It's been a tough time for streaming services. The once-beloved platforms that were set to take on expensive TV contracts with quality programming, low monthly prices and extra flexibility over how and where you view content are becoming shells of their former selves. With an almost overwhelming amount of choices on the market, it's hard to know which are really the best video streaming services.
The mainstream (pun intended) players like Netflix, Disney Plus and Prime Video are still getting all of the attention; however, they are also the same services that are jacking up monthly subscription costs, removing content, introducing ads and, in Netflix's case, stopping any kind of account sharing, even between family members.
So, if like me, you're starting to get fed up with these streaming conglomerates making their respective services less desirable by the day, you're probably wondering what the best course of action is.
My advice? Dig a little bit deeper and see what alternative streaming services are offering right now – I've found that when it comes to content and pricing, there are a few hidden gems out there. These services cater towards specific genres and audiences and don't concern themselves with unnecessary additional features like interactive content and video games. Interested? Please do read on.
The Criterion Channel
If you're a film enthusiast, the likelihood is you'll have come across Criterion before. It's the organisation behind the Criterion Collection, a series of home video releases that includes some of the most pivotal films in cinema history, usually accompanied by a selection of special features and commentaries from directors, actors and producers.
The Criterion Channel is a streaming service version of this idea, collecting over 1000 movies from acclaimed directors such as Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, Ingmar Bergman, Michael Hanneke, Werner Herzog and many more. Each film holds significance, whether it's a treasured Hollywood classic or a niche Art House flick lost to time. This service is a must for self-proclaimed film buffs, as you can either scratch the surface of classic and contemporary films or dive deep into the decades of film history.
The Criterion Collection supports 4K HDR but only for mobile and desktop streaming, which is an odd choice as the only 4K mobile device I can think of is the Sony Xperia 1 V. However, you can enjoy 1080p high-definition streaming elsewhere, and considering most of the content on the platform is quite old and won't support a 4K resolution anyway, this is by no means a deal breaker.
The one catch is that it's exclusive to North America right now, however, there is an option to put your email down to request that it be bought over to other regions, and if all else fails, you can always use a VPN to access it. Subscriptions start at $10.99 a month, or $99.99 for a year and it's available on all platforms including iOS, Apple TV, Android, Android TV, Roku, Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV and Xbox.
Check out The Criterion Channel
MUBI takes the idea of The Criterion Collection and goes for a more mainstream approach. Still very much angled towards film enthusiasts, MUBI throws in a few more recognisable titles and contemporary films like 2023 Oscar nominee Aftersun, 2015 Best Picture Winner (and my personal favourite movie of all time) Birdman and there are even some Tarantino, Scorcese and Villeneuve flicks in the mix.
It's the ideal service for someone who wants to find something new and challenging, while still having a few recognisable titles to hand; to me, it's the best service with which to dip your toes into alternative and independent cinema. Content is well organised into collections, and the library is constantly changing. MUBI also highlights a daily pick as well as its own exclusive releases that you can only watch on its service.
MUBI states that it will provide HD and 4K versions of classic movies where possible. However, for many films this option doesn't exist. Newer content is better served though, as most options stream in high definition.
You can try a 7-day free trial of MUBI, and then it's £10.99 a month for just the streaming service, or £15.99 if you want MUBI GO, which includes a hand-selected cinema ticket every week – who said streaming and cinemas couldn't live in harmony?
Check out MUBI
If you're a fan of horror, thrillers, suspense and all things scary, then Shudder is the place to be. Having an entire streaming service dedicated to a particular genre is a brilliant idea, and I can't believe it hasn't been capitalised on sooner – and it helps that Shudder has totally nailed the concept.
It's got a vast supply of TV shows and movies ranging from low-budget indie features to original programming and, of course, classic horror flicks like Hellraiser and The Wicker Man. Shudder is a must-try streaming service for fans of the genre – especially around Halloween; maybe just have a cushion ready to hide behind.
The best part is that at just £4.99 a month, or £49.99 annually, Shudder is much cheaper than many other streaming services around right now. This goes a long way in excusing the lack of 4K streaming, in fact, Shudder appears to max out at 720p which is a shame, but still not the end of the world. It's available to download on iOS, Apple TV, Android, Android TV, Roku, Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV and Xbox.
Check out Shudder
This might be a bit of a rogue choice, but hear me out on this one. Channel 4's on-demand streaming is much more than just a place to catch up on last week's Come Dine With Me or Hollyoaks. If you dig a little bit deeper this becomes immediately apparent, as Channel 4 is currently home to plenty of brilliant movies and TV shows.
Right now, you can watch the entire Mission Impossible series, the Star Trek films, Indiana Jones And The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, A Quiet Place II and Bumblebee (plus many more) all for free – well providing you have a TV license. There's also a nearly limitless supply of TV box sets to watch as well, so fill your boots.
The one caveat is that there are ads, however, you can opt for Channel 4+ if you so desire, which removes the ads for just £3.99 a month, or £39.99 a year. I genuinely believe that Channel 4 is a total sleeper hit when it comes to streaming services, as many disregard it as a catch-up TV platform – however, it is much more than that.
Check out Channel 4+
Read our full Apple TV 4K 2022 review
Check out the best media streamers for your TV
And our best TV deals