September 16, 2021 13:12
Guide to Free Streaming Video Services
By James K. Willcox
Published December 3, 2017 | Updated September 3, 2021
When it comes to streaming services, you might think first of Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, and Netflix, which all offer hundreds of titles, including recent releases, original movies, and TV series.
When it comes to streaming services, you might think first of Amazon Prime, Disney+, HBO Max, Hulu, and Netflix, which all offer hundreds of titles, including recent releases, original movies, and TV series.
One thing they have in common is that you have to pay a subscription fee—and just about all of them have been raising prices.
But budget-conscious consumers can also stream movies for free from lots of services, which are mostly supported by ads. The best options include Crackle, Kanopy, Peacock, Pluto TV, the Roku Channel, Tubi TV, Vudu, and Xumo.
Like Netflix and Hulu, these free services are available through most streaming devices and smart TVs, as well as on many laptops, smartphones, or tablets. Locast, an innovative service that was providing live broadcast channels through the internet, has shut down, at least temporarily, following a legal ruling (more details below).
In addition to making you sit through ads, the services require some other trade-offs. In most cases, you’re out of luck if you want 4K shows, including any with HDR. Instead, they provide regular HD video, just like cable TV companies.
You’re 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 Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” or Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” although some free services are now developing their own programming.
Still, in a world of $1,200 smartphones and $5 salted caramel mochas, it’s nice to know you can still see “Teen Wolf” or “Lethal Weapon” without having to pay. (Looking for another path to free content? Get a TV antenna.)
Here’s a rundown of the best free streaming services.
Crackle, which used to be Sony’s ad-supported streaming service, hosts a library of mainstream titles that include popular older TV shows, such as “Barney Miller” and “Fantasy Island,” and movies such as “Charlie’s Angels,” “Chinatown,” and “The Naked Gun 2½: The Smell of Fear.” It also has a smaller collection of somewhat more recent movies, including “Colombiana” and “Zodiac.”
Crackle, now owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul, is a brand within Crackle Plus, which operates several other ad-supported and subscription networks, including EspañolFlix, FrightPix, and Popcornflix, among others.
The company says it will have close to 200 hours of new Crackle original and exclusive programming in 2021.
Crackle added five new channels in February, including the Black Entertainment Channel; Inspiration Athletes, about, well, inspirational athletes; and Love on Crackle, just in time for Valentine’s Day. Newer films include “Concussion” and “District 9.”
Original Crackle series include “Snatch,” based on the movie of the same name, and “Bucket List,” about college football programs. New feature films include “Willy’s Wonderland,” a horror flick starring Nicolas Cage as a quiet janitor at a condemned theme park who teams up with local teens to defeat a legion of demonic animatronic characters.
During the pandemic, Crackle launched the Homeschool Channel, which provides parents and others who are taking on the role of home schooling with a variety of teaching tools focusing on students up to 8 years old. Some of the content includes episodes of series such as “Baby Einstein” and “Bailey’s Backyard.”
Crackle can be accessed on Amazon Fire TV and Roku devices and TVs; Apple TVs; smart TVs from Hisense, LG, Samsung, and Vizio; gaming consoles; and Android and iOS mobile devices.
Fawesome.tv is a newer ad-supported streaming service that offers more than 10,000 movies and series in HD quality across a variety of genres, including action, comedy, family and kids, health and lifestyle, horror, and thriller.
It’s owned by FutureToday, which operates more than 1,000 streaming channels across 25 genres.
Right now, the site has theme-based sections dedicated to horror (“Dawn of the Mummy,” “Deranged”) and being single on Valentine’s Day (“The Iceman,” “The Girl on the Train”), as well as more conventional Valentine’s Day fare (“Love’s Kitchen,” “Sliding Doors”) and romantic world titles (“Adventurous,” “Fresh as a Daisy”).
The themed sections change to reflect new seasons, holidays, and special events.
