Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

Everybody knows about services like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Video, but those are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to streaming. Here are our top picks for specialty streaming services that cater to specific interests.

UPDATE: 10/26/2023

We’ve replaced our best Spanish-language streaming service with ViX, as Pantaya has shut down. Read on to find out more about the service!

What to Look For in a Streaming Service in 2023

Unlike larger streaming services that generally try to provide content for every viewer, specialty services aren’t interested in pleasing a broad audience. As such, the main thing to consider when finding a specialty streaming service is what kind of content you’re looking for.

Pretty much every genre of movie and TV series is available in some form on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime, but there may only be a handful of options for your favorite type of programming. Once you identify what you’re missing on those services, you can look for an additional niche offering to supplement them.

Or maybe you have no interest in the mainstream entertainment offered by major streaming services, and you want to start by honing in on your favorite niche, whether that’s a genre, an era of filmmaking, or a specific global region.

There’s no need to spend money on popular streaming services that don’t offer the content you’re looking for, and most specialty services charge cheaper monthly fees than their big-name counterparts. You can save by sticking with just a few specialty services if you only enjoy specific media genres.

Whether you rely on them as your primary source for entertainment or as supplements to more extensive services, it’s unlikely that you’ll want to subscribe to more than one or two specialty streaming services. These services aren’t for everyone, and that’s precisely the point.

Our picks will help guide you to the exact service for your unique interests.

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Best Streaming Service for Horror: Shudder

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✓ Carefully curated selection of classics and recent releases

✗ Library content changes frequently

✓ High-quality original and exclusive films

✓ Hosted live-stream events with horror personalities

Launched in 2015, AMC-Networks-owned Shudder is one of the more longstanding specialty streaming services, and it’s gotten more popular and more prestigious over time. Horror fans are known for the service’s dedication to the genre, even to productions that might be considered questionable to mainstream audiences.

But that’s what’s great about Shudder—it doesn’t take the horror audience for granted. Sure, there are well-known horror classics and weird cult favorites available to stream, but Shudder is also dedicated to bringing its audience new discoveries and unlikely picks from the horror vaults.

Shudder’s slate of original and exclusive films has become the premier destination for independent, creative horror, and the service has increased its frequency of originals and exclusives over time. In addition to movies, Shudder features select original series, including its series revival of the Stephen King/George Romero anthology Creepshow.

The service also offers themed live-stream channels of films from its library for viewers who can’t decide what to watch. Shudder even features occasional live-stream marathons hosted by icons of the horror community like Joe Bob Briggs and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark.

Shudder’s curation is one of its main strengths, but it involves removing and adding new movies. As a result, the service’s library grows slowly, with many films often expiring or being removed. Still, if you can’t find your favorite horror movie to watch, you can count on Shudder’s expert programming team to offer you something just as good or even better.

Plans come in two sizes: monthly ($5.99/month) and annual ($56.99/year, $4.75/month).



Best Streaming Service for Horror

Shudder is the place for horror fans, featuring a carefully curated selection of classic and recent horror films, plus original and exclusive programming and partnerships with horror personalities.

Best Streaming Service for Classic Cinema: The Criterion Channel

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✓ Expertly selected collections of classic and influential films from around the world

✗ Titles come and go frequently

✓ Extensive bonus materials

✗ Higher price than most specialty services

✓ Helpful guidance on what to watch

Since 1984, Criterion has been the most trusted brand name for curating classic and acclaimed cinema on home video, from laserdisc to DVD to Blu-ray. The Criterion Channel brings that same standard to a streaming service.

This streaming service isn’t just an endless list of titles to scroll through. It’s a thoughtfully programmed lineup of themed sets of movies, many of them augmented by the kind of extensive bonus material that’s still a hallmark of Criterion’s home releases. That means you can listen to feature-length commentary and watch supplemental interviews for many of the movies on Criterion.

Criterion’s definition of classic cinema is expansive, encompassing vintage Hollywood and movies from around the world, underground and experimental cinema, and even select new releases. The themed collections make it easy to hone in on what interests you or explore a new area of cinema.

These extras are costly, though, and Criterion’s price ($11 per month or $100 per year) is higher than most specialty services. To offer content from so many different sources, some of which are subject to complicated rights issues, Criterion also cycles through its catalog fairly quickly, and dozens of movies leave the service at the end of each month.

But there is more than enough at any given time to satisfy even the most discerning cinephile.


The Criterion Channel

Best Streaming Service for Classic Cinema

The Criterion Channel brings the prestige and care of the Criterion Collection to a streaming service, featuring expertly selected lineups of classic cinema, along with extensive bonus features.

Best Streaming Service for British/International TV: Acorn TV

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Acorn TV



✓ Extensive library of series from the U.K. and other countries

✗ International selection focused primarily on Europe

✓ Multiple seasons of vintage shows

✗ Minimal movie content

✓ New premieres close to overseas release dates

There was a time when British TV series only made it to the U.S. via PBS stations, but one of the great things about the age of streaming is that it’s made international TV much more accessible. Major streaming services all feature a selection of shows from around the world, but for hardcore British and European TV fans, the selection is still relatively limited.

