BritBox vs. Acorn TV: Which Is Better for British TV?
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The major TV channels in the U.K. frequently produce high-quality dramas 10 British Crime Dramas You Should Watch on Netflix 10 British Crime Dramas You Should Watch on Netflix Crime is universal. However, crime drama, specifically its attitude and tone, differs depending on where you live. With that in mind here are 10 British crime dramas all Americans should watch on Netflix. Read More , comedies, and thrillers, of which only a small minority ever make it to American shores. This is a crying shame. After all, we all know British television shows are vastly superior to anything the American TV networks can produce!

Joking aside, there’s a mountain of new content waiting for you. And thanks to two relatively new services — BritBox and Acorn TV — you can now get your hands on (almost) all of it. Subscribing to both services would be expensive, so you need to know which is right for you.

In this article, we take a look at both services in detail. Which is the easiest to use? Which has the best selection of content? And, perhaps most importantly, which has the most content?

The Background

BritBox is a joint venture between the two largest networks in the U.K.: the BBC and ITV. It went live in March 2017 You Can Now Stream British TV Using BritBox You Can Now Stream British TV Using BritBox Thanks to BritBox, expats and Anglophiles alike can now stream British TV to their hearts' content. Read More , just three months after the two networks announced the project.

As Soumya Sriraman, BritBox president, told Fortune:

“BBC and ITV are known for a vast array of diverse and award-winning programming that fans in the U.S. love and want to watch. BritBox offers a single point of access to an extensive collection of outstanding British programming to discover and enjoy.”

Acorn TV has been around for longer: it went live in 2013. RLJ Entertainment Inc. owns and operates the service. Interestingly, one of RLJ’s subsidiaries (Acorn Media Group) has been responsible for distributing U.K. content in the United States since the mid-1990s. It means the developers behind Acorn TV have a solid understanding of what American audiences enjoy watching.

What Content Is Available?

What can you expect to find on each service?

Acorn TV

Interestingly, Acorn TV doesn’t only specialize in U.K. shows. It also carries programming from Ireland, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The company has deals in place with some of the largest producers in those countries, including ITV, Channel 4, BBC Worldwide, All3Media, DRG, ZDF, and Content Media Corp.

The content offered can be broadly divided into six areas: mysteries, dramas, comedies, documentaries, feature films, and foreign language shows.

Some of the most famous shows from recent years are available, including Doc Martin, Black Books, QI, and Hinterland. If you’re a Martin Clunes fan, you’re sure to appreciate the service. He seems to pop up much more frequently than any other actor.

acorntv home

Away from well-known network shows, Acorn TV also makes some original content. Its most successful original show was an adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Poirot in summer 2014. The show remains the only production by a niche streaming service to be nominated for an Emmy.

Sadly, the service feels a little “padded.” Yes, you will find lots of good stuff, but we can’t imagine too many people tune into shows like The Yorkshire Vet or The World’s Most Famous Train.

Lastly, Acorn TV also holds the rights to the U.S. premieres of a number of shows, including Detectorists, Vera, Inspector George Gently, and Midsomer Murders. If you want to be at the front of the queue for new episodes of these shows, Acorn TV is the answer.


In one sense, BritBox has a narrower focus: it only carries content from BBC and ITV. On the other hand, those two networks are responsible for the majority of quality programming in the UK, so you’re going to get the best of the best rather than a mix of quality output and unwatchable trash.

There are renowned soaps like EastEnders, crime thrillers like Silent Witness and Waking the Dead, long-running family series such as Casualty, and a whole range of famous comedies like The Office and The Vicar of Dibley.

britbox home

BritBox also excels in its selection of classic British comedies 8 British Comedies All Americans Should Watch on Netflix 8 British Comedies All Americans Should Watch on Netflix If you want to indulge in the UK's eccentricities, awkwardness, and undeniable wit, here are just a few British comedies you need to check out, all of which are available to watch on Netflix. Read More . It carries shows like Porridge, Are You Being Served?, and Fawlty Towers, as well as more recent hits like Absolutely Fabulous and Keeping Up Appearances.

The service does not provide any content from BBC America.

How Much Content Is Available?

Quality and quantity are arguably the two most important metrics when you’re thinking about a service. We’ve covered quality, so what about quantity? After all, you don’t want to run out of things to watch a few months after signing up.

