It’s been a long time since I’ve paid for cable or satellite. My husband and I have been using our Roku device along with paid and free TV apps to stream our favorite shows and movies for years. It’s unbelievably easy to watch TV without cable!
But even the cost of those subscription services like Netflix, Hulu, Prime Video, and the like can add up. It’s worth taking a look at the free TV apps out there to help trim your budget even further.
Yes, you might have to sit through some ad breaks and commercials, but you can save hundreds of dollars each year by utilizing these free TV apps instead. (And if you use the commercial breaks to do some sit-ups, think of how awesome your abs will be!)
You’ll just need an internet connection and a way to stream the apps on your TV, like a smart TV or streaming device. These apps are super simple to set up, and most don’t even require you to have an account. They’re all perfectly legal, too.
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Free Television Apps
Don’t shell out beaucoup bucks each month paying for cable or satellite, or even a bunch of different streaming channels. There are plenty of free TV apps out available that provide a variety of content for all ages and interests.
Anything that you can watch on YouTube can also be streamed to your TV. It’s super simple with the YouTube app!
I often call YouTube a black hole, because there is so much content available on there – for FREE! You can even find full-length movies and television shows on there. There’s enough to make the whole family happy.
Log in to your YouTube account to access your subscribed channels, watch and search history, and the like. Otherwise, you can use the guest account to keep it separate from your regular account.
My husband likes to watch his favorite fishing shows via YouTube, and my son watches other kids playing Minecraft. (How that’s interesting, I’ll never know.)
The app is very easy to use and understand. There are ads, just like “normal” YouTube, but they’re not that bad and you can usually skip them quickly.
2. IMDb TV
IMDb TV is a free streaming video channel that is available in the U.S. on the IMDb app and website. If you want to stream it on your TV, you’ll need to use the Prime Video app or an Amazon Fire TV device.
But don’t worry – you won’t have to pay for a Prime subscription as IMDb TV is still free…with ads, of course. You will need to have or create an Amazon account to log in to the Prime Video app.
They have a wide variety of TV shows and movies available for your viewing pleasure, no subscription necessary. If you’re OK with sitting through ads, you’ll be able to watch movies like the Hunger Games series and Veggie Tales flicks, or television series like Schitt’s Creek and LOST. They even have some original content available.
3. Sling TV
You probably think of Sling TV as a subscription-based service…and while it is, it also has a Sling Free section that is completely free…with ads.
Choose from 5,000+ movies and TV shows, no credit card or registration required. They’ve got full seasons of hit shows like Hell’s Kitchen and Dance Moms, and plenty of free movies, too.
There’s also a selection of live news and other live channels to browse. Of course, they do let you know about options available to Sling subscribers, so keep that in mind if you don’t want to be tempted to spend more on a subscription.
You do have the option of renting movies or purchasing Pay-Per-View events through Sling, which will require you to create an account. If you choose to upgrade, you can always downgrade back to Sling Free if you decide paid Sling isn’t for you.
You can upgrade to a Sling subscriber any time and check out why Sling is the most customizable live TV provider. After that, feel free to switch your service lineup, upgrade with more extras, or even downgrade back to Sling Free.
Yes, Roku is the name of a streaming device and TV system, but it also has its own free channel. The Roku Channel presents an always-changing selection of free movies, shows, live news, kids’ TV, and more.
You don’t need to use a Roku device to access the Roku Channel. The basic channel is free, but you can add Premium Subscriptions for an extra price if you so choose.
I was actually really impressed with Roku’s selection. They have plenty of TV and movies (including old seasons of The Bachelorette!), and lots of Kids & Family content that you can sort by age.
I was happy to see Baby Einstein videos for my little ones! Some of the free movies available to kids will also let you see what your kids will be watching during commercial breaks.
Roku Channel is a free TV streaming service designed for people who own the company’s streaming products, but anyone with a phone or PC browser can use it.
Vudu is owned by Walmart and has lots of content available for purchase, but it also has a Free Movies & TV section with limited commercials.
There are thousands of free movies that stream in high definition. You do need to create and log in to an account to access their Free Movies & TV section, but no payment information is required.
One thing I like about Vudu’s app is they have “Kids Mode” which helps you find and filter content for your kids. They even include Rotten Tomatoes and Common Sense Media ratings to give you an idea of the quality and recommended ages for the different titles. I’m not sure if the ads are tailored to kids, though, so you’ll probably want to make sure you’re close by while the kids are watching…just in case.
Crackle is an ad-supported network available in the U.S. and Australia. It features full-length movies, TV shows, and even some original programming.
You will, of course, need to sit through commercials, but you don’t even need an account to start watching. Just add the channel to your TV and go!
The Crackle library changes often, so check back frequently to see what’s new.
I really wish that I had heard of Tubi before, as I really like it. They offer free movies and TV for streaming, with fewer ads than cable.
No subscription is required, and you don’t even need to create or log in to an account. Tubi is available in the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
Their library of content includes over 20,000 movies and television shows, and their personalization engine will recommend the best content for you (if you create an account). There’s even a Tubi Kids section for your kiddos.
8. Pluto TV
Pluto TV allows you to watch live TV and streaming movies on hundreds of channels. You don’t need to create an account…just add the channel and start watching!
I did notice that some of their live TV channels include “commercial breaks” that don’t actually play any ads, so that’s nice. But there are still plenty of ads that play as you stream, which makes sense this is a free channel.
