Cutting the cord still leaves you with a ton of entertainment options, but they don’t all have to cost money. In fact, there are a number of free ways to watch TV and movies online.
As you might expect, most of the (legal) online services that offer free access to TV and movies do so through paid ad sponsorships. As long as you’re willing to set through a few ads here and there, you can get access to all sorts of TV shows, movies, documentaries, and more—all without having to crack open your wallet even once.
With a good-sized collection of apps and services that offer this sort of service, you could ultimately have access to a potentially massive selection of content without cable or a rotating set of subscriptions. Here are our picks for the ones you should definitely check out, as well as a few other options for free TV.
Pluto TV: Free Streaming, Curated From the Web
Pluto TV is a unique service, because it offers access to over 100 live TV channels, as well as a huge selection of movies and shows that can be streamed online. Pluto is essentially a curated guide, featuring things that are already playing on the web, collected in one place.
It features a familiar, TV guide-like interface that makes it easy to use, along with support for nearly all streaming platforms—including Android, iOS, Chromecast, Fire TV, and more—making it a great choice for anyone who wants some (quite literally) free entertainment.
Tubi TV: A Large Streaming Catalog with No Cost
Tubi is like a free Netflix that features over 7,000 titles at the time of writing, all available to watch for free. Tubi also has streaming apps on one of the widest arrays of platforms we’ve seen, including Android, iOS, Roku, Fire TV, Xbox, PlayStation, Chromecast, and more. It’s a truly impressive list. There are tons of paid services out there that can’t be accessed in as many places.
Unlike Pluto, where you can simply fire up the app and start watching, Tubi does require you to sign up for the service—but that’s a small price to pay for free movies and TV shows.
Sony Crackle: A Sony-backed Service With a Slew of Content
Crackle has been around for a long time, though it started life under the name Grouper. Sony picked the company up back in ’06, but it only recently changed the name to Sony Crackle.
Similar to Tubi TV, Crackle offers a pretty big catalog of streaming TV and movies, as well as original content just for the network. Also like Tubi, Crackle is available on pretty much any streaming box you can think of—even Xbox. Good on you, Sony.
Popcornflix: A Platform Built for Simplicity
Popcornflix aims to keep things as simple as possible, so the services claims that “no movie is more than two clicks away.” It lives up to that, too—you can jump over to the website, find a movie, and simply click Play. You’ll be watching in a matter of seconds, all without having to sign up or deal with any extra fluff.
Of course, there are benefits for members, too. For example, there’s a GIF creator on the web player, allowing users to create custom GIFs from movies or shows as they watch. How cool is that?
If you’re not into watching from the computer, Popcornflix is also available for most streaming platforms, like Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Xbox, and Android.
Yahoo View: Powered by Hulu and Free to Watch
Once upon a time, Hulu had a free tier. You could watch shows and movies without having to pay for the service. Today, however, that free tier is no longer available directly from Hulu. Instead, Hulu and Yahoo teamed up to offer Yahoo View—a free Yahoo service that’s powered by Hulu. Given the Hulu-backing, this service is focused heavily on streaming TV shows instead of movies.
You won’t get access to Hulu originals here, mind you (sorry, no free ride for The Handmaid’s Tale), but it still has a pretty decent selection. There are a lot of shows here, including big names like Gotham and South Park.
There is one big downside to Yahoo View: it’s only available in the browser. I guess making it available through mobile apps would hit a little too close to Hulu’s market. But whatever—it’s free, so you can’t really complain.
A Few Other Options
While the aforementioned services are the best of the bunch, there are a few others worth mentioning too, though they’re a little less encompassing.
- The Roku Channel: If you’re a Roku user and not taking advantage of The Roku Channel, you could be leaving a lot of free content on the table. While the selection isn’t massive, it still has some good titles available, and you don’t have to pay a dime for them. There’s only one issue with The Roku Channel: it’s only available on Roku.
- Kanopy: If you have a public library, you probably know that’s a good place to get free movie rentals and such. Kanopy is a service that teams up with local libraries to offer the same type of thing in a streaming platform—as long as you have a library card, you’re allowed in.
- Amazon Prime Video: Okay, so this one isn’t technically free since Prime memberships costs $120 a year, but it is one that’s often forgotten. If you have a Prime membership, don’t forget about this valuable service—there’s a lot of great content here at no additional cost to you.
- Specific channels that offer free content: Most channels have their own apps at this point, but a lot of them require you to sign in with your cable provider before you can watch. If the name of the game is watching TV without having to pay for money, however, a few services will let you get in on their latest without signing in—ABC, CBS, Fox, and The CW are all on the list. Other networks may offer a few episodes without a login as well. Your best bet here is to check any channel that you’re interested in to see what its free content catalog looks like.
One More Thing: Get an HD Antenna for Free Local Channels
While we’ve covered a lot of streaming services so far, there’s another option for local channels: an HD antenna. These cheap plastic antenna can get you access to all your locals, as well as a few others in some areas. The channel selection can vary greatly depending on where you live—the closer you are to a big city, the better the selection you’ll get. Conversely, if you’re in a more rural area, you may not get much of anything.
Fortunately, there’s a tool that will not only show you what channels you will be able to get, but also what direction they’re coming from to help you better place the antenna. We have a full post on the ins and outs of using an HD antenna (as well as a few recommendations on which ones are worth buying in our roundup here), so if this is something you’re interested in it’s definitely worth the read.
If you’re really enterprising, you can even add DVR functionality to your HD antenna with the right tools.
If you’re willing to jump through a few minor hoops and watch some ads, there’s a wealth of free TV out there to snatch up.
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