It’s no secret: while stuck at home, most us are binge-watching a lot more TV shows or movies. And even though popular streaming services like Netflix and Hulu have an abundance of content, why not shake things up and try something different?
Whether you’re looking for a cable alternative, searching for a specific movie or TV show, or just need a new interface to stare at, here are five streaming services you may not have heard of but are worth checking out.
Note: All of these streaming services were tested on an Apple TV, so the experience or interface may be different depending on the platform you choose. Check each streaming service’s website for a list of compatible devices.
1. Sling TV
If you want cable at a lower cost, try Sling TV. For $30 a month, the streaming service offers dozens of cable channels, with a guide function and DVR capabilities. It also has on-demand and prerecorded shows and movies.
Compared to other paid cable alternatives or streaming services, Sling TV doesn’t have the broadest range of channels or content. But the reason I love Sling TV during quarantine is its new promotion: Happy Hour Across America. To encourage people to stay inside, Sling TV has made its service free daily from 5 p.m. to midnight — the perfect hours for those of us working from home.
This promotion will likely end once shelter-at-home orders are lifted, but it’s not a free trial — credit card information isn’t required — so you won’t accidentally sign up for a membership.
Verdict: Take advantage of Sling TV’s quarantine promotion and watch live (but limited) cable for free every evening.
Tubi is a free streaming service with a surprisingly large library, from telenovelas to anime to reality TV. It even has workout videos in its “Get Fit” category, a nice perk while we’re stuck at home.
The problem is there are just too many categories, which make it harder for me to pick something. I’m sure Tubi had good intentions — there is a lot of content to organize — but many categories are unnecessary and confusing.
But despite my organization qualms, the amount of available content (mostly) makes up for it. Instead of scrolling through the endless categories, I’d recommend the search function to see if a show or movie you want to watch is in Tubi’s vast collection.
Verdict: Use Tubi as a resource to find interesting gems without having to wade through the seemingly endless number of categories.
Crackle is another free streaming service. Rather than exhaustive categories like Tubi, it splits the content between TV shows and movies, then organizes with basic subsections like comedy, action and drama.
At first glance, I chalked Crackle up to a lower-quality service, but after some browsing I was impressed by the quality of content, which included many critically acclaimed movies. However, I could only browse by scrolling — there’s no option to search. (Note: This glitch may be exclusive to Apple TV; there is a search button on the desktop version.)
Content expires rather quickly, so make sure to check in frequently and stream what catches your eye before it disappears forever. Luckily, the expiration date is explicitly listed on each description page, so it’s not a guessing game.
Verdict: Browse through the categories, add shows and movies to your watch list, then watch your top picks before their expiration date.
Like Sling TV, Fubo is another cable alternative with on-demand offerings. With more than 100 channels, Fubo offers much more variety than Sling TV, but it comes at a cost: $80 for ultra, $60 for family, and $30 for Fútbol Quarterly.
Fubo is well-organized, easy to use and offers a wide range of channels. But is it worth the price tag? Maybe ... but not during the pandemic. Fubo prides itself on its wide range of sports content, but until it’s safe for players to hit the field and courts again, that subscription fee seems a bit steep.
I don’t recommend committing to Fubo during quarantine, but take advantage of its 7-day free trial so you can binge watch content you can’t find on other platforms. And if you’re a sports fan, consider subscribing to Fubo once the games resume.
Verdict: Don’t buy a membership, at least during quarantine. For now, utilize the free week and indulge in its offerings — just remember to cancel before the trial ends.
Walmart’s streaming service Vudu boasts a home screen with lots of content, followed by detailed description pages for every movie or TV show. Each offers a trailer, Rotten Tomatoes rating, and actor info — real name, character name, and thumbnail photo — which saved me a lot of Google searches. It also has an interesting parent section which rates inappropriate content on a 1-5 scale, including categories like drugs, sex and violence.
Unfortunately, it turns out this free streaming service isn’t so free after all. When I searched for a director I liked, I was thrilled with the amount of films that came up in the results. But when I clicked the movies, I was required rent or buy all of them.
And here’s the kicker: Even if I wanted to pay to watch these movies, there’s a note on the description page that says the content isn’t available for purchase on my Apple TV. Even though it’s a compatible device. Huh?
Verdict: Stick to Vudu’s landing page of free content. Avoid the search function unless you want to pay — or want to figure out how to pay in the first place.