Want to catch the latest news? That’s possible with Pluto TV’s live streaming news channels. There are fun classics the kids can watch, too. Browse their wide selection of channels for live sporting events or off-the-beaten-path TV viewing.
Their display shows a live channel diagram that is similar to the TV preview guide you’d have with a cable or satellite package.
9. PBS KIDS and PBS
I have to admit that I don’t love the idea of my kids watching commercials. Of course, I remember seeing plenty of commercials as a kid (hello, Saturday morning cartoons), but if I can keep my kids from watching them, I will.
That’s why I love the PBS KIDS Video app. It’s completely free and has very minimal ads (seriously, it’s like one super short ad when you first tune in to the channel). I also love that it’s so user-friendly that even my 5-year-old can navigate the app by herself.
My kids can watch the latest episodes of all of their favorite PBS KIDS shows, or even tune in to the live stream of what show is currently playing on the normal PBS KIDS TV channel. New full episodes come out every Friday.
My husband is a PBS junkie so this channel is right up his alley. Seriously, one of his favorite shows is Antiques Roadshow! He also loves NOVA.
You will need an account to use the PBS app as it will link to your local PBS station. It’s also helpful to have an account so you can create and access a Watchlist and sync your favorite PBS shows across all of your devices.
Plex is one of the latest free TV apps that offers free live TV with over 80 streaming channels. Content includes free movies and television shows.
No account is necessary to access Plex. Their content is supported by ads, but it includes some different content like web shows and news content, as well.
If you’ve ever browsed a catalog and are wondering if a movie or TV show is any good, you’ll like that Plex syncs with Rotten Tomatoes to show you the critic and audience score of many movies and TV shows. No need to start any duds, unless you want to perfect your Mystery Science Theater 3000 impression.
11. Network Apps
If you love network television but can’t – or don’t want to – watch it live, you can use the individual network’s apps to watch the content for free.
Live streaming is often limited, but they usually archive the past few episodes of current TV shows. You will need to sit through commercials as you watch.
Some networks may make you wait a bit before watching the latest episode unless you have a cable or satellite login to prove that you do pay for content. But if you have a little patience, you’ll eventually be able to see the shows you want for free.
Here are some of the different network apps to check out:
As of this posting, none of these apps required an account to watch (unless you’re linking your cable/satellite account, of course).
If you’re an anime fan, you’ve probably already heard of Crunchyroll. And if you haven’t, here’s your introduction!
Crunchyroll is the world’s most popular anime brand. As part of the brand, they broadcast anime shows in over 200 countries and territories around the world.
No account is necessary to watch, but they do offer a Premium option at a monthly rate if you want to upgrade your experience. Otherwise, there’s plenty of free, ad-supported content.
13. Popcornflix and Popcornflix Kids
Popcornflix is a free app with a catalog of movies and TV shows. There’s a separate Popcornflix Kids channel just for the younger set, too.
To be honest, there’s not much that sets this app apart, but it’s worth a browse if you’re looking for new free content. No account is necessary to watch.
Want to watch your local news or the news of a neighboring area? Tune in to NewsON for free instant access to live or on-demand broadcasts from over 275 local stations.
You don’t need to create an account to watch; the channel will just automatically find your closest networks. You won’t be able to watch all your local news channels – just the ones that partner with NewsON.
I was excited to share this one with my parents as my dad was complaining that YouTube TV (the paid service) didn’t give him access to his local news station so he could never watch the local news. Now with this app, he can!
You can watch the news live or access the most recent broadcasts on-demand up to 48 hours after they air. You can even select which news segments you want to watch – business, entertainment, sports, weather, and more.
Redbox is known for its rental kiosks, of course, but they also have a streaming app with free live TV, no account necessary.
This is an ad-supported service, but it offers lots of different live streaming channels in categories like news, sports, entertainment (Bob Ross!), comedy, classic TV and movies, and more.
Locast is a not-for-profit service that streams broadcast television stations over the Internet. It currently serves 44.3% of the U.S. population in 23 markets.
I was excited to see that they have added my location since the last time I checked it out! I will say that the quality of the broadcast wasn’t as good as I can get through my HD antenna, but it’s nice to know there’s a backup option.
If you can get the Locast channel, you’ll see that it has a TV guide similar to what you’ll find with cable and satellite subscriptions.
This gives you a preview of what’s airing on the different channels and lets you browse quickly to find something of interest – all for free. You’ll just have the normal commercial breaks like you would if you were turning on your TV.
Currently covered markets include Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Puerto Rico, Rapid City, San Francisco, Seattle, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, Tampa Bay, Washington DC, and West Palm Beach.
Peacock is the newest addition to the network streaming game. I didn’t mention it above with the “network apps” because it’s actually its own separate service apart from NBC.
You’ll need to sign up for an account, but then you can start watching right away. You may also consider upgrading to Peacock Premium for $4.99/month (Xfinity users get Peacock Premium free).
There are ads (yes, even with Premium) that support their on-demand streaming of movies, TV shows, kid-friendly entertainment, and sports.
Here’s your guilty pleasure channel: Nosey is a free TV app with full episodes of Maury Povich, Jerry Springer, Sally Jessy Raphael, and lots more. Seems like an appropriate name for the app, right?
Nosey is completely free, and they have plenty of archived shows like Blind Date, Cheaters, and 5th Wheel for your trashy viewing entertainment.
If you’re willing to sit through some ads, you’ll find that there are plenty of free TV apps out there. These apps allow you and your kids to access news, sports, TV, and movies – all at no cost to you.
Work your way through this list and find your favorites to add to your smart TV or streaming device.