For many of us, TV is a way to enjoy some low cost entertainment.
Just because you aren't paying for traditional cable TV doesn't mean that you have to give it all up and miss your favorite shows. As long as you have an internet connection, a streaming device and a TV, there are a ton of free entertainment options.
In this article we’ll explore 17 different apps and live streaming services that will allow you to watch TV free.
Free TV Apps
The collection of apps in this section will allow you to watch TV free from some of your favorite networks. This includes most of the major broadcast networks, as well as some cable networks.
Many of the major broadcast networks have a free app, while some networks do charge a fee (like CBS). The following apps however, offer some great content, both on demand and live, without needing to pay anything.
Of course, there is nothing stopping you from downloading multiple TV apps on your streaming device (we use the Fire TV Cube), so you can have a full selection of TV channels at your fingertips, at no cost.
The ABC TV app is ideal for viewers who want to keep up with their favorite ABC network shows.
After you download this app, you can watch the most recent episodes of the biggest shows on ABC along with classics for free. This includes Dancing With the Stars, Modern Family, and Black-ish that have recently aired on the ABC proper network.
Some content does require a log in through a TV provider to watch, but these shows are clearly marked with a key. Despite this, there are hours of free content that you can enjoy.
You can download the ABC app through the link below, and it is compatible with Android, iOS, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, and Android TV.
- Go to ABC
NBC was once considered the home of “Must See TV,” but it is also a great place for free to watch TV shows.
Like the other TV apps, the NBC TV app works with free users, with new episodes unlocked eight days after they air on the channel for free streaming. This means that you can catch up with Saturday Night Live, Will & Grace, and This is US along with other current shows and classic series.
Some content remains locked behind a key icon, but the NBC app allows users who’ve registered to watch three locked episodes of any show for free for up to a month without needing to log in.
The NBC app is compatible with Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Android TV, Apple TV, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Vizio TVs, Amazon Alexa Skill, and Samsung Smart TVs.
- Go to NBC
Whether you can’t miss the latest episode in the Arrow-verse, need to gather every piece of the Riverdale puzzle or hunt with the Winchesters on Supernatural, you can catch up using the CW streaming app for free. The available episodes vary depending on the last air date on the network. So, if you’re planning a Riverdale binge session, you will need to either wait for reruns or sign up for Netflix.
One area where CW stands apart from many other TV apps is how quickly the network puts the content on to the app platform. Many apps make you wait up to a week for the latest episodes, but the CW typically puts the latest episodes on the app platform around 11 pm PST on the nights they air.
The CW app is available on Android, AirPlay, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, iOS, Windows 8, Google Chromecast, Roku, Xbox One, and Xbox 360.
- Go to The CW
PBS & PBS Kids
The downside of trying to streamline your budget as a parent is that you may worry about missing out on valuable kid's content. However, you need not worry as the PBS Kids app allows you a free 24/7 feed without a need for login or subscription.
Every Friday, the app is updated with new safe, educational programming.Whether you’re using a streaming stick or mobile device, you can enjoy live programming, on demand streaming, and even guides to highlight the learning goals and intended age group of each show.
PBS has an app for the adults as well so you can enjoy a bit more mature content.
The PBS apps are compatible with Android, iOS, Windows 10, Windows Phone, Nook, Roku, and Amazon Fire.
Another great family friendly network that offers free streaming TV is Cartoon Network. The Cartoon Network offers an impressive selection of free programming. You can watch full episodes of great shows, including Adventure Time, Uncle Grandpa, and Steven Universe, without a need to log in.
In addition to a massive amount of episodes, there is a wealth of app exclusive content and clips. Since the Cartoon Network is locked in the cable paywall, this is a generous gift for all CN lovers.
Like many of the other TV apps, locked content is denoted by a key icon, but you’re likely to find lots of content to enjoy. So, your kids don’t need to miss out on their favorite cartoons, just because you want to cut your costs.
The Cartoon Network app is available for Android. iOS, Xbox One, Apple TV, Amazon, and Roku.
- Go to Cartoon Network
Crunchyroll provides a free service for Anime fans. You can stream episodes from practically the whole Crunchyroll catalog in the free mode, supported by ads.
