Top 11 Alternative Streaming Services
We all know what a comfy Friday night in looks like. In an era in which households on average have four to six subscriptions to varied streaming services, a low-key Friday (or any given night during the pandemic) means cycling through multiple streaming services before landing on something new to watch. And while big name streaming services mean mainstream options, we’re excited about these alternative streaming services featuring new and exciting content that appeals to filmmakers, creators, and consumers alike!
If you’re a creator looking to house your content, the alternative streaming services below are for your consideration – and though each varies in what they can offer to filmmakers and creators, an ideal streaming service should check some key boxes like global distribution and effective monetization of your content. You’ll also want to keep in mind revenue splits with the streaming service and ownership of your content. Some services exclusively acquire content via film festivals or sales agents referred to as “aggregators.” We’ll highlight what we’ve found for each service so you don’t have to do any extra digging.
For all you content consumers, an exciting new streaming service means not only new, fresh, and authentic content, but ideally one that also supports and empowers the filmmakers and creators. Knowing exactly where your dollar is headed is important as a consumer and supporting a creator on a platform where your subscription fees go directly back to the filmmakers and creators means more content you can’t get enough of.
Indie Streaming Services
IFC Films offers different options for viewing award-winning independent films on demand aligning with the films’ box office release dates. With their IFC Films Unlimited subscription, viewers gain access to titles from their three distribution labels which includes IFC Films, their horror features bucketed under IFC Midnight, and titles from Sundance Selects. Their partnership with Amazon Prime allows members to choose their own channels for $12.99 a month, all housed under the Amazon Prime Video platform.
IFC Films keeps its eye on participating festivals like Toronto, Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, SXSW, and Tribeca to acquire new content. According to the Sundance Institute, most submissions to their distribution channels (meaning IFC Films Unlimited and its genre specific counterpart, IFC Midnight) come from agencies, though they will accept individual submissions from filmmakers and producers evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Their long-term contracts seem to be negotiated with upfront deals that set the terms for IFC’s acquisition of film rights which tend to span 15-20 years, so once you’re in, you’re in, though there doesn’t seem to be a ton of autonomy after the deal is struck. The benefit of having a platform partnered with Amazon Prime Video would be how easily accessible your content would be for new viewers.
What started as 600 titles at its launch has grown by 500 titles yearly since 2019, specializing in featuring independent art films. KinoNow is an app available on Roku, Apple TV, or Firestick offering rentals and purchases for films, no subscription required. It’s like going to Blockbuster and browsing the aisles for your week-long rental. We love nostalgia.
Like IFC Films, for creators the gatekeeping is similarly relegated to film festivals and sales agencies in order to have your content acquired by KinoNow’s parent company, Kino Lorber. They are slightly less exclusive than IFC in that they will distribute digital and TV content, rather than IFC’s focus on 100% theatrical releases, but an aggregator is the way to their hearts (and distribution platforms).
Unlike the other alternative streaming services in this article, creators and filmmakers are able to create their own branded streaming channel on Special.tv to which viewers subscribe directly. This means a home to build, grow, and retain an audience of your own, with predictable and sustainable revenue to fund your next creative project. But because Special.tv is also a marketplace with other content, creators on Special.tv benefit from discoverability and network effects. This means that as the platform grows, so do you. Secure global distribution, maintain 100% ownership of your content, own your audience, create a branded experience and presence, without contracts or fees. Special.tv’s incentives are aligned with creators’—you keep 90% of your revenue, and Special.tv takes 10%, which we use to provide 100% of technical support, subscriber support, white glove support for creators, and more.
And for viewers, Special.tv allows you to curate your own streaming library by subscribing directly to the content and creators you love — all in one place. No more doom scrolling! And because Special.tv is an ecosystem of creators, you’re able to explore and discover new creators and content, subscribe to the creator of your choosing with a single click (which empowers them directly to make more of what you love!), then kick back and watch high quality content in a cinematic streaming experience.
FilmRise is a film acquisition and distribution company whose content is available across multiple devices and platforms including iOS + Android, Fire TV, Roku, Xbox, and social media sites like Facebook Watch and YouTube. They’ve recently signed deals with companies like Warner Bros. expanding their streaming library. From their website library, viewers are directed on how and where to watch, but no direct access without the partnered platforms which means subscriptions to said platforms are necessary for consumers to access this expansive media library.