You can get Fawesome.tv on Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Roku streaming players, as well as on some LG smart TVs, Windows computers (requires an app), and mobile devices.
Haystack News—formerly called Haystack TV—is an ad-supported streaming service that provides local, national, and global news from more than 350 content partners. The company says the service now provides local news and weather coverage in more than 90 percent of local U.S. markets.
Among its newest features is Newsline, an interactive news ticker that includes local news headlines, weather conditions, forecasts and alerts, stock market data, and top stories across business, entertainment, science, and technology categories. The feature, which can be personalized for each user, is now available on all smart TV platforms, including LG, Samsung, Sony, TCL, and Vizio, plus Android TV, Fire TV, and Roku streaming devices and smart TVs.
Haystack News now features 18 live streaming channels with the additions of Bloomberg TV, a 24-hour global finance news network delivering market analysis, as well as Bloomberg Quicktake, which reports on major news stories.
Haystack News is available on Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, and Apple TV streaming platforms, as well as smart TVs from Hisense, LG, TCL, Sony, Samsung, and Vizio. It’s also available on Roku streaming players and TVs, Android and iOS mobile devices, and online.
If you have a library card, Hoopla 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.
The main difference between Hoopla and Kanopy, another library-based free service (see below) is that Hoopla tends to focus more on popular entertainment as well as education, and it includes other types of media beyond video, such as audiobooks, comics, e-books, and music.
You can filter all the media by dozens of categories, such as Art House Classics (“A Night to Remember”), Comics-Inspired Films (“Hellboy”), Directed by Women (“RBG”), and Oscar Winners and Nominees (“Memento”).
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. When you check out a movie, you have 72 hours to watch it. (Your library sets the limit on how many movies you can borrow each month; in my case, it’s four.) Your movie will start streaming once you’ve made a selection.
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.
Amazon owns this ad-supported streaming service powered by the IMDb movie and TV show database. (It formerly was called IMDb Freedive.) The service is very similar to the free Roku Channel available on Roku TVs and streaming players.
Unlike Amazon’s premium video offerings, IMDb TV focuses on older movies and TV shows, plus IMDb celebrity interviews, documentaries, and coverage of film festivals and award shows. The content selection is also expanding.
So, for example, you’ll be able to watch classic TV shows ranging from “Murder, She Wrote” to “Lost” and movies such as “Midway” and “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.”
The service recently announced that it has the exclusive free streaming rights to eight “Star Trek” movies: “Star Trek Beyond,” “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home,” “Star Trek: First Contact,” “Star Trek: The Motion Picture,” “Star Trek V: The Final Frontier,” “Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,” “Star Trek Generations,” and “Star Trek: Nemesis.”
The company has also signed deals with studios such as MGM, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and Warner Bros., tripling the amount of content available on the service this year. It also has some original series, including “Leverage” and “You’re Not a Monster.”
You can watch IMDb TV through the IMDb website, Fire TV devices, LG and Sony smart TVs, or Amazon Prime Video apps on smart TVs, mobile devices, tablets, Echo screen devices, and Apple TV. It also just added Roku, as well as Chromecast, Nvidia Shield, and TiVo Stream streaming devices. You’ll need to sign in using an IMDb account, or one from Amazon, Google, or Facebook.
Unlike most of the other streaming services on this list, Kanopy doesn’t show ads. But to use the service you’ll need a membership at a participating library, university, or other learning institution.
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 away from Michael Bay blockbusters and toward art-house films. Indie flicks include “Moonlight” and “Lady Bird.” Available documentary titles include “Meru,” “An Inconvenient Truth,” and “I Am Not Your Negro.”
The service is currently showcasing more than 200 top titles previously featured at the Tribeca Film Festival.
If you access Kanopy through a library membership, you may be able to watch a limited number of titles per month; members of educational institutions get unlimited access.
