Years before Downton Abbey became a massive, multiple award-winning worldwide hit, before Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman became the Sherlock and Watson for the Internet age, and before Doctor Who turned 55+, there have been legions of British TV fans on this side of the pond.
To help longtime and newbie stateside viewers find TV shows from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Canada, we’ve put together this list of sources for where to watch series, specials, and made-for-TV movies from these territories. Check them out, watch something fabulous, and remember to bookmark, share, and visit this page regularly for updated information.
BROADCAST AND CABLE
Before there was Acorn TV, BBC America, or Netflix, there was PBS for British programs. For more than 45 years, the public television network has been the home of Masterpiece in all of its incarnations, starting with Masterpiece Theatre, which brought us I, Claudius, the original Poldark, and The Jewel in the Crown (decades before Indian Summers), amongst other memorable programs.
Today, PBS brings us…
And, of course, Masterpiece Mystery whodunits, including the complete series of Inspector Lewis, Inspector Lynley, Wallander, and Zen, and what might be all of Sherlock (if the stars’ busy schedules can’t accommodate a fifth season). Recent fan favorites include Arthur & George and these titles:
PBS also offers exceptional British theatre and adapted works under its Great Performances banner, such as these adaptations of Shakespeare’s works:
Last but not least are the British programs independent of Masterpiece and Great Performances, including Call the Midwife, which returns with its 9th season in 2020; Last Tango in Halifax, which is also returning to telly in 2020 (on BBC in the UK, later on PBS in the US) with a new season after a 4-year absence; and the shows below.
Ways to stream PBS content:
PBS Video Portal — New episodes are usually available for a limited time (and for free) here, starting the day after their original broadcast.
PBS Passport — This benefit of being a member of a PBS affiliate station allows you to stream select PBS content. You can access Passport by contributing $60+ per year to your local PBS station.
PBS Masterpiece channel on Amazon — This SVOD channel now features British programs that made their US debuts on PBS as well as those that first screened elsewhere in the States, such as Apple Tree Yard and Lovejoy. (For fans of non-English-language international TV series, the channel also offers shows from Walter Presents, which are shown in their original language with English subtitles.) It costs $5.99/month after the 7-day free trial period.
To see which British TV programs are premiering on PBS this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
Local PBS Member Stations and Independent Public TV Stations
There are 300+ PBS member stations in the US and its territories that broadcast the British programs provided by PBS. Many of them, plus independent public TV stations, also air additional UK TV shows that they purchase on their own, thanks to viewer donations. (Hint, hint.) Shows vary from market to market and station to station, but longtime favorites, from Are You Being Served and Keeping Up Appearances, to Ballykissangel and Monarch of the Glen, tend to show up regularly across many of the stations.
Many British TV shows premiere in the US exclusively on select public TV stations. (This means they are not PBS shows, although they air on some PBS member stations.) Series that made huge splashes when they debuted in local US markets include DCI Banks, Death in Paradise, Father Brown, and Scott & Bailey. Others that made their stateside premieres exclusively on public TV stations include:
A public TV station worth noting is WETA, which serves the Washington, DC metropolitan viewing area and is the only public TV station in the US with a digital channel dedicated to telly from the UK and other Commonwealth territories. It is WETA UK, and with it you can get your Brit TV on 24/7/365.
To see which British TV programs are premiering on public TV stations this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
BBC America gives US-based Anglophiles a number of British TV’s worldwide hits, such as British noir mystery-crime drama Broadchurch, gritty detective drama Luther, critically-acclaimed drama Killing Eve, and global sci-fi phenomenon Doctor Who.
To see which British TV programs are premiering on BBC America this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
Other Broadcast, Cable, and Satellite Channels
It used to be that shows from the UK and UK-US co-productions aired in the US just on PBS member and independent public TV stations, BBC America, and a couple of basic and premium cable channels, including A&E and HBO. That has changed in a big way. To wit: The shows below premiered on AMC, Discovery Life, FX, History, Lifetime, Ovation, Pop, (the now-defunct) Pivot, and SundanceTV basic cable channels, plus Fox and NBC, within the past several years: There were many more besides these.
