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Downloading films and TV series

Faster internet speeds mean more of us than ever are downloading films and TV episodes. Here's how you can download videos safely to your computer.

It's unsurprising that downloading films and TV series is one of the main reasons people go online. Thanks to faster internet speeds and increased connectivity between devices, the internet has become the biggest video shop in the world, allowing people to buy, rent or download videos directly to their media player, TV set top box or PC.

There are two ways to get video content online: You can either download files (saving them to your computer) or you can stream them (watching them online) via a catch-up or on-demand service. Lots of sites and providers offer video for streaming and downloading.

If you're looking for a broadband package that will allow you to download high-quality or HD video, you'll need a quick connection speed and a large download allowance. These heavy-use broadband packages are suited to users who frequently download and stream videos online.

To get an idea of how long it takes to download video files across different speeds, check out our uSwitch guide to Download Times.

How to download films online

Check with your provider

Your internet provider might offer downloads depending upon what package you have. BT Vision, Sky, TalkTalk and Virgin Media all offer movie download services at discounted prices with their various packages.

Check out super-fast broadband and TV packages from Virgin Media or fast broadband and TV packages from BT Vision that offer downloads.

Streaming

Using a catch-up or on-demand service like 4oD, YouTube or BBC iPlayer, you can watch films and TV but they won't be saved to your device. Pay-TV streaming services like Netflix and NOW TV have become increasingly popular in recent years. These offer premium content for a monthly subscription or on a pay-as-you-go basis and can be enjoyed on games consoles, smart TVs, computers, tablets or smartphones.

Low-quality video streams can be downloaded on most connections, but if you want HD videos then you'll need a quick, reliable internet connection. Internet speeds never run as advertised, so if you have an 8Mbps connection it's probably going to struggle with HD streaming most of the time.

Unsure how fast your current broadband connection is? Use our broadband speed test to find out. If you're unhappy with your current speed, use our broadband postcode checker to see what speeds are available in your area.

download films

Downloading films directly

With online stores like iTunes or Amazon, you can purchase films and save them to your device.

To keep on the right side of the law, you should only ever download films when you are sure you have the right permissions to do so. If you are not sure about whether or not you do, it's best not to risk it.

P2P

P2P (peer-to-peer) technology seeks to minimise download times by changing the way the files are downloaded. Instead of trying to get one file from one person, it downloads multiple pieces simultaneously from multiple people and puts them back together when they've all been downloaded.

This is a great technology and speeds can be extremely fast, but it is largely used for illegal file-sharing and should be used with extreme caution. On top of the legal risks, these files and sites sometimes contain viruses or other malware, which can wreak havoc on your computer or, worse, steal your data once downloaded and installed.

A few tips for staying out of trouble...

The internet is a minefield of copyright infringement, and it's important to stay up to speed. Remember that your provider can block your service and you can get taken to court for copyright infringement, so follow these tips to stay on the right side of copyright law:

  • Download only from reputable sources
  • Avoid illegal file sharing
  • Don't duplicate anything without permission
  • If in doubt, always err on the side of caution