LG Channels/Channel Plus
LG Channel Plus—which is called LG Channels on TVs from 2019 and later—is a free streaming service for LG smart TV owners that now gets content from both Xumo and Pluto TV, streaming services that are described in greater detail below. Basically, it offers more than 190 live and on-demand news, sports, and entertainment channels from the internet, which you can access using an integrated program guide.
For example, Pluto offers content from properties owned by its parent, ViacomCBS, including BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures. So you’ll see channels dedicated to shows such as “Star Trek” and “CSI,” and movies such as James Bond titles.
For LG Channels, Xumo provides news (ABC News Live, CBSN, NBC News Now), sports (Fox Sports, Fubo Sports Network), movies from Hallmark and FilmRise, and genre-based channels such as American Classics, Black Cinema, Documentaries, and The Johnny Carson Show, among others.
LG Channels provides an integrated program guide, so if you’re using an antenna to get free over-the-air channels, those stations and the Channel Plus options will appear together in the same program guide on your LG television.
Locast, which had been streaming free over-the-air broadcast channels through the internet, was an attractive alternative for anyone who can’t get over-the-air signals using an antenna but still wanted to watch live broadcast TV without paying for it. But after losing a court decision, the service has now shut down, at least for the time being.
Locast didn’t pay the broadcasters for the content it shows. The company is a nonprofit, and instead of directly charging consumers for content, it asked for donations of at least $5 per month. (The service regularly interrupted programming to remind viewers about that donation until they ponied up.) The company claimed that it fell under a nonprofit exemption to copyright laws.
ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC Universal had sued Locast in federal court. In a partial summary judgment, a federal judge largely sided with the broadcasters, ruling that Locast didn’t qualify for the nonprofit exemption because it used the donations it received to expand its service into new markets.
In a note sent to Locast users, the company said, “As a nonprofit, Locast was designed from the very beginning to operate in accordance with the strict letter of the law, but in response to the court’s recent rulings, with which we respectfully disagree, we are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately.”
In a statement, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit organization that helped represent Locast, said the ruling “reads the law in an absurdly narrow way that defeats Congress’s intention to allow nonprofits to step in and provide communities access to broadcast TV, a vital source of local news and cultural programming for millions of people.”
Locast said it’s evaluating the ruling and considering its next steps.
Peacock, NBCUniversal’s new streaming service, has a free, ad-supported tier of service, along with two paid tiers ($5 per month with ads and $10 per month without).
Sign up for free and you get access to two-thirds of the library of about 20,000 shows, movies, news, sports, and exclusive original programming. It includes current-season 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, including NBC, Universal Studios, USA Network, Syfy, Bravo, Telemundo, and Universal Kids.
Along with NBC shows such as “30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Saved by the Bell,” the service is now also home to “The Office,” which was previously streaming on Netflix. And the service is planning to license shows from other networks, including A&E, ABC, Fox, and ViacomCBS, which owns the Paramount+ subscription service (formerly called CBS All Access).
Peacock also has deals in place for movies from Universal Pictures, DreamWorks, Focus Features, Illumination, Warner Bros., and Blumhouse, with titles ranging from “The Bourne Identity” and “The Matrix” to “Jurassic Park” and “The Godfather” trilogy.
With the free tier, you miss out on live sports events and original Peacock programming such as “Brave New World,” “Psych 2: Lassie Come Home,” and “The Capture.”
The most recent news is that Peacock has ordered a series, “Dan Brown’s Langdon,” based on the author Brown’s best-selling thriller novel “The Lost Symbol,” which follows the early adventures of Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon.
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; Roku streaming players; and LG and Vizio smart TVs. The service is also available on Xbox and Sony PlayStation game consoles. But it’s not on Amazon Fire TV devices.
Plex is best known for software that lets you access movies and videos stored on one computer from a second device. But the company also has its own ad-supported free streaming service, with thousands of free movies, TV shows, extreme sports films, music documentaries, Bollywood musicals, and more.
