For TV shows and some movies, there’s Netflix or Amazon Prime Instant Video. For the latest release blockbusters, there’s Google Play Movies & TV, Amazon Instant Video or Blinkbox, depending on where you live in the world. But the video-on-demand (VoD) realm extends far beyond the well-established, big-name brands you read about every day.
Here, we take a look at some of the niche streaming alternatives out there, covering everything from world cinema and kids movies, to music, sport and gaming.
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MUBI is like a curated Netflix for cult, classic and indie movies. Every day, a team of MUBI movie experts introduce a new film into the mix, after which you have 30 days to watch before it vanishes from sight. The platform only ever has 30 movies available at any one time, and you will also find the occasional mainstream Hollywood movie on there too if it meets MUBI’s standards.
Though it’s available in most countries around the world, the content you’ll see will vary depending on where you are, for rights-related reasons.
MUBI is more than a VoD streaming service though. It touts itself as a “one-stop global meeting place for cinema culture,” as it’s a social network and movie database too.
What? MUBI is a Netflix-style subscription service for cult, classic and indie movies
Platforms? Web, Android tablets, iOS, Sony Bravia, Samsung TV, PS3
Price (USD/EUR/GBP)? Monthly/yearly: $4.99/$34.99, €4.99/€34.99, £2.99/£22.99
Similar to MUBI, Fandor serves up a collection of indie flicks, foreign movies, documentaries and more. While there are thousands of titles available at any one time, the service is only available in the US and Canada for now.
Fandor also has a passionate community of film aficionados, and as such users can create and share movie lists – essentially, hand-picked movies with a common theme. A great way of drilling down into the content and getting tips on movies that are really worth watching.
While Viki does have a strong focus on content from Asia (Korea in particular), it also offers content from around the world. With more than one eye on ‘global’, Viki places the content on its platform and invites the community to provide subtitles in more than 150 tongues, under a creative commons license.
Viki is free to use for those happy to view ads. For the rest, a monthly Viki Pass removes the ads, unlocks HD video, and introduces additional titles to the mix.
What? Viki is for fans of world cinema
Platforms? Web, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Kindle, Chromecast support, Other Connected Devices
Price (USD/EUR/GBP)? (Free)/$3.99/€3.59/£2.49 (monthly)
Users can gain unlimited access to the free catalog on any supported device, and this can even be synced offline. However, they will see adverts.
What? Spuul is for fans of Bollywood
Platforms? Web, iOS, Android, Chromecast support, AirPlay support,
Price (USD/EUR/GBP)? Free/$4.99 (monthly)/$49.99 (yearly), Free/€4.49 (monthly)/€44.99 (yearly), Free/£2.99 (monthly)/£34.99 (yearly). There is also a pay-per-view option starting from $1.99 for 72 hours.
Viddsee is an online video platform for movies emanating from Southeast Asia, with a focus on short skits from indie filmmakers.
Viddsee is free to watch, though it’s not available as native mobile or desktop apps. Web only, folks.
What? Viddsee delivers short Asian films to an international audience
Platforms? Web/mobile Web
Crunchyroll is a freemium streaming service for fans of anime and manga. The service is available globally on multiple devices, serving up free access to a range of content, though with some restrictions.
The free tier limits viewing to ‘standard’ definition, and restricts what devices you can stream on. You will have to upgrade to a premium ‘Anime’ or ‘All-Access’ plan to remove these limits, which also unlocks HD-quality and removes adverts.
Be sure to check out our interview with Crunchyroll CEO Kun Gao.
What? Crunchyroll is for fans of anime and manga
Platforms? iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Roku, Playstation Vita, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and support for Chromecast and Apple TV
Price (USD/EUR/GBP)? Free/$6.99/$11.99 (monthly), Free/€5.99/€10.99, Free/£4.99/£8.99
Also see: An alternative for Anime fans is the Sony-owned Animax, which has an increasingly large global footprint.
Next up, something for the kids.
Toon Goggles is an on-demand, multi-device streaming platform for kids, covering animation, live-action, games and more. Videos are split into 6 categories: Girls, boys, comedy, action, pre-school and educational.
Toon Goggles is a freemium service, meaning you can watch the first three shows in a series for free. You can unlock the remaining episodes, and additional content and features, for $4.99 a month.
What? Toon Goggles brings videos, games and general entertainment to kids
Platforms? Web, iOS, Android, and many other devices.
Price (USD/EUR/GBP)? Free/$4.99 (monthly), Free/€4.99 (monthly), Free/£2.99 (monthly)
Also see: US viewers should also check out the cross-platform PBS Kids.
Believe it or not, Sesame Street has its own dedicated video-on-demand service. Sesame Workshop, the organization behind Sesame Street, launched Sesame GO earlier this year, but only in the US and Canada for now.
