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These Are the Best (and Worst) Free Streaming Services for TV and Movies

The growth of streaming services has catapulted in the last few years, and while reports note that more than three-quarters of U.S. households pay for one of the big-three subscription streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime — those costs can add up. Netflix, for instance, has continued to raise its prices, and now comes news that it may start charging members who share their passwords outside their households, a common money-saving tactic. 


Fortunately, there are also a number of free streaming services available for those who want to save money or find content to supplement a paid service. That said, not all free streaming platforms — all of which are able to offer no-cost content by including commercials — are worth your time. Below, we've reviewed 10 no-cost streaming services. While this story is not comprehensive — there are countless free services available these days — we've tried to review some of the more well-known options out there.


Related: YouTube TV vs. Hulu + Live TV: Which One Is Best for Your Household?


What Features We Looked At

In order to give potential viewers a better understanding of each free streaming service's worth, we looked at:

  • Is sign-up required to use the service?

  • Does the service offer live TV, on-demand content, or both?

  • What is the content selection like?

  • How intrusive, long, and/or annoying are the ads?

  • Does the service have an ad countdown?

  • What devices is the streaming platform supported on?

And, finally, we gave a verdict on how we felt about each free streaming service, as well as some recommendations at the end for lesser-known platforms that might be of interest to readers. A few things to keep in mind:

  1. The content on many streaming platforms cycles consistently, so the titles used in this story might no longer be available.

  2. The experience on free streaming services can change depending on what device you're using to access it. The platforms we've reviewed below were accessed using a laptop and/or an Amazon Fire Stick.

  3. Though we've included some information on length and quality of ads in our reviews below, ads on many free streaming platforms can be dependent upon the device you're watching on, the content you're watching, and more. For a good breakdown of what types of commercials you'll be subjected to during a typical 44-minute TV show on many of these free services, check out this Reddit Cordcutters thread

Now, let's get to the free streaming platforms and whether it's worth your time to explore them further.


IMDb TV

IMDb TV is Amazon's free streaming service. It launched in 2019.


IMDb.com, Inc.Photo credit: IMDb.com, Inc.


Is sign-up required? Yes, you have to create an account on the website or your device using either an email address or Amazon, Google, or Facebook account.


Live TV and On-Demand? On demand only. Note: IMDb TV does have what it calls a "live" TV option in its interface, but it does not grant access to cable channels in the traditional sense. Instead, it allows users to watch continuous, ad-supported streams of themed content.


Content: IMDb TV has thousands of TV shows and movies. TV shows include some high-profile, award-winning shows like:

  • "Schitt's Creek"
  • "Mad Men" 

  • "Lost"

  • "Malcolm in the Middle"

  • "Hell's Kitchen"

  • "Weeds"

There are also some popular movies, including:

  • "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty"

  • "Despicable Me"

  • "Tombstone"

  • "Love Actually"

  • "Fight Club"

  • "American Psycho"

The service also has launched original programming such as "Alex Rider" and the new "Judge Judy" show, "Judy Justice." 


Ad breaks: Claims to stream TV and movies "with half the ads of traditional TV." Most movies have seven commercial breaks ranging from around 60 seconds to 140 seconds, meaning you'll get around 10 minutes or more of ads for each movie. A 40-minute TV program we watched had five commercial breaks ranging from 15 to 65 seconds, totaling just over three minutes of advertisements. 


Includes ad countdown? Yes


Where you can stream: According to Amazon's help page for IMDb TV, "You can stream IMDb TV titles from your web browser, through the IMDb TV Channel on the Prime Video app, and through the IMDb app for Android and iOS." You can also access the IMDb TV app on a number of other devices, all of which are listed here and include Roku, Xbox and PlayStation, Fire TV, and more.


Our verdict: One of the best on the list, especially if you already have an Amazon Prime account.



Gallery: 20 Shows That Make It Worth Trying Out Another Streaming Service


Peacock

Peacock, which is owned by Comcast subsidiary NBCUniversal, is a paid streaming service that offers a free option


Peacock © Peacock TV LLC.Photo credit: Xumo

Is sign-up required? Yes. The service asks for an email and password and also requires viewers to provide a full name, gender, birth year, and ZIP code. 