The company’s new free live TV service features over 80 channels across multiple genres. Called “Live TV on Plex,” it offers news from Reuters and Yahoo Finance, plus free on-demand movies and shows from Crackle, Legendary, Lionsgate, MGM, and Warner Brothers. That means you’ll be able to see movies such as “Apocalypse Now” and “The Terminator” movies.
Recently added movies include “Charlie’s Angels,” “Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle,” and “Clerks II.”
There’s also kids’ programming from Toon Goggles; live sports from Fubo Sports Network; and channels for anime, music and karaoke, and Spanish-language shows.
If you already have a Plex account, the streaming service selections will appear in a sidebar alongside your personal content collections.
The Plex streaming service is available on Android and iOS devices; Android TVs; Amazon Fire TV; Apple TV; Chromecast, and Roku streaming players; and Xbox and PlayStation game systems.
Pluto TV has a redesigned, updated user interface that makes it easier to find content. One improvement is that you can now select from categories such as Movies, News, or Sports rather than wading through the service’s channel lineup, as in the past. And there’s a preview mode that shows trailers and more info about each title.
You can designate your favorite channels so they appear at the top of the channel guide. Plus, you can add programs and movies to a watchlist for viewing on demand later.
Pluto TV has been expanding its repertoire since being acquired by ViacomCBS in 2019. It now has about 200 curated channels across a variety of genres, drawing content from its own ViacomCBS properties (BET, CBS, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, and Paramount Pictures), plus networks such as Bloomberg, CNN, NBC News, and Fox Sports.
Pluto TV has also added several channels powered by content from AMC Networks, including Stories by AMC, which brings past seasons of “The Walking Dead,” “Into the Badlands,” and some seasons of “Ride With Norman Reedus” to the service.
Among the newer channels are news from CBSN, a channel for catching up with TNT series, plus dedicated channels for boxing and pro wrestling. BBC Food and BBC Home have been added to BBC shows as “Doctor Who” and “Antiques Roadshow.”
There’s also now a Pluto TV Latino service, with 11 curated Spanish- and Portuguese-language channels covering categories including comedy, movies, music, reality TV, sports, telenovelas, and true crime.
Pluto now powers Vizio’s WatchFree streaming service, which provides about 100 free, ad-supported channels on its SmartCast TVs. Pluto is 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.
Univision, which just over a year ago saw two media and investment firms acquire a majority stake in the company, has just launched a new free, ad-supported Spanish-language service called PrendeTV.
The service offers more than 40 entertainment channels, including movies, sports, and children’s programming. It has 11,000 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, plus nine telenovela channels and seven movie channels. There are also three family channels.
Right now, PrendeTV is available on Amazon Fire TV devices, Apple TV and iPhones, and Google’s Android phones and TVs. A deal is in the works for Roku streaming players and TVs.
Last February, two investment firms—Searchlight Capital Partners and ForgeLight—acquired a majority stake in Univision. Spanish language media company Televisa retained its minority stake in the company.
Best known for its rental kiosks at grocery stores and shopping centers, plus a newer video-on-demand streaming rental and purchase service, Redbox now has a free, ad-based live service, as well, which gets some of its content from Xumo (see below).
You can access the content by clicking on “Free Live TV” at the top of the Redbox website. It’s still relatively light on bigger, blockbuster-type content, though there are about 100 channels. Right now, you can watch celebrity and entertainment news from TMZ, national and world news from USA Today, and viral videos from FailArmy, plus movies, TV shows, and comedy specials from various providers.
The service just added country lifestyle network Circle to its roster. Last year, the service added 10 new channels—including America’s Test Kitchen, The Design Network, Funny or Die, BeIn Sports, and Voyager Documentaries. It also has mysteries, such as “Forensic Files,” from Filmrise; “Family Feud,” from Freemantle; and classic TV, such as “Johnny Carson TV” and “The Best of Carol Burnett.”
There are three Redbox-branded channels—Redbox Rush (action and adventure), Redbox Comedy, and Redbox Spotlight (featured and recommended titles)—with content mainly from Lionsgate and FilmRise.
