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In the last ten years, we have seen significant changes in the way we as consumers choose to access and view our entertainment. Almost 25% of adults in the United States regularly use Netflix to stream TV shows and movies, and around 60% of 18-34-year-olds regularly stream shows or movies online. Since the inception of these streaming platforms, more and more people are opting to stream their content rather than watching traditional television.
While we can all recognize the growing presence of online streaming giants like Netflix and Hulu, it’s worth knowing that as these platforms grow, so do their free-of-charge counterparts. More and more free online streaming services are popping up in the US, and some of them offer excellent content available to view for no cost.
The internet has become a staple within our daily lives, so online streaming could not be more convenient for many of us, particularly when it’s free. If you own a mobile device, gaming console, smart TV, laptop, or any other streaming device, chances are you could be accessing some of your favorite content online for free.
Free TV Apps
Here you will find 17 of the best online streaming apps, allowing you to watch your favorite TV shows, movies, documentaries, or news broadcasts whenever and wherever you choose. Some of the descriptions below mention specific titles that are available on these platforms. These TV shows and movies are available at the time this article was written, but they may become unavailable at some point in the future.
Co-owned by Sony and Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Crackle is a free online streaming service that hosts a range of movies and TV shows, as well as some original content exclusive to Crackle. The app is available to download on both iOS and Google Play, and can also be accessed using various streaming devices and smart TVs.
As far as Crackle’s content goes, their library is pretty impressive, with big blockbuster movies like ’28 Days’ and ‘The Longest Yard’, as well as many well-known TV series available to watch for free.
As with many services of this kind, Crackle makes its money through ads. So you will need to sit through a couple of minutes on average of adverts before accessing your chosen movie or TV show. This ad time is still considerably less than the kind you would often experience on traditional television.
2. IMDb TV
IMDb TV is considered one of the leaders in free online streaming services. The platform is still fairly new, having been established at the beginning of 2019, but it has quickly gained popularity amongst viewers. It’s especially useful for Amazon Prime Members. The service is available to use through your Amazon account and can be installed on all Amazon Fire Devices, as well as on Android and iOS mobile devices.
The library is extensive, hosting blockbuster movies such as ‘Catch Me If You Can’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’. Like, Crackle, IMDb TV also hosts exclusive original content, some of which have received excellent reviews.
IMDb has established itself as the prime place to find movie and TV trivia and information. So not only does this service allow users to access some of their favorite movies and TV shows for free, but it also provides a plethora of knowledge and information on just about any title you can think of.
3. Pluto TV
When Viacom, owners of Paramount Pictures, released their new free online streaming service Pluto TV, it posed a real threat to traditional cable TV as a legit cable alternative. Pluto TV offers a combination of cable channels and on-demand movies and TV shows. With channels like Comedy Central, MTV, and Nickelodeon all hosted on the site, there is a huge range of shows for Pluto TV users to access for free.
You won’t find any original content on Pluto TV, but some news and sports channels are accessible through the site, as well as various other niche channels for tech lovers and video gamers.
The app is available on almost all devices and requires no sign-up or registration. Given that it is so easy to access, it is well worth checking out.
Tubi is another streaming service funded by ads. The app is completely free to download and use and is available on most devices including iOS, Android, and Amazon Fire.
Tubi claims to host more than 50,000 titles in the library, ranking it higher than Crackle in terms of the number of movies and TV shows available to users. While not all of the content is of a particularly high caliber and there is likely to be a lot you’ve never heard of, Tubi does offer many well-known movies such as ‘School of Rock’.
With a quick and easy download and sign-up process, Tubi is a great choice if you’re looking for a free, easy-to-use streaming platform.
5. FREECABLE TV
Freecable TV is a mobile app available on all iOS and Android devices. The app provides a similar service to traditional Cable TV, but without the cost or subscription.
Once you have downloaded the app onto your device, you are able to stream movies and shows from channels such as Fox, Discovery, and TLC, as well as on-demand content from sites including YouTube and exclusive fitness and lifestyle content.
Freecable TV essentially acts as a search engine, pooling together the content available from other participating entertainment providers. So the content is not hosted by Freecable TV, but they do provide a cohesive way of finding and viewing some of your favorite TV shows or movies online and for free.
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Given our increasing desire to consume our favorite TV shows on the go and on-demand, it makes sense that some of the big entertainment providers are catching on to this new way of consumption and providing platforms to enable this.
ABC is just one network that has developed its own app to enable customers to view the content they like whenever and wherever they choose. The app is completely free to download, however, you are only able to begin viewing most TV shows once you have verified your existing cable subscription. Some shows and episodes are available to stream without a current cable subscription, but these tend to change periodically and are not generally the more current shows.
So this is a good choice for existing cable TV customers who want to access their favorite shows on-demand. But bear in mind that in order to access the services full list of shows, you will need a Cable TV subscription, and even then you should expect to sit through ads before and during streaming.
NBC has also introduced a mobile app in recent years which allows users to access a selection of NBC’s current shows as well as some previously aired box sets. Much like ABC’s offering, many of these shows require you to have a current cable TV subscription before viewing.
Depending on where you live and whether or not NBC currently owns your local affiliate station, you might also be able to access the app’s new live streaming service. This means you are free to watch live TV as well as on-demand shows from anywhere using your mobile device.
The app is free to download and although may require a cable subscription, there are also shows available to view with no subscription needed, so it’s worth checking out even if you are not a current cable TV customer.
Offering many of the same perks as some of the aforementioned streaming providers, Peacock is available on many devices including iOS and Android mobile devices but is not currently available with Amazon Fire. Peacock offers users a free streaming service that is funded by ads, with the option to upgrade to one of the premium paid-for services.
