Cutting the Cord Again: 5 Free Streaming Services to Try
Remember when the hot trend was “cutting the cord” and canceling cable? At the time, this strategy allowed consumers to save a lot of money. Alas, as more streaming services have hit the market, many viewers may once again be spending more than they’d like on entertainment. But there’s good news as there are now several free services where you watch movies, TV shows, and more without spending a dime.
If you’re looking to save money on streaming, here are five options along with a brief overview of what they have to offer.
Free Streaming Platforms to Try Now
Of all the free streaming services out there, Pluto TV may just be the most well-known. It’s also the only one that I’ve done a solo review of. I’ve been a fan of the platform for a while as it includes free channels that feel like linear TV. For example, Buzzr plays a number of classic game shows throughout the day while the Sitcom Legends channel is my go-to as it features the likes of Cheers and Frasier. As someone who enjoys the ability to just turn on a channel and start watching without much thought, I find the Pluto service to be highly appealing.
However, since not everyone likes having to watch TV on a schedule, Pluto does also offer on-demand content. For the most part, these titles correspond to shows and movies that are already airing across their various channels. Personally, I don’t like their on-demand interface, but it’s not terrible.
Overall, whether you want to watch something that feels like linear TV or find a specific title to stream, Pluto TV is a great place to start.
Plex is a service I learned about after my Google Chromecast recommended it. Like Pluto, Plex offers a number of programmed channels. One of the most interesting to me is the Maximum Effort Channel, which comes from Ryan Reynolds and includes shows like Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place. Other channels you can find include Ion, Hallmark Movies & More, BBC Earth, and more. From what I can tell, some of these channels can be found elsewhere, but Plex has them as well.
Of course, like other options, Plex does also include on-demand, ad-supported movies and shows. Some of the featured titles when I checked included The Aviator, Nightcrawler, The Kids in the Hall, Hell’s Kitchen, and more. Interestingly, there’s also a Music tab in Plex. Sadly, though, this just contains 30-second previews of songs from Tidal. There’s also a Plex media server — but I’m not exactly sure how that works and it’s beyond the scope of this article.
For me, Plex has been a nice addition to my free streaming mix and it seems like a solid option overall.
To me, the name “Roku Channel” is a bit of a misnomer for a couple of reasons. First, while it is associated with the Roku device, you don’t need one of those in order to watch Roku Channel. Secondly, it’s not really a channel. Instead, the service offers plenty of on-demand movies and TV shows. There are even original movies, such as the well-received Weird: The Al Yankovic Story.
I was brought to Roku Channel because I noticed that they happened to have all seasons of the show NewsRadio (whereas Pluto only had two to stream on demand). That automatically wins it points in my book. However, something I noticed when writing this is that, while other services on this list allow you to watch without an account when watching on a computer, Roku Channel does still require an account. This isn’t a big deal, but I thought it was interesting.
Roku Channel does seem to have a greater emphasis on on-demand content, but there are still live channels to be found as well. Some channels I noticed while scrolling include Alfred Hitchcock Presents, an NHL channel, and kid-centric channels like Yo Gabba Gabba and Teletubbies. There are even music channels from I Heart, such as I Heart 80s.
Even as someone without a Roku device, my time looking around the Roku Channel has already made me a fan.
Formerly known as IMDb TV, Freevee is part of Amazon. In fact, if you go to Freevee.com, you’ll be forwarded to Amazon’s Prime Video section. But, rest assured, the content found here is all available for free — you’ll just need to sit through some ad breaks.
In addition to library content, Freevee is also in the business of original programming. Perhaps the best-known example is the show Jury Duty, which found a cult audience and major buzz when it debuted earlier this year. Also in the courtroom realm, there’s Judy Justice featuring the one and only Judith Sheindlin. On the movie front, there’s also the original film Exmas. That holiday-themed romantic comedy happens to join past Freevee originals in the same vein, such as last year’s Hotel for the Holidays. Watch out, Hallmark.
While Freevee lacks the linear option of my of the other platforms on this list, the library of content definitely makes up for it, making it another one to add to the mix.
Tubi is yet another free platform — this one owned by Fox. Among the channels you can stream, you may notice some familiar ones (at least familiar if you’ve checked out the likes of Plex) such as Ion, NBC News, BBC Earth, and more. As for on-demand, one thing I liked is that there’s both a “First Time on Tubi” and “Leaving Soon” section you can explore. Some of the movies that popped out to me included Straight Outta Compton, Goodfellas, and Draft Day, while shows I noticed were Beyond Belief, Boss, The Bernie Mac Show, Everybody Hates Chris, and more.
And, yes, there are also Tubi Originals. This includes both movies and TV shows. One that I’ve seen advertised on Fox is the animated show The Freak Brothers, starring Tiffany Haddish.
Once again, Tubi has a lot of free content to offer and an easy-to-use interface that makes it worth checking out.
Bonus tip: Use JustWatch
To be honest, I might not have known about some of these services if it weren’t for a great tool called JustWatch. With this site, you can search for a show or movie you’re looking for and see where (if anywhere) it’s streaming/available for digital purchase. That’s how I learned that Roku had all seasons of NewsRadio. From what I can tell, the site does a great job of keeping up to date and hasn’t let me down yet. Plus, it’s totally free to use. So, if you’re trying to figure out where to start with these streaming services, perhaps check out JustWatch first and see where you can find your favorite content.
Just as the list of paid streaming services continues to grow, so does the number of free platforms you can enjoy. What’s more, since they are free, there’s no reason to stick to just one or two. That said, you may notice some overlapping content between these platforms…. but you’ll also find plenty of unique items as well. So, if you’re sick of paying for streaming content each month, be sure to try these free services — and watch the savings piling up.