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How to Get Video on Demand for Free

Choose TV shows, movies you want to watch on the big screen

spinner image Streaming movie with VOD service. Woman watching online tv series stream. Video on demand app in tablet screen.
Tero Vesalainen / Alamy Stock Photo

Millions of Americans have turned to streaming services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, Max and Apple TV+. But with so many services available, subscription costs can really add up — especially if you opt for more than one service to binge a variety of TV shows and movies.

Budget-conscious consumers are discovering completely free and legal streaming solutions to watch on TV, other screens at home or on the go via ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) or free ad-supported streaming television (FAST) services — and even a combination of both. Each service offers fewer and shorter ad blocks than cable TV, but you can’t skip over them like you can with TiVo or a DVR.

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Streaming giant Netflix had the highest percentage of cancellations within the last six months of 2022 at 27.3 percent, followed by Hulu with 9.1 percent and Amazon Prime with 8.4 percent, according to a fourth quarter 2020 TiVo report.

  • AVOD services lets you start and pause a TV show, movie and other content whenever you like, similar to paid services such as Netflix, but they contain advertisements between and during content.
  • FAST is similar to traditional or cable TV with regularly scheduled programming and commercials.

“Ultimately, that’s the appeal of [these] services. Streaming channels are free and have no subscription fees tied to them,” says Tim Bajarin, technology analyst and chairman of Creative Strategies in San Jose, California. “Most people understand that, in the end, there is no free lunch and are willing to view ads to avoid subscription fees.”

While these services work on multiple devices, including apps for phones, tablets and laptops, we identify free streaming services for your big screen.

Setting up AVOD and FAST services

Aside from apps you can download from the Apple App Store for iPhone and iPad, Google Play Store for Android devices and Windows store for computers, you can access free video streaming services on your TV four ways:

  • Smart TVs let you download apps for AVOD and FAST services or have them preinstalled.
  • Streaming devices plug into your television, such as an Amazon Fire TV, Google Chromecast or Roku products.
  • Video game consoles like PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X support AVOD and FAST services.
  • Mobile phones, tablets and laptops wirelessly cast video to nearby compatible smart TVs, but both devices need to be on the same Wi-Fi network.
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You don’t have to have an account to use these services. But you may be prompted to create one and sign in for optional features, such as syncing across devices, adding to your queue or personalizing your selections.

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Along with ads, another downside to AVOD and FAST services is the quality of programming, Bajarin says. Don’t expect it to equal programming from Amazon Prime Video or Netflix. While the movies and TV shows are generally older, at least you’re only spending time — and not a dime — on services you like.

Most popular AVOD and FAST services

The Roku Channel has moved up to the top spot in top AVOD/FAST services. It was No. 2 behind Facebook Watch in 2020.

The Roku Channel, 21.5%
Tubi, 19.7%
Peacock (NBC), 19.4%
Pluto TV, 17.1%
Crackle, 11.2%
Samsung TV Plus, 11.1%
Crunchyroll, 7.2%
Amazon Freevee, formerly IMDb TV, 6.9%
Vudu, 6.7%
Global TV (Canada), 6.4%
Twitch, 6%
Dailymotion, 5.8%
FilmRise, 5%
LG Channel, 4.5%
Plex, 4.4%

Note: Fourth quarter 2022 survey of 4,503 adults age 18 and over in the U.S. and Canada.
Source: TiVo and Xperi Holding Corp.’s Q2 2022 Video Trends Report

A sampling of ad-supported, on-demand streaming

Along with YouTube’s movies and TV shows, which are free with ads, the burgeoning AVOD space includes:

Crackle and Popcornflix. Owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, these two services dish up more than 10,000 films and close to 25,000 episodes of TV programming, including classic shows like Bewitched and Everybody Hates Chris as well as movies such as Dragon Quest, The Grudge and San Andreas. Also check out the growing library of Crackle originals — Anything Is Possible, Cagefighter and Love at The Ranch.

