Video streaming services typically seek to attract a certain audience, such as sports fanatics, classic film fans, or those who want to watch the latest originals. Sundance Now (the streaming service associated with AMC Networks’ Sundance TV cable channel) focuses on indie films and shows, but its library of content is limited. The service does not go far enough to help audiences discover new content, either. Sundance Now also lags behind the technical capabilities of other paid services; it doesn’t support offline downloads via the mobile app, full HD streaming, parental controls, multiple viewing profiles, or subtitle customizations. Unless you really love Sundance Now’s original shows or film lineup, those flaws are difficult to overlook
What Can You Watch on Sundance Now?
Although Sundance Now includes both shows and movies, there aren’t a ton of titles available for streaming. Many people won’t recognize most of the titles, but if you’re specifically seeking out non-mainstream shows, there’s likely a show you can enjoy. A representative from Sundance Now explained that new titles are added every week to the library and that there are typically one or two exclusive premieres per month.
At the time of testing, Sundance Now has a total of 67 series on-demand, some of which are exclusives and originals. The mix of content is similar to that of Shudder (which is also owned by AMC Networks). The good news is that Sundance allows you to explore everything in its library and watch the first episode of many series without an account.
Examples of Sundance Originals include A Discovery of Witches (a co-production with Shudder), Riviera, The Bureau, The Cry, The Oslo Killing, and The Restaurant. Again, the number of original titles is nowhere near that of HBO Max, Netflix, or Prime Video.
Sundance Now lists the following series as exclusives: Idiomatic, Jonestown: Terror in The Jungle, Liar, Motherland, Public Enemy, Sanctuary, and Wisting. Some of the shows on Sundance Now that aren’t exclusive to the service include Straightforward, Being Human, Brief Encounters, Leverage, Loch Ness, McMafia, Restless, Rosehaven, Safe House, Striking Out, The Little Drummer Girl, and The Split.
The other half of Sundance Now is its film library, which has a total of 137 titles at the time of this review. Some of the movies and documentaries on the service are A Man Called Ove, A Quiet Passion, Alias Ruby Blade, Animal Factory, Celine, Coherence, Ida, Monster, Soufra, The Bridge, The Illusionist (2010), The Invisible War, The Zero Theorem, Victoria, We Need to Talk About Kevin, and Wendy and Lucy. Sundance Film’s library occupies a weird space, in that it doesn’t have enough popular content to attract most movie-theater going audiences, while also not being as artsy as cinephile services such as Mubi or the Criterion Channel. If your movie preferences fall somewhere in the middle, then you should still check out the library. After all, the movie library is significantly larger than that of paid services, such as CBS All Access, for example.
Pricing and Platforms
Sundance costs $6.99 per month, but you can save money with an annual subscription that goes for $59.99 per year. The service does offer a free seven-day trial, but you need to enter payment details to get access. You cannot gift a Sundance Now subscription as you can with Mubi.
Sundance Now falls somewhere in the middle of the price range for video streaming services. Some options are cheaper or the same price as Sundance Now, including Shudder ($5.99 per month) and Disney+ ($6.99 per month). Amazon Prime Video ($8.99 per month), Netflix’s Standard plan ($12.99 per month), and HBO Max ($14.99 per month) are more expensive. As for the other streaming services that focus on movies, The Criterion Channel and Mubi both cost $10.99 per month.
Free movie streaming services, such as Tubi and Crackle, are other alternatives to Sundance Now. The on-demand services in that category have content libraries that rival Sundance Now’s.
In addition to watching Sundance Now on the web, you can stream from the service’s apps for mobile, (Android and iOS) and media streaming (Apple TV, Chromecast, Fire TV, and Roku) devices. Sundance Now does not offer any apps on game consoles, such as the Xbox One or PlayStation 4.
Sundance Now’s web interface is straightforward and uses a mix of black, white, and yellow elements that match the Sundance logo. It has a similar layout to Shudder, but without the charming effects that make the horror streaming service shine. I did experience several performance issues in testing, however. For instance, many of the interface pages took a long time to load. Sundance Now logged me out of my account automatically at what seemed like random intervals, too.
At the top of Sundance Now’s main page, there’s a navigation menu with the following items: Series, Films, Collections, My List. The search feature accepts queries of show and movie names as well as any listed cast members. The My Account section in the upper right-hand side lets you change your associated email and password, set a profile name (visible when you leave a review on a show), and manage your subscription (only if you signed up for Sundance Now from the website; otherwise you manage your subscription on the platform you signed up for the service on). That’s it though. You can’t set any default playback options, customize subtitles, or create multiple profiles.
Sundance Now’s homepage only shows a slider of five top titles on the service. You can jump into playback from a show thumbnail or add it to your list for later streaming. To explore the library further, you need to venture into one of the other sections.
The Series section is where Sundance lists every television show you can stream. However, there’s no way to sort the list and Sundance Now does not organize content into any useful categories or genres, such as for fans of dramas, comedies, or action shows. Sundance’s original and exclusive series do get a special banner, if you are looking for that content specifically.
Sundance Now’s Films section, by contrast, does provide multiple ways to sort the library. For instance, you can select a genre (such as Action, Classic, Comedy, Documentary, Drama, Foreign, Romance, or Suspense) and sort the list alphabetically or by those that were recently added.
