For years now, people have been saying we’re in the ‘Golden Age’ of TV. Whether or not that’s still true – we’re certainly in a golden age for streaming, with more choices than ever. And, particularly in the UK – we’ve had some great things happening in the world of TV in 2022.
From new streaming services like ITVX and Paramount+, the launch of the standalone pay-TV streamers on Sky and Virgin Media, more free content to watch than ever, and more.
Of course, it wasn’t all good – so also take a look at my list of the Biggest TV Blunders in the UK for 2022, but today we’re here to celebrate the wins.
The Launch Of ITVX
BUT – ITV’s new streaming service, which replaces ITV Hub, is a great step forward for streaming TV (and TV in general) in the UK.
First, there’s the content – while ITV Hub had around 4,000 hours of content (films and TV shows), ITVX has more than 10,000 hours of content – including exclusive new originals, boxsets from ITV’s vast archive, reality TV shows, US imports and more.
And let’s not forget – it’s all free. Yes, there are adverts – and personally, I can’t stand to watch anything with adverts – but if you don’t mind that (and are used to them anyway from ITV’s linear channels), then you’re getting A LOT without paying.
Then there’s the Premium tier – at £5.99/month it’s a bit expensive just for removing adverts (and not all of them at that), but you’re also getting BritBox as a ‘bonus’ – plus, don’t forget that as with any streaming service, you can cancel and resubscribe whenever you wish, so there’s no need to keep it indefinitely.
The bugs and issues are disappointing, yes – but those will hopefully be ironed out soon, and we’ll be left with a huge new streaming service that can genuinely rival BBC iPlayer.
Paramount+ Finally Came To The UK
For years, I’ve been complaining that American streaming services don’t come to our side of the pond quickly enough – and this year, finally, Paramount+ has arrived.
As with ITVX, there are a few issues and disappointments with Paramount+ (such as no 4K content), but overall, every streaming service that adds to your choices is generally a good thing.
While the library of content felt a bit underwhelming at first, it keeps getting bigger every month, with classic films and TV shows as well as new originals – with some of the shows, such as the popular Yellowstone, airing in the UK almost day and date as the US.
Some say there are too many streaming services these days, and they’re all getting too expensive. But always remember – the whole point of cord cutting is the flexibility that it gives you. There are no long-term contracts, so you never need to subscribe to all the services AT THE SAME TIME.
Sky And Virgin Media Storm Into The Streaming World
2022 was the year when Sky, Virgin Media and – to some extent – BT, finally gave up and joined the streaming revolution.
Unlike Sky Q, Glass and Stream don’t use a satellite dish. Instead, they’re based on streaming and use your broadband.
With a unique operating system that brings most of the major streaming services in the UK (along with Sky’s own content) and Freeview-via-broadband into a single platform, Sky Stream is not just a Sky box – it’s a streaming aggregator of sorts.
But for me, the most important aspect of Sky Stream is that you can finally get it without long-term contracts.
Sure, Sky is still pushing you towards those contracts with cheaper monthly costs if you’re willing to sign up for 18 months – but at least there’s now an option to get the full Sky package (unlike Sky’s NOW which is still limited) without getting stuck for 18 months.
Virgin Media did something similar with the Virgin Media Stream box, though my main caveat with it is that it only works with Virgin Media’s broadband (which does carry a long-term contract) – so it’s not truly standalone (Sky Stream works with any broadband provider).
These boxes still feel like a stepping stone – and eventually, Sky will probably end up as a standalone streaming service without a dedicated box (so, yes, basically an upgraded NOW TV) – but for now, Stream is a positive step forward.
BT Sport – Discovery / Eurosport Merger
Earlier this year, Discovery/Eurosport announced a merger, and a new joint platform was eventually born.
The platform now features one of the most extensive portfolios of premium sports rights, including UEFA Champions League, the Premier League, the Olympic Games, Premiership Rugby and more.
For now, BT Sport and Eurosport UK are retaining their separate brands and product propositions. Therefore BT Sport and Eurosport continue to exist as two separate TV and streaming platforms (but with new owners behind the scenes).
But in the future, the plan is to bring BT Sport and Eurosport/Discovery+ together under a single brand (with either an entirely new name, or one that uses/combines the old names in some way).
Are TV mergers a good thing? That’s debatable, as they sometimes hinder competition. However, at least in the short term – this spells good news for customers of both platforms.
Some BT Sport customers can already get Discovery+ (with Eurosport) for free, and we expect to see more offers once the new, single brand emerges.
Netflix Launches Cheaper Tier With Adverts
With the cost of living crisis, streaming services didn’t stay behind – and many raised prices this year (with more to follow in 2023).
