The Top 6 Free and Legal Niche Streaming Services

October 7, 2016

9:15 am

Given the enormous video bandwagon everyone in media has hopped in 2016, its no wonder that a vast array of niche streaming services have popped up. It’s a time-honored way to build a business: Establish yourself well in a niche, and rely on that userbase while slowly adding value until you’re an unbeatable deal.

So how are all these niche streaming services doing? According to one Forbes analysis, not great:

“The percentage of respondents who subscribe to a paid subscription service for movies or TV shows outside of the market leaders is a mere 2.3%. This is down from the first quarter of this year when that percentage was 2.9%. In this fraction of the market are every niche streaming service.”

Some services, like the Australia-based Presto, are closing down as soon as January. Sure, Netflix is rapidly swallowing the market, but the tinier the niche — whether genre or nationality — the easier it is to compete.

While plenty of services go for a subscription-based revenue, like horror movie service Shudder or British TV service Acorn TV, others rely on ads. Which means they’re free to watch. Here are the best niche-based free streaming services.

1: Viki

Viki is based out of Singapore and features Asian film and TV, though they include content from around the world. The name refers to a “video wiki” style organization, and Viki allows users the option to contribute subtitles. It’s all free to watch, though a subscription is available for those who want to cut out the ads and get the HD version.

2: Crackle

Sony’s ad-supported service is famous for Jerry Seinfeld’s “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” webseries, but it hosts its own full-length TV shows. I’d be remiss not to mention “Startup,” a drama featuring the startup world. It’s a lot sexier than the real thing.

3: Spuul

The niche: Bollywood films. If you can’t get enough of them, you will here.

4: Crunchyroll

Crunchyroll is the king of niche streaming services. After cornering the market on anime, they’ve started expanding into more content. Still, if you’re a big anime fan, you can’t afford not to get a subscription. And like many of the services here, the free version gets you standard definition with ads. Also, there’s a forum and an anime news section.

5: Viddsee

Viddsee focuses on short films from Asian filmmakers, making it a fast way to explore themes and techniques that you may not be familiar with.

6: PBS Kids

But if you want familiar themes, check out the PBS Kids site to watch Arthur or Thomas the Tank Engine.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He's based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state's slogan: "sayWA." In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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