Streaming services like Netflix and PlayStation Vue try to be all things to all people. The 44 streaming services listed below take a more focused approach to their offerings. Niche streaming services can deliver content that meets your specific interests.
This is the fourth installment in Flixed’s How to Cut the Cord series. We’ll wrap up our discussion of streaming services in the next article in which we explain how to keep your subscriptions under control. In the final two articles, we’ll look at the hardware that cord-cutters need to break their ties to the cable company.
- How to Cut the Cord Part 1 – Picking Your Live TV Streaming Services
- How to Cut the Cord Part 2 – Picking Your On-Demand Streaming Services
- How to Cut the Cord Part 3 – Watching Your Favorite Live Sports
- How to Cut the Cord Part 5 – Managing Your Subscriptions
- How to Cut the Cord Part 6 – Picking A Streaming Device
- How to Cut the Cord Part 7 – Getting Local TV Channels with an Antenna
Film and Documentary
Netflix may be a giant in the streaming business, but its catalog only holds a fraction of the world’s movies and documentaries. If you’re looking for more artistic content, these alternatives may be the services you need.
The Criterion Collection relied on its streaming partner FilmStruck to distribute its catalog of classic films. After FilmStruck shut down, the Criterion Collection decided to start its own streaming service. The Criterion Channel goes beyond streaming movies. You also get interviews with directors, critics and scholars who explain why the film is important.
MUBI tries to recreate the art-house cinema experience in your home. Rather than offering a fixed catalog of films, it only has 30 movies in its lineup. Every day one movie drops out and another movie begins its month-long run. You can also rent movies from MUBI’s expanded catalog.
If you’re a paid-up member of your local library, you may already have access to an online movie catalog powered by Kanopy or Hoopla. Because libraries serve diverse communities, you’ll find a wide range of movies and documentaries in their streaming services. Films like Frida and Amelie sit side by side with Legally Blonde and Ella Enchanted.
Robert de Niro’s Tribeca Film Festival is an annual showcase of independent films. To further its mission of bringing these movies to the widest audience possible, it launched the Tribeca Shortlist streaming service. You can choose from a rotating catalog of more than one hundred films and documentaries. Titles range from The Evil Dead to Reservoir Dogs to The Red Violin.
With more content than it could fit on the Sundance Channel, AMC Networks created the Sundance Now streaming service. The catalog includes indie films like Short Term 12 and The Two Faces of January. In addition, you get original content like the Julia Stiles thriller Riviera. Creators like Susan Sarandon and David Lowery provide curated lists of their favorite films and documentaries.
Le CiNéMa Club goes all-in on the art house cinema concept. Each week, the free service makes one movie available for streaming. The curators focus on short-form and influential films like Alfonso Cuaron’s Quartet for the End of Time and Andrew Horn’s Doomed Love. At the start of 2019, Le CiNéMa Club went “on hiatus” for a few months in preparation for a relaunch in the spring.
Fandor was a popular choice for movie buffs, but not just for its 4,000-title catalog. Regular editorial content analyzed filmmaking techniques and helped set films in cultural context. One video looked at director Kathryn Bigelow’s approach to action filmmaking. However, an investment group bought Fandor and fired most of its staff at the end of 2018. You can still subscribe, but nobody knows how much longer Fandor will be around.
Since you can’t always travel to New York to catch a play, BroadwayHD is your next-best option. The company sends camera crews into theaters to record hit shows so you can stream them in your home. See performances of Cirque du Soleil, Rainn Wilson’s one-man-show Thom Pain, Orlando Bloom’s appearance in Romeo and Juliet.
The founder of the Discovery Channel, frustrated with ad-driven TV’s race to the bottom, created CuriosityStream as the antidote. The subscription service has more than 2,400 fact-based programs covering history, nature, culture and technology. Many of the CuriosityStream original titles, like David Attenborough’s Light on Earth, are available as high-quality 4K streams.
