Streaming is finally mainstream. With subscriptions to the Big Four services — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and YouTube — you can effectively save a ton of money by cutting out cable and avoiding the unnecessary complexities of cable packages. This is the future.
And, honestly, the Big Four are fantastic. Not only are their libraries massive, but Netflix is producing many originals, Amazon has lots of exclusive content, and YouTube is treading all kinds of new ground. There’s a reason why they’re all sitting at the top of the ladder.
But these mainstream services tend to carry mainstream content. What can you do if you want to watch something a little less conventional, and a little more specialized? In that case, you’re better off checking out these alternative streaming services packed full of niche content.
Critics watch movies differently than non-critics, which is why critically-acclaimed films tend to get lower ratings from everyday moviegoers, and why record-breaking blockbusters tend to draw ire and apathy from reviewers.
Maybe your own tastes line up more with critics than us ordinary folk. If that’s the case, then you’ll really want to check out Fandor, which is a repository of hand-picked films that represent “great cinema”. Whether you’re in it for the classic, foreign, cult, or indie genres, Fandor has it.
You can also create and share movie lists, which is a great way to find new stuff to watch and take part in the passionate community.
It comes with a 14-day free trial. Subscribe for $10-per-month or get a discount at $90 per year. Supported devices include the Web, Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, Android, iOS, and Kindle.
MUBI is kind of like Fandor but with a twist. It also focuses on hand-picked “great cinema” across the classic, indie, and cult genres, but its library is always rotating.
Every day, the folks at MUBI add a new film that you can stream, but it’ll only be available for 30 days. This means that the library always contains 30 films — no more, no less — so if you see something you want to watch, you better watch it soon before you lose the opportunity.
It comes with a 30-day free trial. Subscribe for $5-per-month to get access to the entire ever-changing library. Supported devices include the Web, Samsung Smart TVs, Android, and iOS.
As you might’ve guessed, Viki is a portmanteau of “video” and “wiki”, which highlights the community-based nature of this streaming site. In essence, the movies and TV shows on Viki have subtitles available in 200+ languages, all thanks to the hard work of volunteer users.
Since Viki is based out of Singapore, you can expect to find a lot of Asian (especially Korean) content, but you’ll also find a healthy amount of global content as well. Just don’t expect anything that’s too recent or mainstream.
You can watch for free with ads, at 480p, and no exclusive content. Subscribe for $5-per-month or get a discount at $50-per-year to clear ads and unlock 720p playback and exclusive content. Supported devices include the Web, Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TVs, Android, iOS, and Kindle.
If you’re a horror fan, you’re probably disappointed by the horror selection on mainstream sites like Netflix and Amazon. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place you could go to find and watch scary films, whether they’re actually scary or just B-list titles?
Screambox is that place.
At the very top level, Screambox movies are split into five categories: Killers, Supernatural, Monsters, Psychological, and Extreme. Within each category, you get more granularity similar to how Netflix categorizes its library. If you want it, you can find it.
It comes with a 14-day free trial. Subscribe for $4-per-month to get unlimited, commercial-free access to the entire library. Supported devices include the Web, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, Xbox 360, and PlayStation.
Feeln is the place to go if you’re in the mood for a feel-good movie. Whether you’re homesick, lovesick, or just having a bad day, the films at Feeln will surely leave you in a better mood by the time the credits roll. Unsurprisingly, the service is owned by Hallmark Cards.
The library isn’t huge, but it isn’t tiny either. Browsing is somewhat clunky, but as long as you’re willing to comb through it category by category, you’ll be fine. The Hallmark Hall of Fame is a great place to start, and do note that Feeln has a few television series in addition to all of its films.
Subscribe for $4-per-month or get a discount at $24-per-year. Supported devices include the Web, Chromecast, Roku, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TVs, Android, iOS, Kindle Fire, and Xbox 360.
DramaFever is one of the best destinations for Korean content — both movies and TV shows — though over the past few years it has incorporated other content as well, including Spanish, British, Chinese, and Japanese media. Making it well worth it if you want to watch non-American fare.
The site’s interface isn’t perfect, but it does make it easy to find what might interest you. The user rating system also makes it easy to know whether a show or film will fit your tastes. Most shows have subtitles in English with occasional support for Spanish, Chinese, and more.
You can watch for free with ads. Subscribe for $5-per-month or get a discount at $50-per-year. Supported devices include the Web, Roku, Apple TV, Samsung Smart TVs, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Android, iOS, Xbox 360, and PlayStation.
If you’re a fan of Bollywood films, then you absolutely have to check out Spuul. Anyone in the world can watch Indian media here without paying a single cent — and with over 10,000 hours of content, Spuul is guaranteed to offer you a lot of worthwhile entertainment.
You can watch for free with ads. Subscribe for $5-per-month or get a discount at $50-per-year. Or opt for pay-per-view at $2 for 72 hours of access. Supported devices include the Web, Chromecast, Android, and iOS.
Netflix has slowly added more anime to its library over the past year, but fans who want more than just mainstream pickings will have to look elsewhere. That’s where Crunchyroll really steps up and fills the gap. If you want to legally stream anime, this is the place to do it.
While anime is its primary focus, Crunchyroll also streams Asian dramas and serves manga translated to English. On top of all that, it’s a great source of anime/manga news and it even has a thriving forum community where you can discuss your favorite titles.
You can watch for free with ads. Subscribe for $7-per-month to get rid of ads and simulcast new episodes and chapters as soon as one hour after they air in Japan. Supported devices include the Web, Chromecast, Roku, Android, iOS, Xbox 360, and PlayStation.
9. Toon Goggles
If you have kids, you can always rely on Netflix’s “Just for Kids” section or turn to one of these kid-friendly video sites, but if you had to pick only one service to use, then Toon Goggles might be your best option.
Toon Goggles is all about kid-friendly entertainment, mainly focusing on videos but also including games and apps. Videos are categorized into Boys, Girls, Action, Comedy, Preschool, and Educational sections (with additional sections for Boom Goggles, TG AE, and News).
You can watch for free with pre-screened ads. Subscribe for $3-per-month to disable ads and unlock subscriber-only content. Supported devices include the Web, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, Android, iOS, and more.
Most avid gamers already know about Twitch, but in case you don’t, you should be aware that this streaming service exists and it’s one of the most unique sites on the Web. In essence, Twitch is where you can watch gaming tournaments and other kinds of video game streaming.
Why would you watch other people play games? It’s a common question, and the answer is that Twitch is more about player personalities than the actual gameplay itself. You watch for the community and the entertainment, something you can’t really get by playing yourself.
You can watch for free with ads. Subscribe to Twitch Turbo for $9-per-month to disable ads and get a special badge and access to special chat emoticons. Supported devices include the Web, Android, and iOS.
Which Services Do You Watch?
In terms of value, you really can’t go wrong with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. You get a lot of bang for our buck, especially with Amazon Prime, which comes with way too many benefits to count, including the underrated Prime Music service. For niche stuff, the above services make for great alternatives.
However, please be aware that streaming has its downsides. For example, there are several reasons why you’d want to avoid Netflix, including the fact that you can’t own streamed media. So before you go ahead and cut the cable cord, make sure you know what you’re getting into.
Do you subscribe to one of these niche streaming services? Or are you happy with the available mainstream options? Alternatively, do you avoid streaming services altogether? Please share your thoughts with us down in the comments!