Over the last ten years, we’ve seen significant changes in the way consumers choose to access and view entertainment. Today, 78% of households in the US have a subscription to Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon Prime (source). Since the inception of these streaming platforms, more and more people are opting to stream their content rather than watching traditional television or cable TV.
While we can all recognize the growing presence of online streaming giants like Netflix, Sling, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, it’s worth knowing that as these platforms grow, so do their free-of-charge counterparts. More and more free TV apps and free streaming services are popping up, and some of them offer excellent content available to view for no cost.
The internet has become a staple in 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 (Roku, Firestick, Chromecast, Apple TV, etc.), you can watch TV series and movies online totally free without cable.
Best Free TV Apps and Free Streaming Services
Here you’ll find reviews of the best online streaming apps. They allow you to watch your favorite TV shows, movies, documentaries, or news broadcasts whenever and wherever you choose (everywhere you have internet access).
Some of the descriptions below mention specific titles that are available on these platforms. These TV series and movies are available at the time this article was written, but they may become unavailable at some point in the future.
You’ll find all of the details below, but here’s a quick look at my favorites:
- Best Overall: Tubi
- Best for Live TV: Pluto TV
- Best for Movies: Crackle
- Best for Live News: NewsON
Best Overall for Free TV and Movies
Tubi is an ad-supported streaming service that has gained significant popularity in recent years. The app is completely free to download and use and is available on most devices including iOS, Android, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, and more. You can also watch directly from a web browser.
This free streaming service offers thousands of titles in the library (no live TV channels), ranking it higher than Crackle in terms of the number of free TV shows and movies available. While not all the content is of a particularly high caliber and there’s 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, the Tubi app is a great choice if you’re looking for a free, easy-to-use streaming platform.
2. Pluto TV
Best for Free Live TV Channels
When Viacom, owners of Paramount Pictures, released their new free online streaming service Pluto TV, it posed a real threat to traditional cable television 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’s 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 and various other niche channels for tech lovers and video gamers.
The Pluto TV app is available on almost all devices, including Apple and Android tablets and phones, Amazon Fire TV and Fire TV stick, Kindle and Fire tablets, Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and internet browsers. It doesn’t require sign-up or registration. Given that it’s so easy to access, it’s well worth checking out, regardless of which TV channel is your favorite.
Best for Free Movies
Co-owned by Sony and Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Crackle is a free streaming service that hosts a range of movies and TV series, 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 almost any streaming device or smart TV.
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. Crackle is often recognized as the best free movie app.
Like other free streaming 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, TV show, or series. This ad time is still considerably less than what you would experience on traditional television.
Best for the News
NewsON provides access to live news and on-demand local news to iOS and Android users, as well as on Roku and Amazon devices, plus Samsung smart TVs. 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 it weather, sports, breaking news or international news.
Did you know you can actually make money watching online videos? Apps like Swagbucks and InboxDollars compensate you for watching videos in your spare time. Both of these apps are free, and they even offer $5 signup bonuses!
Freevee (formerly known as IMDb TV) is owned by Amazon. It’s considered one of the leaders in free streaming services for both movies and TV shows. The platform was established in 2019, but it has quickly gained popularity amongst viewers. It’s one of the default apps on Amazon devices, so it’s easy for many to access.
It’s especially useful for Amazon Prime members. The service is available to use through your Amazon account and is integrated with Prime Video. It’s also available on Android and iOS mobile devices, gaming consoles, Roku, smart TVs, and more.
The library is extensive, hosting blockbuster movies such as ‘Catch Me If You Can’ and ‘Apocalypse Now’. Like, Crackle, Freevee also hosts exclusive original content, some of which have received excellent reviews.
If you’re looking for the best free streaming service, be sure to check out Freevee, especially if you have an Amazon Prime subscription or an Amazon device.
6. Xumo Play
Xumo has an excellent selection of free movies and free TV shows, but live TV is where it really shines. You’ll find almost 200 channels that you can watch at no cost and without signing up, making it one of the best live TV apps.
The grid user interface is similar to what you’ll find with Pluto TV, cable, and other streaming services. You can also watch a small screen while you browse the grid to find what you really want.