SnagFilms is a free, ad-supported streaming service with a 2,000-title catalog of films and documentaries. The Atomic Cafe is a darkly funny documentary about the invention of nuclear weapons and its effect on mid-century American culture. Award-winning documentary Kinyarwanda tells the story of people who survived genocide in Rwanda.
The British streaming service Docsville is now an Amazon Channel and available worldwide. These carefully-curated documentaries are for serious-minded viewers who want deep explorations of topics from Lance Armstrong to South African townships to Biggie Smalls.
Beyond the Mainstream
The content you get from Mainstream TV channels like ABC and HBO don’t always reflect the diversity of the American experience. These streaming services showcase the creative talents of other cultures.
KweliTV was founded to feature the African diaspora’s creativity. You can go the pay-per-view route or pay a subscription. Either way, you get ad-free high-definition streams. The KweliTV apps also have a free 24-hour stream. The catalog includes The Black Museum, Oliver Hart’s documentary about the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Dreamtown, Betty Bastida’s documentary about an Afro-Ecuadorian soccer player.
The founder of BET created the Urban Movie Channel to serve African American audiences. The subscription service features films like Stand Down Soldier, a drama about a soldier trying to keep her 20-year marriage together after three deployments. The original series Ladies of the Law is a comedy about four personal injury lawyers in Los Angeles.
Brown Sugar is a subscription service for fans of 70s-era blaxploitation classics like Cleopatra Jones and The Black Cobra. The service was created by the African American TV channel Bounce TV. You’ll also find more up-to-date content like the All Star Comedy Jam and Between Sisters.
Finding quality content by and about lesbian, bisexual and transgender women got a little easier in 2014 with the creation of Section II. The streaming service has nearly one hundred films, documentaries and comedy specials that give women in the LGBTQ community a voice. Katherine Brooks’ created her documentary Face 2 Face when she realized that she still felt alone despite having 4700 friends on Facebook. Leading Ladies is an award-winning dance comedy starring contestants from So You Think You Can Dance.
Dekkoo curates a library of content and original programming for gay men. Earlier this year, it launched the stand-up comedy series OUT On Stage. Films include Bent, an adaptation of Martin Sherman’s play starring Clive Owen, and the award-winning Thirsty about a Cher impersonator’s rise to success.
The Revry catalog holds more than 4,000 hours of content for the entire LGBTQ community. More importantly, Revry has become a significant producer of original content for its global audience. The Gay Husbands of San Francisco respins the reality format into a funny look at Bay Area gay life. 3030 is a sitcom about lesbians living their lives in Las Vegas.
Pantaya is an on-demand streaming service focused exclusively on Spanish-language films. The subscription service is a joint venture of cable company Hemisphere Media and film producer Lionsgate. The movies in Pantaya’s library include family fare like the critically-acclaimed animation Ana y Bruno as well as the Argentinian drama El Ardor starring Gael García Bernal and Alice Braga.
Fans of telenovelas should take a look at Pongalo, a subscription service with more than 14,000 hours of Spanish-language TV shows and movies. The movie library is a mix of dubbed Hollywood titles like Chill Factor and films produced throughout Latin America like Betibú.
Netflix and Amazon have become major producers of content in other countries, but the streaming giants aren’t the only way to get programming from around the world.
Acorn TV got its start distributing VHS tapes of British TV shows. Now it streams content from across the former British Empire. You can watch the long-running Australian soap opera A Place to Call Home, the BBC classic Rumpole of the Bailey and the New Zealand crime series The Brokenwood Mysteries. Acorn TV also produces original content like the mystery series London Kills and the Australian comedy Sando.
BBC Studios and ITV launched Britbox a few years ago to bring the best of British TV to America. Doctor Who fans can watch episodes from its earliest seasons through Sylvester McCoy’s seventh Doctor. Coronation Street, Blackadder and Prime Suspect are some of the other classic series in the Britbox catalog.
