Best Free Streaming Video Services
These services offer hundreds of free TV shows and films in exchange for showing you ads
Free streaming services are available through most streaming devices and smart TVs.
By James K. Willcox
Updated by Daniel Bortz
Budget-conscious consumers can stream movies and TV shows free from a growing list of services. Free streaming services are available through most streaming devices and smart TVs, as well as on laptops, smartphones, and tablets—just like Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming services you have to pay for.
In exchange for watching TV free, you’ll have to see some ads. And with most free services, you’re out of luck if you want 4K shows, including any with HDR. Instead, these platforms usually provide regular high-definition video, just like most cable TV companies.
You’re also not likely to find recently released movies. And, of course, you won’t be able to watch original shows from paid services, such as Amazon Prime’s “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power,” HBO’s "House of the Dragon," Hulu’s “The Bear,” or Netflix’s “Wednesday.”
Still, in a world of $1,000 smartphones and $6 salted caramel mochas, it’s nice to know you can watch “Teen Wolf” or “Lethal Weapon” without having to pay. (Looking for another path to free content? Get a TV antenna.) And if you haven’t checked lately, you might be subscribing to more paid streaming services than you realize. It’s easy to lose track, and it can get expensive, with subscription prices rising steadily. In fact, 42 percent of consumers admit they’ve forgotten about a streaming subscription that they were still paying for but no longer used, a recent C+R Research survey found.
Here’s a rundown of the best free streaming services, including Amazon Freevee, Crackle, Hoopla, and The Roku Channel, all listed below in alphabetical order. (You can scroll to the bottom for a list of several more to check out.)
Previously called IMDb TV, Amazon Freevee is an ad-supported service that offers a mix of live channels, on-demand classic TV shows and movies, and some original content.
You’ll find shows such as “Lost” and “Mad Men,” alongside such classics as “Bewitched,” "Columbo," and “All in the Family.” Movies currently available include "The Wedding Planner" “Smile,” and “News of the World.” Licensed content rotates in and out from month to month.
Original shows include “Judy Justice,” starring Judge Judy Sheindlin, "Mozart in the Jungle," and “Bosch: Legacy,” a spinoff of the popular Amazon Prime series.
In addition, Freevee has an hour-long music performance and interview series, "Monumental: An Artists Den Experience,” showcasing popular recording artists at iconic locations throughout the world, such as Ellie Goulding at Kew Gardens.
Amazon Freevee is widely available on Amazon devices, including Fire TV streaming players and TVs; Android and iOS mobile devices; Apple TV; Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, Roku, and TiVo streaming players; smart TVs from several brands; and game consoles.
Sign up for Amazon Freevee.
Crackle, which used to be Sony’s ad-supported streaming service, hosts a library of mainstream titles that include older TV shows such as “Barney Miller” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” as well as some popular newer series, including “Sherlock,” starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Movies include everything from “Midnight Express” and “Night of the Living Dead” to somewhat more recent fare, such as “The Last Blockbuster” and “Mid90s.”
Crackle is now owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul and is part of a bigger brand called Crackle Plus, which operates several ad-supported and subscription networks, including EspañolFlix, FrightPix, and Popcornflix. The company recently acquired Redbox (see below).
Crackle exclusives include four seasons of “Sherlock,” all five seasons of “Ripper Street,” and an original documentary series called “A Life in Ten Pictures” that profiles important cultural figures such as Elizabeth Taylor, Freddie Mercury, John Lennon, and Tupac Shakur. The service is also adding a new series from the BBC library every month.
Crackle’s original content already includes “Snatch,” a series based on the now classic movie; “Les Norton,” a 10-episode series starring Rebel Wilson; “The Uncommon History of Very Common Things,” an entertaining and often irreverent history of everyday objects; and season two of “In the Vault,” a suspense series set at a fictional college. There’s also “Mad Families,” a Crackle original film starring Charlie Sheen and Leah Remini.
Crackle can be accessed on Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and Roku devices and TVs; Apple TVs; smart TVs from Hisense, LG, Samsung, and Vizio; Android and Google TV televisions; gaming consoles; and Android and iOS mobile devices.
Sign up for Crackle.
Hoopla and Kanopy
If you have a library card, Hoopla and Kanopy might be your ticket to free movies, music, audiobooks, and comics. Getting started is pretty simple: Just go to the site, create an account, and find your local library. You check out TV shows and movies as if they were books, using your library card.
The main difference between the two services is that Hoopla tends to focus more on popular entertainment than Kanopy does, and it includes other types of media beyond video, such as audiobooks, comics, e-books, and music.
