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What is Tubi? Everything to know about the free streamer

These days, there’s a streaming service for practically everything. Many are not cheap, though, and it seems like the major streamers announce price hikes every few months. However, the growth of the big players is starting to plateau, with customers feeling maxed out and looking for other ways to watch while keeping more money in their pockets. For those reasons, it may be time for advertising video on demand (AVOD) and free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) services to shine. Services like Tubi, Pluto, the Roku Channel, and more recently, Google TV, among others, are starting to position themselves to be at the forefront of the surging streaming segments.

But we digress — we’re here to talk about one of those big players, Tubi, an AVOD/FAST (we’ll refer to it as just free streaming going forward) service that boasts a catalog of more than 50,000 movies and TV shows, and 200 live TV channels — for free. Definitely be sure to check out our list of the best shows on TV shows on Tubi.

But just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should jump ship from all of your other streaming services. After all, can this Fox-owned free streaming platform really compete with the likes of Netflix, Hulu, and others? Here’s everything you need to know about Tubi.

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The Tubi TV homepage on a desktop browser.
screenshot / Digital Trends

What is Tubi?

Tubi is a streaming service with a twist: it’s free. The fast-growing company offers up a combination of on-demand movies and TV shows, originals (this would be the AVOD part), and live TV streaming channels (the FAST part) without you having to shell out for a monthly subscription. Think of it as a sort of commercialized version of Netflix without the subscription fees.

Since Tubi is free, you’re going to have to make some compromises, though. First and foremost, there are ads. They aren’t overwhelming, but they’re there. Second, the on-demand content is mostly older movies and shows rerun on cable and other broadcast services. However, while Tubi has yet to produce any of its own original content, the streamer has a ton of it made for the service that can be found in its Tubi Originals section. More on that below.

Tubi was bought by Fox in 2020 for $440 million, and recently reported more than 64 million monthly active users at the end of 2022.

What can you watch on Tubi?

Don’t be fooled: There’s plenty to watch on Tubi — it boasts the largest catalog of film and TV titles of any AVOD service at 50,000, and offers more than 200 live TV channels for local news and sports. The free streamer also added more than 100 new original titles throughout 2022, with more on the way this year, spanning several genres including thriller, sci-fi, horror, romance, adult animation, and Black cinema titles. It’s also bringing in some original content from its siblings TMZ, MarVista Entertainment, and animated specialist Bento Box Entertainment.

In the meantime, sift through Tubi and you’ll find several diamonds in the rough. A quick five-minute search unearthed several decent selections, including Lovecraft Country, Bohemian Rhapsody, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Goodfellas, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, RBG, Vice, and the docuseries How It’s Made. Tubi also offers live TV channels across entertainment, news, sports, and more, including ABC News, NBC News Now, Fox, TMZ, People TV, the NFL Channel, Fox Sports, and MLB. There’s also a fairly impressive offering of shows and movies on Tubi Kids, including The Lego Movie, The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, The Goonies, Kubo and the Two Strings, Transformers: Prime, Strawberry Shortcake, and more.

Tubi screen showing the animated film Kubo and the Two Strings.
screenshot / Digital Trends

The catalog isn’t available in 4K Ultra HD resolution and tops out at Full HD, depending on the age of the material. There’s no option to upgrade for a better viewing experience, either. Tubi is free, so if you aren’t happy with the experience as is, you will need to seek out an alternative. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of them.

Supported devices

Chances are that if you own a (modern) device that can connect to the internet, it supports Tubi. The streaming service is accessible via your web browser and as a mobile app for both Android and iOS. It’s also available on streaming devices and systems such as Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast, Android TV, TiVo, and as we mentioned above, it was recently added to Google TV. There are even dedicated apps for the PlayStation 4 and Playstation 5, as well as Xbox One, Series X, and Series S.

If you don’t own a set-top box or streaming stick, you may be able to install it on your television itself. If you’re a Comcast Xfinity X1 or Cox Contour cable customer, you can add it to your plan. Plus, owners of Samsung, Sony, Vizio, or LG smart TVs can find the Tubi application available in their respective app store. If you’re outside the U.S., however, the list of supported devices varies from country to country.

Features

Given the nonexistent price, there isn’t a whole lot to Tubi when it comes to features. If you want to watch something aimed at mature audiences, you’ll need to register for an account — and that’s where the tools come in. Doing so will allow you to continue watching where you left off (on any device), create a queue, and receive recommendations based on your viewing habits.

The bottom line

You can’t get something for nothing in this world; if you want to watch a show for free, you’re going to need to put up with an ad or two, both before and during the show — you know, just like in the olden days. The ads aren’t as intrusive as you might think. You’ll typically watch a 20-second ad before your show starts and then sit through a 40-second commercial about halfway through.

And partly because it’s owned by Fox, Tubi has a surprisingly deep well of content. Some of it might even be more recent than you’d expect. And that makes sense, because more recent (and popular) content draws in more views, and that means more eyeballs on advertising, and more money in everyone’s pocket.

Let’s not look this gift horse in the mouth, though: Tubi is free, and for that reason alone, it’s worth sifting through the catalog in the hopes of striking gold — which is happening more frequently lately. After all, if you find at least one thing you like, it was time well spent.

In summary, we don’t think makes sense to have Tubi as your only streaming service. But it is a no-risk platform with some really interesting and quality niche content for fans. And with the growth of AVOD and FAST services such as Tubi, Pluto, Plex, The Roku Channel, Amazon FreeVee and more, customers are thinking more about dumping their subscription services like Hulu, Netflix, and Disney+, and putting up with ads, which may not be as intrusive as you might think. Either way, adding a free-streaming service like Tubi to your roster is risk-free, so why wouldn’t you?

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Derek Malcolm
Derek Malcolm is a Toronto-based technology journalist, editor, and content specialist whose work has appeared in…
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