People often overlook free services in the streaming world – mainly because there’s a misconception that they have little to offer. Although you won’t find a long list of live TV networks on a free platform or the most recent releases, you’ll still find hit titles from years gone by as well as more modern offerings.
To understand why these TV streaming sites are free, you only have to look at the ads. Most make you watch commercials to stream videos (though the number of ads can be lower than traditional cable). They also don’t come with quite as many features as paid-for services. But, surprisingly, a couple of companies do offer free original content — and even a sliver of live sports and news.
Keep reading to explore the best free TV streaming services.
What are the best free video streaming services?
A long list of free streaming services exists. But only some are worth your while. Here’s a quick rundown of the very best to consider:
- IMDb TV
- Pluto TV
- The Roku Channel
- Tubi TV
Compare free video streaming services
Whether you’re after a live TV option or a site that doesn’t require you to set up an account, here are the features you need to know about:
|Crackle||Hoopla||IMDb TV||Kanopy||Pluto TV||The Roku Channel||Tubi TV||Vudu|
|Number of titles||500+||500,000+||10,000+||30,000+||1,000+||10,000+||40,000+||10,000+|
|Number of simultaneous streams||N/A||N/A||Unlimited||N/A||N/A||Unlimited||N/A||3|
Finding the right free streaming service for cord cutting
When shopping around for a free video streaming service, you’ll want to focus on a few things. First, check how much content is available and whether the genres it offers are right for you. If you don’t like something you see, onto the next one. Second: check how many ads pop up throughout a single episode or movie. While some services only feature commercials at the beginning and end, others may insert an ad break every now and then. Lastly, see what other features the platform offers. Does it have live TV, for example? How about original content?
Best for original content: Crackle
You can watch Crackle without setting up an account. But registering for the service comes with several perks, including the ability to save videos to a watchlist and play from where you left off on any device.
Thanks to Crackle’s long list of supported devices, the service is also highly accessible. You can use it on everything from Amazon Fire devices, Apple TV, and Chromecast to Android and iOS devices, smart TVs, and game consoles like Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
What to watch on Crackle
Unlike most other free streaming services, Crackle offers original content alongside other shows and movies. The Oath and StartUp are two of the most highly reviewed shows. Produced by Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, The Oath explores the underworld of criminal gangs. StartUp steps into the tech world as three entrepreneurial characters grab the attention of a dubious FBI agent with their digital currency idea.
Best for ad-free streaming: Hoopla
Hoopla doesn’t just feature an extensive range of movies and TV shows. It also comes with ebooks, comics, audiobooks, and music. The digital service partners with libraries, allowing people with a library card to check out a certain number of titles each month. (Monthly totals range from around 5 to 20, depending on where you live.) When you register for Hoopla, you’ll be able to see if your local library is a member. If it’s not, tell library staff you’re interested.
The biggest draw of Hoopla is the fact it has no ads. That means you can watch an entire episode or movie without having to view a single commercial. And although you only have 72 hours to watch content, you can simply check out your chosen title again to carry on where you left off. If you use Hoopla’s mobile app, you’ll get the added bonus of being able to download titles for offline viewing — a godsend for long journeys with no Wi-Fi.
What to watch on Hoopla
You won’t find many recent releases in Hoopla’s catalog. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of well-known options to choose from. Right now, expect to see a long list of Hollywood names with films like Burnt, starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller and Pierce Brosnan’s The Thomas Crown Affair. Hoopla is also one of the only places to find the original Carrie flick for free.
You’ll find the same starry talent in Hoopla’s show list. Gunpowder — an action-packed historical show featuring Kit Harington — appears alongside Jack Taylor, which stars fellow Game of Thrones actor Iain Glen. Bingeable British series make an appearance too — think The Great British Baking Show and police drama Line of Duty.
Best for well-known movies: IMDb TV
IMDb is perhaps best known for being the site you go to for all your movie trivia needs. But did you know it has its very own streaming platform? Like most other free services, IMDb TV is supported by ads. And although it doesn’t give you the option to skip commercials, you won’t be bombarded with as many ads as you would with cable TV.
IMDb TV also comes with a nifty feature: X-Ray. Head there to find out cool facts about your chosen title and even discover the soundtrack. As IMDb is owned by Amazon, you can quickly access IMDb TV through Fire devices. But if you don’t own an Amazon device, don’t panic. You can still watch everything via IMDb.com or by downloading IMDb’s app.
What to watch on IMDb TV
While it doesn’t have the biggest selection of titles, IMDb TV does win a trophy for having highly rated movies that tend only to be seen on paid-for streaming services. Recently added movies include Road House and Eat Pray Love.
Series-lovers, meanwhile, can watch entire seasons of classic shows, options include Little House on the Prairie and Cold Case Files. You can even relive all the Desperate Housewives drama without paying a thing.
Best for education: Kanopy
Kanopy is another streaming service that teams up with libraries and college campuses across the US. And parents will love it. Kanopy has a special section reserved for young viewers and features a parental control lock to keep children in the Kids hub. Users can also create clips from videos and annotate them — ideal for class presentations.