This means that you can watch free episodes of Dragon Ball Super, Christian anime and other anime favorites. Or find new favorites in the currently airing shows. This is a fantastic find for anime fans who remember the days of needing to hunt for expensive DVDs.
The Crunchyroll app is supported for Chromecast, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, Wii U, Playstation Vita, Apple TV, Roku, Windows Phone, Android, and iOS.
- Go to Crunchyroll
Free Live TV Streaming
While the above apps provide a fantastic resource to access your favorite shows from the major networks, sometimes you just want to surf live TV.
Many of us like to channel surf looking for something interesting to watch; the experience of surfing just can't be replicated with the above apps.
There are some free live TV services, however, that can offer this experience.
The apps below allow you to surf the channels as you would with a traditional cable box, so you can explore what's on, discover new shows, and come upon some old favorites.
Pluto TV offers free live TV streaming that can fill the TV void in your life. The platform provides more than a hundred channels of live television, music, and movies with the channels grouped into categories.
This means that you can browse Sports, Entertainment, or News with each of these sections packed with high quality channels. Some of the channels you may recognize from your cable package, and a few may be new to you. For example, there is an MSNBC feed. However, where Pluto TV really stands out is the choice of unusual channels, such as Slow TV, a feed of things moving peacefully, which can help you to wind down after a busy day.
Pluto TV is a great choice for those who love television but don’t have particular must see shows. The service operates on Samsung TVs, Sony Smart TVs, Vizio TVs, web browsers, Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and Roku.
- Go to Pluto TV
One of the downsides of canceling your cable or satellite television package is that you can lose your access to local news.
If there is a local event or even a weather emergency, these local channels provide an invaluable resource.
NewsON can bridge this gap, allowing you to choose live newscasts from all across the country without needing to pay a dime.
You can search for news services in your area or even explore what is happening in other areas of the world. This can be an interesting way to increase your general knowledge or discover the next place you want to visit with the money you’ve saved on your cable bill.
- Go to NewsON
Free Movie And TV Show Apps
If you’re not worried about watching first run content, you can access a fantastic variety of great TV shows and movies with these TV streaming apps and netflix alternatives.
While you’re not likely going to find the latest episode of a current blockbuster show, if you like the classics, then these apps can provide you with a vast library of shows and movies.
This is an on demand service that streams like Netflix, but with no pesky subscription charges or fees.
The Crackle library includes lots of finished television shows and many movies. The content rotates out each month, and Crackle also produces its own original content.
There are some great original series, including StartUp and Snatch, which is the type of edgy content that should address your HBO void. If you enjoy watching reruns of older shows like Seinfeld and Community, Crackle could be what you’re looking for.
Crackle is supported for Google Chromecast, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Android, and iOS. There are also a number of smart TVs that can stream Crackle.
- Go to Crackle
This is similar to Crackle, but it doesn’t have original content. The Tubi TV catalog contains more than 7,000 TV shows and movies, so you’re sure to always find something to watch.
The library is predominantly reality TV shows and old sitcoms that provide access to some real binge worthy content such as The FBI Files and Dog the Bounty Hunter.
The best feature of Tubi TV is its movie section. There are some real blockbuster titles, high quality documentaries, and some great romances. You may need to dig around a little to find the perfect movie for that lazy Sunday afternoon or a family movie night.
Tubi TV can be streamed with Android, iOS, Xbox, Apple TV, Roku, Samsung Smart TVs, Playstation, Amazon Fire TV, Sony Smart TVs, and web browsers.
- Go to Tubi TV
If daytime TV is your guilty pleasure, then Nosey is the perfect streaming service for you.
Nosey has compiled a compilation of the best daytime TV to create an easy to use streaming service. From the cheating spouses on Jerry Springer, to the drama of Cheaters and Paternity Court. There are even some game shows such as Press Your Luck and Family Feud. Nosey allows you to enjoy all that daytime gold without needing an antenna or cable box.
Nosey is supported on iOS, Apple TV, Roku, and Android devices.
- Go to Nosey
Popcornflix is a free streaming service that has a ton of free movies and TV shows, available on aps on iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, Xbox and more.
The service has everything from classic 80s and 90s children's shows to relatively recent movies in a variety of genres, including foreign films and documentaries.