For creators, FilmRise is unopposed to blind submissions via their contact page though they remain confidential about the terms of their distribution contracts. And despite their cinematic aesthetic, only a handful of their acquisitions will receive a theatrical release meaning the majority of the distribution will receive direct-to-consumer digital releases.
Sundance Now makes the most of its connection to the renowned film festival by featuring “hard-to-find” releases and collections curated by filmmakers that will definitely appeal to the film buffs. Subscribers get access to content that is added to weekly and have the option of a $59.99 annual membership, or the typical $6.99 monthly autorenewal membership.
For creators, they’re of course going to keep close tabs on the film festival circuit. An aggregator is 100% necessary for creators looking to feature their content via Sundance Now though they do have a customer feedback page in which titles can be requested to add to their library.
The self-described “movie lover’s dream” app is available for download across multiple devices with subscription rates set at $10.99 a month or $99.99 a year. The steeper pricing totes special features like director and actor spotlights as well as director-curated collections with filters that can be set to sort your browsing settings by genre, country of origin, decade, or director.
For creators, the way in is directly contacting The Criterion. The company has a designated acquisition staff that not only reviews creator submissions, but also consumer suggestions via email. There is no information directly mentioning pricing which is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
IndieFlix focuses its efforts on positive social change via its bucketed programs for various types of organizations from corporate programs to schools. It has the on-demand streaming feature for home viewing free for the first 7 days, then $4.99/month or $49.99/year.
IndieFlix encourages direct submissions from creators via their easy-to-navigate submission page. And they’re transparent about their subscription revenue pricing before you even submit your content! They use a Revenue Per Minute sharing system under which 50% of IndieFlix’s net subscription revenue is allocated for the RPM valuation. What this means is filmmakers are paid per minute based on how many minutes their film has been watched each quarter. Moreover, they’re non-exclusive and don’t mind if you distribute with them as well as other services.
MUBI has been a steadily growing powerhouse since its founding in 2007 with a recent count of more than 8 million members. Viewers have the option to stream or download their content across multiple devices (with a fairly standard 5 device limit). This one’s particularly great for students, with discounted pricing and an extended 30-day free trial.
MUBI allows for submissions via their Contributor Hub, though they note their curators are specifically looking to film festivals for new acquisitions and there are no easily found notes on revenue splits.
BritBox is what it sounds like: a large streaming service for all things British TV. Free 7-day trial, then just $6.99/month or $69.99/year.
BritBox expanded its streaming catalogue beyond BBC and ITV via a 2017 deal with All3media International though it remains challenging for independent creators to directly submit their content to be featured on the platform.
MHz Choice is home to international content available for viewing across multiple devices only in the US and Canada. Viewers can access the library for $7.99 a month or $89.99 a year after 7-day free trial or have the option to purchase videos individually.
For creators, MHz acquires its films and shows through partnership deals, though similar to other streaming services, consumers can suggest and request titles for MHz to feature.
A home for curated queer content, Outfest Now is the latest streaming platform from the Outfest: Los Angeles LGBTQ Film festival. Subscriptions support Outfest programming with viewer access to this featured cinema available across devices. Subscribers have both the annual or monthly options of $59.99 a year or $5.99 a month.
Outfest Now curates content from the Outfest film festival, as well as screenwriting labs and filmmaker projects or fellowships as part of their 501(c)3 designation.
Calling all horror junkies and scream queen lovers! This one’s for you. Shudder offers streaming of genre-specific thrillers for $4.75 a month. A unique feature for those who enjoy film and a discussion, Shudder members get access to “Beyond Fandom” where they can engage with content in a critical way. Though now that we mention it, the Massacre Video – a channel that showcases niche horror films for $6.99 per month to their growing subscriber base – found its home on Special.tv’s platform and contains all the blood and guts you could dream of. The stuff of nightmares – in the best way.
We know that there are a lot of streaming services out there in this increasingly digital world with various options to consider whether you’re a creator ready to distribute your content or an eager consumer ready to view the best indie filmmakers and creators have to offer. And while all of the options we’ve laid out here for you have much to offer, we’re admittedly a bit biased. But hey, with Special.tv’s fixed 10% revenue fee and white glove client support for creators, and the opportunity for consumers to know their dollar is going directly back to the creators they love, can you really blame us?