With the looming threat of covid-19, I foresee a week or two where I'm huddled in my bedroom trying to stay health. I don't know about you, but the idea of days worth of boredom doesn't sound too exciting. It got me wondering if there are TV shows and movies streaming online for free, which resulted in the list below!
Before I get started, let me say I know all about Netflix. 😀 But that costs money! One thing I've noticed is that many “freebie & frugal” sites all push paid options for cutting the cord and ditching cable. Sure, some are great. I split a YouTube TV account with my friends and we love it.
But shouldn't there be … you know, free methods as well? Why do all the other sites push paid-services with their affiliate links? Isn't the point of ditching a monthly cable subscription to actually save money?
Thus, I've compiled all the best ways I've found to watch live, local TV for absolutely free with no subscriptions whatsoever. I've also included a few options with extensive libraries of free TV shows and movies to watch on-demand.
Free Live OTA TV Channels
- ABSOLUTELY FREE HD TV FOR LIFE: 40 mile range HDTV Digital Antenna to access High Definition, Over-the-Air TV channels without a cable or satellite subscription.
- Derived from advanced US military antennas technology and engineered to provide superior access to more free HDTV channels in 1080p
- Multi-directional and reversible digital antenna, paintable to match any decor no pointing needed.
- 10 ft. long coaxial cable included.
OTA Antenna for Free TV
First up, an over-the-air antenna! There's are one-time investments that provide free TV for years to follow.
I'm personally a massive fan of the Mohu Leaf antenna. I have two in my own apartment! They're incredible useful, especially if you already have a TV. After less than 60 seconds setting it up, I was able to get around 50 over-the-air (OTA) channels such as CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, The CW, PBS, Univision, ION, and many more.
To see what local OTA stations you'll pick up, head to Antenna Web and plug in your address.
However, what if you live in a very rural or mountainous area with spotty coverage? Or how about if your TV breaks?
For starters, there's always SlingTV (which is 40% off your first month right now) and YouTubeTV. Both are paid services that let you stream dozens of live over-the-air (OTA) and cable stations at a lower cost than most cable plans. YouTube even lets you share your account with 2 other people, which means you could split the monthly cost 3 ways!
But what if you don't want to pay anything at all? Fear not, for I've got you covered!
Free Ad Supported Streaming & Live TV
This next group of sites offer a variety of streaming content that mimic traditional channels. You might recognize some channels, while others are a collections of streaming shows.
Together, they provide “channels” that replicate tradition TV through scheduled blocks of programming. However, compared to traditional TV, you typically won't find a 100% full or set weekly schedule. Instead, most channels have a shorter rotation of shows for a few hours, in addition to on-demand content.
There's a mix of classic TV shows and programming from national news outlets, along with a ton of custom, streaming content. By and large, the live channels you get are different from what you'll receive with an OTA antenna, so I suggest a combination of both if you're trying to replace as much content as possible from cable.
For live stations, the majority are news, both local and national, along with sports.
Also, all of these work perfect with a Chromecast. Simply plug this device into your TV and you'll be able to seamlessly stream any of the free TV below directly to your home TV with a simple HDMI cord.
Or, instead, you can simply load any of these on your computer, laptop, tablet, or phone and start watching TV immediately.
Kanopy was a service I initially missed, but thankfully multiple Hiffers pointed out my massive oversight. If you have an active membership with your local library or a university login, then you can use it to stream thousands of movies to your TV, phone, tablet, or computer. You can use this link to check if your library participates or use this link to check your university.
Given that library membership is free across the country, I'd say Kanopy is one of the best options when looking to stream free entertainment.
Pluto TV is an interesting mashup of channels. Owned by Viacom, Pluto is essentially a free, ad-supported VOD (video on demand) service with occasional, outside licensing for their more than 250+ channels.
There are a chunk of stations that are dedicated to specific shows (how about the Adams Family station?), but the majority of stations are more classic versions, like CNN or Comedy Central. Since Viacom owns them, you'll get a lot of Viacom channels.
They also have an eclectic collection of older movies on demand, like all of the classic James Bond films, along with a few award winners and some other random titles. All told, they claim to have “1000s of movies.”
Crackle is a joint venture partially backed by Sony Pictures that consists of both original television shows as well as older favorites, such as Roseanne, Charlie's Angels, 3rd Rock From the Sun, and The Facts of Life.
They also boast a large collection of movies and original docu-series.
It currently offers 160+ channels covering news, comedy, kids, sports, and much more.
They also have a collection of on demand
There's no live TV though, it's all on-demand shows and movies.
The Roku Channel
The Roku Channel works on any Roku device or computer and, like Vudu, it's all on-demand based on the show. There aren't any channels, per say.
STIRR is owned by Sinclair, which is already one giant strike against them (*NSFW WARNING!*) in my book.
The one solid point in STIRR's favor is you can watch local stations without being located in the actual area.
If old-school cartoons are more your style, then definitely check out PopcornFlix. Their Family and Kids TV lets your stream older cartoons that even I haven't heard of. I honestly can't tell if these were after or before my time as an 80s kid 😀
Finally, if you're in the market for documentaries, don't overlook Snagfilms. They have one of the most extensive libraries of free documentary movies I could find, all broken down by categories.
Free Streaming Live TV
So what about simple, local TV online, streaming online without paying a penny?
Watch Your Local TV Channels with Locast
Locast is designed to stream your local TV channels. That means NY folks get their own channels and shows stations while San Francisco users gets only bay area stations. How is this legal?
Locast is a not-for-profit service offering users access to broadcast television stations over the internet. We stream the signal over the Internet to select US cities. We are trying to help broadcasters reach people just like you over the internet.
Currently, Locast is only in 17 cities. However, that's 36% of the US market and reaches over 41 million homes! They're also expanding rapidly, so I'd keep looking if your home market isn't listed.
When I started writing this post last August, Locast was only in 13 cities and reaching 33 million homes, so they're expanding fairly rapidly.
Stream Basic Live TV Channels with Puffer
Next, there's Puffer. This is a free test program run by Stanford University. It seems like they're testing a new encoding or streaming software, but what it means for you and me is we get free TV!
Puffer provides free streams for the most basic channels: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, and Univision. Sound too good to be true? It's not!
Stream live TV in your browser. There's no charge. You can watch U.S. TV stations affiliated with the NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, FOX, and Univision networks.
Puffer works well in the Chrome, Firefox, and Edge browsers, on a computer or an Android phone or tablet. Puffer does not work on iPhones or iPads or in the Safari browser.
Puffer is a research project in the computer-science department at Stanford University. Please see our FAQ for more information.
I personally like the very clean, simplistic layout. The channels also change faster than any other streaming service I've ever used. I think that's part of the new software Stanford is testing!
One thing to note is that the service is currently capped at 500 users at a time. However, this is a freebie I've yet to see advertised on any other freebie or cord cutting site, so I'm almost certain it'll be 500 Hiffers using this 🙂
The channels are also California channels, since this is broadcast from Stanford.
As I find more totally free options, I'll keep adding to this list! I'd also love to hear from Hiffers in the comments – have you cut cable recently? How do you best watch TV now? Any sites I overlooked?