13 Best Streaming Services You Might Not Have Heard Of

13 Best Streaming Services You Might Not Have Heard Of

From classics on Criterion to the new anime on Crunchyroll, these sites aim to fill gaps left by giants like Netflix and HBO.

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Image: Proxima Studio (Shutterstock)

Remember when online streaming seemed like it was simple and cheap? Unfortunately, those days are long gone, and all signs point to a future where managing your online viewing arsenal will require money, patience, and possibly a whole lot of bookmarks.

Last year, 22% of U.S. households responding to a J.D. Power survey said they subscribe to seven or more streaming services, which comes out to almost double the amount who said so the year previously. Unsurprisingly, overall spending on streaming has gone up in kind. In that same survey, an average household reportedly spent $55 per month on all of their streaming services combined. That’s an increase of 45% in spending from April 2020. To put that into some context, streaming overload has gotten so real there’s even a budding industry of paid apps that help users manage their growing list of subscriptions. The sick irony here is that despite this cornucopia of choice, for many users it’s never been harder to find something worthwhile to watch on TV.

If forking over half a grand a year on monotonous “content” just doesn’t sit right then it might be time to start considering diving into the dozens of alternative streaming sites currently filling in the holes left by major streamers. Whether its live TV online or curated niche catalogs, there’s’ truly something for everyone if you know where to look.

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​freevee

​freevee

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Screenshot: Amazon

If you’re trying to cut excess spending on streaming services but still want to stay within the reliable ecosystem of tested tech companies, freevee might be an option worth considering. Formerly known as IMDbTV, the Amazon-owned service underwent a rebranding earlier this year. The free, ad-supported service offers an expansive library of high-budget movies as well as a comparatively smaller inventory of television offerings and a growing collection of original programs.

Freevee’s library of content rotates often. At the time of writing, the platform boast films like The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Galaxy, The Matrix, Office Space, and The King of Staten Island on its most popular movies page. On the television side, Freevee currently offers a variety of classics like Mad Men and The X-Files. Freevee’s original programming pales in comparison to larger rivals like Hulu or Netflix, but PC Mag notes that’s potentially posed to change with Amazon Studios set to boost up programming for the service.

Cost: Free, with advertisements. Amazon account required.

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Crackle

Crackle

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Screenshot: Crackle

Steamers looking for a broad movie and television service that’s technically free but still jam-packed with recognizable, big-name titles may want to start with Crackle. The ad-supported service reportedly offers around a thousand movies and more than 70 television series, though its movie selection overall is noticeably stronger. Realistically, the majority of the films on offer at Crackle won’t rival those at HBO or Netflix in terms of quality, but hey, where else can you watch Mega Piranha and Mega Shark Versus Kolossus for free?

On the television side of things, Crackle users can stream U.K. sensation Sherlock, the original 21 Jump Street, and a wide variety of other shows ranging from the relatively recent to older entities viewers might have missed.

Cost: Free with ads.

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Hoopla

Hoopla

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Screenshot: Hoopla

It might come as a surprise to some people born deep in the throes of the digital age but there was a time when anyone could check out movies from their local library, and it actually worked. That general concept actually still exists but has since moved online via streaming services like hoopla. Users armed with their local library card can hop onto hoopla to “check out’’ certain selections (somewhere between five and 20 per month depending on your library) for free. Unlike other services, hoopla is actually free and doesn’t force you to compromise by sifting through annoying advertisements. Movies and TV shows can be borrowed for up to 72 hours and can even be downloaded locally for offline viewing, a rarity in the streaming age.

Hoopla’s inventory reportedly includes more than 6,000 movies and TV shows. While this slideshow focuses in on those two mediums, it’s worth noting hoopla also offers a wide range of e-books, and music as well.

Cost: Free with a public library card.

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Pluto TV

Pluto TV

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Screenshot: Pluto TV

The era of on-demand streaming has conditioned users to expect that their favorite shows and movies from around the world will be available instantly at their beck and call. That convenience, though extraordinarily useful, comes at the expense of some of the spontaneity inherent to live television programming. Pluto TV tries to bring some of that spontaneity back without the hefty cable price tag.

Viacom-backed Pluto offers up around 250 live TV streams ranging from midday cable mainstays like Ink Masters to news and commentary from major outlets like CBS News, NBC News, and CNN. In addition to its live TV offerings, Pluto boasts a library of more than 1,000 on-demand movies and TV shows. Maybe the best part of Pluto is its lack of annoying usernames and accounts necessary for viewing. If you’re cool with ads, you can just visit the site and start watching.

Cost: Free with ads.

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Tubi TV

Tubi TV

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Screenshot: Tubi TV

At this point, there’s no shortage of niche digital media options and alternative streamers, but in terms of a jack-of-all-trades platform that’s still free, Tubi TV stands near the top of the list. Unlike other services that lean in heavily on movies or live TV, Tubi offers a wide variety of both with memorable new releases like The Death of Stalin and The Founder.

Tubi’s real claim to fame though, according to its website, is that it boasts “the world’s largest library of content,” comprising over 40,000 movies and TV series. Like Pluto TV, Tubi features a variety of live streaming television including a range of genres as well as news and politics.