Live TV and On-Demand? Both


Content: Peacock offers live news and sports content as well as around 13,000 hours of on-demand movies and TV shows (many NBC in origin) through its free option. This includes a lot of titles that users will recognize and find appealing. For many TV shows, only a limited number of episodes or seasons are available for free. 


TV titles on Peacock include:

  • "30 Rock"

  • "Friday Night Lights"

  • "Parks and Recreation"

  • "House"

  • "Modern Family"

  • "Everybody Hates Chris"

Some of the more popular movie titles include:

  • "The Shawshank Redemption"

  • "Miss Congeniality"

  • "The Wedding Planner"

  • "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone"

  • "The Breakfast Club"

  • "Bridesmaids"

There are also a limited number of Peacock original episodes you can watch on the free service, including the brand-new TV reboot, "Bel-Air" (only one episode currently available). 


Ad breaks: Peacock ad lengths can vary depending on what device you're using to view the service's content and the show or movie you're watching, but it promises five minutes or less of commercials per hour.  


Includes ad countdown? Yes


Where you can stream: Peacock is supported on most devices including smart TVs, gaming consoles, streaming devices, and on most web browsers and mobile devices. For the full list, click here


Our verdict: This free streaming service ranks right up there with our favorites due to the availability of quality content. Just note that with paid subscriptions ranging from $5-$10, it might be difficult not to upgrade once you reach the end of a popular show's limited-episode free run.

Roku Channel

The Roku Channel launched in the fall of 2017 and offers an "always-changing selection of free movies, shows, live news, kids' TV, and more."


Roku ChannelPhoto credit: Roku, Inc.

Is sign-up required? Not on the website or smartphone app, but Roku streaming devices may require one. 


Live TV and On-Demand? Offers both. Live TV is mostly news channels, but there are others including Hallmark Movies, some crime and game show content, and more. 


Content: There are a number of Roku Originals you can watch, as well as the 24-hour "Movies & TV" channel (it was streaming "Just Shoot Me!" when we clicked on it). As for on-demand movies and TV, the selection is pretty decent compared to other services.


Streamable movies include:

  • "Knight and Day"

  • "Contagion"

  • "Deja Vu"

  • "Coraline"

  • "Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon"

  • "10 Things I Hate About You"

Streaming TV shows include: 

  • "Baywatch"

  • "This Old House"

  • "Downton Abbey"

  • "House"

  • "Parenthood"

  • "Charmed"

 Ad breaks: Movies show between six and eight commercial breaks totaling about 30-90 seconds each. This is already fewer ads than other streaming services, and we noted that some of the commercials didn't play in spots where they were marked. Bottom line: If you're looking for a streaming service that doesn't overwhelm you with ads, Roku Channel might be the way to go.  


Includes ad countdown? No


Where you can stream: The Roku Channel is available on Roku's website as well as an app on smartphones and tablets. It comes preinstalled on Roku and Samsung TVs, and can of course be accessed from any Roku streaming device.


Our verdict: Roku Channel is a winner. We don't like it as much as IMDb TV or Peacock in terms of content, but it's a solid choice for a free streaming service if you're aiming to cut the cord and supplement that void with a few free streaming options.


Pluto TV

Pluto TV was founded in 2013 and sold to ViacomCBS Streaming in 2019. 


Pluto TvPhoto credit: Xumo

Is sign-up required? No. You can, however, sign up for an account if you want to set preferences. 


Live TV and On-Demand? Both


Content: Pluto TV features a ton of live TV options, including channels you'll recognize and many you won't. It offers news channels such as CNN and CBS News, and sports channels include CBS Sports, Fox Sports, the NFL Channel, and more. It's easy to sort live TV channels by genre. The on-demand content is also pretty decent. 


Movies include selections such as:

  • "Kill Bill" 

  • "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" 

  • "Shakespeare in Love" 

  • "American Beauty" 

  • "The Usual Suspects"

  • "Terms of Endearment"

Some of the TV series available on-demand include:

  • "Cops"

  • "Burn Notice"

  • "The Twilight Zone"

  • "Charmed"

  • "Iron Chef"

  • "Gunsmoke"

Of note: The pilot of Showtime's popular new show "Yellowjackets" was available to watch on Pluto TV when we reviewed it, so it might be a good way to decide whether spending money on subscriptions for specific shows is worth it. 