It’s a kiddie-centric, ad-free service for every child’s favorite educational TV show. It serves up classics and current episodes, and as an added bonus you also get access to episodes of Pinky Dinky Doo.
The platform is powered by Kaltura, the same open source video platform that’s behind Wikipedia’s HTML5 player. As such, Sesame GO is a Web-focused service optimized for Mac, PC, smartphones and tablets. No native apps as of yet.
What? Sesame Go is for serious Sesame Street fans
Where? US & Canada
Platforms? Web (AirPlay/Apple TV support via Safari)
Price (USD)? $3.99/month, $29.99/year
Hopster is a UK-only streaming service for pre-schoolers. The iOS-only affair has grabbed the rights for a slew of well-known kiddie TV favorites, including Bob the Builder and Pingu, while it also recently scooped the exclusive rights to stream perennial kids’ favorite The Gruffalo.
It’s also worth adding here that the app comes bundled with a handful of games too.
What? Hopster is for pre-schoolers
Price (GBP)? £3.99/month
YouTube can be an immensely useful tool for keeping your kids entertained as you attempt to mow your lawn. With that in mind, HomeTube for Android silos child-friendly content from YouTube, such as Thomas the Tank Engine and Peppa Pig.
You can choose precisely which content appears in your feed, but this will require $0.99 or your local currency equivalent. HomeTube comes courtesy of Australia-based developer Chris Lacy, who you may know from a number of other popular Android apps.
What? HomeTube is curated YouTube content for kids
Price (USD)? Free/$0.99 in-app purchase for more features
Next up, music, sport and action.
SPORT, MUSIC, ACTION
Red Bull TV
Red Bull has long since transcended its carbonated energy drink roots to become a big global media powerhouse, evidenced in part by its Red Bull TV brand.
Featuring both live action and on-demand video, Red Bull has pushed to align itself with extreme sports such as surfing, skating and people freefalling to Earth from Outer Space, but Red Bull TV also focuses on music and general lifestyle-based programming.
What? Red Bull TV is for adrenaline junkies, music nuts and sporty types
Platforms? Web, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Xbox 360, Chromecast support, AirPlay/Apple TV support, Other Connected Devices
Launched in 2007, Justin.tv was one of the stalwarts of Web-based video streaming, which is why we were particularly interested when it spun out a gaming-focused offshoot called Twitch back in the summer of 2011.
Twitch is a video-streaming platform and social community for gamers, claiming tens of millions of visitors per month. It lets users broadcast their gameplay, watch others and chat about all things, well, gaming.
Its tight integration with YouTube made it a perfect fit for a Google acquisition – but Amazon actually ended up buying the e-sports platform for almost $1 billion last month, with Justin.tv closing too.
Through Twitch, users can simply sit and watch other people playing video games, be it one-on-ones or big e-sport competitions. You can browse by game or channel name.
What? Twitch lets you watch other people play video games
Platforms? Web, iOS, Android, Xbox, Chromecast support, AirPlay/Apple TV support
Price? Free/$89.99 one-off fee (no ads, extra benefits)
Vevo is specifically for music-focused videos, and is a joint venture operated by Google, Universal Music Group (UMG), Sony Music Entertainment, and Abu Dhabi Media. VEVO’s videos are syndicated across the Web. YouTube has long been a content partner of Vevo, a deal that was renewed last year.
Vevo is also ‘doing a Netflix’ by going down the original programming route, including live shows and concerts.
All Warrior Network
What’s this, a streaming service for people with an interest in war and combat? Yup, meet All Warrior Network.
The online platform pulls together anything from John Wayne documentaries to real-life combat footage from the US Army – and everything in between.
And there’s more…
There are plenty more online streaming services over and above the ones outlined above, some niche, some not so.
Vimeo is getting more into the original content game, while the likes of Crackle serve up a decent selection of movies in a handful of markets, and Popcornflix delivers a fairly cross-platform alternative for those seeking low-budget flicks. Then there’s the likes of Pegleg.it, which delivers full-length feature movies from across YouTube (there’s no Hollywood blockbusters in here).
In the social realm, Israeli startup Stevie pulls together content from your Facebook and Twitter feeds, along with popular videos from YouTube. And the Stumbleupon-owned 5by serves up videos by making suggestions based on certain factors, such as the time of day or what mood you’re in.
Alternatively, if you’re sick of sitting in front of your TV, tablet or phone watching repeats of old content, you can get yourself out the house and into a real-life movie theater. Available in the US only, MoviePass is a $30+ subscription service that lets you see one movie each day in a local cinema.
What did we miss? Any of your favorite niche Netflix alternatives not on here? Leave your suggestions in the comments.