Freevee. Formerly IMDb TV, Amazon’s free streaming service has big-name television shows from yesteryear, such as Desperate Housewives, Hell’s Kitchen, Lost, Reba and The X Files. Other classic shows include Murder She Wrote (Season 1), Columbo, Little House on the Prairie and That Girl. It also has full-length movies and original content, all watchable on the Freevee website, Fire TV devices and within the Prime Video app.

Peacock. NBC’s Peacock has a free tier, which lets you watch 80,000-plus hours of movies and TV shows, says the company, along with some news, sports and other programming. It’s available to watch on several devices, including Apple TV. All the content Peacock offers, including live sports, costs $5.99 a month. To get most everything without ads will set you back $11.99 a month. TV shows include Chicago Fire, Saturday Night Live, Suits, The Office, 30 Rock, Today, Twilight and Yellowstone.

Pluto TV. “All you really need to know is ... it’s free of passwords, it’s free of payments, and it’s free of all those Friday night spats about what to watch, the Pluto TV website says. As one of the newest services, Viacom’s ad-supported streaming video platform offers hundreds of channels of on-demand movies, binge-worthy TV shows, the latest breaking news, live sports and more. Click on a genre on the left side of the screen or select from featured programming to begin.

The Roku Channel. If you have a Roku device or a Roku TV — included on some TV brands such as TCL, Philips and Hisense — you have access to The Roku Channel, which aggregates the best of free content on its platform and licenses content directly from studios. Popular titles include The Addams Family, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Bones, Coach, Hart to Hart, Heartland, The Rockford Files and Young Rock. Roku says it has hundreds of thousands of movies and TV show episodes available along with more than 350 live TV channels.

Tubi. Featuring both AVOD and FAST streaming options, Tubi allows you to access more than 20,000 hours of video content from studios such as Paramount, MGM, Lionsgate and Warner Bros. A section called Tubi Kids is available within the app and website so you can watch Barney, The Flintstones, Garfield and Friends, Pokémon: The Series, Scooby-Doo and Transformers with your grandkids. Among its fare for an older audience: Forensic Files, Hoodlum, The Matrix Resurrections and Red Dawn.

As one of the fastest growing and biggest platforms, Tubi saw 44 percent growth in total viewing time in 2022, surpassing 5 billion streaming hours last year and reaching 64 million monthly active users, the company says.

Vudu. Fandango’s Vudu offers more than 200,000 new releases and cataloged movies and TV shows, including a growing selection of titles in 4K resolution. Available at, on Amazon Fire TV streaming devices and some smart TVs is also an option to purchase or rent titles. New “free with ads” options are recent seasons of TV series such as The Chosen and Hell’s Kitchen, as well as classic comedy movies, such as Meatballs and The Naked Gun.

7 of the latest options for your home entertainment  

Your old Betamax and VHS videotapes, LaserDiscs, DVDs and Blu-ray Discs are likely sitting on a shelf these days. The last VCR was manufactured in 2016, LaserDiscs left the scene seven years earlier and only a handful of companies still make DVD or Blu-ray players.

Those on-demand technologies coexisted with broadcast and cable TV for years. But as more people got access to high-speed internet, streaming video crowded out ownership of physical copies of movies or TV shows, according to research from the Motion Picture Association.

From 2016 to 2020, sales and rentals of DVDs and Blu-ray Discs declined by 95 percent to $3.5 billion. In 2021, the home and mobile entertainment market, content released digitally and on disc, increased to $32.3 billion, up 7 percent from 2020 with digital leading the way, according to the MPA. In 2021, the number of online video subscriptions in the United States increased 14 percent to 353.2 million.

The latest ways you can get your home entertainment:

  1. Ad-supported video on demand (AVOD), free
  2. Cable TV, monthly fee
  3. Free ad-supported streaming television (FAST), free
  4. Over-the-air local TV, free
  5. Subchannels of local stations, often with networks that rerun classic TV shows, free
  6. Subscription video on demand, such as Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, monthly fee
  7. Transactional video on demand, digital renting such as what's now available through FandangoNOW or iTunes, fee per view

This story, originally published April 5, 2021, has been updated to reflect new video-on-demand services.

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