Thanks to its partnership with Xumo, Redbox’s free service now includes Magnolia Pictures’ new CineLife ad-supported channel, which features top-rated independent films and award-winning documentaries from the Magnolia Pictures catalog.
The Roku Channel
If you have a Roku streaming media player or a Roku TV, you can watch free shows and movies via the company’s ad-supported Roku Channel, which has expanded significantly over the past three years.
Most recently, the Roku Channel added shows including all seasons of the counter-terrorism series “24,” plus “Hoarders” and the detective series “The First 48.” Recently added movies include “Armageddon,” “Indecent Proposal,” and “Dirty Harry.”
An earlier deal with Blue Ant Media brought three family-friendly channels—Love Nature, Love Nature Español, and ZooMoo, a kids’ channel dedicated to animal programming—and expands Roku’s free lineup to more than 100 channels.
Roku is now moving beyond its own streaming media players and TVs with the Roku Channel for the Web, which lets you access free programming from a computer, smartphone, or tablet. In addition, there will be a Roku Channel app on Samsung smart TVs. On any of those devices, you simply go to Roku website and log in to a Roku account to start streaming.
Roku recently updated the Roku operating system software (Roku OS 9.4). Improvements include the ability to access the Roku Channel’s live TV guide right from the home screen, support for Apple AirPlay 2 and HomeKit, and hints about voice commands you can use on your Roku device. A new Roku Channel Free Mobile App, for iOS and Android smartphones, offers access to free and premium subscription channels, as well as live TV and news.
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.
The company has also rolled out a new Kids & Family area in the Roku Channel that will feature more than 7,000 ad-supported movies and TV episodes from partners such as All Spark (Hasbro Studios), Lionsgate, and Mattel. It includes parental controls that let you monitor and limit the content your kids can watch via the Roku Channel.
Samsung TV Plus
Like models from other major brands, such as LG and Vizio, Samsung’s smart TVs have their own free service—Samsung TV Plus—which offers more than 160 ad-supported channels featuring news, sports, and entertainment.
The latest news is that the Samsung TV app is now available on more Galaxy devices, as well as Samsung smart TVs.
Samsung has partnered with Bloomberg Media to launch Bloomberg TV+, a 4K business/finance channel. (It’s the first 4K channel available on the service.) It also has a deal with TYT, the progressive news channel, for shows such as “The Young Turks,” hosted by Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, and “The Damage Report,” with John Iadarola.
The company also added “Deal or No Deal,” the popular game show hosted by Howie Mandel, and Ion Plus, which shows dramas ranging from murder and crime to medical shows. New channels in 2021 include Clarity 4K, with 4K travel adventures, and Moviesphere, home to hit movies and classic TV.
All Samsung smart TVs dating back to 2016 are able to access TV Plus, which includes channels such as CBSN (CBS’ 24/7 live digital news channel), Yahoo Finance, A&E’s Lively Place, Bon Appétit, Vevo, Outside TV+, and others.
Samsung TVs also have an app for Tubi TV, which is described below.
Sling Free is the new ad-supported service from Sling TV, which offers a cable TV-replacement service that combines live local broadcasts with cable-style programming. Right now Sling Free has about 5,000 TV shows and movies, and you don’t have to register or provide a credit card.
While not especially deep, the content library is pretty diverse—you can binge on series ranging from “Rick & Morty” to “Hell’s Kitchen” to “Forensic Files,” plus some movies. You can also check out what’s trending for paid Sling TV subscribers.
Sling Free is available on a pretty wide range of devices, including Amazon Fire TV, Google Android and Chrome devices, Roku players and TVs, and smart TVs from LG and Samsung, but not yet Apple devices. The company says it’s working on support for Apple TVs, iPhones, and iPads.
Stirr is an ad-supported streaming service launched last year by local TV broadcaster Sinclair. Although not as well-known as many other free streaming services, Stirr 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.
