The world is being asked to stay home right now, and for many of us, money might be tighter than usual. That creates quite a conundrum: How can we stay entertained on the cheap?
The good news is that you don’t have to do it cheaply — you can do it for free. Many streaming services are offering quality content free of charge these days, as long as you’re fine with watching an ad or two. As with paid content, some services are objectively better than others, and we’ve collected the best of the best.
Supported devices: Apple TV, Roku devices, Amazon Fire TV and TV Stick, Google Chromecast, Android TV, iOS devices, Android devices.
Who it’s for: Those interested in Comedy Central content, children’s programming, food channels, nature, and travel content.
Pluto TV is a free TV streaming service that offers a couple of popular networks in addition to more specialized live and on-demand content. In all, the ad-supported platform has more than 250 channels filled with movies and TV shows. Or, in other words, it’s a hodgepodge of content you’re familiar with and content you’ve never heard of before. Since it’s free, it’s worth diving into.
Speaking of Pluto TV, if you own a Vizio SmartCast TV, you’ve already got Pluto TV, but it goes by the name WatchFree. That’s what Vizio calls its free streaming TV service, which is powered by Pluto TV. Vizio has also supplemented the 150-plus Pluto TV channels with an additional 30 free streaming channels that can be found in a new Free Channels row on the SmartCast home screen.
Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Android devices, Apple TV, iOS devices, Chromecast, LG TV, Playstation 4, Roku, Samsung TV, Vizio TV, Xbox One.
Who it’s for: Those who aren’t afraid to dig through a few old and forgotten productions to find some gems.
Crackle operates in a similar fashion to Pluto TV, and to most free streaming services. You’ll get ads, but you’ll also get access to thousands of hours of free content. By browsing their library, it’s not hard to find some fun things to watch (the Ace Ventura movies are available to stream). But it’s almost more fun to find all the B-level movies featuring today’s A-list actors. Remember 1997’s The Devil’s Own? Neither do we, but it starred Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt.
Supported devices: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV and TV Stick, Xbox One, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Chromecast, TiVo, Android TV, Xfinity X1, Cox Contour.
Who it’s for: Anyone hoping to stream episodes of Hell’s Kitchen or movies like Minority Report and Be Cool.
There isn’t any exclusive content on Tubi TV. But, since it’s free, that’s basically expected. What there is on Tubi TV is a wealth of older TV shows and movies. It’s not necessarily enough to make your primary streaming service, but it’s worth keeping it in the lineup whenever you’re looking for something a little more retro to watch.
Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick, Android devices, iOS devices, Apple TV, Roku.
Who it’s for: Streamers after an interesting array of content, including Blade Runner 2049 and Chappie.
A fairly new free streaming service, IMDB TV launched in 2019 with a modest collection of titles. It’s recently added some solid movies and TV, including Salt and Schitt’s Creek in addition to more classic options like The Boondock Saints and Donnie Darko. The service includes commercials, of course, and is a little tricky since it’s found inside the IMDB app. But for as new as it is, it has a nice selection of content for free.
Supported devices: Vizio TV, Samsung TV, LG TV, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox One, Roku, Chromecast, TiVO, iOS devices, Android devices.
Who it’s for: Anyone who’s looking for a total package of streaming content, with both free and renting/purchasing options available.
Vudu is best known for having the latest movies available to rent or purchase, oftentimes in 4K quality. But look a little further into the service, and you’ll discover a great deal more. Vudu offers thousands of movies and TV shows free to stream, including Superbad and Happy Feet, among others. The inclusion of free titles makes Vudu an intriguing one-stop-shop for streaming.
The Roku Channel
Supported devices: Roku devices, web browsers.
Who it’s for: Roku owners on the hunt for a mix of free content, both old and new.
The Roku Channel has a bit of everything for everyone, including a section of the service dedicated to family-oriented content. These titles include Smurfs 2, Stuart Little, and Dennis the Menace among other options. So, while The Roku Channel may not have as many options as other free streaming services, it does have a stellar collection of family-focused viewing options.
Supported devices: Apple TV, Roku, iOS devices, Amazon Fire TV and TV Stick, Chromecast, Xbox One, Android TV, Android devices, LG TV, Samsung TV.
Who it’s for: Those hoping to try out a cord-cutting service for free, for the time being.
Sling TV is one of many streaming services offering free trials during this social distancing movement, which includes Netflix, fuboTV, YouTube Premium, Showtime, Starz, and Hulu. Sling’s offer included more than 45 live channels, over 50,000 on-demand movies and shows, 10 hours of free Cloud DVR, and the ability to watch on three different screens. It’s currently only a 14-day free trial, but that’s a lot of free streaming options for two weeks.
HBO Now/HBO GO
Supported devices: Apple TV, Roku, iOS devices, Amazon Fire TV and TV Stick, Chromecast, PS4, Xbox One, Android TV, Android devices, Samsung TV.
Who it’s for: Anyone interested in binge-watching series like The Sopranos, Barry, or Veep.
With the announcement that HBO will be making nearly 500 hours of content freely available to watch starting April 3 through the end of the month, a new player has officially entered the realm of free streaming. It may not have the most content available, but HBO instantly has some of the best on its sibling streaming services. The list of free content includes every episode of nine different HBO series, as well as 20 different Warner Bros. movies in HBO’s catalog which include Pokémon: Detective Pikachu, and Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Supported devices: Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, Smart TVs, TiVO.
Who it’s for: Those who want to add free content to the movies, TV shows, and other forms of media they already own.
For years, Plex has been the go-to service for anyone who wants to build their own media server composed of digital versions of the movies and TV shows they already own. Now, Plex has added its own free-to-watch content into the fray. While it’s not incredibly expansive or full of great watching options, it’s a decent addition to the service to help provide depth to your own library.
- The best online streaming services for movies and TV
- Where to watch free movies online
- Cut the cord: How to quit cable for online streaming video
- The best streaming devices for 2020
- What is HBO Max?