Xumo now comes pre-installed on some TVs, making it one of the best TV apps for smart TVs. You can also use it on Roku or your Android or iOS devices.
Sling TV is a popular subscription-based cable alternative, and they recently added Sling Freestream. This service offers more than 150 channels for live TV, plus a selection of shows and movies to watch on demand.
You’ll need to create an account to use Sling Freestream, but all you need to enter is an email address and a password.
One noteworthy feature is that this app offers parental controls, which is not always the case with free apps.
You can watch from an Android or Apple device, Amazon Fire TV device, Roku, Google TV, Apple TV, and more.
If you own a Roku device, you’ll automatically have access to the Roku Channel. However, even if you don’t have a Roku device, you can access the channel in other ways. You can access it via the Roku app for smartphones and tablets, or through an internet browser.
With more than 350 live TV channels, the Roku Channel has an impressive lineup. It hasn’t been around as long as some of the others on my list, but it has quickly become a favorite of many people.
9. FREECABLE TV
Freecable TV is a mobile app available for all iOS and Android devices. The app provides a similar service to traditional cable television but without the cost or subscription.
Once you’ve downloaded the app onto your phone or device, you can 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. However, they provide a cohesive way of finding and viewing some of your favorite TV shows or movies online and for free.
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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’s no subscription fee for 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.
This streaming service is available on all Android and iOS mobile devices, major gaming consoles, smart TVs, and PC and Mac desktop computers.
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 (like Android TV).
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 the company and its users. As a result, Redbox now offers one of the best live TV apps.
Live TV streaming is a service provided by some streaming sites. Redbox currently offers more than 100 channels, and they’ve consistently added to this. It seems they’re 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. It’s another convenient way to watch live channels wherever you are.
Since its inception in 2005, YouTube has experienced exponential global growth within the online entertainment industry. With more than 2.5 billion active 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’s worth creating an account using either a Google account 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.
Free TV Apps from Networks
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.
Almost every TV network has its own app now as well. While these apps don’t offer as wide of a selection as the apps covered above, they are excellent options if you have a favorite show on the network.
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’re 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 on the channel.
So this is a good choice for existing cable television customers who want to access their favorite shows on-demand. But bear in mind that in order to access their 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 free TV app in recent years that 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 US 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 television customer.
NBC has also been involved with the Peacock app (along with Xfinity), which used to be a good option for free TV. However, Peacock is now a paid service. If you have an existing account, a small amount of content is available for free, but new users cannot access the free content.
15. The CW
The CW app provides a place to watch a huge selection of free TV shows. Again, it’s ad-supported, 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.
16. 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.
17. PBS and PBS Kids Video
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.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions
There are many free streaming services out there, and they have gotten significantly better over the past few years. My top recommendations include Tubi, Pluto TV, Crackle, Freevee, and Xumo Play, but you’ll also find many others discussed on this page.
There are a growing number of apps available for both iPhone and Android devices that allow you to watch shows and movies right from your phone. Your personal interests will determine which one is best, but I’m a big fan of Crackle, Freevee, Pluto TV, and Tubi.
Google TV offers an excellent selection of shows and movies that are available at no cost. Some do include commercials, but that’s to be expected. Aside from the free content, Google TV also offers a selection of premium channels that require a paid subscription.
No, Fubo TV is a direct competitor to services like Hulu, YouTube TV, and Sling TV. It is one of the best options if you want to stream live sports. You will need to pay a monthly subscription for Fubo TV.
Yes, Pluto TV is free and it offers a combination of channels and on-demand shows and movies.
Mobdro used to be a popular free streaming service, but as of January 2022, it is no longer available.
Crackle is probably the closest thing to a free version of Netflix. You’ll find an impressive selection of free movies and shows, although (as you would expect), Netflix’s collection is far more extensive.
Final Thoughts on Free TV Apps
We hope you found what you were looking for on this list of the best free TV apps and free streaming services. With many of these services giving platforms like Sling TV, 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-supported 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 TV apps and 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 television subscription fee.