Therefore, with prices going up – it was good to see Netflix launching its new Basic-with-Ads tier this year, which lets you subscribe to Netflix for £4.99/month, and get advert breaks.
It’s not perfect, of course – as with Netflix’s no-ads Basic tier, you only get a video resolution of 720p, and you can only watch on one device at a time. Plus, the cost difference isn’t all that impressive (the basic tier is currently £6.99/month).
But – for those looking to save some money, this is a positive trend (Disney+ is also expected to launch an ad-supported tier in the UK next year).
Free, Ad-Supported Streaming Services Becoming More Popular
In the past, ad-supported TV channels used to be called… well… TV (except for the BBC’s channels, of course).
Then streaming came along, and paid, subscription-based TV without adverts was all the rage.
Now, it seems we’re going back to the ad-based model (as another option – not as a replacement for the premium streaming services).
So, if you don’t mind seeing adverts – you can watch some premium TV (along with a lot of trashy TV) for free, as long as you have the right streaming device.
And while there are still more ad-supported streaming channels in the US than in the UK, we’re slowly catching up.
There’s Amazon’s Freevee which includes a lot of premium shows along with exclusive originals, there’s Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Plex Channels, lots of free ad-supported movie channels, and the list goes on.
And of course, the public broadcaster’s apps – ITVX, All4 and My5 – are basically free ad-supported streaming services as well, of sorts.
BBC iPlayer Gets A Content Boost
Speaking of free streaming services, BBC iPlayer is one of the best (although it’s not technically free – as it’s paid for by the TV licence fee), and thanks to a recent Ofcom decision – iPlayer will be getting a major content boost next year.
As part of the approved proposal, the BBC will be able to increase the number of older shows and boxsets, from the vast BBC archives, that are available on iPlayer – making the app a better streaming destination for viewers.
For now, when a new season of an established show debuts on the BBC, its past seasons are not always available on iPlayer – but that may finally change, at least for some of the content.
Wherever you may stand on the TV Licence debate – the BBC produced a lot of great content over the years – and getting more of it available to watch again is a win for everyone.
BBC One’s HD Local News Are Finally Coming… Soon
We’ve been waiting for the BBC’s local news to switch to HD across the country for a long time (12 years and counting) – and that wait is finally… ALMOST over.
The roll-out will be gradual, with the BBC aiming for it to be completed by April 2023 – so maybe this is a “Win” for next year’s list, but the announcement was announced in November 2022, so it still belongs on this year’s roundup.
But in 2023, the regional versions of BBC One HD for Freeview and YouView will all finally be made available.
By then, viewers will find the correct version of BBC One HD for their region on Freeview Channel 101 (the SD version will still be available on Freeview Channel 1), and we’ll finally see an end to those red screens that tell you to switch to the SD channel.
On a side note, this also means that the BBC will start to gradually shut down its SD channels – which means users with older Freesat and Sky boxes will have to upgrade. That’s potentially bad news for those people – but at some point, technology has to move forward.
A few smaller wins that made us happy in 2022:
House Of The Dragon Aired in 4K On Sky: It may sound strange that we would need to celebrate the 4K airing of such a flagship show – but Game Of Thrones, for example, was unavailable in 4K on Sky for a long time.
So it was a big step forward when Sky streamed the prequel series in 4K right from the start.
‘Neighbours’ Resurrected By Amazon: A couple of months ago we learned that Neighbours, the iconic Australian series that ran for three decades, is coming back to life despite its cancellation earlier this year. And – it’s coming to Amazon’s free streaming service, Freevee.
Whether you like the series or not (I haven’t watched it in years), it’s good to see a streaming service (and a free one at that) stepping in to save a show with such a devoted fan base.
Grey’s Anatomy Gets A Stable Home On Disney+: The popular medical drama is now on its 19th(!) season, but its UK fans were mistreated for years, with new seasons often premiering months and months after the US.
Furthermore, in recent years, we had an anomaly where the older seasons were on Disney+, while the brand new episodes aired on Sky / NOW – so you needed TWO subscriptions if you wanted to catch up on everything.
No more – this year, the new season finally moved to Disney+ as well, with episodes airing just a few weeks after their US debut.
Virgin Media Boosted Broadband Speeds For Free: Broadband speeds in many areas of the UK are abysmal, and the fact that there isn’t much competition in the high-speed arena is bad news for customers (and no, 67Mbps isn’t really fast, no matter what ‘Super’ or ‘Ultra’ name companies give it).
That’s why it was nice to see Virgin Media boosting up some of its broadband speeds this year – and, for a change – this was also relevant to existing customers, and not just new customers.