With either service, once you’ve signed up you can browse by title or genre, or get recommendations based on what you’ve previously borrowed and what’s popular. With Hoopla, you have 72 hours to watch a movie. (Your library sets the limit on how many movies you can borrow each month; in my case, it recently jumped from four to eight.) Your movie will start streaming once you’ve made a selection.
If you access Kanopy through a library membership, you may be able to watch a limited number of titles per month. But members of educational institutions get unlimited access.
Hoopla’s BingePass service gives library users seven days of unlimited viewing for the titles in each BingePass collection, with the whole group counting as a single title for the purpose of Hoopla’s monthly borrowing limit. BingePass now includes access to The Great Courses Collection and the Curiosity Stream service, as well as a collection of digital magazines. Current movie selections include “A Man Called Ove,” “The Girl on the Train,” and “Into the Woods.”
Kanopy says it has a catalog of 30,000 films from sources including the Criterion Collection, the Great Courses, New Day Films, and PBS. If that sounds like a cerebral list, it is. Kanopy’s selection leans heavily toward art-house films. Indie flicks include “Moonlight” and “Lady Bird.” Documentary titles include “RBG” and “I Am Not Your Negro.” It has a number of BBC series, including "Death in Paradise."
You can access Hoopla on a computer, on Android and iOS mobile apps, and via streaming players such as Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku. If you’re using the mobile app, there’s a download option for offline viewing. Kanopy is available on Amazon Fire TV, Android and iOS devices, Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku players and TVs, and smart TVs, as well as through web browsers. Unlike Hoopla, Kanopy content can’t be downloaded for offline viewing.
Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, had a free, ad-supported tier of service, along with two paid tiers ($5 per month with ads and $10 per month without), but is no longer offering it to new subscribers. Bad news for new subscribers, though: Peacock is no longer offering its free tier, instead shifting its emphasis to its two paid Premium services. Anyone currently using the free tier can continue to use it, and paid subscribers who cancel their subscription will automatically be downgraded to the free plan.
The free tier lets subscribers watch new NBC broadcasts a week after they air, plus a mix of classic TV shows, movies, news, and sports programming from several of the parent company’s properties. But it doesn’t provide live sports events, most blockbuster movies, or original Peacock programming such as “Yellowstone,” “Love Island,” and “Bel Air.”
In recent months it appeared that the free tier had a shrinking library of content, though it included movies and popular shows such as “21 Jump Street,” 10 seasons of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” and several seasons of “Cheers.” Free movies include “Sherlock Holmes,” “The Amityville Haunting,” and “Pride and Prejudice.” Some current NBC shows are available a week after they air, but with many others, you can watch only one or two early episodes.
You can access Peacock through Comcast’s Xfinity X1 cable and Flex streaming platforms, as well as on Apple devices (Apple TV and Apple TV 4K, iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch); Google Android TVs, phones, tablets, and Chromecast; Amazon Fire TV and Roku TVs and streaming players; and LG and Vizio smart TVs. The service is also available on Xbox and Sony PlayStation game consoles.
Sign up for Peacock.
Pluto TV, owned by Paramount, has about 250 curated channels, drawing content from its own Paramount properties (BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures), plus networks such as Bloomberg, Cheddar News, CNN, NBC News, and Fox Sports. Pluto TV also has a decent library of on-demand content, including now-classic movies—“Rain Man,” “The Age of Innocence”—and somewhat newer fare such as “Kubo and the Two Strings.” TV shows run the gamut from “The Andy Griffith Show” and the original “Gunsmoke” to “The Twilight Zone” and “Criminal Minds.”
In addition to genre-based channels, Pluto TV has added channels powered by other providers, including CBS (“NCIS,” “FBI”), AMC Networks (“The Making of the Mob,” “NOS4A2: Ghost”), and Showtime (“Dexter,” “Billions”). Recently added channels include “BBC Top Gear,” “Blue Bloods,” and “Dateline 24/7.”
There’s also now a Pluto TV Latino service, with over 45 curated Spanish- and Portuguese-language channels covering categories including comedy, movies, music, reality TV, sports, telenovelas, and true crime.
You can set your favorite channels to appear at the top of the channel guide. Plus, you can add programs and movies to a watchlist for viewing on demand later, provided you sign in. A preview mode shows trailers and more info about each title.
Pluto powers Vizio’s WatchFree streaming service, which provides over 260 free, ad-supported channels on its SmartCast TVs. It’s also available on several smart TVs; Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, and Roku streaming players; TiVo devices; Android and iOS mobile devices; Windows and Mac computers; and Sony PlayStation game consoles.