Cost: Free with ads.

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The Criterion Channel

The Criterion Channel

Having the world’s supply of movies and TV shows at your fingertips may sound great in theory, but in reality, that near endless stream of stuff inevitably leads to content overload. Some services may boast a large digital library, but what does that matter if the majority of it consists of the same repetitive garbage? That’s where The Criterion Channel comes in. Subscribers to The Criterion Channel are able to stream and download a highly curated inventory of films in The Criterion Collection which are selected with lovers of the best domestic and international films in mind. These films run the gamut of small art house entries to larger blockbusters like Godzilla which manages to stand the test of time. The power in Criterion is that just about anything you stumble on has a high chance of being pretty darn good.

The Criterion Collection is regularly updated every month which means titles in its roughly 2,000 film inventory will come and go.

Cost: $10.99 per month or $99.99 per year.

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Mubi

Mubi

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Screenshot: Mubi

Continuing on with the curated movie film experience comes U.K.-based Mubi. The service is unique in its serendipity. Users can sift through a crafted selection of around 30 films in the site’s Film of the Day section then rotate in and out every day. Users also have access to a library of hundreds of different films that have since moved on from the limited viewing section.

Unlike other curated lists like The Criterion Collection which may include a number of well-received but still “mainstream” films, Mubi intentionally focuses on more niche offerings. The service also offers a growing arsenal of several hundred documentaries.

Cost: $10.99 per month.

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Curiosity Stream

Curiosity Stream

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Screenshot: Curiosity Stream

Users tired of sifting through seemingly endless pages of mindless, uninspired “documentaries” littering the pages of most major streaming services might find some educational solace in Curiosity Stream. An offshoot of The Discovery Channel, Curiosity gives documentary lovers their fix with thousands of high-quality, no-bullshit films on science, space, technology, history, and nature.

The service will cost you just $2.99 a month, but there’s a little catch. If you want to watch all those nature videos in their true 4K glory, you’ll have to cough up another seven dollars every month.

Cost: $2.99 per month/ $14.99 annual or $9.99 per month/$53.49 annually for premium (4K).

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Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll

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Screenshot: Crunchyroll

Okay, so most Gizmodo readers probably have heard of Crunchyroll before, but it’s still a worthy addition for any budding anime enthusiast who may have walked up to a brick wall of content at the bigger name streaming providers. Known as the one-stop shop for all things anime, Crunchyroll offers more than ​​1,300 hundred series and, up until recently, offered free ad-supported tiers.

Crunchyroll offers three tiers of subscriptions, with the highest (ultimate fan) option granting users the ability to save content offline and watch broadcasts the day they premiered in Japan.

Cost: $7.99, $9.99, or $14.99 per month depending on subscription tier.

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Shudder

Shudder

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Screenshot: Shudder

If your idea of a good Saturday night is scaring yourself into a week’s long terror, Shudder might be just what the doctor ordered. With support from the AMC Network, Shudder presents its users with a steady supply of coveted horror films and television series, ad-free, for $5.99 per month.

Shudders wide library caters to both budding horrors fans looking to catch up on the classics like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Ring, as well as hardcore fans looking to dig deeper than the major streamers are willing to go.

Cost: $5.99 per month or $56.99 annually.

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Pantaya

Pantaya

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Screenshot: Pantaya

English language films represent just a fraction of the world’s movies. While most major streamers offer limited foreign language sections, they barely begin to scratch the surface of most non-Anglo markets. Relative streaming newcomer Pantaya is trying to fill that hole for Spanish language films.

Pantaya claims it boasts a catalog of over 400 Spanish films. Though focused on Spanish content, Pantaya is based in the U.S., and its services are limited to users within the U.S. The service stands out as one of the best options for both major Spanish language film buffs, as well as newcomers who may be trying to immerse themselves in Spanish media as a language learning aide.

Cost: $5.99 per month.

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Spuul

Spuul

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Screenshot: Spuul

Fans of India’s vibrant and prolific film ecosystem can easily get their fix with a Spuul subscription. Users can browse through thousands of films in Hindi, Malayalam, and many other languages for free, though a Premium account is required to watch some of the platform’s newest entries.

Spuul presents users with a standard browse feature as well as a discover section aimed at driving users towards new content. The platform is jam packed with Bollywood films but also features a wide assortment of movies from other Indian regions which might be missed by viewers limiting their search for more well-known films.

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Acorn TV

Acorn TV

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Screenshot: Acorn TV

Diversifying your film and TV intake doesn’t necessarily require learning another language. Acorn TV offers a variety of English language shows hailing from the U.K., Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, as well as other offerings from France and Italy. In addition to being accessible directly through its website and app, interested users can also access Acorn as a channel via Apple TV or Prime Video.

Like many other streamers on this list, Acorn’s also spent years venturing into original programming, releasing their own growing list of exclusive shows like Ackley Bridge and Manhunt. At the time of writing, some of the top entries in Acorn’s “Most Popular” page include Ten Percent, Trivia, and United.

Cost: $6.99 per month or $69.99 annually.

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