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Free Streaming Services Might Be Better Than Netflix

Pluto TV logo on a smart TV
Jordan Gloor / Review Geek
As Netflix has become more and more expensive, and moved away from its original purpose of "your favorite shows for a low price," free streaming options have come to fill that hole. You might be better off with the free stuff if you want nostalgia.

Streaming services like Netflix used to be a bargain, but now prices are going up, and content is spreading out amongst the multiple competitors the once dominant service has. But not all streaming services charge you, and some of the free ones are better than Netflix anyway.

There are a ton of free streaming services out there, and most of them offer something slightly different. Many of these streaming sites are available across platforms. You can watch the content you want in a web browser or on a smart TV, phone, or tablet via an app.

Here are some reasons why you should consider ditching the Netflix subscription and diving into the diverse world of free streaming services instead.

First of All, They’re Free

Filmrise open on an iPad displaying the logo
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

Freevee, Plex TVTubi, Pluto, Filmrise, and Roku TV (if you can get it), are all free. You have absolutely nothing to lose but your time if you choose to download any of these platforms and browse their libraries.

Most of these apps can and should, be installed on a smart TV. Even if nothing on any of the TV apps appeals to you at the moment, you can just leave them installed and check back later. You won’t be hit by subscription fees, so unless you’re desperate for disk space, you might as well just leave them be. Who knows, your free app of choice may have your favorite show on it in a couple of months.

If installing more apps on your TV doesn’t appeal to you, then you can still experience everything these services have to offer. Most, if not all, free streaming services can be viewed via their websites. So you can access their libraries and kill some time with no installation required.

As you may have guessed, “free” in this sense means you won’t directly hand any money over. The content is paid for by ads. While this may be a downside, Netflix itself offers an “Ad-supported” service, and the chances are you won’t even be able to avoid ads by paying for a full-price subscription in the years to come.

Netflix’s Push For Original Content Has Backfired

Netflix App on a smart tv
Jason Fitzpatrick / Review Geek

Netflix’s early business model was brilliant. It bought the streaming rights to a variety of massive shows for a relatively cheap price and made them available to customers for a modest monthly subscription fee. However, Netflix was a victim of its own success. It acted as proof of concept for online streaming platforms, and major companies like Paramount, HBO, and Disney wondered why they weren’t just sitting out the middleman and streaming the content themselves.

So that’s what happened. As deals expired, major production companies refused to renew with Netflix and opted to launch their own platforms. In response to this, Netflix began pumping money into its own shows. This has worked to some degree; the likes of Narcos and Better Caul Saul have been huge hits. But for every Stranger Things or Mindhunter, there are about five weird dating shows, a couple of really poorly written sitcoms with either Melissa McCarthy or Amy Schumer in it, and pretty much eight versions of the same poorly animated cartoon with a different setting.

Research from media analyst company MoffettNathanson shows that many Netflix Originals have an initial surge in viewership but trail off pretty quickly after that. It also shows that even the most successful Netflix originals fail to account for more than 1.5% of viewer time on the platform.

Original content is very expensive, and that cost gets passed on to subscribers. If you’re the average Netflix user, you’re paying for an awful lot of content that you’re never going to view. Some of the free channels also have “originals,” and as you would expect, they’re absolutely awful. But they don’t cost you anything. There are also outliers, like Roku’s “Weird Al.” But Weird Al makes anything brilliant.

Older Shows and Movies are a Staple of Free Services

Downloading Tubi on an iPad from the App Store
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

While researching this article, I was astonished at the sheer amount of blissful nostalgia out there for free. There are movies and shows I remember watching with my parents as a kid, stuff I enjoyed with my friends growing up, and weird niche stuff I last stumbled across as a bored twenty-something looking for a bit of low-budget entertainment. It’s all there, and just browsing Tubi’s catalog brought up a ton of joyful emotions.

Sometimes you don’t want filet mignon for dinner. Instead, you want to dump a can of Hormel chili into some mac and cheese, shovel it into your face, and feel weirdly pleased while also being absolutely disgusted with yourself afterward. That’s what watching old VH1 reality shows like Flavor of Love is like, and almost all of them are on free streaming services. As there’s no signup needed, so you can indulge in this guilty pleasure without the 50 people you share your Netflix account with finding out.

For things with a bit more plot, there are the likes of Gilligans Island and Columbo. It’s also great for a Mike Tyson Mysteries binge. It’s great for background TV too. You can just put Bob Ross’ The Joy of Painting on while you’re working on something else and feel the odd amount of bliss that comes with it. In terms of TV, where the streaming services really stand out is in the “British shows from 10 or 20 years ago” department. QI is a fantastic quiz show hosted by Stephen Fry, the original UK version of Shameless is on there, and outstanding comedies like Father Ted and Black Books are frequently featured.

Then you have a wide-ranging selection of movies. You’ve got classic spaghetti westerns like A Fistful of Dollars (and its sequel), along with aged comedies like The Pink Panther. Then more modern (but still middle-aged) stuff like Gremlins, Ace Ventura, and Men in Black. There are even modern cult movies like Super. This is all from one site; there are tons of others out there. The content on each site is also continuously being refreshed, so if your favorite shows aren’t on at the moment, they may crop up a few months down the line.

They’re Perfect for Binge Watching

Freevee app by amazon open on a TV
Hannah Stryker / Review Geek

I frequently rant about the obscene price of cable and how I can’t understand people parting with $80 a month for it. It’s a dying medium, has more ads than the streaming sites we’re currently talking about, and rarely contains much worth watching. But it does have one thing going for it, you don’t have to actively think about what you want to watch.

Sometimes, people like rolling the dice, pop their favorite channel on, and seeing what comes up. Picking a particular show, episode, or movie can involve more mental effort than we have sometimes. Netflix has attempted to address this with a “play something” button, which puts a random show on for you. But most free streaming services do it better.

Many sites like Pluto have hundreds of “channels.” Some are dedicated to a particular show like Storage Wars, while some cover a specific area like news, sports, or crime. Either way, you can simply put one on, lay back, and binge without having to think about what you want to watch next.

Once Again, You Have Nothing to Lose

The Roku Channel app
Corbin Davenport / Review Geek

You don’t have to cancel your Netflix subscription to delve into the world of free services, and the services themselves aren’t going to charge you money to access them. You have absolutely nothing to lose by looking at a few of the sites, browsing their content, and watching a movie or show or two.

I don’t watch a ton of TV, I prefer watching things I know I enjoy to random new shows and know for a fact there is more content on these free services than I could realistically get through. Free streaming services work for me, and if you look at how you actually use Netflix, they may be the best option for you too.

Dave McQuilling Dave McQuilling
Dave McQuilling has spent over 10 years writing about almost everything, but technology has always been one of his main interests. He has previously worked for newspapers, magazines, radio stations, websites, and television stations in both the US and Europe. Read Full Bio »