BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub and All4: Which is better?
Thanks in part to Netflix and the rise of online streaming, the traditional channels (BBC, ITV, Channel 4) have also upped their online library of content to compete with the changing way we consume our television shows. No longer do we have to wait a week for the next episode or for re-runs to re-watch a series – on-demand television is provided from most of the major networks in the UK. But what provides better content: BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub or All4.
The BBC prides itself as the go-to entertainment provider, offering a huge cross-section of programmes from politics rundowns to reality TV to soap to quiz shows. The broad church that the BBC offers is perhaps most noticeable when viewed from the iPlayer, which features most of the previous month’s programming. iPlayer features a smattering of box sets, from acclaimed drama The Bodyguard to comedy Inside No 9; the back catalogue of Luther and even long-finished shows such as The Mighty Boosh. It’s probable that if you’re wanting to stay in touch with a TV show while abroad, it’s going to be one of the BBC’s, for which, a BBC iPlayer VPN can ensure you can watch the TV show that your licence fee is paying for, while you are on holiday or working abroad. Indeed, the BBC programmes are even popular across the pond, with Downtown Abbey achieving huge popularity in the States, which helped proliferate the upcoming blockbuster.
The ITV Hub is largely a catch-up service that allows you to watch programmes you may have missed when they aired, or to re-watch a particularly gripping episode of Emmerdale, say. Unless the show has been on one of the five main ITV channels in the past month, it is unlikely to make it onto the ITV Hub. Of course, the programming from ITV is not designed to be majorly rewatchable, so the service allows you to dip in and out of various reality shows or detective shows that can be standalone episodes. If you’re desperate for something to watch and want to kill an hour, there is usually an episode of Poirot or The Sweeney on for viewing – or the previous month’s selection of Coronation Street.
Channel 4 is perhaps the most defined of the terrestrial channels, offering a selection of cutting-edge drama, documentaries and comedy. The online offering matches this. There is a huge bank of comedy programmes including Peep Show, The IT Crowd, Chewing Gum or Spaced. This is perhaps the best use of the on-demand service as it allows viewers to watch as they might do with Netflix – not just to catch up on something they missed, but to dig deep into the archives to fall back in love with a classic box set. The Disney method of making more money on the vault of material seems to work and Channel 4 regularly update what they have on offer from their archives. Plus, the occasional foreign-language TV series will also be available, showing the channel’s inherent commitment to showing us something different.
The good thing about the main five channels – honourable mention to My5 for Channel 5 – is that they provide such a range of content that you can tailor your own TV schedule to them. You can catch up on Pointless from the BBC, the soaps from ITV, some comedy from All4 and then round it out with a US crime show from Channel 5. While Netflix and Amazon may have the big money behind them, sometimes all you want to watch is some good old fashioned regular TV – and the terrestrial channels have at least made that available.
The editorial unit