 

Ad breaks: It's not difficult to find reviews and comments all over the internet complaining about the timing, content, and repetition of Pluto TV's ads. That said, they don't appear to be significantly longer or more frequent than other streaming services. 


Includes ad countdown? No


Where you can stream: The service claims you can "watch Pluto TV on any device," including smart TVs, streaming devices, mobile and desktop apps, on the web, and more. For more information on a specific device, visit Pluto TV's Where to Watch page


Our verdict: Not as good as IMDb TV, Peacock, or Roku Channel, in our view, but plenty to keep users entertained, especially with nostalgic content. Also has a very navigable and user-friendly interface.


Related: Netflix Launched a Killer Feature That Makes It My Favorite Streaming Service Again


Tubi TV

Now owned by Fox Corporation (as of 2020) Tubi TV launched in 2014. 


Tubi TVPhoto credit: Tubi, Inc.

Is sign-up required? No, but you can register an account via email, Facebook, or Google. This allows you to do things like start a content queue or continue watching shows where you've left off. 


Live TV and On-Demand? Both. Tubi TV's live content is limited to mostly news channels (global, national, and local as well as business news) and a few culture and entertainment channels. 


Content: This is where Tubi sets itself apart from others on this list. Fast Company reported in 2020 that the service had more than 23,000 titles, and much of its content is from big-name studios like MGM, Lionsgate, and Paramount. It also has a handful or its own titles after branching out into original programming in 2021. It also has a large selection of "nostalgia TV," including "Fantasy Island," "Bewitched," "Battlestar Galactica," and much more, as well as a fairly extensive "Tubi Kids" section. 


Tubi TV-available movie titles include: 

  • "Sweet Home Alabama"

  • "The Green Mile"

  • "New Jack City"

  • "Grumpy Old Men"

  • "Schindler's List"

  • "Aliens"

TV shows available on Tubi include:

  • "Alias"

  • "Project Runway"

  • "3rd Rock from the Sun"

  • "Degrassi: The Next Generation"

  • "Roswell"

Ad breaks: According to Tubi's help page, the service's "ad breaks are short (one to two minutes long, on average) and happen approximately every 15 minutes or so," translating to "around 4 to 8 minutes of ads every hour …," which is less than others on this list. Note that unlike other streaming services, you cannot predict via a progress bar when ads are upcoming. 


Includes ad countdown? Yes (tracked via circular graphic rather than actual time remaining)


Where you can stream: Tubi TV is supported on most devices, including iOS and Android. It's also available via Roku, Apple TV, Xbox and Playstation, Chromecast, Tivo, and more. See the full list here.


Our verdict: Tubi is one of the better options for free streaming, especially for those who are looking for a service with a decent amount of children's programming or who intensely dislike ad breaks.


Vudu

Vudu, founded in 2004 and acquired by Walmart in 2010, offers both movies for rent or purchase as well as 10,000+ free movies and TV shows. It was bought by Fandango in 2020 (Fandango's former streaming service was called FandangoNOW) and claims to offer "the largest collection of 4K UHD titles." 


Vudu FandangoPhoto credit: Vudu Fandango

Is sign-up required? Yes


Live TV and On-Demand? On-demand only


Content: Vudu has an extensive selection of movies and TV available to stream for free. While you might not come across a lot of Oscar- or Emmy-nominated content in the service's free streaming content, viewers should be able to find titles that they recognize and are possibly interested in. 


A sampling of some of the better TV titles includes:

  • "3rd Rock from the Sun"

  • "Unsolved Mysteries"

  • "21 Jump Street

  • "Hell's Kitchen"

  • "The Chosen"

Also, true crime fans should take note: Vudu has a pretty decent selection of TV titles in this genre. 


Perhaps not surprisingly given that it was initially just a movie rental and purchase service, Vudu's free movie library is pretty decent. Titles include:

  • "Winchester"
  • "Redemption"
  • "Wind River"
  • "Bram Stoker's Van Helsing" 
  • "The Boondock Saints"
  • "Beauty and the Beast" (2016 version)

Note that it's easy to filter titles via genre, most-watched, the Rotten Tomatoes' "Tomatometer," and more. 


