Free streaming services are exploding in popularity. They let you reduce your entertainment budget without sacrificing quality content.
If you want to cut the cord on cable, free TV streaming sites may even help you avoid live TV streaming services to increase your savings.
We’ve tested each of the platforms on our list. They all are legitimate options to watch popular TV shows.
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What Are the Best Free Streaming Services?
Choosing a video streaming service is simple, but you must remember that most free streaming sites are ad-supported. This means you’ll have commercials interrupting your content.
That is how these platforms make money. However, some platforms rival Netflix for content, so it’s certainly a trade-off.
All you need is internet service to watch these platforms on your TV or device. Read our guide on how to get internet without cable to stream your favorite shows.
Additionally, all of these services have a variety of compatible devices. They work on smart TVs, popular streaming devices, and various web browsers.
Here are the best free ad-supported streaming services to watch TV shows and movies.
Peacock is our top-rated choice for no-cost TV. The NBCUniversal platform has nearly 15,000 hours of shows and movies available in its content library.
*Update: Peacock no longer offers the free tier to new subscribers.
This gives you access to popular shows like 30 Rock, The Office, Friday Night Lights, and more. You also receive access to hundreds of popular movies, many of which are older.
Peacock even has a growing library of original programming.
As a free subscriber, you can’t watch all of the episodes of an original show. They usually give you access to the first several episodes.
You do need to register to watch content. This involves providing your name and email address, but no credit card is required.
Part of what makes Peacock unique is that it also includes two paid tiers. Here are how the three Peacock TV plans compare.
|Peacock Premium Plus
Upgrading gives you access to live sports, such as Sunday Night Football, and unlocks access to its entire library of content.
This makes Peacock a good choice for cord-cutters who are unable to access their local NBC station with an over-the-air antenna.
If you don’t mind the upselling of its premium tiers, Peacock is a fantastic choice to stream movies and TV shows online.
Read our Peacock TV review to learn more.
2. Pluto TV
Pluto TV is one of the best free TV streaming services. The platform is owned by Paramount and offers over 200 channels of content.
This includes linear and live channels that focus on free news, sports, and entertainment content. Expect to see lots of content from other Paramount properties, such as MTV reality series and TV Land shows.
These are often shows from previous seasons, not current seasons.
Pluto also airs content from networks like CNN and Fox Sports. This is usually curated content and not live TV.
Additionally, Pluto offers dedicated channels for shows like Stargate or The Amazing Race. They even air Yellowstone marathons on occasion.
Users will find that the Pluto platform is relatively simple to use, with a grid-like guide that mirrors what you’ll experience in live TV streaming services.
You don’t need to register to use Pluto. However, creating an account lets you tailor your experience by allowing you to favorite networks, hide or unhide channels, and more.
Pluto is an excellent choice for streamers who want some live TV, but much of the on-demand content is retro. You may need to choose a different service if you want to watch popular movies.
Read our Pluto TV review to learn more about the streaming platform.
3. Tubi TV
Tubi TV is one of the top free streaming apps to use if you want to minimize your entertainment costs. The platform is owned by FOX and boasts more than 40,000 movies and TV shows from over 400 partners.
It also is increasing its library of original content. This makes the platform a top alternative to Netflix if you want to spend less on TV.
While Tubi has some live TV, much of the content is on-demand or curated from popular channels like A&E, Lifetime, or NFL Network. Like Pluto, it also has entire channels devoted to one show.
Where Tubi shines is its large library of children’s content. Tubi Kids houses hundreds of TV shows and movies for children at different age-appropriate levels.
The Tubi interface is clean and easy to use. Given its focus on movies and original content, you could combine it with Pluto for live networks if you want to get free cable TV channels and not have a bill.
You don’t need to register to use Tubi, but creating an account gives you access to features like parental controls, watchlists, filtering, and more.
While Tubi is an excellent way to watch movies for free, it would be nice if the platform had more live content.
Read our Tubi review to learn more.
4. Roku Channel
Roku isn’t just known for its popular streaming devices. They are also one of the top free apps for cord-cutters.
The Roku Channel is similar to Tubi and carries a wide mix of free TV shows as well as movies. It boasts thousands of different titles, including popular hits like 2 Broke Girls, The Bachelorette, and Downton Abbey.
This platform also has a growing library of original content thanks to its acquisition of Qibi.
One other nice feature is Roku’s offering of roughly 300 live networks. Included in these are stations like Reuters and Weather Nation.
They also carry some local news stations. These are typically from larger metro areas, so you may not find your local broadcast affiliate.