Sign up for Pluto TV.
Best known for its rental kiosks at grocery stores and shopping centers, plus a newer video-on-demand streaming rental and purchase service, Redbox also has a free, ad-based live service, which gets some of its content from Xumo (see below). Thanks to the Xumo partnership, Redbox’s free service includes Magnolia Pictures’ CineLife ad-supported channel, which features top-rated independent films and award-winning documentaries from the Magnolia Pictures catalog.
Redbox is now owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul, which also owns Crackle. The company says that for now, the streaming service will continue to run as a separate entity.
You can access the content by clicking on Watch Free, and then either Free on Demand or Free Live TV when using the app on a streaming player or smart TV, or by clicking the Watch Free drop-down at the top of the Redbox website. The service is relatively light on blockbuster-type content, though there are about 100 channels. (Redbox offers a much larger catalog of movies that you can rent.) Redbox’s live TV comes in the form of genre-specific channels that run 24 hours a day, with shows such as “The Price Is Right,” "Unsolved Mysteries,” and “Family Feud.” Genre categories include news and weather, action, sci-fi and horror, movies, sports, food and design, comedy, classic TV and movies, and kids and family.
The on-demand titles are available only for a limited time because of agreements with programming providers, and the service gains and loses shows and movies each month. Redbox has deals in place for movies and television shows from studios and content creators, including Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Shout Factory, Legendary Television, Magnolia Pictures, and Relativity Media. Currently, you can watch movies including “Out of Time,” starring Denzel Washington, and the horror film “Carrie,” and shows including “Iron Chef” and “Sherlock.”
Redbox is available on smart TVs from LG, Samsung, and Vizio; Chromecast and Roku streaming players; game consoles; Android and iOS mobile devices; and computers.
Sign up for Redbox Watch Free.
The Roku Channel
Thanks to a rapidly expanding roster of programming, you can watch a nice selection of free shows and movies via the company’s ad-supported Roku Channel, which is now available outside of just Roku streaming players and TVs.
The Roku Channel has a lot of licensed TV shows and movies, plus some live channels from ABC, Fox, NBC, Hallmark, and others. One big focus going forward will be Roku Originals, which will roll out 50 new shows over the next few years. Roku also purchased the content from Quibi when that short-lived service went under. Current Roku Originals include “Reno 911: Defunded”; “The Fugitive,” starring Kiefer Sutherland; “The Newsreader”; and the movie “Weird: The Al Yankovic Story,” a biopic based on the life of Weird Al Yankovic that stars Daniel Radcliffe.
New original series include “Fight to Survive,” “Reptile Royalty,” and “UFO Cowboys.” The company also recently added second seasons of original food series starring Martha Stewart and Emeril Lagasse, part of co-production deals with Marquee Brands and Milk Street Studios that brings over 3,000 episodes of library content.
Recently, Roku (and Tubi) licensed hundreds of movies and TV shows, including “Raised by Wolves” and “Cake Boss” from Warner Bros. Discovery Inc.
In addition, Roku has a multiyear deal with Lionsgate that gives it rights to stream Lionsgate’s theatrically released films. Exclusively on Roku, this will be the first time Lionsgate titles are available free anywhere. Roku is also teaming up with a private equity company to acquire up to a 20 percent stake in the premium channel Starz, which was acquired by Lionsgate in 2016.
The Roku Channel can now be accessed beyond its own streaming media players and TVs. The Roku Channel for the Web lets you access free programming from a computer, smartphone, or tablet. In addition, there will be a Roku Channel app on Fire TVs and streaming players, and Samsung smart TVs. On any of those devices, you simply go to the Roku website and log in to a Roku account to start streaming.
Roku also lets you access AMC Networks’ paid streaming services—AMC+, Shudder, and Acorn TV—through the Roku Channel’s Premium Subscriptions.
To make content easier to find, the company has added an option called Featured Free to the Roku home screen, where you’ll find links to content from not only The Roku Channel but also other providers including ABC, the CW, Fox, and streaming services such as Crackle, Pluto TV, and Tubi TV.
Sign up for The Roku Channel.
Sling Freestream is a new ad-supported service from Sling TV that replaces Sling Free, the company’s earlier free streaming service. It has more than 210 channels and over 40,000 on-demand titles, with genres including news, sports, game shows, crime dramas, sitcoms, home improvement, and cooking. Popular channels and programming include ABC News Live, CBS News, ESPN On Demand, FilmRise, “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Heartland,” “Forensic Files,” and titles from The Walking Dead Universe and VH1 I Love Reality.