Ad breaks: Commercials air before your content starts, and Vudu users have noted that there can be up to four ad blocks in a 20-minute TV show. Repetition is also an annoyance that users report with Vudu's ads. However, per this Reddit thread, the ad experience is more tolerable with movies — one member posted that he only experienced two minutes and 15 seconds of commercials during a feature length film. 


Includes ad countdown? Yes


Where you can stream: According to its website, Vudu is available via "smart TVs, connected devices, mobile and online." It is also the "official movie and TV store on Roku." Worth noting: We explored Vudu via a laptop and a Fire TV Stick app, and while the former made it easy to find the service's free content, we could not find any such user-friendly path via our Fire Stick. You can find more info on supported devices here (smart TVs and streaming devices) and here (mobile apps). 


Our verdict: While it's not at the top of our list, we recommend Vudu with one caveat — watch it on a device where it's easy to find the free content. For us, as noted, that was a laptop and not our Fire TV Stick. Unfortunately, we can't speak to the experience on other devices where it's available.


Related: 17 Beloved Classic TV Shows You Can Still Watch


Crackle

Founded in 2004 as Grouper, Crackle was bought by Sony Pictures in 2006. Chicken Soup for the Soul acquired the service from Sony in 2018-19.


CracklePhoto credit: Crackle Plus, LLC.

Is sign-up required? Sign-up is optional, but doing so allows users to do things like mark favorites or save progress on a TV show or movie.


Live TV and On-Demand? On-demand only


Content: Crackle offers on-demand movies and TV. There is also a fair amount of original programming in both genres — currently 23 original TV shows and 17 movies — with some recognizable names attached. For example, Jeremy Renner serves as executive producer on the film "The Throwaways;" Dr. Dre narrates a documentary about boxer Lennox Lewis; and Ashton Kutcher produces a TV series about young people overcoming debt.  


Much of the TV content is the same stuff you're going to find on other free streaming services ("21 Jump Street," "3rd Rock from the Sun," etc.). Some other titles viewers might recognize include:

  • "Black Books"
  • "Bonanza"
  • "Charlie's Angels"
  • "The Dana Carvey Show"
  • "Jason and the Argonauts"
  • "Paranormal Encounters"

Film titles include:

  • "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea"

  • "2010: Moby Dick"

  • "All the King's Men"

  • "Dolemite"

  • "I'm Still Here"

  • "The Long Walk Home"

Ad breaks: A feature-length film watched on Crackle contained seven commercial breaks, each between two to three minutes long, for a total of 15+ minutes in ads. A 22-minute episode of "3rd Rock from the Sun" had two commercial breaks, also around two minutes long. Both also included ads that played before the content started. Note that Crackle now has a feature that lets viewers select one interactive 30-second commercial during some breaks. 


Includes ad countdown? Yes


Where you can stream: Supported devices for Crackle include Amazon Fire TV and the Fire TV Stick, Apple TV, Roku, the Xbox One and Playstation 4, and most phones, tablets, and other devices. It is also available on Samsung, Vizio, Android, and LG TVs and on most computer browsers. For a full list of devices, click here.


Our verdict: This free streaming service falls in the middle of the pack, due in part to its large offering of classic TV shows and movies, but mostly because of its original programming, which is a bonus that other free streamers don't offer.


Redbox Live TV

Redbox, which made a name for itself offering movie rentals at places like grocery and drug stores, now offers a free streaming service. Note that you can also still rent physical copies of content, plus rent and buy streaming content from its service. 


Redbox Live TVPhoto credit: Redbox

Is sign-up required? No


Live TV and On-Demand? Both, but note — while the service does offer what it calls live TV, it's something of a misnomer. You'll find content from news, sports, and some entertainment content like game shows, crime shows, and cooking shows, but you're unlikely to see a full episode from any of them. Instead, expect segments of shows, highlights, and truncated content of that nature. 