At the time of writing, Acorn TV carries 255 different shows and movies. Of those 255, 34 are movies and nine are in a foreign language, meaning you’ve got around 200 TV series to get sucked into.

Luckily, older shows are represented in full. For example, the seven series of Men Behaving Badly are available, as are the nine series of Foyle’s War, and all 19 series of Midsomer Murders.

acorntv men behaving badly

BritBox has a similar number shows. The bulk of them fall under either the Drama or Comedy categories.

In short, both services will keep you fulfilled for a long time. It’s hard to accurately determine the number of hours of programming available, but they both run into several thousand.

Note: The number of shows on both services fluctuates slightly from month-to-month as new shows are added and old ones are removed.

The User Interfaces

The last one of the three big deal breakers when choosing your service is the user interface. There is no point in having thousands of hours of shows if you can’t quickly find what you want to watch when you want to watch it.

Of these two services, BritBox has the best UI. Acorn TV takes a “no frills” approach. You’ll see all the shows available in a grid. Clicking on a show will give you a brief snippet of information about the series and a link to a trailer (where appropriate). You will find all the seasons and individual episodes further down the page. They use an identical grid to the homepage. There is no further subdivision of the content.

britbox comedy

BritBox feels more refined. Although it looks nothing like Netflix, it’s clearly taken pointers from the streaming behemoth. When browsing a particular category, you’ll find shows broken down into subcategories.

For example, while exploring Comedy, you will find Featured Shows at the top, followed by an Only on BritBox section, then further comedic sub-categories such as Iconic Sitcoms, Classic Satire, and Honored by Bafta. At the bottom of the page, you’ll find a scrollable list of all the content in the category.

Support for Devices

Acorn TV is available in your browser, and there are standalone apps for both iOS and Android. It also works on three set-top boxes: Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Apple TV. It’s also Chromecast compatible 10 Must-Have Chromecast Apps for Watching TV 10 Must-Have Chromecast Apps for Watching TV The Chromecast is arguably the best device currently on the market for anyone looking to cut the cord. And you'll definitely need these 10 apps to get you started. Read More .

BritBox is also available in your browser, on iOS and Android, and on Roku, Chromecast, and Apple TV.

What About the Price?

While reading this article, you might have started to realize there is very little between the two services. Neither is overly weak in any one area, and both boast several strong points.

britbox trial

As such, your decision may solely boil down to price. And in this arena, we have a clear winner.

BritBox will set you back $6.99 per month, while Acorn TV only costs $4.99 per month. Additionally, Acorn TV offers an annual subscription for $49.99 per year, saving you 17 percent over 12 months. BritBox offers no annual plan.


Unfortunately for our non-American readers, both Acorn TV and BritBox are only available in the United States.

On the plus side, neither block traffic originating from VPNs Why the Netflix Crackdown on VPNs Will Ultimately Fail Why the Netflix Crackdown on VPNs Will Ultimately Fail Netflix is set to crack down on VPNs to satisfy the rights-holders from whom it sources its content. So, how will Netflix’ ban work? And how effective will it be? Read More , so if you have a subscription to a VPN provider, you will be able to circumnavigate the geo-blocking. A smart DNS provider Save On 2 DNS Services and Beat Region Restrictions Save On 2 DNS Services and Beat Region Restrictions If you live in a place where the content you want to watch is blocked because of geographic restrictions, you're in luck, because today you can get one of two different smart DNS services for... Read More will also work.

Which Service Should You Use?

In my opinion, BritBox is slightly better. Yes, there are fewer shows and it costs slightly more, but the quality of the shows is higher and the website is much more enjoyable to use.

However, your personal TV preferences will determine much of your decision. If the shows you want to watch are only available on one of the two platforms, clearly it makes sense to subscribe to that service. If you’re not sure, sign up for a free trial. Both services will give you seven days with no obligation to continue beyond that.

Which service do you think is the best? Is it BritBox? Or Acorn TV? What makes your choice the better of the two services? As always, you can tell us your opinions in the comments below!

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  1. KC
    November 20, 2017 at 12:36 am

    BritBox has the content, but delivery of it is an issue. Besides performance issues which seem to be improving, I was amazed when I read your comment that "BritBox has the best UI". You either work for BritBox, designed/developed their user interface, or never used it for more than two shows. What a POS it is.