Through Freestream, you can subscribe to more than 50 stand-alone streaming services, including AMC+, Discovery+, and Showtime.
Freestream is available through the Sling app on all Roku devices, and it’s rolling out across LG, Samsung, and Vizio devices.
Sign up for Sling Freestream.
This ad-supported service has more than 50,000 titles, including selections from the libraries of Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros., plus networks including A&E, Lifetime, and Starz. The options range from old (and probably best forgotten) Chuck Norris films to classic indie titles (“Requiem for a Dream”) and somewhat more recent movies such as “Space Jam: A New Legacy” and “The Circle.” You’ll also find full seasons of TV shows ranging from oldies (“The Honeymooners”) to more recent titles (“Next Level Chef,” “Midsomer Murders”).
Recently, Warner Bros. Discovery licensed hundreds of movies and TV shows, including “Raised by Wolves” and “Cake Boss,” to Tubi (and Roku).
Now owned by Fox, Tubi is ramping up its original content with 100 new film and TV titles slated over the course of this year. The service offers streaming access to many Fox shows, such as “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Lego Masters,” after they’re broadcast. It also has a slate of newer originals, including “Immortal City Records” and “Corrective Measures,” the latter starring Bruce Willis. These join other Tubi Originals, such as “10 Truths About Love,” “War of the Worlds: Annihilation,” and “Mysteries From the Grave: Titanic.”
It has several programs based on the Lego franchise, specials starring Garfield, and some Pokemon programs. The company also has a deal that brought eight seasons of “Barney & Friends” to the service. It has several live local and national news channels, from outlets including ABC, Black News Channel, Bloomberg, CBS, Cheddar, Fox, and NBC, among others.
You don’t have to register for Tubi TV, but if you do, you get some perks, such as being able to resume play from where you left off and keep track of what you’ve watched.
Tubi is available on Android and iOS devices; Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku streaming players; PlayStation and Xbox game consoles; Samsung and Sony smart TVs; Comcast Xfinity X1 boxes; and the web.
Sign up for Tubi TV.
ViX is a free, ad-supported Spanish-language service owned by Univision and formerly called PrendeTV. Unlike PrendeTV, which was exclusively a free, ad-supported service, ViX also has an ad-free subscription version called ViX+, which costs $7 a month.
Both the paid and free versions offer more than 50 entertainment channels, including movies, sports, and children’s programming. (ViX+ also has premium series and some exclusive live sporting events.) ViX has more than 20,000 hours of on-demand content, which includes shows from Univision, plus content from large media companies based in Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia. It also has deals with Disney, Lionsgate, and MGM to offer more than 150 films to viewers.
Other programming includes several soccer channels, nature and wildlife channels from Blue Ant Media, nine telenovela channels, and seven movie channels. There are also three family channels.
ViX is available on Amazon Fire TV devices, Apple TV and iPhones, Roku players and TVs, and Google’s Android phones and TVs.
Sign up for ViX.
This new ad-supported service from Warner Bros. Discovery hasn’t yet launched. Not a lot is known yet about the planned service, but it will likely leverage content from Warner Bros., including HBO Max, Discovery, and Scripps. Warner Bros. Discovery recently licensed hundreds of movies and shows to Roku and Tubi, but those types of deals may end when it launches its own free service. So far, no launch date or content has been announced.
Xumo Play, a joint venture between Comcast and Charter, is an ad-powered streaming video platform that offers live and on-demand content from more than 290 channels across multiple genres, including sports, action and drama, news, kids and family entertainment, live events, comedy, lifestyle, and movies.
Content on Xumo includes news programming (ABC News Live, Bloomberg, CBS News Latest Headlines, LiveNow from Fox); movies from FilmRise, Hallmark, and Crackle; TV shows ranging from classics (“That Girl”) to kids (“Garfield and Friends”); and sports (CBS Sports HQ, Fox Sports). Movies also run the gamut from classics (“Charade”) to modern classics (“American Psycho”). It also has channels created specifically for Black and Latino audiences.
In addition, last summer the service struck an exclusive deal with Magnolia Pictures to have Xumo Play stream a new Magnolia movie almost every month, with a three-month exclusive window.
At CES 2023, Xumo announced it was partnering with Element Electronics to launch a line of 4K Element Xumo TVs in the U.S. later this year. Earlier, Comcast and Charter announced that they’d be rebranding XClass smart TVs as Xumo TVs. The Flex streaming player will be rebranded as the Xumo Stream Box.