Content: For its no-charge content, look for the "Watch Free" option in its menus. For nostalgia lovers, Redbox has a pretty good lineup of classic TV and movie content, including "best of" episodes of "The Carol Burnett Show," "The Johnny Carson Show," and some Cinevault movie classics. 


Some of the TV shows you can expect to find on Redbox include:

  • "Family Feud"

  • "Divorce Court"

  • "Unsolved Mysteries"

  • "Supermarket Sweep"

Free on-demand movie titles include:

  • "Contact:

  • "Transcendence"

  • "Joe Versus the Volcano"

  • "Brooklyn's Finest"

  • "American Pastoral" 

One final note: Redbox's on-demand content is available for a limited time due to programming provider agreements, so expect plenty of turnover. 


Ad breaks: You're going to see a fair amount of advertising during a Redbox free on-demand movie. There were 45 seconds of ads before one movie even started, plus nine commercial breaks thereafter, most about two minutes long. Plan for around 20 minutes of commercials during films. A 45-minute episode of "Iron Chef" started with a 30-second commercial break, and included two commercial breaks thereafter totaling just under 5 minutes. 


Includes ad countdown? Yes


Where you can stream: According to its website, Redbox's free streaming service is supported by Vizio, AndroidTV, LG, and Samsung smart TVs; streaming devices Roku, Chromecast, Xbox, and Playstation; and iOS and Android smartphones, tablets, laptops, and computers.


Our verdict: We're pretty "meh" on this streaming service, but if you like older movies and TV, there might be something here for you.



Gallery: The Worst Movies Ever Made, According to Critics

Xumo

As it notes on its homepage, Irvine, California-based Xumo offers 200 channels for U.S. users, including "live events, breaking news, viral videos, full TV series, endless cartoons and more."


XumoPhoto credit: Xumo

Is sign-up required? No


Live TV and On-Demand? Both


Content: Xumo offers both "On Now" — aka live — content and on-demand shows and movies. In addition to the aforementioned 200ish channels, the service notes it aims to add a channel or two per week. It's worth noting that many of the "channels" aren't really channels as classically defined but rather Xumo-branded and grouped content like "Xumo Horror" and "Xumo Westerns." That said, it offers a good selection of news channels, including ABC News Live, CBSN, NBC News, Bloomberg TV, and more, as well as some sports channels. Its on-demand content is organized well to help viewers find what they're interested in. 


The movie selection on Xumo, however, isn't great — most of the titles won't be recognizable to many viewers (which is why we're not listing it here). Some of its TV content has been heavily segmented, meaning that you're unlikely to be able to view an entire episode, and many of the other TV titles are random or dated. 


Some titles that viewers will recognize include:

  • "Hell's Kitchen"

  • "Divorce Court"

  • "Family Feud"

  • "Dennis the Menace"

  • "Paranormal Files"

Ad breaks: While sites like Android 'Authority note that "on average, the number of commercials is less than that of broadcast and basic cable TV shows," the service's Facebook page reviewers note that the ads are "loud," "repetitive," awkwardly placed, and much too frequent. One side note: Xumo announced in October of 2021 that it would be offering commercial-free movies of the week.


Includes ad countdown? Yes 


Where you can stream: According to its FAQs page, Xumo is available on VIZIO, Panasonic, Philips, Magnavox, Sanyo, Samsung, Hisense, or Sharp smart TVs; Amazon Fire devices; iOS; Android mobile and TV; Roku; and more. Click here for a full list. 


Our Verdict: With so many other free streaming services offering better on-demand content, Xumo is a hard pass for us. However, if you're a news junkie or really into checking out obscure content, it might be worth dipping a toe into Xumo before making a final decision.


Related: The 24 Most-Watched TV Show Finales


Sling TV Free

Sling TV, which often competes with YouTube TV and Hulu in the paid streaming service realm, launched a free version in March 2020.


Sling TV FreePhoto credit: Xumo

Is sign-up required? Yes (the site says "no," but we were required to provide an email and password on both a laptop and Amazon Fire Stick)


Live TV and On-Demand? Both


Content: Sling's free streaming content isn't going to blow anyone away — much of it is similar to the reality TV standbys ("Hell's Kitchen," anyone?), dated TV shows, and unfamiliar movie titles you'll find on other services on this list. There's also some news, kids, and sports content, but all those also are pretty limited. 