- Go to Popcornflix
Redbox Free Live TV
In addition to their DVD rental kiosks and on demand streaming movies, Redbox recently announced that they would be releasing an ad-supported free live tv streaming service. The service is now available on the Redbox website, and via the Redbox app.
The service has about 30 live streaming channels including TMC, USA Today, FailArmy and several Redbox exclusive channels. The channels and content show up in categories like "Movies", "TV", "Entertainment", "News" and "Kids".
To access the streaming service you can go to the Redbox website and click on the "Free Live TV" link at the top, or view it through one of their apps.
- .Go to Redbox Free Live TV
Live TV + DVR
# of Streams
1-4 (package dependent)
$12.99/mo or $119/yr
Other Ways to Access Free TV
If the above apps and services don’t appeal, there are still other ways to access TV for free.
These methods may not provide a long term solution to your television watching needs, but they can be a stop-gap to allow you time to find a better deal and consider your future options.
Get a Free Trial
Although many of the substitutes for a traditional cable package tend to be subscription services, most of these platforms offer a free trial for first time users.
Although a trial is a temporary fix, it is a low cost way to decide which service package you like. You will need to remember to cancel your account before the end of the trial to avoid any charges.However, once you’ve subscribed for a free trial and provided your email address, you may find that the company sends discounts and offers to try and tempt you back after your free trial.
Use Your Library Card
Don’t worry; you don’t necessarily have to make the trip to your local library to get free TV and movies, although that's not a bad idea!
There are library services and public campuses in many areas that not only have free books online, but also partner with streaming services, so you can get free streaming video content online.
Many libraries also provide access to “quality, literate” content through Kanopy or Hoopla Digital. They offer mostly family friendly entertainment and educational content that can be accessed via apps or web browsers.
Ask your local librarian for details or visit the respective sites with your email address and library card to check if your library is participating and sign up for an account.
View Classic Shows Online
If you're interested in classic television programming, one fun place to go is the Internet Archive's free TV section.
You can watch classic TV shows, old commercials, and even some live news shows for important events.
Complete Tasks, Fill Out Surveys, Get Cash Back
There are a number of companies that offer rewards programs that provide perks for TV lovers. You can earn points for completing tasks such as taking quizzes, filling in surveys, or even playing games. Once you’ve accumulated sufficient points, they can be redeemed for free gift cards for Amazon, Netflix or other services.
However, the payoff isn’t immediate, as you need to accumulate points. Many of the tasks just pay up to 50 points, and typically, you will need 5,000 points to receive a $5 gift card. You may also have caps on the points you can earn, but if you enjoy playing games and participating in surveys, you could enjoy free TV for months at a time.
Programs like InstaGC and Swagbucks are easy to use and are considered very reputable companies. Their apps pay out thousands of dollars in gift cards every week.
Use Your Credit Card Rewards
There are many credit cards that have a rewards program, so you earn points that can be converted into gift cards for streaming subscriptions.
Of course, you shouldn’t go crazy on your credit card to score free TV, but if you’re comfortable being responsible with your card, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be earning credits for watching TV shows for free.
Check the benefits of your current card or apply for a new card with an applicable rewards program if this strategy would suit you.
Check For Offers from Your Phone Carrier
In recent years, television and phone services have become more and more intertwined, so it makes sense that many major phone carriers now offer streaming services as a customer bonus.
For example, T-Mobile now pays for one standard Netflix subscription if you sign up for multiple lines with the One Family Plan.
AT&T has a package of 35+ channels of on demand and live TV free with its unlimited plans.
You will need to compare the costs of your current plan and the cost of a streaming service with the cost of plans offering free TV to determine if you can save money by doing this.
Use Your Family or Friend Connections
Many of the subscription platforms have referral plans where you and your friend can both receive free TV. For example, Netflix provides a month free viewing for referred friends, while the existing customer also receives benefits. However, this is only available to new Netflix customers
There are other options that can allow you access to free TV through your family or friends. For example, if someone in your household has an Amazon Prime account, you can share benefits through an Amazon Household account. This includes Prime Video, which is Amazon’s streaming service.
Another example is Hulu that allows you to add five additional profiles on their accounts, while HBO Now subscribers can share their accounts with household members.