  2. Gail Ashby
    November 20, 2017 at 12:32 am

    While I was very excited to add Britbox to my streaming channels, I am sad to say I am very disappointed. I am unable to watch a show without very frequent interruptions. I have had this service since May and feel I have given them more than a fair trial.
    I was taken back by the response I received when I called customer service. I was told that they are a new channel and they are working on it.
    So in reality they are taking money for something that is not ready for consumer use.
    I have had Acorn for a couple of years and was not attempting to replace it with Britbox.
    I think that Acorn is the better channel. I can count on being entertained by the best British shows with no streaming interruptions. They may not offer quite as many shows as Britbox, but their well worth the money.
    I hope Britbox is able to solve their streaming problems.
    I may wait a year and try again as I really like the British and Australian shows.

  3. Judith
    October 20, 2017 at 1:04 am

    We love both acorn and Britbox. Buying Roku devise was best thing. I am from England so many programs are familiar. Bribox does has more content than acorn and complement each other but I think Britbox has more dramas. Acorn has other nations shows (Australian), Britbox is majority england. Wish britbax would do as acorn does let you pay for the year acorn is $45 for the yr and Britons is $36 ($6.00 programs mth

  4. Carol
    October 12, 2017 at 10:39 am

    I have Amazon prime and I subscribe Acorn and enjoy. I love inspector Morse series--is Morse only available on Brit Box?

    • Judith
      October 20, 2017 at 1:05 am

      Morse is available on britbox. You can get the trail week.

  5. Monk
    September 23, 2017 at 6:28 pm

    Appreciating that this article was written in June 2017, as of August 2017, one can steam Britbox on Amazon (I do so on my Fire Stick). I stream both Acorn and Britbox to view favorites carried by one and not the other. I don't binge watch so there is enough between the two to last many years. I agree that Acorn's GUI is a bit more user-friendly but it's not that big a deal for me. Subscribing/unsubscribing via Amazon is a snap.

  6. Marya Kaz
    September 17, 2017 at 8:40 pm

    I enjoyed Acorn while I had it a few years ago, but then "used up" what I had wanted to see. At that time Acorn would not allow one to unsubscribe easily. Website "unsubscribe" links did not work & it took American Express 3 tries to block them from continuing to bill me; no one at Acorn ever responded to my emails or requests for assistance. No customer service phone # either. Maybe they now have an easy-unsubscribe button, but a couple of years ago that is what I had to go through. Although I am tempted by the offerings once again, that kind of sleazy business practice keeps me away. I'll try BritBox & continue with Netflix & Megaherz Choice for international shows & films.

  7. Rae
    September 16, 2017 at 12:51 am

    I currently have both Acorn TV and BritBox. I don't know what BritBox user interface the author was looking at, but mine is not user friendly at all. It's easy to find something to watch but then you're on your own. If you start watching something you should be prepared to watch only that series until you're done. Unlike Acorn TV, BritBox does not take you to the last watched episode in a series. They have apparently come around to the auto advance/play that Amazon has, but it is difficult to find where you left off last week. That said, I do like the programming available. A mash up with BritBox and Actuallyorn would be nice, with Acorn's interface and the addition of BritBox programming. For now, if I have to choose, I'll choose Acorn TV.

  8. Diane Graybeal
    September 9, 2017 at 11:02 am

    Will Murdock's Mysteries still be on Acorn? I'm so addicted. Seems like I've been waiting forever for season 11. It's ITV so will it go to Britbox?

    • Sheryl Dahl
      September 15, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      I am a little discouraged because I began watching the Vera series on my Acorn free trial. However, after watching two seasons, the third season directs me to Britbox. How many services will I have to acquire to watch all of any series? I'm really annoyed now & I don't know which to go on with, if either. It just seems that if a show is carried on one of the services, you should be able to be assured that all of the series will be made available on that service. Guess that's not how it works though. I'll get over it....

      • Rae
        September 16, 2017 at 12:57 am

        I just looked at Acorn's site, and they have all but the 3rd series. You could free trial BritBox and the 3rd, then get the rest on Acorn. ;)

      • Judith
        October 20, 2017 at 1:06 am

        New Vera on Brit box

    • jeanine
      October 13, 2017 at 6:07 pm

      Murdoch Mysteries is a Canadian show which aired originally on CBC TV so anybody could be showing it. I know I watched at least 6 seasons worth on HULU.

  9. Sandy Hirstein
    September 6, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    I am totally devoted to Acorn and, after reading your summary, it will continue to be my top choice. In part, that is because I love the content coming from Australia and New Zealand. And the price just adds to Acorn's value!

