If you’re one of the growing numbers of people who’ve treated themselves to a Smart TV, the chances are it came pre-loaded with either or both the Netflix and Amazon Prime Video apps, ensuring you could enjoy the services’ growing library of streaming content straight out of the box.
However the tendency for TV manufacturers to pre-install these big name apps means many owners seldom, if ever, delve into their TV’s app store where a whole host of additional equally worthy offerings can be found.
Here are our top picks:
We recently reviewed Chili, a TV and movie rental and buy-to-keep service which offers content in a range of formats – Standard Definition (720×576 pixels), High Definition (1280×720 pixels) and High Definition Plus (1920×1080 pixels) – and prices.
The service is Smart TVs from Samsung, Toshiba, LG, Philips, Panasonic, and Sony (as well as on steaming sticks and as an app for iOS and Android) and we think it’s a great alternative to more established services such as iTunes and Google Play.
We especially like the fact that your first movie rental is genuinely free and covers all movies in the library, including the very latest titles.
As well as offering content to watch, the service also includes a film and TV merchandise store, as well as cinema listings.
Alongside all the usual catch-up apps, you’ll want to install this free offering from UKTV which provides both catch-up content from the broadcaster’s free to air channels, Dave, Drama, Really and Yesterday.
As well as catch-up content, there’s also a host of boxsets including archive shows such as Time Team , Waking the Dead and Taggart, UKTV originals including Dara O Briain’s Go 8 Bit and Red Dwarf, plus first-run and exclusive content including the dryly funny and sadly much-underrated Michael J Fox Show.
Curzon Home Cinema
If you’re a fan of foreign language and independent films, this app is an essential addition to your collection.
The Curzon Home Cinema service offers access to Curzon’s exclusive titles while they’re still showing at the chain’s cinemas, as well as older titles, and is the perfect antidote to Hollywood’s ongoing obsession with superheroes and franchises.
This app brings a host of motivational, observational and informative talks to your TV in an easily browsable and searchable app which, while the content is also accessible via YouTube, we think is the best way to access it on a large screen TV.
Speakers span all areas of science, industry, education, sport, culture, business and spirituality, each giving an insight to, or prompting reflection on, the nature of the world around us. Topics span talks on how school kills creativity with Ken Robinson, how to improve your decision making with Liv Boeree, and Prosanta Chakrabarty’s Four billion years of evolution in six minutes.
The Berliner Philharmoniker’s Digital Concert Hall
There are a lot of music related apps on most Smart TVs, including ones from the big name streaming services, but we love this one which offers access to around 40 concerts per season. Music fans can sign up to a 14.90 € per month, no-commitment, subscription or buy a year, month or weekly ‘ticket’ which can also be bought as a gift for a friend or relative.
All the performances are streamed in HD and are offered alongside an archive of concerts from the past 50 years, as well as especially filmed interviews, documentaries and artist profiles.
We’ve saved our favourite pick till last. This Sky-owned streaming service has revolutionised the UK pay-TV market by bringing the broadcaster’s exclusive content, including the latest Hollywood movies, top US shows such as Game of Thrones and topflight sporting content including Premier League football, golf and F1 to fans on flexible, contract-free terms.
Channels and content are available via specially themed ‘passes’ – one each for Entertainment, Sky Cinema and Sky Sports – which are all sold on monthly terms, plus weekly and daily passes for Sky Sports, and can be cancelled at any point.
The service is due to get a bump up to full HD very soon, though the upscaling on most TVs means its current 720p provides a perfectly watchable picture.