9 MIN READ
These 10 Free TV Apps Let You Watch Your Favorite Shows Without the Bill
As cable subscription prices rise higher and higher and customer satisfaction ratings dive lower and lower, cutting the cable has never been more popular. Sure, there are the usual big names in streaming services available for a monthly fee, but it’s possible to kick subscription fees entirely.
Luckily, there are more options than ever for replacing your traditional cable setup. Many free streaming services have stepped up to offer access to content overlooked by subscription-based services.
Of course, there are some rather shady options out there that stream pirated content, but there are plenty of free, legal streaming apps that provide no-strings-attached cable cutting solutions.
Crackle is quickly becoming one of the go-to names not just in free streaming but in streaming video in general. The cost-free service has signed some A-list content recently, including “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” the new “Snatch” series, “Seinfeld” and hundreds of films from major studios.
For a free streaming service, Crackle’s library is truly impressive. Crackle even has a handful of original series to its name, some of which are gaining attention from critics and audiences alike. Best of all, Crackle works on nearly all mobile devices, streaming boxes, and smart TVs.
My only complaint with Crackle is the autoplay feature. When you start up the app on your Roku or other streaming player, you have a limited time until a movie starts automatically. I haven’t found a way to shut this off yet short of starting another program.
Tubi TV launched in 2014 and claims to have the largest selection of free streaming movies and TV series. It has deals with major studios like Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Lionsgate and also features lots of foreign and independent productions.
Tubi TV’s library is updated regularly, and the service claims to add new content every week. The Tubi TV app works on Android and iOS devices, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV.
To be honest, when I first heard of Tubi TV, I was skeptical because I always viewed apps like it as having the movies no one wanted to see. However, I was pleasantly surprised — the library is solid. A few titles that stood out to me include “Old Boy”, “True Grit,” and “The Machinist.”
Since the service is ad-supported, you can expect to watch a couple minutes of ads every ten minutes or so. The experience is pretty similar to watching normal television.
Pluto TV stands out in the free streaming crowd in that the service offers channels of linear content much like a cable package. There are dozens of movie channels, sports channels, news, and even some highly curated streams of niche content.
Pluto TV recently launched a video-on-demand service with movies and TV series from studios such as Paramount, Lionsgate, MGM and Warner Bros. Pluto TV boasts a large list of supported devices including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Kindle and Fire devices, Roku, Apple TV, Google Nexus Player and Chromecast devices and Android TV.
A lot of money has been poured into Pluto TV over the last year or so. I just downloaded the app again for the first time in about a year and was shocked by how much content the service now has, as well as how sleek the interface is. It truly is the most cable-like experience out there from a free app.
Pluto TV is a bit ad heavy, as you must watch a few minutes of ads prior to starting a program, as well as periodic ads throughout. Again, it’s pretty similar to the ad load of normal TV.
Streaming video isn’t always just about entertainment. For the more serious-minded cord-cutters out there, the NewsON app provides hundreds of local and national news streams.
Both live and on-demand news broadcasts can be streamed from over 170 local news affiliates in 113 markets. The broadcasts are available for up to 48 hours after they air.
The app uses a device’s location data or an interactive map to locate available local news streams. Users can then select which news segments they want to watch from categories like sports, weather or business. NewsON is compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets, as sell as Roku.
I find NewsOn particularly useful when I don’t want to deal with hooking up an antenna. As far as local programming is concerned, the news is really all I need. Here in Houston, NewsOn gets me the local KPRC NBC feed, so I always know what’s going on.
Funny Or Die
Funny or Die is without a doubt the go-to streaming app for comedy programming. Founded in 2004 by contemporary comedy giants Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, it has since grown to be a full-blown production house featuring original content from some of the biggest names in show business. It also has syndicated content and works on both Android and iOS devices.
Content on the app must be streamed and cannot be downloaded. Users can vote on what they watch, choosing either “Funny” or “Die,” a system that ensures the best content rises to the top. Basically, you watch a video, and decide whether you liked it or not. Below the video, you’ll have the choice to click a “Funny” or “Die” button, which then affects the overall rating of the video.