  10. Janet Ronstadt
    September 4, 2017 at 8:22 pm

    I have subscribed to Acorn TV for several years and it is my favorite source for British, as well as international series and movies. They are always up to date on Doc Martin and I love all of their detective shows as well. Their original Poirot series was fantastic. Yorkshire Vet is a great show and am looking forward to future seasons. They change their programming just enough to keep it interesting. I have looked at Britbox's offerings but there is nothing they have that isn't elsewhere or that I am interested in.

  11. Nancy Nordstrom
    August 17, 2017 at 10:28 pm

    Acorn for sure. We love some of the Australian and New Zealand shows. Plus it's cheaper and we find it easy to use.

    • Leon Nocon
      September 5, 2017 at 8:29 pm

      Why is it advertised at $4.99 and I pay $6.99

      • Nancy Nordstrom
        September 7, 2017 at 11:30 am

        We have a yearly subscription which is cheaper.

  12. Pamela
    August 3, 2017 at 6:15 am

    Hmmmm, I love the 'padding' on Acorn. The World's Most Famous Train was fascinating. I'm checking out BritBox too, but still love Acorn; particularly, the Brokenwood Mysteries out of New Zeland. We watch several of the shows produced in New Zealand and Austrailia. Speaking of which, does anyone know when, or if, Miss Fisher is coming back?

    • Bev
      September 11, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      I don't think any new seasons are planned, but a movies is in the works! We love that show!

  13. Jayne
    July 30, 2017 at 3:31 pm

    I agree with most of the comments here. The author seems overly influenced by Britbox' sleeker interface and what appears to be his limited (PBS-centric?) knowledge of UK (Commonwealth) television. Britbox is fine to watch some older shows you already know about, but Acorn is the place to discover the pleasures of unknown and new(er) programs.

    The author also didn't mention that Acorn is binge friendly, giving you all seasons of a program. Britbox seems more like a sampler, too often providing only a few (usually the earliest) seasons. As I suspect he never watched it, I'll add that The World’s Most Famous Train (the Orient Express) is not padding, but rather, like most of Acorn's documentaries, is great for those who are interested in more than just Royal twaddle.

    In sum, Britbox seems like a dusty, dumbing-down of UK tv, rather like what BBC America has become. And at $7 per month it's overpriced. Rather than add Britbox to my streaming budget, I'll keep Acorn and wait for the happy day when I can also get an all-European/Scandinavian tv subscription.

    • Kay Knipfel
      October 22, 2017 at 9:26 pm

      Have you checked out MHZ Choice for your European/Scandinavian fix?

      • Keith Howie
        October 25, 2017 at 7:05 pm

        I’m surprised that MHz Choice has received so little mention here. My wife and I have gotten hooked on Scandinavian TV shows (Nordic Noir). MHz has by far the best selection of these, along with a good selection of continental European shows. It makes a good complement to Netflix on these.

  14. Joyce Tracksler
    July 24, 2017 at 3:23 pm

    Have enjoyed Acorn for several years. Was thrilled to try Britbox, but, so far, after 3 weeks, it is a TOTAL bust...The site does not work properly, serving us inordinate amounts of time that the little round thung spins and spins, but never gets you nto the program you want to watch. If, by chance, you actually get connected, in three seconds, you lose your proghram and are back to watching nthe little blue wheel spin around...very very poor ..I have called and called and called Britbox to complain. So far, it is worse this week than last week. No one has called me back, nor emailed me, no one has answered my myriad telephone complains, although each and every rep I have spoken to swears she or he will have a manager get back to me.

    If nothing improves, I will be breaking my sign up with Britbox.....Even if they have lots that I want to see, I am unable to see ANY^THING, as the damn site does not work. I am sooooooo frustrated.

    Joyce Tracksler 207-439-7405

    • Eileen
      September 17, 2017 at 3:49 am

      I agree, Joyce. I really thought Acorn had the worst streaming interface in the world until I tried Britbox; I live in a rural area and have a local ISP, so my bandwidth can be narrow. Netflix and Hulu never have a problem, but both Acorn and Britbox do - and especially Britbox. I spent two hours today trying to get to a prior episode of Scott & Bailey - Britbox just wouldn't let me see anything but the one that followed. I cleared the cache, reset the browser, reset the laptop - everything. Finally, I went to a different browser and that finally worked. That's far too much trouble to simply reset one episode.

