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Which Black Streaming Service Better Amplifies the Culture?


The wide world of Black cinematic art can’t be constrained to simply one video streaming service. Movies and shows reflecting the full humanity and range of the Black experience fill up entire streaming catalogs dedicated to Black material. Even within that category, Black streaming services are as diverse as Black audiences. KweliTV’s global artistry and BET+’s mainstream entertainment feel like they exist in entirely different dimensions. But which Black streaming service should you binge?

Which Library Has Richer Content?

KweliTV’s utterly unique library reflects the service’s mission to highlight underlooked global Black films and filmmakers. Diving into its catalog of more than 400 films from Africa, the Caribbean, and the larger diaspora turns your home into a never-ending international film festival. It has the same respect for history and preservation as other cinephile-friendly services, such as The Criterion Channel and Mubi, but with an added passion that comes from caring about something as vital and contemporary as representation.

From award-winning shorts to educational cartoons, KweliTV treats these Black voices like the artists they are. Examples include Africa United, a comedy about young Rwandan soccer players; The Trial of Jeff David, a true crime podcast about former slaves falsely accused of murder in the 1800s; and Black Enuf, a cartoon about LGBT hip-hop lovers. 

Watching KweliTV feels like exploring the world. There’s more to Africa than Black Panther on Disney+. The trade-off is that you probably won’t find familiar content. Viewers also turn to streaming services to effortlessly rewatch comfortable classics, even if only for the background noise. For that, you should consider the far less demanding BET+.

We can argue over whether or not BET is a positive force for Black entertainment television, but its streaming service BET+ does offer a substantial library that includes more than 1,000 hours of mainstream Black movies and shows. The cozy catalog includes Barbershop, Black Ink Crew, Martin, and stand-up comedy specials. BET+ pulls not only from BET, but fellow Viacom channels such as MTV and VH1. The service also boasts original programming, including shows so trash they’re terrific from prolific, (in)famous African-American auteur Tyler Perry. The Oval is the bad, but bonkers, Black version of House of Cards-style political soap opera drama I never knew I needed.

That said, you can find similar shows, including older BET shows strangely missing from BET+, on other mainstream streaming services such as Netflix, our Editors’ Choice for on-demand video streaming, and Peacock, our Editors’ Choice for free video streaming. KweliTV’s content is so new and fresh that you don’t notice any of its potential gaps. 

Winner: KweliTV

Price and Platforms

KweliTV costs $5.99 per month or $49.99 per year for a standard subscription. That’s in line with similar streaming services. KweliTV also has some of the most generous and flexible options for interested viewers with less spending money, which feels in line with the service’s eye toward marginalized groups. For instance, students only pay $3.99 per month, you can individually rent movies and shows for $2.99 each for 24 hours, and you receive discounts for several Black-owned businesses. You can also watch a free, ad-supported, 24-hour live streaming TV channel. It’s the same content, you just don’t have any choice over what you watch or when. 

A BET+ subscription costs $9.99 per month, toward the pricier end of the category. It also has a more confusing sign-up process. BET+ is not the same thing as BET Now, the free streaming app you can access if you already get BET through your cable provider. You subscribe to BET+ separately. Also, if you subscribe to BET+ as a channel through a third-party service, such as Amazon Prime Video or Apple TV+, you can’t carry over your paid membership to the standalone app. So, make sure to subscribe directly through the BET+ website to keep your options open.

KweliTV and BET+ both support mobile platforms (Android and iOS) and media streaming devices (Amazon Fire devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku). Neither service officially supports video game consoles. KweliTV’s live streaming TV channel strangely doesn’t run in web browsers, but the service did recently launch on Comcast’s Xfinity X1 and Xfinity Flex.

Winner: KweliTV

KweliTV catalog

Which Service Has Better Features?

KweliTV’s welcoming interface helps you parse through its unfamiliar collection. The service is dense with different genres to browse, highlighting specific regions and subject matter. Each listing includes a detailed description, as well as profiles for the filmmakers so you can see their other work and leave comments. The service supports an unlimited number of concurrent streams and lets you download movies to your mobile device for offline viewing. 

That said, there are some inconsistencies. There are no parental control options. Depending on what you’re watching, subtitles or HD video quality are not guaranteed. Perhaps removing these barriers makes it easier for filmmakers to upload their work, but when presenting global films to a global audience, you should make sure every viewer can understand everything being said.

BET+, while visually attractive, offers little more than the bare minimum when it comes to the viewing experience. Movies and shows play smoothly, but you can’t adjust their video quality. You also can’t favorite shows, and you can only access your watchlist on the main page alongside other basic categories. There are no parental controls. Your only search option is typing in a name; you can’t filter by different criteria. You can’t download content for offline viewing on mobile devices and you can’t leave reviews or comments. It seems to support an unlimited number of concurrent streams per account; I had no issues watching BET+ on four different devices at once. 

Winner: KweliTV

BET+ main menu

Which Service Plays Nice With VPNs? 

VPNs help you stay safe and private online by masking your actual location. Unfortunately, their very nature makes them an enemy of many streaming services that very much care where their viewers are physically located.

With its desire to foster a larger international Black film community, I was happy, but not surprised, that KweliTV worked after I connected my Windows test device to ProtonVPN servers in the US and abroad. BET+ let me stream content over a US-based VPN server, but stopped working once I switched to a server outside the country. Keep in mind that any streaming service can block VPN traffic at any moment. 

Winner: KweliTV

Power to the People

I don’t mean to come across as a snob (as a Tyler Perry scholar, I truly loved my time spent devouring his fascinating new BET+ shows), but KweliTV just offers a more challenging, enriching, and inspiring collection of movies and shows that need more advocates. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with comforting reruns and mainstream hits. However, opening your eyes to unknown, but immensely talented, Black filmmakers represents a brighter future for streaming services as a whole.

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