And, of course, premium cable channels Cinemax, HBO, Showtime, and Starz continue to bring some of the finest UK productions and US/UK co-pros to the US, including the ones below. And more are on the way.
By the way, you can try any of these and other premium cable channels without going through your cable company by adding them through Amazon Channels, which gives you a 7-day free trial for each channel before the monthly subscription fee kicks in (and doesn’t charge tax the way cable does).
To see which British TV programs are premiering on broadcast, cable, and satellite channels this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
STREAMING VIDEO ON DEMAND & DIGITAL DOWNLOAD PLATFORMS, including SVOD (Subscription), AVOD (Advertising-Supported) , TVOD (Transactional)
Acorn TV is a subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) service that offers TV programs from the UK, Canada, and Ireland, as well as Australia and New Zealand. And with the explosive growth in popularity of English-subtitled non-English-language programs, they’ve been adding more of these shows, too.
Its curated content currently numbers in the hundreds of titles and 1000+ hours of programming, which include shows that premiered in the US exclusively on Acorn TV, such as these Acorn TV Original series:
Other shows are currently available in the US only through an Acorn TV subscription, including:
New subscribers get a free 7-day trial, after which the subscription price is $4.99/month or $49.99/year for on-demand streaming. If you’re a member of Amazon Prime, you can add an Acorn TV subscription through Amazon Channels and watch Acorn’s shows through the Amazon Video interface.
To see which British TV programs are premiering on Acorn TV this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
Amazon Instant Video & Amazon Prime Video
With the name of the streaming game being exclusive content, so for Prime Video, Amazon has increased the number of its British program acquisitions and productions for its Prime Original series, in addition to exclusivity deals with distributors. Its Original and exclusive titles include these shows:
Back in 2016, Amazon began offering monthly subscription options for its customers to access Prime Video, then raised prices in 2018. Here’s the break-out as of July 2019: Amazon Prime membership: $119/year or $12.99/month ($6.49/month for the student 6-month trial, and $5.99 for the discounted monthly offering, which is available to qualifying customers with a valid EBT or Medicaid card) | Prime Video only subscription: $8.99/month (no access to Amazon Prime benefits)
To see which British TV programs have been added to Amazon Video this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
Apple Services (formerly iTunes)
Apple Services has a wealth of Brit TV program seasons and episodes available as digital downloads for purchase. While most can be streamed on VOD services, some downloads are exclusive to iTunes (at least for now). For Whovians, several multi-episode stories from the Classic Doctor Who series are currently exclusive to iTunes, including Doctor Who: The Enemy of the World starring Second Doctor Patrick Troughton, Doctor Who: The Trial of a Time Lord starring Sixth Doctor Colin Baker, and Doctor Who: Silver Nemesis starring Seventh Doctor Sylvester McCoy.
And in a first for BBC Worldwide, the historical drama Banished premiered in the US on iTunes.
Best of British TV
Best of British TV, which is available exclusively through Amazon Channels, offers an eclectic selection of popular British comedies, reality shows, games shows, talk shows, and more. Here are a few of the programs currently available:
Members of Amazon Prime can add a subscription to the Best of British TV channel for $3.99/month after the free 7-day trial.
To see which British TV programs have been added to BOB TV this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
BritBox, the SVOD service from BBC Studios and ITV (the former being the commercial arm of the Beeb and the latter being the UK’s largest commercial broadcaster), launched in the US on 7 March 2017, with nearly 200 titles.
Available on the platform are new and classic Britcoms, mysteries, and dramas, plus documentaries, news and lifestyle programs, and long-running soap operas, as well as videos of UK events that were live-streamed in the US on BritBox. Some of the programs, including BritBox Original series, that premiered in the US exclusively on BritBox are:
Series that used to be on other US streaming platforms but are only on BritBox now include several beloved mystery series, such as:
A BritBox subscription costs $6.99/month (after the 7-day free trial), which gives you access to the ad-free content on the Web, Android and iOS devices, Apple TV (4th generation), and Roku. To watch BritBox through the Amazon Video interface, add the subscription through Amazon Channels.