      I really like the Canadian, Australian, New Zealand and Scandinavian shows on Acorn. I'm pretty sure I'm going to cancel Britbox.

  15. Christine Bell
    July 17, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    This appears to be a Britbox driven press release. Where are all the facts about how terrible their user interface is and how they are dragging their feet at fixing it, and instead fiddling with silly stuff like comic con ?

  16. Marc E Kenig
    July 17, 2017 at 2:40 pm for the win. Series from Australia and NZ, like A Place to Call Home, are great and available there. They seem to have newer content, not series already shown on PBS!

  17. Les
    July 14, 2017 at 1:04 am

    i have Acorn and enjoy it greatly. i am one of those oddballs (American variety) that really enjoys the 'padding' as much as the other content. for me, it's like taking a wee vacation travelling all over the UK, etc. and i do also like the shows from Canada, Australia, Ireland, Scotland and others. so i will absolutely give BritBox a try and have no issue w/keeping both services to satiate my voracious appetite for content from the other side of the pond.

    • Darlene R.
      September 14, 2017 at 12:27 pm

      I too am obsessed with British television. And subscribe to acorn. I know that i wont be cancelling Acorn because I cannot imagine Britbox having a more comprehensive listing however I will also give Britbox a try.

  18. Ima Jean Franklin
    July 12, 2017 at 3:13 pm

    I like some shows on Acorn that can't be found on BritBox so I will keep both. There are a few US shows I like so I watch my British shows between. I have had BritBox for a week so I have been watching it more to see exactly what they have. Now that we are in summer reruns, I am watching Acorn and BritBox more.

  19. Willow
    July 11, 2017 at 2:02 pm

    Since the debut of Brit Box, several of the better shows that were on Acorn (including Prime Suspect, Morse, and the first 6 seasons of Poirot) have been removed from Acorn. They are ITV shows, I believe. They are available on Brit Box. Acorn has really expanded their historical documentaries. Lots of shows about historical Britain. Acorn now does have quite a few shows from outside the U.K., most notably Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

    I don't see ANY overlapping programming. I think this is by design. Only one of them has licensed the streaming rights. Acorn lost out on the streaming rights to Line of Duty season 3 to Hulu.

    Jennifer: It looks like Brit Box has some lifestyle and cooking shows, but Acorn really doesn't.

  20. Edgeoforever
    July 8, 2017 at 2:39 pm

    Where can I see the current Doctor Who? Don't have cable, Netflix lost it - the one which has it, gets me!

    • Flippant Chickery
      July 27, 2017 at 2:06 am

      Amazon had all the episodes

  21. lola
    June 30, 2017 at 4:06 am

    But Britbox has all available classic Doctor Who, so that's my clear winner

    • Mary
      July 1, 2017 at 1:12 pm

      Does anyone know if there is a lot of overlapping programs?

  22. Jennifer
    June 29, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    Does either service have the Brit lifestyle shows? Those are my favorites like Bargain Hunt. I don't even know if that's still on the air. Thanks!

  23. Howard Pearce
    June 26, 2017 at 2:08 pm

    " After all, we all know British television shows are vastly superior to anything the American TV networks can produce!"

    Do we ?
    I'm glad Dan knows what everyone thinks and wants - he would make an excellent "ruler" to determine our needs.

    Britbox is also subsidized by the state (the citizenry) from what I can tell

    • Dave Parrack
      June 26, 2017 at 2:42 pm

      It was a joke. You conveniently ignored the fact the next sentence starts with "Joking aside".

      As a Brit I'm happy to pay for the BBC. You do know you're funding the production of television every time you see a commercial, right? It's just a different way of funding.

      • Ciara Roots
        July 3, 2017 at 11:32 pm

        I'm an American who is hooked on British TV. There are some wonderful programs made by US producers and I do watch a few, but my go-to programs are primarily made by and feature Brits. I feel fortunate to have so much quality programming available from both countries. For the price of a movie and popcorn, I can order both BritBox AND Acorn!! My home theatre smells much better and is far quieter than the cinema!

        • Arlingtonian
          July 7, 2017 at 6:59 pm

          I'm thinking along the same lines. I also like the Canadian, Australian and Irish shows on AcornTV, so I may just add Britbox to the mix, without canceling AcornTV.

        • Kathy
          August 19, 2017 at 4:18 am

          I too am an American who absolutely loves British teevee..mysteries are my fave, how many American mysteries are there?