You can watch Xumo Play on a good number of smart TVs, iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Apple TVs (via AirPlay), and Amazon Fire TV and Roku streaming players and televisions.
Sign up for Xumo Play.
More Free Streaming Services to Consider
There are dozens of free ad-supported alternatives to paid streaming services. For example, most smart TVs now either offer their own free services or let you access the ones included on this list directly from the set.
Here are some additional free services to consider:
• Fawesome.tv is a newer ad-supported streaming service, owned by FutureToday, that offers more than 10,000 movies and series in HD quality across 25 genres, including action, comedy, family and kids, health and lifestyle, horror, and thriller.
• Google TV—available on a Chromecast device or on TVs that use the Google TV smart system—offers more than 800 free channels, from new providers such as Tubi, Plex, and Haystack News, that appear in Google TV’s updated Live tab. They join an existing lineup of free, ad-supported channels from Pluto TV, plus Google’s own free built-in channels. Programming includes streaming news channels from all the major broadcast networks—ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC—as well as more than 10 channels in foreign languages, including Spanish, Hindi, and Japanese. Like other so-called FAST (free ad-supported television) services, Google’s Live section uses an old-school cable TV-style menu with TV shows and movies that run at scheduled times, with ads that can’t be skipped.
• Haystack News—formerly called Haystack TV—provides local, national, and global news from more than 400 content partners. The company says the service now provides more than 50 live news and weather channels, covering more than 90 percent of local U.S. markets. An expanded partnership with Hearst Television includes the company’s Very Local local news and information channels. A Newsline feature has an interactive news ticker with local news headlines, weather conditions, forecasts and alerts, and stock market data, plus top business, tech, and entertainment stories.
• LG Channels is a free streaming service for LG smart TV owners, with content from both Xumo and Pluto TV. It has more than 100 live and on-demand news, sports, and entertainment channels, which you can access using an integrated program guide. If you’re using an antenna, free over-the-air channels and Channel Plus options appear together in the same program guide.
• Watch Free is an ad-supported free streaming service from Plex with more than 50,000 free movies, TV shows, extreme sports films, music documentaries, Bollywood musicals, and more. Live TV on Plex features over 80 channels across multiple genres. Plex recently started offering a $5-a-month upgrade, called Plex Pass, that works with an antenna to give you live local channels, plus a DVR, the ability to pause and rewind shows, and a program guide.
• Samsung TV Plus—a free streaming service available on Samsung smart TVs—offers more than 250 ad-supported channels featuring news, sports, and entertainment, plus thousands of movies and TV shows on demand. A strength is its roster of news channels, including ABC News Live, CBS News, Cheddar News, LiveNow from Fox, NBC News Now, and Newsy, among others. Samsung has also partnered with Bloomberg Media to launch Bloomberg TV+, a 4K business/finance channel. All Samsung smart TVs dating back to 2016 are able to access TV Plus.
• Stirr is an ad-supported streaming service launched by local TV broadcaster Sinclair. It offers local content, plus a mix of national news, sports, entertainment, and digital-first channels, as well as a library of on-demand video titles. It has over 100 channels and more than 5,000 hours of programming. When you sign up for Stirr, you select your city (or a city near you) so that you can receive local news and other content on the 24-hour Stirr City channel.
• TiVo+ is available only via TiVo devices, either a TiVo DVR or a TiVo Stream 4K. TiVo+ has more than 160 free channels. The service is powered by several services, including Pluto TV and Tubi. It also has 12 live news channels and 12 live sports channels, including Major League Baseball. TiVo is now a wholly owned subsidiary of Xperi, the parent company to home entertainment brands including DTS and Imax Enhanced.
• WatchFree+ is an ad-supported streaming service from Vizio and Pluto TV with more than 260 channels. It has also added its own roster of channels, along with ad-supported video-on-demand titles, so Vizio SmartCast users can now access thousands of on-demand titles, along with hundreds of current WatchFree+ live streaming channels, all with no subscriptions or log-ins.
• Vudu’s “Free” section offers a growing selection of free, ad-supported movies and TV shows from a wide range of genres, including action, comedy, horror, kids and family, romance, sci-fi, and more. To access the free content, you’ll need a Vudu account, but you don’t have to provide payment information.
• YouTube’s “Free With Ads” section has free, ad-supported offerings that are different from those on YouTube Premium, which bundles videos, original movies, TV shows, and music as part of an ad-free plan that costs $12 per month or $120 per year. YouTube’s free TV roster now has about 100 shows, with almost 4,000 episodes in all. Like many of these services, the content lineup changes periodically.
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