As part of Black History Month, the service recently added and spotlighted titles such as “The Long Walk Home” and “Night Catches Us.”
This year, Sinclair will launch a headline news service that will appear on Stirr and other Sinclair affiliates. In addition to original content, the lineup will include fare from Sinclair’s network of local broadcast stations.
When you sign up for Stirr, you select a city near you so that you can receive local news and other content on the 24-hour Stirr City channel. The other channels aren’t that well-known, but they include Cheddar, FailArmy, NASA TV, Stadium, and World Poker Tour. You can also watch chef Gordon Ramsay on “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares” and classic movies on an American Classic channel.
The service has added several new channels featuring shows such as “The Greatest American Hero,” “Hunter,” “The Commish,” and “21 Jump Street.” It has older game shows, such as “Deal or No Deal” and “Family Feud,” and older movies such as “Point Blank” and “War, Inc.” And for those who’d like to add a few happy trees to their environment, the service has a channel devoted to “The Joy of Painting With Bob Ross.”
Stirr is available on Apple TV and Roku streaming players, Android and iOS smartphones and tablets, and computers. You can download the Stirr TV app from Google Play or the Apple App Store, add it as a channel on Roku, or watch it on the Stirr website.
This ad-supported streaming service was announced in 2019 when TiVo unveiled its TiVo Edge DVRs. Unlike most other ad-supported services on this list, TiVo+ is available through only one hardware platform—you have to own a TiVo device, either a TiVo DVR or TiVo Stream 4K.
TiVo+ has 144 free channels, with 72 new channels added just this past fall. The service is powered by several services, including Xumo (see below) and Pluto TV, and will offer older TV shows such as “3rd Rock From the Sun,” “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” and “21 Jump Street,” as well as content from Cheddar, Hell’s Kitchen, TMZ, Outside TV, PowerNation, and FailArmy.
It also has news from CBSN and USA Today.
As noted above, TiVo now has its own streaming player, called the TiVo Stream 4K, to compete with players such as Apple TV and Roku. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of a company called Xperi, which is the parent to brands including DTS and Imax Enhanced.
This ad-supported service has more than 20,000 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 (“Ghost World”) to more recent acclaimed movies such as “St. Vincent.” You’ll also find full seasons of TV shows ranging from oldies (“The Honeymooners”) to more recent fare (“Dead Like Me”).
Tubi is now owned by Fox (separate from 21st Century Fox, now owned by Disney), so the service has a slate of new programming that includes “The Masked Singer,” “Hell’s Kitchen,” and “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.” Back seasons are available, and new episodes hit the service after they air on Fox.
It also has several programs based on the Lego franchise, specials starring Garfield, and some programs from Mattel featuring characters from Barbie and Monsters High. The company recently signed a deal to bring six seasons of “Barney & Friends” to the service beginning in April.
This past fall, Tubi launched “News on Tubi,” which features content from Fox, Bloomberg TV, NBC News Now, Fubo Sports Network, and Black News Channel, among others.
The family-focused Tubi Kids features more than 1,200 age-appropriate movies and television shows, according to the company. Most of the new Lego series, as well as “Barney,” “The Land Before Time,” and a “Jumanji” animated series, appears on Tubi Kids.
Tubi has also launched a dedicated Spanish-language section, called Tubi en Español, with more than 800 titles within the Tubi app.
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.
In much the same way that LG has partnered with Xumo for its Channel Plus service, Vizio teamed up with Pluto TV for its ad-supported WatchFree streaming service. But since its launch in 2018, it has also added its own roster of channels.
During the pandemic, for example, WatchTV added 30 new channels, spanning news, entertainment, lifestyle, DIY, sports, comedy, and music. That includes lifestyle content from USA Today and CBC News, as well as sports from the Fubo Sports Network, celebrity and entertainment news from TMZ, and sci-fi programming from Dust.
These new channels join Vizio’s existing WatchFree offering, which is powered by the free Pluto TV live TV streaming service from ViacomCBS (see above). With WatchFree, Vizio customers have access to more than 150 streaming TV channels.