Peacock is easy to download and registration is quick and simple. With an extensive back catalog of shows and movies as well as live sports and news channels available, Peacock is a real contender in the competitive world of online streaming.
9. The CW
The CW app provides a place to watch a huge selection of TV shows completely free of charge. Again, it’s funded by ads, so you can expect to sit through plenty if you’re using this as your primary streaming service.
The shows available include ‘Gossip Girl’ and ‘America’s Next Top Model’ amongst others. You will also find a wealth of information and trivia about each of the shows, as well as links to purchase merchandise and other items.
If you don’t mind sitting through adverts and are interested in broadening your general knowledge in the area of TV as well as viewing your favorite shows on the go, The CW App could be an excellent choice for you.
10. Cartoon Network
Whether you’re looking for a suitable way for your children to access their favorite shows on the go, or a place to catch up on your own favorite nostalgic childhood shows, Cartoon Networks streaming app might be the place to find them.
Most cartoon network shows are available on the app all for free, and the app is available on all Android and iOS devices. Some episodes are available only to customers with specific TV subscriptions, but many of the shows are available with no login or authentication.
The app is also fully customizable, meaning as a parent you have complete control over what your child can access.
If it’s live, on-the-go TV streaming that you’re looking for, Redbox offers a wide range of channels available to watch on Roku, iOS, Android, and some Smart TVs. Redbox might be best known for its red video rental kiosks, but as the world becomes increasingly digitized, this step into online streaming made sense for Redbox and its users.
Live TV streaming is a service provided by many streaming sites, and Redbox doesn’t currently have the most impressive catalog of channels, with around 60 at the time of writing. However, Redbox is consistently adding to this list, so it seems they are intent on catching up with and possibly overtaking the current frontrunners in this field.
The app requires no login and is fairly simple to use. Another convenient way to watch live TV wherever you are.
Since its inception in 2005, YouTube has experienced exponential growth within the online entertainment industry. With around two billion monthly users, YouTube is currently the most viewed website worldwide.
Funded by ads, YouTube’s free platform hosts a myriad of original, user-created content as well as TV shows, movies, documentaries, and music videos. No login is required, however, if you want to benefit from their tailored recommendations and all other user-specific amenities, it is worth creating an account using either a Google or email address.
YouTube TV, which was launched in 2017, also offers live TV streaming, on-demand movies and shows, as well as more original content. This is a paid-for subscription service, but if you’re looking to get all of your entertainment in one place, it might be worth checking out.
This Walmart-owned streaming service allows users to access a range of on-demand TV shows and movies. Many of the titles are available to watch free of charge, however, most of the more popular items in their listings will come at a price, starting somewhere around $3.99.
There is no subscription fee with this service, and you only pay for what you watch. So if you’re mostly watching their free content, with the occasional paid-for add on when a new blockbuster is released (often Vudu is first off the mark with new releases), this could be a good option for you.
The service is not currently available on all mobile devices, but can be downloaded on the major gaming consoles, smart TVs, and PC and Mac desktop computers.
NewsON provides access to live and on-demand local news to iOS, Roku, and Android users. The app is funded by several news stations and came about as a result of the growing number of people choosing to access their entertainment content through online streaming, rather than traditional TV. The one element most streaming services lack is their news offerings, this is where NewsOn steps in.
The service is free to use, and with over 118 local channels available, it is thought to cover more than 75% of the US. With an interactive map, it is easy to navigate and find news that is relevant to you. The timeline tool also makes it easy for users to find the specific segment they are looking for, be that weather, sports, or international news.
Much like NewsOn, Newsy offers 24-hour live news coverage. The difference, however, is that Newsy streams only their own broadcasts. So instead of using Newsy to access local newscasters in your area, you will use Newsy to access their own national or local news broadcasts.
Newsy has been named the top newscaster in terms of reliability, meaning that their news is unbiased and without agenda. This is likely to appeal to a lot of users and provides an authentic and fact-driven service.
Most mobile devices, smart TVs, and streaming devices are compatible with Newsy, and once downloaded you are able to tailor your experience by inputting your location.
If like many others, you are becoming increasingly aware of the media bias present within many of our news stations, and are looking for fact-based, unbiased news, Newsy is an excellent option.
The PBS Video App is free to download on iOS, Roku, and Android devices, as well as many streaming devices and smart TVs. With over 4,000 shows available to stream on-demand with PBS Video, their catalog is one of the most extensive and each stream is of great quality.
Some shows are available for free, but for the newer streams, you will likely need a PBS Passport account. This is an add-on member service providing additional benefits and access to more streams, for around $5 per month.
The PBS Video App relies heavily on in-app purchases and additional membership sign-ups, but if your favorite show happens to be included in their free catalog, it’s well worth giving this app a go.
17. PBS Kids Video
Also from PBS, PBS Kids Video is an educational app through which children can access curriculum-based content as well as many PBS Kids TV shows.
The app is available on iOS and Android devices and is user-specific, meaning it is easy to use, has no adverts, and all in-app purchases require parent authentication. The app is safe and customizable, with content geared towards children of all ages.
PBS Kids is completely free and introduces children to the digital world in an educational and engaging way.
With many of these services giving platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus a run for their money, it’s easy to see why more and more of us are opting for these free streaming sites rather than the subscription-based services also available to us.
By signing up for an ad-funded site, as many of these are, you pay for your consumption through the time it takes to watch or skip the ads. For many of us, this is much more attainable and alluring than adding on an additional monthly expense.
After checking out some of these free streaming services, you might find that your favorite shows or movies are available to watch for free. If so, you could save yourself the monthly or annual subscription cost of a paid-for service, or your regular cable TV subscription fee.