As for my personal experience, I’ve honestly spent quite a bit of time laughing my butt off at videos from this app. The app is easy to use and great for finding new hilarious content.
Kids need free streaming content, too. Luckily, PBS has a PBS Kids Video app that provides hundreds of hours of educational and enriching content just for the youngest members of any family. The app has a colorful, child-friendly interface, which makes it easy for kids to take control themselves.
Videos from many of PBS’s most popular series are available for streaming including “Curious George,” “The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That,” “Dinosaur Train” and “Sesame Street.” The PBS Kids app is supported on Chromecast, Android, Windows and iOS phones and tablets, and it takes up little space. Unfortunately, content cannot be downloaded for offline viewing.
This app is my go-to for my 7-year-old daughter. She knows that if she gets up before me, she’s allowed to turn on the TV and access the PBS Kids app. And I know that she’s watching something age-appropriate and educational. Not to mention, there’s no worry of her exposure to commercials because there are none — big plus!
Flipps isn’t exactly a household name yet, but the service is growing quickly and already boasts thousands of hours of content. The app is compatible with iOS and Android devices, Xbox One and Apple TV. It can even sync with several different makes of smart TVs, allowing mobile devices to serve as a remote control.
While Flipps is free and offers some enticing features, the Flipps library might not be for everyone. Flipps features mostly obscure and B-list films, niche and extreme sports and independent content. It also has over 100 channels of linear streaming content for viewing.
As for my experience, while the app gets great reviews, I’ve found little use for it. The movies are too obscure for my taste, and, frankly, I get my news elsewhere. However, if you’re someone looking for new content, this might be useful to you, especially if you’re looking to mirror to your smart TV.
Anime and manga fans are likely already familiar with Crunchyroll. The sushi-inspired name stems from the fact that Crunchyroll specializes in mostly Japanese content, but it also features films and series from all over the world. Crunchyroll boasts a library of thousands of anime films and series, many of which are hard to find on other streaming services.
There is a paid premium feature, but the free Crunchyroll service has thousands of hours of popular series like the “Dragonball” franchise, “Attack on Titan,” “Naruto” and “One Piece.” The Crunchyroll app is supported by Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as by gaming consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV and Roku.
Crunchyroll is a great app for anyone with an interest in anime. Of course, when it comes to anime content, you have to be watchful with your younger children, as a lot of it is geared towards teens (and sometimes even adults). I don’t let my little one access the app on her own. However, for teens and adults, it’s a slamdunk.
For anyone with even a passing interest in gaming and esports, Twitch is the go-to free streaming service.
Twitch hosts user-created channels and streams focused on video games and other esports. It features a built-in chat feature, so users can chat with other streamers in real time.
While there are thousands of free streams, Twitch also features premium features for a monthly subscription. Twitch apps are compatible with PCs, iOS and Android devices, game consoles, Chromecast and Fire TV. While Twitch is popular with children, parents should beware: Twitch streams are somewhat unregulated and can sometimes contain adult language or content.
Yes, YouTube. No list of cost-free streaming video services would be complete without it. YouTube apps are compatible with just about every device out there that has a screen, and the service features billions of videos to choose from on nearly any topic imaginable.
Most of them are not exactly premium content, but there are still plenty of full-length films, documentary series and curated channels that provide cost-free entertainment for the whole family.
While there are ways to download YouTube content for offline viewing, proceed with caution: many of these sites and apps are full of malware.
With so many free streaming options out there, it's easier than ever to cut the cord and save big. Whether you're looking to keep up with the news, find a good movie for date night or entertain your kids with educational content, a streaming service exists to ensure you can do so without paying a dime. Try them out and see which works best for you.
Chris Brantner is the founder of CutCableToday, where he provides crucial info for people to find the content they want, like NFL football, without cable. You can also find his work on Motherboard, Business Insider, US News & World Report, and more.