If you hover over a title, you can jump directly into playback or add it to the My List section for revisiting later. Click a title’s thumbnail to view more details about the item, such as the release year, rating, language, runtime, description, cast members, related content, and user reviews. For a TV series, you can select individual episodes from a season.
User reviews are pretty simple. You can add text and a star rating (out of five). Shudder builds similar capabilities into its experience, but these are far inferior to the community features of Mubi and anime streaming services, such as Crunchyroll.
Sundance Now groups films and movies of the same genre or subject matter in its Collections section. At the time of publishing, there are only seven of these categories though. Collections include True Crime, Sundance Now Essentials, British Dramas, Political Thrillers, Feel-Good Content Presented by VOW to End Childhood Marriage, Indie hits, and Doc Club. There is also a More Like Your Favorite section, but this section is only relevant if your favorite series are A Discovery of Witches, Riviera, and For Ahkeem. Sundance Now should include an option to easily add all of the titles in a collection to the My List section.
Speaking of the My List section, this is where you can manage a list of all the titles you want to watch on Sundance Now. Unfortunately, there’s no way to sort these items. You can’t even separate films from shows. Sundance Now desperately needs to add some organization features to this section.
I installed the Sundance Now Android app on a Google Pixel 3 running Android 10 and had no issues logging in to my test account. The mobile interface uses the same color scheme as the web interface. You navigate the app via four icons at the bottom of the screen: Featured, Series, Films, and Collections. The gear icon in the upper left of the interface doesn’t offer any options. You can view (but not change) your username and associated email address, as well as access the service’s various usage policies. Most other video streaming services offer far more options, such as for the default streaming quality, closed caption customizations, and for restricting streaming to a Wi-Fi connection only. The app also has a search bar in the upper-right corner.
The Featured section should be ported over to the web interface. It helpfully organizes content into a series of categories such as Coming Soon, Leading Ladies, New Arrivals, and Staff Picks; Sundance Now’s homepage and Series section on the web lacks such categorization. The Series, Films, and Collections section function identically to their desktop counterparts.
Sundance Now does not allow subscribers to download titles for offline viewing from its mobile app. However, if you subscribe to Sundance Now through the Apple TV app, you should be able to download episodes through that experience. Sundance Now should allow subscribers to download content via its regular mobile app however, especially its originals, since there shouldn’t be any licensing issues with those titles. Many other video streaming services build in this capability to their apps, among them Disney+, HBO Max, Netflix, and Prime Video.
Sundance Now’s video playback screen on the web is par for the course. Aside from the standard playback controls, you get a 10-second rewind (but not fast-forward) button, a description of the episode or movie at the top, and a toggle for subtitles. You won’t find anything similar to Amazon Prime Video’s IMDb-powered X-Ray feature either, which gives information about cast members and music in a sidebar menu. The mobile playback screen loses the descriptions at the top of the page but gains a 10-second fast-forward button. You don’t get thumbnail previews of content as you scrub forward or backward on either platform.
Sundance Now has a maximum streaming resolution of 720p. That’s a problem since most other streaming services support at least 1080p streaming, if not 4K. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, and Disney+ all host 4K content. Both BritBox and Acorn TV are also limited to 720p streaming.
Sundance Now supports three simultaneous streams, which is about average. I tested Sundance Now’s performance by watching an episode of Loch Ness over my home Ethernet connection (200Mbps download) and, as expected, did not come across any video or audio buffering issues. Sundance Now does not have any ads.
Accessibility and Parental Controls
Sundance Now does include subtitles for its content, but you can’t customize them on any of the platforms I tried (web and Android). This is a big limitation. BritBox allows you to
customize subtitles directly from the playback screen. Apple TV+, Netflix, and Prime Video also support Audio Descriptions, an accessibility feature in which a narrator audibly describes events in a scene that would otherwise not be discernible from regular character dialog. Sundance Now doesn’t offer this feature.
Sundance Now also doesn’t include any parental control tools. Most other on-demand video streaming services, especially Netflix, HBO Max, and Disney+, offer robust options for limiting what your children can watch by content rating.
Sundance Now and VPN
A VPN is a powerful tool for helping you protect yourself online against various threats to your privacy, but their location-spoofing capabilities can also cause problems for video streaming services. Some content may be locked to a certain region, for example, and the video streaming service may just try to block all VPN traffic across the board to prevent you from watching something that’s not licensed in your area.
I tried streaming content on Sundance Now on my Android test device and a desktop PC after connecting them to US-based Mullvad VPN servers. I was able to steam on both devices without any issues. Even if you find that your VPN and video streaming service work fine together today, that’s no guarantee that they will continue to do so. Video streaming services are always looking for new ways to block VPN traffic.
Sundown for Sundance?
The Sundance Now streaming library may appeal to some fans of indie shows and movies, but it doesn’t go as far down the curation path as services such as Mubi or The Criterion Channel. More importantly, the service lacks many of the expected features of other paid video streaming services, including robust accessibility settings, offline downloads via its mobile apps, and 1080p (or better) streaming. Netflix is our Editors’ Choice pick for on-demand video streaming services because of its excellent original shows and class-leading set of features. For cord-cutters looking to watch live TV, turn to YouTube TV or Hulu. Both offer a robust lineup of channels at a reasonable price.
Sundance Now Specs
|Starting Price||$6.99 per month|
|On-Demand Movies and TV Shows||Yes|