Just like Hoopla, Kanopy has no ads so you can watch shows and movies without interruption. How much you’re able to view each month depends on the limits set by your library.
What to watch on Kanopy
All ages have something to learn by using Kanopy, whether it’s through eye-opening world cinema, an insightful documentary, or an educational kids’ cartoon.
Get your fix of both classic cinema and contemporary films. You’ll find Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 hit, Rear Window, alongside the Oscar-nominated Lady Bird and Get Out (two movies you won’t find anywhere else for free right now). And when it comes to kids’ content, immerse them in nostalgia with the likes of Sesame Street and Arthur.
Best for live TV: Pluto TV
Pluto TV is a unique free streaming service. Not only does it have thousands of on-demand movies, but it also delivers live TV from a selection of over 250 channels. Finding your favorite is easy, as Pluto TV allows you to sort channels by genre. (You can also easily switch between live TV and on-demand shows and movies.)
You don’t need to enter any personal details to use Pluto TV, making it a super quick way to enjoy live entertainment. But creating an account will allow you to save your most-watched channels and ensure you don’t lose your spot when resuming on-demand titles.
What to watch on Pluto TV
Pluto TV’s focuses on entertainment programming with channels such as Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, and MTV. Plus, you can watch episode after episode of hit shows like Doctor Who and RuPaul’s Drag Race. And if you’re heading to Pluto TV for cinema, you’ll find several classic James Bond titles. (There’s even an entire channel dedicated to 007.)
Best for sports fans: The Roku Channel
The Roku Channel offers an alternative way to mix live TV with on-demand content. Almost 20 live TV channels can be found on the service, and you don’t even need a Roku device to access them. But you will need to sign up for a free Roku account.
There’s also the option to upgrade to premium networks, like HBO and Showtime, for a small monthly fee. No matter how many add-ons you choose, you’ll pay only one bill, so you can easily keep track of rolling subscriptions. Combining channels will even save you money. A joint Showtime and Starz subscription costs just $16.99/mo. while HBO and Cinemax cost $20.99/mo.
What to watch on The Roku Channel
Get your daily dose of news from the likes of ABC News and PeopleTV. The service also has live sports from various channels, including Stadium and fubo’s Sports Network. Educate and entertain kids with classic series like Thomas & Friends and more recent films like Smallfoot. Adults can fall in love with sitcoms like Bewitched all over again and binge on reality shows, including The Bachelorette.
Best for unique categories: Tubi TV
One of the best things about Tubi TV is the way it categorizes content. As well as the usual genre list, you’ll find unique categories like Not on Netflix, Highly Rated on Rotten Tomatoes, and Sword & Sorcery. Use these to uncover a gem you won’t find on rival streaming services, or to ensure you always end up picking a well-made film.
Tubi TV doesn’t force you to create an account. But, as with most streaming services, it’s worthwhile registering for one to save your favorites and pick up from where you left off.
What to watch on Tubi TV
No matter what you’re a fan of, you’ll find a title to suit your tastes on Tubi TV. Get some laughs with Blades of Glory, shriek in terror at The Conjuring, and entertain the entire family with an appearance from Shrek. And if you’re a sucker for reality TV, you’ll love Tubi’s range, which features everything from Hell’s Kitchen to Brit fave The Only Way Is Essex.
Best for Hollywood appearances: Vudu
While Vudu is best known for offering movies and episodes to buy or rent, it also has thousands of hours of free content. Separating the two is easy.
If you’re accessing the service through a web browser or Roku, the free list pops up on the homepage. You can find free options via the main menu if you’re using another device. The service is compatible with several products, including Android and Apple devices, Samsung and LG smart TVs, and PlayStation consoles. The service categorizes content by genre. There are also most-watched and recent title lists to explore.
To keep kids safe and parents happy, Vudu has parental controls. Set a PIN to stop kids from watching mature content. You can also block specific types of programming.
What to watch on Vudu
From feel-good films like Legally Blonde and Dead Poets Society to criminal thrillers like Lethal Weapon and Gone in 60 Seconds, Vudu has enough free movies to suit every desire in your household. Free TV shows are typically older. Watch entire seasons of Roseanne and Merlin along with Brit hits like The Inbetweeners. Original programming is also on the way. But only one — a modern adaptation of 1983 comedy Mr. Mom — is available right now.
How to watch free TV with an antenna
Still on the hunt for your favorite network? You may be able to access it for free with an antenna. Some channels are only available in certain areas, but you can easily see your local list via Antenna Web. Want a quick and easy to way to stream an antenna to your Roku, Apple TV, or Fire TV? Invest in a Tablo DVR or HDHomeRun.
The final cut
For a hefty dose of films and shows that won’t cost a cent, try a free streaming service — there are plenty of platforms to keep you busy. Although they may not offer a complete solution for cord-cutters, they can easily be combined with the likes of an antenna or a separate live TV service.
Did you know we now have a FREE app for iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire? Click HERE to download our app.