Acorn TV: Is It An Anglophile’s Dream Come True?

Hulu, Amazon Prime and Netflix are battling it out for the title of most indispensable online streaming service, but the smaller and less expensive Acorn TV is coming from behind as a destination for Anglophiles. The service costs $4.99 a month and offers American viewers access primarily to British series (with a smattering of Australian and Canadian series slipped in for good measure). I have been a subscriber for a month now, giving me time to compare the service to Netflix and Hulu Plus, which also have their share of British series, and decide whether or not Acorn TV is worth the investment for American and Canadian viewers who cannot get enough British TV in their lives.

The Pros
 

slings and arrows

Let us start with the good points:

1) The Price Acorn TV is affordable even on the tightest of budgets and is available to stream both online and through streaming devices like Roku. I spend five bucks a month on a single magazine, so I am perfectly happy to channel that money into a service that offers roughly a wide array of series, with a library that continues to expand (the service aims to add at least six new series a month). Additionally, Acorn TV has a store in conjunction with its streaming service and as a member you can get special deals and free shipping on DVDs and other items.

2) Acorn Exclusives There are currently around 50 series exclusives to Acorn TV Streaming including the brilliant Canadian series Slings & Arrows. If you have never watched the series starring Paul Gross as a theater director recovering from a nervous breakdown you now know what to do with your weekend. Yes, it is that good.

Other exclusives I enjoyed included the unconventional family sitcom You, Me and Them starring Anthony Stewart Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Eve Myles (Torchwood) as a May/December couple grappling with their interfering families, Wild at Heart, a beautifully shot, sweet family drama set in Africa and Time Team, a fun and kooky documentary series about exploring archeological sites.

3) The Mysteries This is a pro for you more than it is for me, but if you cannot stop watching British mysteries, Acorn TV is well-stocked. There are several classic Agatha Christie series, modern series like Jack Irish (this one is Australian), Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries (also Australian, but a great period romp), the absolutely brilliant Dirk Gently from the creator of Misfits, Foyle’s War, Prime Suspect and many more. Plus they are all in one location making them much easier to find than on the more jumbled organizational systems used by Netflix and Hulu.

4) Qi I am addicted to the British quiz/trivia series Qi hosted by Stephen Fry. Hulu Plus has several of the newest series available, but Acorn TV has the first two seasons “A” and “B.” Granted, they are probably floating around YouTube somewhere, but I would rather support the series by watching it in a licensed arena.

The Cons
 

Acorn TV is an excellent idea, but it does leave me wanting more.

1) The Small Selection While their collection continues to grow, Acorn TV has less than a 100 titles to choose from. Many of those titles are available on other platforms and precious few are classics or new, hard to find programming. What I want out of a British streaming service is variety. I want Nevermind the Buzzcocks, I want niche sci-fi series, I want Monty Python’s Flying Circus— basically, I want one stop shopping for all my British TV cravings and Acorn TV just doesn’t deliver on that front.

2) Stodgy Offerings I say this meaning no disrespect to my grandmother, but she would love this service. Acorn TV is offering up series without much bite. There are rare gems like the controversial upon its release Fingersmith, the aforementioned Slings & Arrows and The Crimson Petal and the White that demonstrate the boundary pushing British television is known for, but overall the series offered play it safe.

Most distressing is the small and disappointing comedy section. Britcoms are hard to find stateside, particularly modern Britcoms. I have had to self-import hilarious series like Miranda, Threesome, Grandma’s House and Him & Her via Amazon UK because of the decline of comedy imports. It is likely a licensing problem, but as a comedy fan I am just not getting much for my money from the service in the area of laughs.

3) Expiration Dates Just like Netflix, many Acorn TV series come with an expiration date. The service is up front about series leaving the service and give subscribers a head’s up in the Leaving Soon section, but it is still annoying to go looking for a series only to realize you have two days to consume six seasons.

So, Is It Worth It?
 

If you are a fan of British mysteries and do not currently subscribe to Netflix or Hulu Plus, then it is definitely worth five dollars a month. However, if you are looking for modern series, comedies, sci-fi/fantasy series or dark dramas then Acorn TV just does not deliver. The service could grow into something great, so it is a streaming outlet to watch, but until it grows and expands its reach, it is fairly redundant unless you are only looking for British series that appeal to older demographics. In which case, it is a great buy. As for me, I’ll stick with it for a few more months to monitor its growth. As of now, fans of a wide variety of British programming are better off investing in Hulu Plus.

Follow me on Twitter @sljbowman