There are only so many rehashed Hollywood blockbusters and candyfloss-for-the-brain sitcoms and series a person can watch on streaming sites like Netflix, Disney Plus, or Amazon Prime. As such more viewers are drifting toward alternative streaming sites to get a dose of documentaries in order to expand their minds, learn a little, and take a break from “The Fast & The Furious”. Let’s take a look at the best documentary streaming sites available.
Some of the best alternative documentary streaming services for low cost or, in some cases, free viewing are CuriosityStream, Wondrium, Kanopy, WatchDocumentaries, BBC iPlayer, and OVID TV.
In fairness, Netflix does offer some good documentaries. But they are often pushed to the back of the shelf in favor of the latest bubble gum for the brain.
This article covers what we consider to be the best documentary streaming alternatives to Netflix. There are many more but we will cover the cream of the crop. We'll also show you the cost, what content is covered, and how you can go about streaming these services on multiple devices.
If you are tired of spending your hard-earned money on the same old movies, series, and even dull documentaries that get pumped out by streaming website algorithms, don't worry. These platforms and streaming sites focus on documentaries and educational videos that will teach and inspire you. Fill up on thousands of hours of the best documentaries you'll ever see.
CuriosityStream was launched in 2015 by the founder of the Discovery Channel. It provides quality documentaries on a variety of topics, including lifestyle, technology, nature, and history.
The service is available on all premium devices such as Roku, Android, Apple, Amazon’s Fire TV, XBOX, PS4, and more. All CuriosityStream’s selection is HD, but if you are willing to spend a little extra, you can get the upgraded package in 4K.
Unlike Netflix’s cheapest monthly subscription, which will cost you about $10 a month but will only allow you to stream in SD (standard definition), CuriosityStream will only cost you $2.99 per month for the HD subscription.
The upgraded 4K plan will cost as much as Netflix’s cheapest tier, but if you opt to pay yearly, you can get a massive saving of almost 50%.
While many of the shows are a few years old, it's one of the channels I use most to find interesting documentaries. There's something for every curious mind here.
Wondrium is the newly rebranded version of the Great Courses Plus website. It is a cross between a streaming service and an online learning platform.
Subscriptions to this site are on the pricey side, with three available options: per month, per quarter, or per year. The prices for each are as follows;
- $20 per month
- $45 per quarter
- $150 per year
However, Wondrium has the advantage of always having fresh, new content. The company has partnered with nonfiction video production companies and offers documentaries and courses arranged into series similar to TV lectures.
If you have ever wondered about portobello mushrooms, paleontological microfossils, playing music, painting masterpieces, programming machines, and more, then this is a streaming service you should keep in mind. It is available on all leading devices like Apple TV, Android, Roku, and more.
Kanopy is a streaming service that provides movies, documentaries, foreign films, classic cinema, educational videos, and independent films, all in the comfort of your home. And here's the best bit: Kanopy is free. That’s right; this service is entirely free as long as you're a member of an associated library or university (either a student or faculty member). If you are, then you need only sign up with your library card or a valid university login.
Keep in mind that this is a mostly US-based service so your library or university might not be taking part in the program. However, you can request that your library is included. I'm not sure what the success rate of requesting is but it's worth a shot.
How may you ask when other platforms charge a subscription, even if some of them only charge a couple of dollars a month, is this service free
Kanopy partners with public libraries and universities, and just as they buy books to add to their collection for you to borrow, so do they do the same with digital resources. Kanopy is a digital resource that these libraries and universities use, and they cover all the associated costs allowing you to watch ad-free.
WatchDocumentaries boasts of being the leading collection of free online documentaries. In this case, no library membership is required, nor is university membership necessary. The service is completely free.
The WatchDocumentaries website monetizes its audience through ad placements. They generate revenue through ads when you visit the site and watch the content. You get free documentaries but you might have to look at a few ads. For most people, this is a fair transaction. Of course, you could use an ad blocker on your browser. But keep in mind that if everyone did this, the website would likely not exist. Website hosting is expensive and managing a platform like this will eat up a lot of time and resources.
Take note that the only content available on this site is documentaries, and you will not find anything such as films or series. However, their content is massive, with categories spanning music, crime, drugs, history, society, technology, religion, science, politics, and more.
There is no signup process or login requirements; you only need to go to the site, explore, choose what you would like to watch, and start.
The documentary film library is generally older than on other streaming websites. But that doesn't mean they're bad. In fact, there are some hidden gems here that few people have seen. Explore! it won't cost you anything.
In addition to offering a comprehensive catalog, BBC iPlayer offers catch-up radio and television content broadcast from the BBC's radio network and television channel.
The BBC is the leading broadcaster in the United Kingdom (UK), and it also happens to be the highest-rated and highest-earning radio/television company in all of Europe.
All good so far. But there's a catch. This service is only available to people physically in the UK. But you can around this limitation by streaming the service while using a VPN. We will discuss Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and how to use them a bit later on in this article.
Some VPNs, even though they will allow you to access a region, may not allow you to view geo-blocked content. Thus if you plan to purchase a VPN on a subscription, you should make sure that this option is available. Nord VPN is a good choice as it generally allows you to bypass geo-blocked content on the BBC iPlayer and other streaming sites.
The BBC iPlayer allows you to stream in 4K (if you so choose) and is available on a plethora of devices (Apple TV, Android, Roku, XBOX, Playstation, and more). At any time, the content available to you is around 2500 titles, including documentaries.
This is high-quality content from one of the world's leading broadcasters. There are no ads and the BBC follows strict guidelines for broadcasting standards. The BBC archive features an extensive library of award-winning TV series.
Ovid TV is a streaming platform featuring arthouse and indie films that are hard to find elsewhere. The library of feature films is built on approximately 30 film distribution services. You get one of the largest and most diverse catalogs on the planet that cover many different languages, not just English.
The service is only available in the USA and Canada, but you can circumvent this restriction with a VPN (as with BBC iPlayer). Despite appealing to a niche crowd, the content is released quickly, with approximately one to four new films every week.
With three concurrent streams available per account, this service is relatively affordable, only costing about $7 per month. You can watch three shows simultaneously on three different devices. Check the banners that often appear offering 50% off your first year's subscription. If you don't see this, try entering the code ANNUAL at checkout.
Another benefit is that this platform offers web interfaces and mobile apps, allowing you to download the available content on your mobile device if you wish.
If you're looking for indie titles, Ovid TV is one service you should check out.
What If A Documentary Streaming Site Is Blocked In My Region?
Websites and streaming platforms use geoblocking to restrict their services and content to certain regions. These services are not accessible outside of these locations.
Using a VPN is the best, most accessible, and most affordable solution for individuals who find geo-blocked content or streaming sites that are not available in their region.
With a VPN (Virtual Private Network), you can appear to be in another region and view movies and documentary series that are otherwise restricted.
There are many VPNs that are available to anyone with an internet connection at a relatively low monthly cost. But I use NordVPN when I'm traveling and working from home.
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