Read our review of how to watch local channels without cable or satellite if the Roku channels doesn’t have broadcast affiliates near you.
You don’t need a Roku device to access the platform, but you must create an account to use it. That aside, making an account lets you receive content recommendations, create watchlists, and more.
The Roku Channel is one of the best free streaming apps, though it would be nice if they didn’t require registering to watch content.
FreeVee (formerly IMDb TV) is Amazon’s solution to watch TV for free.
It is not Prime Video. Instead, it’s their free ad-supported streaming service that you must register to use.
FreeVee claims to have over four million titles in its library of TV shows and movies. You won’t get live TV channels with the platform since it’s all on-demand content.
Offerings include popular shows like Lost, Mad Men, and Hell’s Kitchen. Amazon is also investing money in original series for the app.
Similar to the Roku Channel and its parent device, you don’t need a Fire TV Stick or other Fire devices to access content. You can access FreeVee through any major streaming device.
However, if you have a Fire device, it does come pre-loaded on it.
FreeVee is a solid choice to stream for free, but the interface is clunky. We found that Tubi and the Roku Channel were both easier to navigate.
6. Sling Freestream
From its name, you might expect that Sling Freestream is a way to watch shows on the live TV service at no expense. That’s not the case.
Sling Freestream is the free ad-supported streaming arm of the paid service.
*Related: Read our Sling TV review to learn more about the live TV streaming app.
If you’re a paying Sling subscriber, you already get access to the free platform. However, you don’t need a paid subscription to use it.
Sling Freestream has over 40,000 on-demand movies and TV shows. It also has over 300 live channels. The live channels are second-tier channels or local news stations from major metro areas.
On-demand content includes curated shows from popular networks like Starz and AMC.
You don’t need to register to watch content online, but you do if you plan to watch the platform on your TV.
The interface is nearly identical to the paid Sling platform. It’s easy to use and favorite channels.
There’s a lot to watch on Sling Freestream, but it lacks family-friendly content. If you want free content for your children, Tubi is a better choice.
Crackle is one of the oldest free streaming sites. The app is roughly 20 years old and is owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul.
This platform is ideal for someone who enjoys classic movies. It has over 1,100 movie titles from a wide range of genres.
Crackle is also investing money in creating original content to bolster its library of movies. Unfortunately, Crackle lags behind its competitors when it comes to television content.
It has roughly 100 different TV shows, but they’re mainly shows you may have never heard of before. Many of the series are from the U.K.
You don’t need to create an account to use Crackle. Making an account does offer features like parental controls and watchlists.
The interface is a bit outdated, but it’s not difficult to use.
Crackle won’t be a primary service for most people, but it can be a good complement to Tubi or Pluto.
DistroTV is a newer service that lets you stream TV for free. The app launched in 2019 and is a competitor to Pluto TV.
This platform has roughly 250 channels, largely consisting of live or curated content. The live channels are a bit random and include local news for obscure locations in the U.S.
However, it does include curated content from popular networks like Dove TV, People TV, and the ACC Network.
Where DistroTV shines is its international focus. It carries content from Bollywood, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and more. Additionally, it has lots of European news coverage.
You don’t need to register to use DistroTV, which is nice. Unfortunately, it also doesn’t allow you to integrate its channel guide with the Fire TV interface like Pluto does.
DistroTV is a good choice for streamers who like an international focus, though it lacks on-demand content and has a clunky interface.
9. Samsung TV Plus
Samsung TV Plus is an ad-supported streaming service from the well-known device manufacturer. The service was the first offering by a TV producer.
This platform only works on smart TVs made after 2016. It also works on Galaxy devices and Family Hub refrigerators made in 2017 or later.
There is no installation necessary to use the app. It is already loaded on newer devices, and you can start watching TV shows and movies immediately.
Samsung TV Plus offers roughly 1,600 channels internationally, with approximately 500 channels for U.S.-based devices.
This allows them to offer a broad range of content. You’ll find channels like NBC News Now, AMC, Yahoo Finance, Game Show Central, and The Walking Dead Universe.
Similar to other free ad-supported streaming services, you can expect a mix of live and curated content.
Samsung TV Plus is a robust streaming service with many content categories. However, it would be nice if it was available beyond the proprietary devices.
Vudu is a part of the Fandango movie family. The streaming service is best known for its movie collection.
This platform doesn’t include live TV. Instead, it focuses on movies and on-demand TV shows.
Vudu also lets you rent recently released movies, though that typically comes with a cost of $5.99 a rental.
