When it comes to streaming video services, Netflix clearly looms large over its competitors, accounting for more than one-third of all peak-time downstream traffic, according to research firm Sandvine. Maybe that explains why you never hear anyone say they're going to a friend's house to "Hulu and chill." But that doesn't mean there are no worthy streaming alternatives.
The other good news? It doesn't hurt to give these streaming services a try. Most offer free trials of two weeks to 30 days.
If you like British TV fare, you should definitely check out Acorn TV. New exclusive programs this year include "The Witness for the Prosecution," an original movie based on an Agatha Christie story, starring Kim Cattrall, plus "Alfresco," the '80s sketch comedy series that launched the careers of Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Robbie Coltrane, and Stephen Fry. The people who vote in Consumer Reports' annual survey recently named it one of their favorite streaming sites last year.
For only $5 per month or $50 per year, Acorn TV is available on Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TVs that run tvOS, and Roku, plus certain Samsung smart TVs and Blu-ray players. You can also watch it on iPhones, iPads, and computers, ideally those using the Chrome browser, according to the site's FAQ. For those with an Amazon Prime membership, Acorn can be ordered as part of Amazon's streaming partners program.
Mubi.com has morphed from an all-you-can-eat, independent-film version of Netflix to one of the best curated streaming sites for those who enjoy cult and classic films, too. Priced at $6 per month, the site always has at least 30 titles to choose from. And every day Mubi's film experts add a new one, viewable for 30 days before it gets replaced. Think "Lost in Translation," "Roman Holiday," and a healthy smattering of current and classic foreign films.
Mubi.com is available in the U.S. on a PC or a Mac, an Android or Apple mobile device, Apple TV and Roku streaming players, PlayStation game consoles, and certain Samsung smart TVs.
Tweens and teens who spend hours watching anime and other Asian TV fare will love Crunchyroll.com. The free ad-supported version—accessible on fewer devices—features standard-definition streams. The $7-per-month plan offers high-def video quality and ad-free access to popular Japanese shows such as "Naruto Shippuden" and "Sailor Moon" within minutes of their broadcasts. There's also a $12-per-month plan with exclusive content, free shipping for scale figurines, costumes, and other items purchased in the Crunchyroll store, and VIP access to meet and greets at anime- and manga-related conventions.
Crunchyroll is available on Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku streaming boxes; Nintendo, Xbox, and PlayStation game consoles; Android and iOS mobile devices; and Windows phones.
Similar in concept to Mubi.com, Fandor—which costs $10 per month or $90 up front for a one-year subscription—offers films handpicked for hard-core movie buffs. Like Mubi, it also lets you create movie lists and share them with friends. But this service appeals to cineastes who prefer the sort of obscure film titles you'd be unlikely to find on Netflix, everything from silent-film classics to B-grade horror flicks. Fandor can also be ordered through Amazon for $4 per month.
Fandor is available on a PC or a Mac computer; Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku streaming players; and some iOS, Android, and Kindle mobile devices.
If "free" and "legal" are words you'd love to see together in a streaming movie service pitch, Tubi TV may be a revelation. The ad-supported service claims to have more than 40,000 titles, including selections from the libraries of Lionsgate, MGM, and Paramount Pictures, as well as Starz Digital. It also recently added some anime fare. Registration isn't required, but you get some perks—such as being able to resume play from where you left off and keeping track of what you've watched—if you do.
Tubi TV is available on PC or Mac computers; Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku players; certain Samsung smart TVs; and many iOS and Android mobile devices.
A Few More Options
Sony's Crackle.com, a free, ad-supported service, is probably best known for "Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee." Jerry Seinfeld has taken "Comedians" and jumped ship to Netflix, where new episodes will air, but the site has a ton of other content. Titles range from classic TV shows ("All in the Family," "Mad About You") to popular older movies ("Ghostbusters," "Big Daddy").
Available on: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku players; Android and iOS mobile devices; LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio smart TVs; and game consoles.
We think Pluto TV is one of the best free ad-supported TV services, with access to more than 100 channels of news, sports, movies, TV shows, cartoons, and internet videos from about 75 content partners. One big difference about Pluto, though, is that its programming isn't on demand, like Netflix. Instead you tune into a channel, like you do with regular TV.
Available on: Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku streaming players; Android TVs from Sony and Samsung and Vizio smart TVs; iOS and Android mobile devices; and computers.
If laughing is your favorite leisure-time activity, Seeso lets you yuck it up all you want for just $4 per month. The service, from NBCUniversal, has a mix of comedy movies, originals, specials, stand-up events, plus a roster of NBC TV shows, including "Saturday Night Live" and "The Tonight Show."
Available on: Amazon Fire TV and Roku streaming players, plus iOS and Android mobile devices.
If you're more of a fan of things that go bump in the night, check out Shudder.com, a horror-film-focused service that costs $5 per month or $50 per year. On Shudder, you can browse by individual title ("An American Werewolf in London," "Children of the Corn") or theme-focused collection (Psychos and Madmen, Zombie Jamboree). From intelligent psychological thrillers to slasher-type gorefests, just about every horror genre is represented.
Available on: Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku streaming players, plus Android and iOS mobile devices, and computers.
Spuul.com is basically a ticket to Bollywood films. It looks like the free ad-supported version is gone, but you can pay $5 per month (or $50 per year) for the premium plan that grants you unlimited access to all the content and the ability to download programs and movies to a phone or tablet.
Available on: Apple TV or Chromecast and certain LG, Panasonic, and Samsung smart TVs.
If you're looking for more information about some of the better-known streaming options, check out our Guide to Streaming Video Services, which provides a comparison of the major services.
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