Nowadays there are so many options online to keep you entertained, it’s difficult to know where to start.

Unhelpful jargon like ‘streaming’, 'TV catch up' and ‘SmartTV’ can make the whole process a little unnerving. But once you’ve mastered the basics there’s no end to all the interesting things you can do online.

Watching catch-up TV and films on your home computer, tablet or even on your mobile phone is a great way to get yourself started and can provide hours of entertainment. 

What you’ll need: 

First off, you’ll need to check that you have a good internet connection, which will make sure you’re not interrupted when you’re watching your favourite digital TV show.  

  • If you’re using your phone, you should connect to WiFiso you’ll get a stronger internet connection (and not waste the data allowance set up on your mobile tariff) 
  • If you’re using a laptop or desktop computer you should already be connected to your Wifi. This symbol:  imagej21b.png will show you how much signal you have. You’ll want 3 or 4 bars to ensure that your connection is strong. 

Although lots of catch up TV is free, you’ll often need an email address to get started so make sure you’ve got an email account set up first.  

Top Tip: You will still need a TV License if you’re watching catch up TV on BBC iPlayer. 

Finding the shows you want to watch online

There are lots of different apps for watching films and TV online, and each provider offers something unique, so if you’re wondering how to watch your favourite TV shows and movies online, see below:

BBC iPlayer

The BBC catch up service means you never need to miss any of your favourite BBC shows across all channels. Most BBC TV programmes are available for up to 30 days from the original day it was shown. iPlayer also has archive footage of programmes that you may not have seen on TV for years. 


 A paid-for service where you can watch TV, documentaries and films. You pay a monthly subscription, which allows you to access to thousands of titles. You can cancel the subscription at any time. 

Amazon Prime  

Another popular paid-for service with a large array of TV and films to choose from. You can subscribe to Amazon Prime for a monthly fee, which allows you to access lots of different content. But to view some titles you’ll need to pay a one-off extra fee. Amazon will always tell you if something is included in your subscription and if it’s not, it will tell you how much extra it will cost you.

Let’s get started 

No matter which option you choose, there’s always a similar process to getting set up. Here’s our guide for how to get your online TV accounts set up:

1. Register for an account:

You’ll need to go onto the website of the provider of your choice. The website will usually prompt you to sign up, and walk you through the process. You’ll need to set up a password, but may also be asked about your date of birth, gender and possibly your postcode. For any services that are paid-for, you will also need to enter in your credit or debit card details at this point too. 

2. Take a lookaround:  

Each website will have lots of options to choose from. You may not know where to start, but there will always be a ‘search’ bar, where you can type in keywords if you know what you’re looking for. However, often browsing the different categories is a good way to find new things to watch. 

3. How to watch videos: 

Once you’ve found the film or TV show you want, you can just press play straight away and start watching. Or, you can choose to download – this will mean the video is available for you to watch even when you aren’t connected to the internet.  

4. Save your favourites:

All the different providers have the option to save titles to your own personalised list, so you can watch them later. Look out for options such as ‘add to list’ or ‘save for later’, which will save to your account for you to easily find them again later. 

Top tip: watch out for your personal recommendations and ‘top trending’. These will change regularly and will help you find new things to watch. 

There’s much more out there to explore, and once you’re comfortable with the basics you can soon move on to other types of online entertainment, like listening to Podcasts, downloading audio books and watching cat videos on Youtube.  

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