characters beginning in 2015. According to Netflix, this "pioneering agreement calls for Marvel to develop four serialised programmes leading to a miniseries programming event".
  • Netflix announced in November that it has redesigned its TV service to be more visually enticing to those who use it.
  • A new untitled drama series from the creator of Damages will also come exclusively to Netflix in the UK, with production to start in 2014.
  • Not resting on its TV laurels, Netflix also announced the acquisition of Square, a documentary that already has Oscar buzz surrounding it. This marks Netflix's first foray into movies... and we are guessing it won't be its last.