MHz Choice sources mysteries, dramas and documentaries from Europe and streams them with subtitles for American audiences. If you’re a fan of Nordic crime fiction, you’ll find many options including Mammon, Irene Huss and Johan Falk. Naples is the sunnier setting for crime solving in The Bastards of Pizzofalcone.
Bollywood fans can subscribe to Eros Now and get access to thousands of movies and TV shows from India. The content is available in ten languages with English subtitles available. Among the titles you’ll find on Eros Now are Priyanka Chopra’s Teri Meri Kahaani and Amitabh Bachchan’s Sarkar 3.
Spuul is another subscription service specializing in Indian content. Movies range from the 1969 drama Aradhana to more recent hits like Prem Ratan Dhan Payo. You can stream TV channels from every region in India as well as watch TV shows on demand.
Viki is the community-driven home of video content from China, Japan, and Korea. Fans of Asian television and film contribute subtitles to make the content accessible worldwide. The Chinese heist film The Adventurers, Korean romcom The Beauty Inside and the Japanese series You’re My Pet are some of the titles you’ll find.
Geek Culture, Anime and Animation
Whether you’re a gamer or a fan of graphic novels, these streaming services have geek culture covered.
Shudder is a streaming service catering to horror fans. Titles include lighter fare like Gremlins as well as critically-acclaimed films like Let The Right One In. Shudder also has a large lineup of original and exclusive content. The Witch in the Window is a Shudder Original haunted house movie.
Screambox is another service catering to fans of horror and the macabre. Movies available through Screambox include Night of the Living Dead, Zombie Dawn and Ghost Squad. You can also watch anthology series like Welcome to Daisyland and By Nights: Origins.
Pop culture fans can tune into Shout Factory TV, the home of Mystery Science Theater 3000. However, you aren’t limited to cheesy B-movies with running commentary. There’s plenty of cheesy B-movies without commentary like David Carradine’s Deathsport, Scanners III The Takeover and Sharktopus vs Pteracuda. The Russian superhero movie Guardians, animated classic The Plague Dogs and both seasons of Space: 1999 are also on the menu. You can watch the content for free or subscribe to remove the ads.
Science fiction fans can watch an eclectic assortment of indie sci-fi content from Dust. You’ll find feature films like Prospect as well as sci-fi shorts like Planet Unknown. In addition, Dust curates a collection of short films through its Anthology program. Archetype is the story of a combat robot that suddenly remembers its life as a human.
Founded as a hosted video site for anime fans, Crunchyroll is now an important partner to many of Japan’s leading anime production houses. Professional translators create the subtitles, allowing you to hear the original Japanese voice actors. The streaming service has more than 45 million users who watch free content like One Piece, Black Clover and Sword Art Online. Having said that, a premium subscription removes ads from all programming and gives you access to exclusive content.
Funimation is the other powerhouse in streaming anime. As opposed to Crunchyroll, Funimation focuses on dubbed programming. Subscribers get access to the latest episodes from Japan. Titles in Funimation’s library include Dragonball Z, Attack on Titan and My Hero Academia.
Boomerang is the home of American-style animation from Warner Brothers, Hanna-Barbera and other studios. You’ll find classic cartoons like Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry and The Jetsons. A handful of episodes are free, but you’ll have to subscribe to get the full library of ad-free content.
For fans of graphic novels, DC Comics and Warner Bros. launched the DC Universe streaming service. The library of video content includes the classic 1970s version of Wonder Woman as well as Tim Burton’s interpretation of Batman. Among the original content you’ll find on DC Universe, Krypton which tells the story of Superman’s grandfather
VRV consolidates the best of anime and geek culture into one place. Partnerships with Boomerang, Crunchyroll and other streaming services let you get most of their content with a single subscription. You may lose out on the other services’ premium features, but you get free access to more than 20,000 hours of content. A premium subscription removes advertising and gives you early access to new content.