Other British series that are Hulu Originals or exclusives include the (fabulous) documentary Becoming Bond, comedy-drama The Bisexual, dramas Butterfly and National Treasure: Kiri, pre-apocalyptic crime drama Hard Sun, and reality series Love Island.
A Hulu subscription costs $5.99/month for the limited-commercials plan and $11.99/month for the commercial-free plan. Both include shows in HD and access on mobile devices and through media streaming gadgets and game consoles.
To see which British TV programs are premiering on Hulu/Hulu Plus this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
Netflix is the largest SVOD platform on the planet, with 148 million subscribers worldwide as of April 2019, inclusive of the 60 million subscribers in the US.
Given the kazillion dollars Netflix spends on programming, “the world’s leading Internet television network” acquires or produces a ton of it, from shows available elsewhere to exclusives, especially Netflix Original titles — the list of which is constantly growing.
British TV is a niche unto itself, and a subset of it is Scottish programs. Here are four of my favorite comedy series from Scotland, available in the US only on Netflix:
By the way, if you don’t already know this, you can now download many of Netflix’s titles. After years of not allowing downloads, despite the growing use of mobile devices to watch Netflix programs, they finally relented. (That Amazon has been allowing Prime members to download titles for years probably contributed to their decision.)
And you can still rent DVDs from Netflix (starting at $7.99/month). Certain programs from the UK, Ireland, and Canada in Netflix’s library aren’t streaming anywhere in the US, not even on Netflix. They are, though, available to rent on DVD, such as these titles:
As of this writing (July 2019), Netflix streaming subscription plans cost as follows: basic plan = $8.99/month (one screen at a time, standard definition only); standard plan = $12.99/month (up to two screens at a time in high definition); premium plan = $15.99/month (up to 4 screens at a time in HD or 4K Ultra HD).
To see which British TV programs are premiering on Netflix this month, check out our British TV Viewing Guide.
Owned by Viacom, Pluto TV is a free, ad-supported, Internet-based TV platform whose content is accessible on its website and via its apps for Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, and PlayStation consoles.
In April 2019, Pluto TV did a deal with BBC Studios to bring nearly 1,000 episodes — totaling more than 700 hours — of content to Pluto TV audiences, much of which will come from the dedicated 24/7 channels for Midsomer Murders (channel 513), Doctor Who Classic (channel 77), and Antiques Roadshow UK (channel 78).
Content from the deal started rolling out in May 2019, when British TV titles began showing up on several Pluto TV channels. For example: episodes from the smash hit comedy series The IT Crowd on the TV Sitcoms channel (channel 255), and for kids of all ages episodes from Mr. Bean: The Animated Series on the Kids TV and After School Cartoons channels (on channels 520 and 526, respectively).
Then in July 2019, Pluto TV launched its dedicated British TV channel (on channel 175), which features episodes from the gripping reality series 24 Hours in Police Custody, intense action drama Ultimate Force, and the classic Sherlock Holmes series starring Jeremy Brett, amongst many other British TV programs.
ADDITIONAL FREE STREAMING SITES & CHANNELS
Other ad-supported streaming platforms that feature British TV shows (whether a handful or many) include the EndemolShineInternational and WatchFreeFlix channels on Roku, IMDb TV, the Popcornflix website and Roku channel, Sony Crackle (home of the British crime comedy-drama series Snatch, based on the awesome film of the same name), and YouTube (despite copyright infringement, DCMA Takedown Notices, and account suspensions).
My favorite amongst them is Tubi TV, which has more shows from the UK than the lot above combined. Not only that, they have quite a number of shows from Down Under, as well as a dozen (more or less) original-language, English-subtitled series from Europe.
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