The content can be found under a WatchFree item on the SmartCast menu bar. WatchFree is also treated as its own input on SmartCast TVs, so you find it by pressing the Input button on the Vizio TV remote control.
Vudu is currently shifting from Walmart to Fandango. The companies say there will be no immediate changes to the service.
Best known as a place to buy or rent a wide range of movies and TV shows, the service recently expanded its free, ad-supported content lineup, which you can find under the Vudu: Free Movies & TV page.
The rotating collection includes hundreds of popular older movies, such as “Journey to the Center of the Earth” and “Benji,” and TV shows such as “3rd Rock From the Sun” and “Hell’s Kitchen.”
Also new is a recommendation feature that helps you find shows and movies based on what you’ve watched.
To access the free content, you need a Vudu account, but you don’t have to provide payment information.
Fans of classic TV shows and movies might want to check out Watchyour.tv, a free, ad-supported service from TVS Television, which claims to be the fourth oldest commercial TV network in the country.
The content is organized into general-interest “networks,” such as sports, movies, entertainment, and kids and family, and then broken down further into subcategories.
For example, there are six sports channels, including TVS Sports Network, TVS Classic Sports, TVS Women’s Sports Network, and TVS Boxing Network, and five movie channels, including TVS Classic Movies, TVS Drive In Movie, and TVS Nostalgia Movies (a Fred Astaire movie was playing recently).
The service also has a “DVR,” but it’s more like a catch-up feature that lets you scroll through each channel’s offerings over the past seven days, and then stream.
When we checked, you could watch older movies (“Zulu”) as well as classic TV shows, including “The Andy Griffith Show,” “Bonanza,” “My Favorite Martian,” and “The Beverly Hillbillies.”
Watchyour.tv is available on a number of devices, inside or outside of the home, including iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Amazon Fire TV and Roku players and televisions, Apple TVs, and Android TVs.
Xumo is an ad-powered streaming video platform that offers live and on-demand content from more than 190 channels. It is now owned by Comcast, which purchased the service in February 2020.
Unlike many other free options, Xumo focuses on premium-branded channels. It now has 200 digital channels of free programming across 12 genres, including sports, news, kids and family entertainment, live events, comedy, lifestyle, and movies.
Content on Xumo includes programming from ABC News Live, Antiques Roadshow U.K., Fox Soul, FuboTV, Deal or No Deal, History Channel NBC News Now, and the PGA Tour. Newer deals include content from BeIn Sports Xtra and America’s Test Kitchen.
It also has a Black News Channel, with programming created specifically for African American audiences. A recent deal is bringing three new curated channels from Telemundo, which will include over 3,000 hours of Telemundo scripted shows, reality TV, news, sports, and more.
In addition, the service has about 10,000 on-demand titles, thanks to deals with Magnolia Pictures, Relativity Media, Broad Green Pictures, and A24. You can watch Xumo on some smart TVs, iOS and Android smartphones and tablets, Apple TVs (via AirPlay), and Amazon Fire TV and Roku streaming players and televisions.
You might think of YouTube mainly as the home of user-created content, but the site also has movies in the Free to Watch section under Movies & Shows. The offerings are different from those on YouTube Premium (formerly known as YouTube Red), which bundles videos, original movies, TV shows, and music as part of an ad-free plan that costs $12 per month.
When we checked, there were about 360 titles available on the platform—about three times as many as last fall—all of them free with ads. You’ll find everything from older, bigger-budget Hollywood fare (“The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” “The Lincoln Lawyer”) to animated movies (“The Reef”) and documentaries (“Supersize Me”).
The lineup changes periodically. A few months ago, we were able to watch “Bull Durham,” but it’s no longer listed. So be sure to circle back for up-to-date options.
YouTube is now available on Amazon Fire TV; it hadn’t been in the past because of a dispute between Google and Amazon.