Fortunately, the app does a good job of segmenting, so you know if a movie is free or not. Generally, you must pay for anything produced recently. Older movies are usually free to view.
Registering with Vudu is required to watch anything. Upon doing so, you receive access to its library of over 10,000 free TV shows and movies.
The interface is easy to use, and there are plenty of feel-good sitcoms from yesteryear. Nevertheless, it would be nice if they didn’t require registration.
11. Hoopla Digital
Hoopla Digital is a must-use if you frequent your local library. You need to have a library card and create an account so that you can use the service to stream popular movies and TV shows.
The content is a bit of a mix of everything and depends largely on what your local library offers. You can check out movies or shows, and they give you 72 hours to stream the title.
You can expect to find past seasons of popular shows, movies, PBS Kids content, shows from Acorns TV, and Ken Burns documentaries. Most libraries cycle through content, so selections will vary.
Additionally, you can stream audiobooks, music, and more through the service.
While you’re limited to what your local library carries, Hoopla is a fantastic choice to stream movies and TV shows for free.
Xumo is often an overlooked streaming service by cord-cutters. Regardless, it’s a legitimate way to watch TV online at no cost.
This platform compares well against apps like Pluto TV that offer live TV. The service has approximately 200 channels of live and curated shows.
It stands out due to its news and sports-related content. You can expect to find channels like ABC News Live, Bloomberg TV, PAC-12 Insider, and Fox Sports.
Just remember that the sports networks aren’t like the live feed of the network. You’ll get curated content of previously-played games.
Xumo also has a variety of on-demand titles you can watch.
You don’t need to register to use Xumo. The interface is easier to use compared to Pluto, and it’s a bit more robust. However, it does lack the ability to fast-forward or rewind content.
Xumo is an excellent choice to stream free movies and TV, though some of its content is outdated.
13. Redbox Live
Redbox Live is the streaming partner of the popular DVD rental kiosk company. The service has several dozen channels of free live and curated TV.
This puts it behind other apps like Pluto or DistroTV that offer hundreds of channels. But, it does carry some impressive networks, such as Bloomberg TV, Newsy, PAC-12 Insider, and World Poker Tour.
Like other services, don’t expect all of the shows to be truly live, as some will be older.
Redbox Live does have movies you can watch on-demand. It also offers some original content.
The app is relatively easy to use, and you don’t need to register to use it.
If you already use Redbox to rent DVDs, you’ll like the streaming arm. Nevertheless, it’s not as robust as other services.
What to Know About Free Ad-Supported Streaming Services
It can be challenging to choose the best free streaming service. There’s a growing number of choices, each with its own focus.
That aside, there are some good options that can help you significantly reduce your spending on TV.
When choosing a free service, there are several things to keep in mind, including:
- You won’t get the most recent TV shows or hit movies
- Original content varies between apps
- You will get commercials as no service is ad-free
- Live sports are few and far between, and you won’t find ESPN
- Some live content is actually curated and not truly live
- Content lineups occasionally change
Those drawbacks aside, free streaming apps are a terrific way to save money. They’re good for background noise and might be the only way to get some popular TV shows or movies from the past.
*Related: Read our guide on the best ways to stream ESPN without cable if you want an affordable option to get the sports giant.
If you pair several of these services with an over-the-air antenna and an affordable streaming service, you may not need a live service.
At Frugal Rules, it’s our goal to help you make educated decisions so that you can save money and grow your wealth. Managing your streaming costs is a part of that.
We’ve tested all of the apps in this post and many others. We took the following into consideration when compiling this list of free streaming services:
- Services that are free of spam
- Ability to get access to a wide variety of content
- No credit card information requirements
- Apps that regularly add new content to their offerings
- Ability to access using a variety of streaming devices
- Solid reputation
The streaming apps on our list did not influence our rankings. There are considerably more free services available, though the ones on our list are the best in the space.
Cutting the cord on cable provides the opportunity to choose an alternative that works best for you. Free streaming services add an extra layer of freedom as there’s no cost to you.
You may find that one service alone will not meet your needs. Instead, try several to see which works best for you.
Then, you can create your own bundle of apps that help you get the shows and movies you want.
How much do you spend each month on cable?
I’m Nicole Schmoll – a master’s-educated professional writer, mompreneur, and co-founder of Frugal Rules.
As a freelance copywriter in Omaha, I still believe that writing is an artistic expression. Every time I strike the keys, I intend to evoke a response from my listeners. I left my full-time career as a senior copywriter for an insurance agency to start my own freelance writing business.
I love watching and writing about TV (and how to stream it!)