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 such as the comedy "Jeeves and Wooster" (Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry) or the "Prime Suspect" (Helen Mirren) mystery series, you should definitely check out Acorn TV. The people who vote in Consumer Reports' annual survey recently named it one of their favorite streaming sites.
For only $5 a month, Acorn TV is available on Roku, some Samsung smart TVs, and Apple TV boxes that run tvOS. You can also watch it on iPhones, iPads and computers, ideally those using the Chrome browser, according to the site's FAQ.
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. Also priced at $5 a 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 Of Mice and Men, The Aviator, even a healthy smattering of foreign films like Amelie.
Available in the U.S. on a PC or a Mac; an Android or Apple mobile device; and some Samsung smart TVs.
Tweens and teens who spend hours watching anime, manga, and other Asian TV fare will love Crunchyroll.com. The free ad-supported version—accessible on fewer devices—features standard-definition streams. The $7-a-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-a-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.
Available to paid subscribers 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 a 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 cineasts who prefer the sort of obscure film titles you'd never find on Netflix, everything from silent-film classics to B-grade horror flicks. It also has some Criterion Collection gems, thanks to a deal with Hulu.
Available to subscribers on a PC or a Mac computer; Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku streaming players; and some iOS and Android mobile devices.
If "free" and "legal" are words you'd love to see together in a streaming movie service pitch, then Tubi TV may be a revelation. The ad-supported service claims to have 40,000 titles, including selections from the libraries of MGM, Lionsgate, and Paramount Pictures. And just last month, Tubi TV inked a deal with Starz Digital for some independent films and TV shows from that channel, as well.
Available on PC or Mac computers; Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku players; some 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, where you can watch Jerry Seinfeld tool around in cool cars while cracking wise with various comedian guests. But the site has a ton of other content, ranging 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; Android and iOS mobile devices; LG, Samsung, Sony, and Vizio smart TVs; and game consoles.
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 either $5 a month or $50 a year. On Shudder, you can browse by individual title (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 some Android and iOS mobile devices.
And, finally, Spuul.com is basically a ticket to Bollywood films. The free, ad-supported version lets you stream movies and even download them to mobile devices. A $2-per-month "Lite" plan includes extra ad-supported content, but limits you to one offline sync at a time. The $5-a-month premium plan grants you access to ad-free content while granting you up to 10 offline syncs.
Available on Apple TV or Chromecast; and some LG, Panasonic, and Samsung smart TVs.
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