So, if a family member or friend is willing to share their benefits, you can get access to significantly reduced or free TV packages.
Tips to Avoid Free TV Scams
While we’ve listed some fantastic ways to stream TV and movies for free, but there are some dodgy scams and services out there.
As streaming content has become more popular, it was inevitable that cyber-criminals would take note, and today, many use the draw of free TV to spread malware and spyware.
So, here are some tips to avoid free TV scams and spot fake sites.
- Badly Designed Sites: Malicious scammers tend not to put a great deal of effort into their website design. Compared to legitimate sites, fake websites or spoofed sites often contain easy to spot errors such as spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. You may even see missing graphics or graphics that are completely out of context.
- Intrusive Ads: While many of the apps and websites offering access to free TV and movies do use ads to cover the costs of their platform, illegitimate sites tend to be packed with ads. This means that you won’t just see an occasional embedded ad, but there will be persistent, intrusive pop ups, banners, and malware warnings constantly. These sites are using excessive online advertising to generate revenue, and clicking on the ads may lead to data grab scams.
- Malware Alerts: If you click on a video player to watch a free TV show or movie, you may be immediately redirected to a fake website, which alerts you that your computer been infected with malware. Another tactic is to ask you to download a video plug in to get the video to play properly, but this “plug in” is actually malware designed to infect your computer. If you see a pop up, you’re likely to be directed to “technical support,” which will involve paying a fee for an infection clean up or needing to input personal data, which puts you at risk of fraud.
- Never Ending Links: Once you’ve found a movie to watch, you may be invited to click the movie title, where you will be directed to another page and another link, and so on and so on. This type of site is set up, so you never actually end up accessing the content, and the purpose is to try to trick you into sharing your personal information.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways that you can protect yourself and avoid being duped. Firstly, you should not call any unknown numbers or click on download links on any unconfirmed websites. You should ensure that you’re using up to date security software programs on your device and that you check any files for malware before you open them.
Additionally, you should avoid using any sites, apps, or platforms that are not supported by reputable companies.
Watching TV Shows For Free Is Easier Than Ever
As you can see, there are a lot of great ways to get access to free TV shows and movies, which means that you can cut your costs without missing out on your favorite shows.
While many of the apps and platforms may not offer the massive choice or first run shows provided by premium sites like Netflix, Hulu, and the other major streaming services, they can allow you to enjoy live TV streaming for free! So start saving!
Have you own free video streaming services that you'd recommend? Tell us what they are in the comments!
- Check out our comprehensive list of the best low cost cable TV alternatives.
- Check out our ultimate guide to cutting the cord.
Check out the table below for some of the best low cost (not free) TV alternatives.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I watch TV online for free?
There are a lot of streaming sites that offer video content free of charge. Services like Pluto TV, Crackle, Tubi TV and others offer free high quality content that is often supported by advertising. Many of the major TV networks offer free streaming via their apps and websites as well. ABC, NBC, The CW, PBS, Cartoon Network and Crunchyroll all offer free streaming options. While not all of their content may be available for free streaming, much of it is.
What are the best free TV apps?
?Among the best free TV apps are Pluto TV and Crackle, both of which have a pretty wide range of quality content, on a variety of different platforms. Other free streaming apps to try include NewsON, Tubi TV, Popcornflix, Nosey, and apps from the major networks.
What are the downsides to free online TV versus pay TV?
With free TV options there are a few downsides. There are more commercials, and often they are not skippable. The quality of the streams can be hit and miss, and finding 4k streams is rare. Newer first run shows are not often available via free streaming services, although many you can get over-the-air via an antenna. Finally, finding some sports content is hard without a paid subscription.
How can I watch TV without cable or Internet?
One of the best ways to watch TV without cable or Internet is to use an antenna attached to your TV or DVR that has an over-the-air tuner. 94 of the top 100 shows are on broadcast TV, and can be seen using a HDTV antenna.
How many channels can you get with an antenna?
According to antenna manufacturer Mohu, if you live in a large metropolitan area like New York or Los Angeles, you will likely be able to receive anywhere from 70 to more than 100 channels. On average in the top 10 largest cities in the United States you will find just over 80 channels available with an antenna.