That’s where Acorn TV comes in. You won’t find any American-produced shows here, but you will find a wide range of shows from the United Kingdom and other countries, from beloved classics to new releases.

Maybe you remember growing up with dramas like Midsomer Murders or Poirot on PBS, or perhaps you’re curious about cult British comedies like Detectorists or Only Fools and Horses. Maybe you want to be among the first American viewers to catch the latest Scandinavian murder drama. Acorn is the place for all that, with a library of British TV staples and new productions from the U.K., Europe, Canada, and Australia.

The international scope of Acorn sticks mainly to English-speaking countries and mainland Europe, so if you’re interested in shows from South America or Asia, you won’t find them here. Acorn is almost entirely TV-focused, with only a smattering of feature films that sometimes seem like they were selected randomly.

However, that still leaves tons of content for fans eager to explore TV from across the pond. So if you’re a fan of British or European TV, Acorn TV is the subscription to get. The month-to-month plan costs $6.99, and the annual membership comes with a price tag of $69.99.


Acorn TV

Best Streaming Service for British/International TV

Acorn TV caters to Anglophiles with classic and recent British TV series, plus international shows and some movies from English-speaking countries and mainland Europe.

Best Streaming Service for Anime: Crunchyroll



✓ World’s largest selection of anime

✗ Uncertainty over new ownership

✓ Free ad-supported tier available

✓ Non-anime content including live-action programs and manga

Japanese animation, or anime, has had an American following for decades, with periodic mainstream breakthroughs like Akira or the films of Studio Ghibli. But its popularity has exploded in recent years, thanks to the kind of diligent fans who founded Crunchyroll in 2006.

A streaming service that grew from semi-legitimate origins into a corporate powerhouse, Crunchyroll is now the premier destination for anime outside Japan, with a repository of thousands of episodes of popular series like My Hero Academia, One Piece, and Mobile Suit Gundam.

Over the years, Crunchyroll has expanded to showcase other content related to anime, including manga (Japanese comic books that are often adapted into or from anime), live-action series, and even video games.

Crunchyroll has become an indispensable service for fans of Japanese pop culture, as well as original content produced in a familiar anime style. Best of all, it’s done so while remaining free, with most users taking advantage of the free ad-supported version. For viewers who want to forgo commercials, premium subscriptions are available starting at $8 per month.

The service has become such a power player that it’s been the subject of several corporate acquisitions, and in late 2020 it was acquired by Sony, owner of rival anime service Funimation. The two services merged in March 2022. There was a lot of uncertainty over how it would play out, and eyebrows raised when several popular Funimation titles took months to transfer. As of January 2023, a number of shows (over 200) are still not fully loaded onto the site following the merger.

Still, with an expansive library of over 1,000 titles ready to watch, free with ads or ad-free with a subscription, Crunchyroll is the streaming service for anime fans.



Best Streaming Service for Anime

With the world’s largest library of anime, Crunchyroll is the obvious choice for fans of Japanese animation, as well as other areas of Japanese and Asian pop culture that go along with it.

Best Streaming Service for Reality TV: Discovery+

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✓ Full seasons of popular series from Discovery’s brands

✗ Ad-free plan increases price

✓ New spin-offs and extensions of reality favorites

The cable networks under the Discovery corporate umbrella, including HGTV, TLC, Food Network, Travel Channel, and Animal Planet, feature some of the most popular reality shows on TV. If you’re a cable subscriber, you can catch endless reruns of home renovation shows and true crime shows, but you’ll be at the mercy of TV programmers if you’re hoping to catch an episode you haven’t seen before.

Discovery+ brings all of those reality shows together, along with many more, on one streaming service with dozens of seasons of dozens of shows available on demand. Not only can you watch popular reality shows like 90 Day Fiancé, Ghost Adventures, and Dr. Pimple Popper, but you can also catch spin-offs and expanded versions of those shows exclusive to Discovery+.

There are only so many hours in a day for programming on Discovery’s cable networks, but Discovery+ has unlimited space for new iterations of fan-favorite reality shows. The service also includes some more serious documentary feature films, fitting with the focus on true-life programming, but with loftier artistic ambitions.

And if you’re a fan of HBO Max, you’ll be interested to hear about the merger happening in spring 2023. The two Warner Bros. streaming giants will combine into one service, which may be named “Max.” With one streaming service, you’ll have access to programs from HBO, DC Comics, Cartoon Network, HGTV, and more.

For now, Discovery+ has a tiered subscription set-up, meaning you’ll have to shell out $7 a month for the ad-free version, or $5 with ads. While this is a business model more typical to larger services, these shows were all designed for commercial breaks, so viewers may not mind them as much.



Best Streaming Service for Reality TV

Thanks to its library of shows from the Discovery cable networks, Discovery+ is home to many of the most popular reality shows on TV, plus expansions and spin-offs of those popular franchises.

