How to Stream for Free: 8 Platforms and Services to Check Out
Watch what you want, when you want—classic comedies, live news, the hottest shows, and more — without spending a dime. We pick our eight favorite services.
What It Is: One of the oldest streamers, this former Sony property launched in 2004 and is now owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment.
Library Gems: Classic television shows like Charlie’s Angels, 21 Jump Street, and The Greatest American Hero. As for originals, they have the auction house drama The Art of More, starring Dennis Quaid and Kate Bosworth, and Harry Potter alum Rupert Grint in heist drama Snatch. There is also an entire section for faith-based programming.
Where to Watch: Sign up for your account at crackle.com. Watch on your computer’s browser or hit “activate a device” at the top of the home page, which will prompt you for a code that you can get by downloading the Crackle app on your device.
What It Is: Instead of just a library of on-demand titles, ViacomCBS’s streamer offers over 250 live channels, which you can scroll through just like an onscreen cable guide, devoted to everything from British comedies to classic horror movies and James Bond films. There’s even a Bob Ross Channel! And the pop-up screen that plays whatever you’re tuned to is resizable, so you can watch while scrolling through the titles.
Library Gems: Come for reruns of The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Taxi, stay for the 24/7 feeds. The “CBS Selects” interface in the on-demand hub includes past episodes from CBS’s current schedule, so you can catch up on Ghosts, Bull, and The Bold and the Beautiful.
Where to Watch: Visit pluto.tv (no password or login needed). At the top right of the page are options for live TV, on-demand, and search. The Pluto TV app is also available to download on Roku, Apple TV, and other devices.
What It Is: The Fox Entertainment–owned service features a crazy deep library, as well as the ability to watch live sports and news from around the globe.
Library Gems: Fox’s current and former hits like The Masked Singer, Lego Masters, the original Joe Millionaire, and Marvel series The Gifted, plus titles from Lifetime and A&E, from Dance Moms to Duck Dynasty. The “Tubi Kids” hub has youngsters of all ages covered — and for nostalgic millennials, there are episodes of Scooby-Doo Where Are You!, Jem and Transformers.
Where to Watch: The site tubitv.com/home takes you to the main page. Click “register” on the top right to sign up for an account. You can watch on your computer’s browser, or download the Tubi app through your device’s app store to get started. To activate your device, visit tubitv.com/activate.
What It Is: NBCUniversal’s ad-supported platform, “Peacock Free,” features solid originals, the WWE, and access to NBC’s library. Also, thanks to Bravo being under the NBCU umbrella, the reality category is endless.
Library Gems: Binge-worthy originals like the Saved by the Bell reboot or podcast-based Dr. Death are available to try out (any episodes with a purple feature are for the service’s paid tiers). You can also view current series like NBC’s La Brea, The Voice, and the Chicago dramas, older favorites like Downton Abbey and 30 Rock, as well as cable content from Syfy and USA (like Psych!). Plus, check out 50 live TV channels.
Where to Watch: Create an account at peacocktv.com to watch on your computer’s browser, or download the Peacock app through your device’s app store and log in.
What It Is: The Amazon Prime Video channel from its Internet Movie Database site has a massive free library filled with impressive TV and movie picks.
Library Gems: IMDb TV originals Leverage: Redemption and Alex Rider were recently joined
by the return of Judge Judy Sheindlin in her new courtroom show, Judy Justice. Other ad-supported freebies include every single episode of award-winning shows Mad Men and Schitt’s Creek. And the movie selection is so expansive, you may spend the length of a film perusing its available titles.
Where to Watch: The easiest way is through amazon.com, of course. You will need a free Amazon account. Go to the menu on the left-hand side by clicking the three-line symbol. Click on Prime Video (under “Digital Content & Devices”) and select “Prime Video Channels.” Free content is labeled with a button that says “ads.” Or download the app to your TV!
What It Is: Dish Network got into the streaming game in 2015 and now offers an ad-supported alternative to its premium live-TV service. There’s a youthful slant to Sling Free’s content, but lots of older shows are also on tap.
Where to Watch: Watch.sling.com launches the home page with rows of free options, including live channels (which are also visible through the “guide” option at the top of the screen). Click what you want to see, choose “watch” and enjoy! You may have to agree to the service’s terms on your first visit. No account required, unless you’re using the app.
The Roku Channel
What It Is: The company behind the Roku device, which allows users to bundle all of their streaming services in one place, also has its own free, ad-supported outlet. Much like Pluto TV, this includes live news, TV, and movie channels.
Library Gems: This past December, the channel made a splash with the Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist follow-up original movie, Zoey’s Extraordinary Christmas. It also has Magnum, P.I., 2 Broke Girls, and much of the short-form content previously produced for the short-lived service Quibi.
Where to Watch: Obviously, this is available on the Roku device as an app to download, but it’s also accessible on desktops through therokuchannel.roku.com. At the top right of the screen, next to the search bar, look for a white circle with the figure of a person in it. Click that to create your Roku account.
What It Is: Probably the most bare-bones of the free platforms, the streamer owned by Fandango has nearly 10,000 movies and TV shows at no cost, unless you count the time spent on its somewhat heavy ad rotation.
Library Gems: While Hell’s Kitchen, the original Unsolved Mysteries, and 3rd Rock From the Sun are among the more recognizable titles, Vudu’s strength is in its vast collection of “Oh, I remember that!” chestnuts like the ’90s and ’00s syndicated cheesefests Relic Hunter, Renegade, Andromeda, and Highlander.
Where to Watch: At vudu.com, you can hover over “sign in” and then click “create an account.” An email and password gets you the free tier, or you can log in through a preexisting account with FandangoNow, Facebook, or Walmart. You can also download the app through your device to access the library.