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12 Apps to Access Free TV and Video on Demand

You have options if you don’t mind ads

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If you’re among the 6 in 10 households that have cut the cord on cable TV, you know the challenge of containing the cost of your new subscriptions for streaming services.

You’re faced with a virtual smorgasbord of popular paid services: Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video, Disney+, Hulu, Max (formerly known as HBOMax), Paramount+ (which used to be CBS All Access) and plenty more. Now Peacock, the NBC streaming service that had been free since its launch in July 2020, started charging all but a few subscribers as of June 26, 2023.

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If you already bundle two or three services for a discount, such as Disney+, Hulu and ESPN, or have taken advantage of any free trials that you can find, you may think that your only choice is to cut back.

But another option is totally free TV:

  • You’ll have to accept commercials again. Ad-supported video on demand (AVOD) apps place advertisements before or after programming. Free ad-supported TV (FAST) channels on the apps offer scheduled programming with ads woven into the content.
  • You’ll have to watch some oldies but goodies that you might have missed the first time around. But did you watch everything of interest when it first came out?
  • You’ll have the flexibility of seeing shows on the go or at home using multiple internet-connected devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, smart TVs, and smart displays including Alexa-enabled Amazon Echo Show or Google Nest Hub.

But the lure of free may persuade you to give these apps a try.

1. ABC: Live TV, Shows and Sports

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ABC, part of the Walt Disney family, lets you stream thousands of hours of on-demand TV shows from ABC such as The Golden Bachelor2020 and General Hospital, now in its 60th year; National Geographic; and FX. It also offers live news and sports, such as Major League Baseball and Monday Night Football.

You don’t have to sign in, but if you’re looking for live sports and the latest TV episodes, you’ll need to create an account. With an account, you can synchronize preferences and content among devices, like starting a show on your iPad and finishing it on your laptop.

2. Amazon Freevee, formerly IMDb TV

While this app may not have the same caliber of content as the flagship Amazon Prime, Amazon Freevee has thousands of movies, including Jurassic WorldMadagascar and Old. It also airs the latest TV episodes, live entertainment and Freevee originals such as Judy Justice.

You can access Freevee through your existing Amazon account or sign up for one. Freevee’s intuitive interface lets you easily search by title, cast or genre and see what’s hot in the Trending Searches area. Plus you can tap or click to add to your watch list for later.

3. The Cartoon Network

Great for kids and kids at heart, the Cartoon Network app runs day-old animated content from Cartoon Network and Cartoonito, including hits such as Bugs Bunny Builders, Batwheels and Teen Titans Go!

Unlocked episodes don’t require a login. But locked content requires an account with a cable or satellite TV provider. Extra content, including shorter mini episodes, are available, too.

4. CBS

Part of the paid Paramount+ service, CBS also delivers content for free on its own CBS-branded app. Much as with other TV networks, you can stream the latest episodes of your favorite CBS shows, such as 60 Minutes and Big Brother, the day after they’re broadcast without logging in.

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You’ll have to have a cable TV provider to sign in and access full seasons, live shows, live news, sports and special events like the Grammy Awards and NCAA March Madness.

5. Crackle

One of the first AVOD services, Crackle lets you stream new and classic movies, TV shows like 21 Jumpstreet and old-school classics like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Dragnet, Father Knows Best and The Beverly Hillbillies. You can also access original content on several devices for free.

If you opt to sign into a free account with fewer ads, you can sync content between devices to pick up where you left off. Create a watch list so you don’t forget to tune into something you’ve had your eye on, including Crackle’s recommendations on its Spotlight Channel.

6. The CW

From The Flash and Superman & Lois to 90210 and Nancy Drew, The CW lets you binge day-old series with no sign-in or cable subscription. It also offers feature films and sports including LIV Golf and 100 Days to Indy.

7. FreeCable TV: News & TV Shows

No cable? No problem. FreeCable TV lets you access more than 2,000 television shows, movies, live sports — including soccer, baseball and basketball — breaking news and weather from more than 300 stations.

The app bills itself as a search engine of videos available from a wide variety of websites. (The Android app is here.)

8. PBS

The Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) free app offers thousands of new and classic TV episodes, documentaries, live TV and musicals from your local PBS station and member stations. Popular examples include Antiques Roadshow, Call the Midwife, Frontline, Ken Burns documentaries, Masterpiece, Nature, NOVA and PBS NewsHour.

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You can save episodes, build a custom watch list and synchronize content among devices. Some content requires you to connect to your local PBS station. Donating to your PBS station, often $5 a month or $60 a year, opens up Passport membership, which gives you even more content in the PBS library.

9. Pluto TV

Pluto TV is among the leading free streaming video services available, touting hundreds of live TV channels and thousands of new and classic TV episodes and movies on demand. Pluto TV also features news, sports and weather.

Pluto partners with BET, CBS, Comedy Central, Lionsgate, NBC, Nickelodeon, MGM, Paramount, Showtime and Sony. Its lineup of series includes Blue Bloods, CSISchool of RockSouth Park and Star Trek: The Next Generation. Other features include more than 50 Spanish channels, foreign films and reality TV.

10. The Roku Channel

If you own a Roku device or a Roku TV from brands such as Hisense, TCL and Toshiba, you have access to the Roku Channel, which aggregates the best of free content on its platform and licenses content directly from studios. Watch a selection of original series, hit movies, TV shows, 24/7 live news and kids’ entertainment all on-demand and for free, with no cable account required.

You might also like: LG Channels for Apple devices and Android phones and tablets; Samsung TV Plus, available only for Android devices.

11. Sling Freestream

Featuring free live and on-demand content from several online services, Sling Freestream is one of the fastest-growing FAST/AVOD apps available. The service claims to have nearly 300 live channels and more than 40,000 on-demand shows and movies.

Some content also appears on other streaming services. But you can sync among devices with a free account, create a watch list and enable parental controls. On a smartphone or tablet, you go to Freestream through the Sling TV app, so make sure you’re looking at live TV or Sling Freestream options. (The Android app is here.)

12. Tubi

Also one of biggest free on-demand streaming services along with Pluto TV, Tubi offers thousands of free TV shows and movies for viewing on more than 30 devices.

Once you set up an account and sign in, you can access more than 50,000 TV episodes, including classics such as Bewitched, Charlie's Angels, Eight Is Enough, Forensic Files, Miami Vice, The Nanny and the British version of Shameless.

Live TV, news, weather, 40 genres of feature films, Spanish and Korean video, trending picks and Tubi originals are also part of the package.

You might also like these seven additional apps for free TV: Dailymotion for Apple devices and Android phones and tabletsHaystack NewsNewsON, Popcornflix for Apple devices and Android phones and tabletsRedBox TVVuduXumo Play and, of course, YouTube for Apple devices and Android phones and tablets. Stay tuned.

This story, published Sept. 5, 2023, was updated to add information about AARP's Movies for Grownups virtual screenings.

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