Best Streaming Service for Spanish-Language Television: ViX

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Image credit: ViX



✓ Good variety of TV series and films from throughout the Spanish-speaking world

✗ English subtitles are not available for the majority of the content

✓ Exclusive shows and some Amazon co-productions

✓ Over 100 channels, including sports, news, and movies

Demand for Spanish-language TV content has never been bigger, so it’s not surprising to see services like ViX growing hugely in just a few short years. Since its launch as PrendeTV in 2021, and following a re-brand a year later, ViX has gained many millions of subscribers to its free and premium packages. And if you want content from the Spanish-speaking parts of the world, it’s easy to see why.

ViX mainly features TV content from Univision and free-to-air channels such as Las Estrellas, Canal 5, Canal 9, and Foro, but tops up that offering with movies, news, and sports from several Spanish-speaking regions. Its recent acquisition of the popular Pantaya service, which gained it the exclusive rights to air many popular Latin American novellas and series, adds to the appeal.

The free package offered by ViX provides a decent amount of content, which can be viewed on smart TVs, as well as through a browser and iOS or Android devices. If you want to get rid of the adverts and view the full range of over 100 channels, along with thousands of movies and novellas, the premium subscription is excellent value at $6.99 a month or $49.99 a year.

Sports fans, and especially soccer enthusiasts, are also well catered for. You can access coverage from Liga MX, the EUFA Champions League, and beIN Sports, as well as more hardcore sporting pursuits like MMA from Combate Global and professional bull riding.

Provision for non-Spanish speakers is pretty limited, however. As ViX evolves, it may expand its subtitling efforts for English and other languages, but for now, it focuses on providing content that caters to its primary audience.

ViX streaming tv service


Best Streaming Service for Spanish-Language Television

ViX offers a huge amount of Spanish-language content, including originals and co-productions with Amazon, making it one of the best places to find your favorite novellas or Latin American movies and sports. 

Best Streaming Service for Indie and Arthouse Cinema: MUBI

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✓ Diverse selection of challenging, fascinating films from various regions and eras

✗ Limited selection with titles frequently coming and going

✓ Expertly curated to provide targeted programming for cinephiles

If you miss the days of indie video stores or arthouse movie theaters, staffed by cinephiles with deep knowledge of obscure films, then MUBI is the service for you. While other streaming services, even specialty-focused ones, tout their wide selection, MUBI is built on curation, debuting one new title each day, which is then available only for a limited time.

Instead of scrolling through seemingly endless lists of titles you’ve never heard of, you can open up MUBI and watch that day’s selection, confident that it’s been carefully selected by curators with impeccable taste and extensive knowledge.

That movie might be a masterwork by a pioneer of the French New Wave, a forgotten low-budget exploitation movie, or a new release from a titan of world cinema. Whatever it is, you can be assured that it will be challenging and rewarding to watch and enhance your appreciation of film as an art form.

MUBI also functions as an arthouse distributor. Its theatrical releases, including titles picked up from film festivals and restorations of neglected classics, end up streaming on MUBI following their theatrical runs.

MUBI’s business model means that if something you want to watch premieres on the service, you probably won’t be able to put it in a queue and get to it weeks or months later. Even if you miss out on a particularly enticing movie, there will be something else just as great premiering the next day.

At $12.99/month (or $107.88/year), Mubi is one of the more expensive options on the list. That said, you’re paying for expert curation and the ability to bypass the seemingly infinite “what should we watch?” loop.



Best Streaming Service for Indie/Arthouse Cinema

With its unique approach of premiering one movie a day, MUBI is perfect for adventurous cinephiles looking for expert guidance on what to watch.

Best Streaming Service for Martial Arts Movies: Hi-Yah!

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✓ Selection of rare and in-demand movies

✗ Genre limitations

✓ Low price point

This streaming service’s silly but memorable name tells you exactly what Hi-Yah! is about—martial arts action. Browse through Hi-Yah!’s selections, and you may be amazed at the depth and breadth of martial arts movies and related Asian action cinema. But followers of the genre have known for decades how rich and varied it can be, and they’re some of the most dedicated fans in all cinema.

Just tracking down many of these special foreign action movies has been a challenge for a long time, via a combination of import home video releases and questionable bootleg trades. But Hi-Yah! brings many previously unavailable martial arts movies together to stream, along with new premieres.

Martial arts stars like Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Donnie Yen are all well-represented, but Hi-Yah! also goes beyond those famous names. The service seeks out up-and-coming talents and regional cinemas, so subscribers to Hi-Yah! may be the first to experience a new martial arts sensation from Malaysia or Indonesia. Genre fans who’ve worn out their classic Hong Kong action movie DVDs will still find plenty of new movies to explore here.

There’s no shortage of martial arts movies to fill out Hi-Yah!’s programming, and the service expands the definition to include other types of action movies from Asia. But unlike genres on other niche services, Hi-Yah!’s focus is so limited that even die-hard fans may get burned out on the same type of content.

The good thing is that Hi-Yah! is so inexpensive (just $4 a month) that it’s easy to pick up as an add-on to other services, even if you don’t use it constantly.



Best Streaming Service for Martial Arts Movies

All the action is on Hi-Yah!, featuring martial arts classics and other action movies from Asia, including exclusives and hard-to-find titles.

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By John P.

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