Once upon a time, streaming services like Netflix promised to help us cut the cord and save us a ton of money. But look at us now—we’re subscribed to three or four services at a time! It’s time to save some money and replace a few subscriptions with free streaming apps and websites.
We’re about to look at the best free streaming services available to date, including a few options that stream live TV for a cable-like experience. The services in this article are legal and available on most platforms, including your phone or streaming stick.
Just so you know, most free streaming services are ad-supported. But the world of advertisements ain’t so bad, especially when you’re watching a blockbuster movie on Crackle or enjoying live sports on Pluto TV.
Stream Free Shows and Movies On-Demand
Why overcomplicate things? Some of the best free streaming services follow the familiar format of Netflix and Hulu, with on-demand entertainment, watch lists, and exclusive content.
- Crackle: Crackle was one of the first legitimate websites to stream free movies and shows. Its ever-rotating selection includes classics, blockbusters, and some original content. Whenever you need a good movie ASAP, Crackle’s your best bet.
- Peacock: The NBC-owned Peacock streaming service hosts hit shows like Battlestar Galactica, 30 Rock, and Parks and Rec. Peacock is free, but you have to create an account to use the service and endure advertisements for the premium Peacock Plus.
- The Roku Channel: Take a moment to explore The Roku Channel, a massive collection of free movies and shows. The Roku Channel is available in-browser or through a Roku-streaming stick, but it doesn’t have a dedicated app for phones or non-Roku streaming devices.
- Tubi: A free streaming service with thousands of shows and movies, including The Bachelorette and Snoop Dogg’s Bones. Like Crackle, Tubi works without an account.
- IMDb TV: Amazon’s IMDb TV is a free streaming service full of hidden gems, family movies, and niche horror shows like Monsters. It’s the perfect streaming service for people who like to watch forgotten classics.
Alright, that’s five killer replacements for your Netflix or Hulu account. Some of these services, like Crackle, even offer original content! Take that, Stranger Things! But what about your cable or YouTube TV subscription? Can we replace that?
Cable-Like Live TV for Free
Sometimes, it’s nice to flip on a TV and watch whatever comes up. These streaming services replicate the feel of cable TV with live channels, digital guides, and frequent bathroom breaks (AKA advertisements). Some of them, like Pluto TV, are even good for sports!
Before we get into it, I should mention that YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV are practical replicas of cable TV (which is why they cost so much). The free live TV services that we’re looking at use “made up” channels that follow specific genres (rugby, horror, The Addams Family, etc).
- Pluto TV: If you want a refined cable-like experience without memorizing a username and password, then Pluto TV is the place to be. Pluto TV hosts hundreds of live channels, emphasizing classic movies, sports, and hard-to-find shows (MTV’s Next comes to mind). Pluto TV also hosts a few thousand on-demand shows and movies.
- Xumo: Like Pluto TV, Xumo hosts hundreds of live channels and doesn’t require users to make an account. It’s a stellar streaming service for news, sports, and documentaries.
- Plex: That’s right, Plex is dipping its toes into the world of live TV. Anyone with a free Plex account can stream live TV from one of Plex’s 80+ channels, including the stellar Retro Crush anime channel and a slew of concert channels. Upgrading to Plex Plus allows you to use a DVR for live shows and stream OTA TV from your Plex account.
- Peacock: NBC gives you the option to watch its on-demand content in a live TV format. With channels for classic movies or stand-up comedy, Peacock’s live TV feature may feel more natural than on-demand streaming.
- The Roku Channel: Roku recently added live TV channels to its collection of free on-demand content. Roku’s live TV selection isn’t as extensive as what you’ll find on Pluto TV or Xumo, but it’s worth checking out when you fire up your Roku streaming stick.
How much money are you saving now? A good mix of free on-demand and live TV services can quickly replace your Hulu or Disney+ subscription. But advertisements are kind of annoying, especially during movies. Where can you stream free video without ads?
Free with No Ads (Library Card Required)
It’s time to dust off that library card. Your local library offers free movie and video rentals through online services like Kanopy, hoopla, and the infamous Overdrive. The selection of movies and shows that you find through these services will differ depending on your location, but you’ll generally have on-demand streaming access to whatever media is available on DVD at your library.
- Kanopy: Kanopy is the premier video streaming service for libraries. If you aren’t interested in ebook or audiobook rentals, then punch your library credentials into Kanopy and go for a ride.
- hoopla: hoopla is an all-in-one digital platform for libraries. It’s perfect for renting digital books, audiobooks, and digital movies, although its interface isn’t always easy to navigate.
- Overdrive: Most people use Overdrive for ebook and audiobook rentals, not streaming video. In fact, some libraries don’t offer video through Overdrive. But yours might!
Again, these services work alongside your local library, so their selection will differ depending on where you live. Some libraries may host a ton of Disney movies, for instance, while others may be heavy on documentaries or TV shows.
Where Else Can I Find Free TV?
What’s that—you want more free shows and movies? We have a few tips to help you out, although they’ll require a bit of work on your end.
- Check Network Websites: Some networks, like PBS and Adult Swim, allow you to stream free shows or live TV through their website. If a website requires a cable subscription to stream on-demand content, ask a friend or family member for their login info.
- OTA TV (Over-the-Air or Antenna TV): Local channels kick ass. Buy yourself an HDTV antenna and enjoy the local channels in your area. The quality is better than what you get with cable, and an inexpensive OTA box can add DVR functionality and grid guides to your antenna TV setup. If you’re interested in OTA TV, check out the guide on our sister site, How-To Geek.
Look how much money you’re saving now! Cable companies and premium streaming services got nothin’ on you, right? To save even more money, try strategically rotating your paid subscriptions to services like Hulu and Netflix, or split the cost of services between friends.