Best Free Services to Legally Stream TV Shows

With cable companies charging exorbitant prices for television packages that include slews of channels you’ll never even watch, more and more folks are looking to cut the cord. Tons of streaming services are now available, making it seem like it would be relatively easy to say goodbye to your cable provider.

Unfortunately, subscriptions to streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime can add up quickly. Luckily, there are a number of services that can scratch your television itch, that are free of charge and 100% legal.

Once upon a time, Hulu specialized in streaming content from the big television networks. It was a convenient way for folks to catch up on the latest episodes of their favorite network sitcoms and dramas. A few years back Hulu changed course and decided to compete with the likes of Netflix.

This resulted in Hulu dropping their free content, instead focusing on exclusives and originals. While many budget-minded TV bingers were sad to see Hulu’s free tier become a thing of the past, it didn’t disappear completely. Instead, Hulu’s free content just migrated to Yahoo.

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Born from Yahoo’s partnership with Hulu, Yahoo View is pretty much exactly the same as the Hulu of old. Yahoo View is home to content from networks like Fox, NBC and ABC, and offers a wide variety of shows to choose from including reality TV, sitcoms, dramas and more.

If you remember Hulu’s free tier from back in the day, then you’re already familiar with Yahoo View’s drawbacks. TV shows are often limited to the four most recent episodes (however, there are exceptions), and you’ll have to wait a week after a new episode airs before it is available to stream. In addition, you’re going to have to deal with pesky ad-breaks. Furthermore, you won’t find any Hulu originals on Yahoo View. You’ll have to cough up the dough for a Hulu subscription if you want to watch the likes of The Handmaid’s Tale or The Path.

Pluto TV is a streaming service that takes a unique approach to online content. Most streaming services require you to browse through categories or genres in order to find something you might be interested in watching. Pluto TV aims to deliver content immediately, as soon as you start the app. By doing so, Pluto TV feels familiar, like a throwback to the days of flipping through the channels to find something to watch.

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Pluto TV achieves this by offering over 100 “live channels.” Some of these channels, like The Weather Channel or Bloomberg News, are simply web streams of live TV broadcasts. Others are channels curated from content produced and distributed by brands and news outlets.

For example, there is a channel that features nothing but content produced by the satirical news outlet The Onion. You could find these videos elsewhere, like YouTube; however, what Pluto TV does is gather all of the videos into one “channel.” The content is then played on these channels, uninterrupted. The progress of the stream does not stop when you change the channel, giving users an experience very similar to that of channel surfing.

Xumo.TV is another streaming service that features live streaming content. The way it operates is very similar to that of Pluto TV. It gathers up video produced and distributed by content creators and packages them into channels. Some of the channels feature videos from multiple content creators that revolve around a common interest, like racing. Other channels feature content created by a particular brand, like the humor website Cracked.

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Xumo.TV curates its channels from a wide variety of providers including MSNBC, Fox Sports and many more. In addition, many manufacturers like LG, Vizio and Panasonic have integrated the Xumo.TV app into the app store of their smart TVs, allowing easy installation for watching on the big screen. Furthermore, Xumo.TV is available in your web browser and on your mobile device (Android, iOS).

The Roku Channel is a collection of free TV shows and movies and was previously one of the perks of owning a Roku device. However, as of early August 2018, the Roku Channel is now available online to everyone, regardless of whether you own a Roku device or not. Be aware that in order to access all of the free content the Roku Channel has to offer, you’ll need to have a free Roku account.

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The Roku Channel boasts a little something for everyone, from reality to soaps to sitcoms. The Roku Channel can’t really compare to what’s on offer from paid services; however, it is home to some pretty decent titles. Like everything in life, nothing is truly free, as all of the content on the Roku Channel is ad-supported. However, it’s a small price to pay.

How do you get your TV fix in the age of streaming media? Have we missed any of your favourite free (and legal) content providers? Let us know in the comments!

7 comments

    • If you’re outside of the US, you can use a VPN subscription to watch as if you were in the US. I did it when I went to Cuba recently. I used NordVPN…

      • Can confirm this works, have used NordVPN too for unlocking Netflix content while travelling outside of the USA. Haven’t tried any other TV channels, so can’t comment on that, and I had to pay for a VPN service, which sucks because I already paid for Netflix. I was simply outraged when I saw that I can’t access my content due to geo-restrictions. At least while on NordVPN I haven’t witnessed any significant speed drops, which frequently happens with VPNs in general.

        • So true. If you need the VPN service for an extended time, they have deals of about $5/mo if paid in lump sum. I paid $11.95 for one month, only because I needed it for a 2 week vacation. If it worked from Cuba, it should most likely work anywhere in the world that has Internet.

  1. This may seem like a silly question, but not being to tech savvy, I’m guessing that to “stream” these channels/movies, etc you’d have to have “unlimited” internet? I don’t have “unlimited” so is there any way around that, or am I totally off base here? thanks

    • Hi Pam… Your home Internet usually is always unlimited. You can watch any of these through your web browser from your computer or smart TV or device that is connected to your home Internet. If you are referring to your cell/smartphone, then yes, you are limited to how much you can watch.

  2. Free services don’t look too reliable for me, who knows maybe they are silently stealing your data? I’d recommend using a VPN with services like Pluto or Xomo, I use NordVPN, and so far I like it – I don’t see any impact on my internet speed, which is the biggest plus for me.

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