Some TV show standouts on Sling Free include:

  • "The Walking Dead"

  • "Rick and Morty"

  • "Flip or Flop"

  • "Grace Under Fire"

  • "House Hunters"

  • "The Amazing World of Gumball"

The movie selection doesn't include a lot of titles we were familiar with, but here are a few that might interest viewers:

  • "Flyboys"
  • "Bernie"
  • "The Illusionist"
  • "The Book of Love"

 Ad breaks: During one film we watched on Sling Free, ad breaks happened about every eight minutes, and each lasted one minute comprising two 30-second commercials. A 44-minute episode of Hell's Kitchen" contained no commercial breaks watching on a laptop — unclear if this was a fluke or not. When we tried to watch the same episode on the Fire Stick, Sling TV crashed three times before we gave up. 


Includes ad countdown? No


Where you can stream: Sling Free TV is available on a number of smart TVs; via Amazon Fire, Roku, Google Nest, Tivo Stream 4K devices; and on the Xbox Series X|S. You can also watch on your phone or computer. For the full list, click here.


Our verdict: Color us not very impressed unless you're looking to catch up on once-popular shows like "The Walking Dead." Sling's free streaming service seems to exist mostly as a tool to frustrate viewers and get them to sign up for the company's paid content.


Popcornflix

Previously owned by Screen Media Ventures, Popcornflix launched in 2011. It was acquired by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment in 2017.


PopcornflixPhoto credit: Xumo

Is sign-up required? No


Live TV and On-Demand? On demand only


Content: Popcornflix's content is not nearly as quality as other streaming services on this list. It also seems aimed at a certain demographic, with lots of bro-ey disaster and action flicks, horror movies, cheesy sci-fi picks, and the like. We found it difficult to find titles we were familiar with, which is why we're not listing sample content with this review. 


Ad breaks: Yes. Each piece of streaming content starts with one or two commercials, and there's more throughout. You can expect about seven commercial breaks throughout a movie, and three during a 20ish-minute show. The ads are also pretty annoying — during one commercial break that included four ads, three were the same ad — for a "Chicken Soup for the Soul" product — playing back-to-back. 


Includes ad countdown? Yes


Where you can stream: Popcornflix is available on iOS and Android phones and other devices, as well as Apple TV, Roku, Xbox, and Amazon Fire TV. There could be others, but the service's website does a poor job of answering such questions. 


Our verdict: One of the worst on our list. 


Related: 24 Funniest Comedy Specials You Can Watch Online


Other Free Streaming Options

Although we haven't reviewed these free streaming services to the extent we've reviewed those above, they're worth a look, too. Many provide specialized content, which we've noted below.  


Saltbox TV

Best for Those Over 55

One of the newest players in the free streaming platform genre, Saltbox TV was recently launched by Jerry Goehring, a Tony- and Grammy-nominated producer. Variety.com noted it "isn't your father's streaming service — it's more like your grandfather's." Expect to find classic movies and TV shows — "The Dick Van Dyke Show," "Our Town," "The Jack Benny Program" — as well as content aimed at seniors discussing everything from Alzheimer's and baseball to quilting and elder care law. 


Crunchyroll

Best for Anime Lovers

Claims to have the "world's largest anime collection." Includes a free (with ads, of course) option and also just launched an app for the Nintendo Switch. 


Filmocracy

Best for Film Geeks

A "film & festival streaming platform" with a free streaming option. 


Smart.Healthy.Green.Living

Best for HGTV Fans

Free streaming service "where home, garden, & living come together." Requires an email for sign-up. 


NewsON

Best for News Junkies

Users can watch live and local news for free.


Local Now

Also Best for News Junkies (with bonus content)

A free streaming app that "helps you stay connected to what's happening near you with quick and informative local news, weather, and more." Also offers TV shows and movies. 


Hoopla Digital and Kanopy

Best for Library Users

Both of these digital media services partner with local public libraries to offer free movies, TV shows, and more online as well as via apps and some devices.


Related: TV Shows That Wouldn't Have Aired a Generation Ago

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