We're all stuck at home. The stock market is tanking, and the only thing we're assured of at this point is more uncertainty. But we still need to be able to stream TV, for news as much (if not more) as for entertainment.
And these days it's actually easier to stream more for free — and more quality content for free — than ever before. And it's important to note that these are legitimate services. They're not bootlegs, they're not gray-market. They're names that you know and have been around for quite some time.
And in times like these, they definitely can come in handy.
Let's take a look.
The Roku Channel
Roku has put a lot of effort behind The Roku Channel the past year or two, but it's been around since September 2017. Why spin its own free service when there are others? On one hand it's a great way for Roku owners to have something to watch out of the box. No installing additional Roku "channels." (That's their word for apps.) No having to pay anything at all. Just buy Roku player, and you're good to go.
It's also another opportunity for Roku to serve up ads to its customers. And make no mistake — Roku is an advertising company.
But our main concern here is for the end-user. The customer. What do we get from The Roku Channel? We get movies. A lot of movies. Some are newer than others. Some are better than others. And the number of ads you see will vary a bit.
We also get news. As in legitimate, real news from sources like USA Today, ABC News, Yahoo and Cheddar.
There's also sports, from Stadium, Outside TV, beIN Sports Xtra, and Fubo Sports Network, among others.
And there are plenty of traditional TV shows, from the likes of Pluto TV, which includes a wealth of channels you know like BET, MTV, Comedy Central and more — including a wealth of content for children.
And the real kicker here? You don't actually have to own a Roku device to take advantage. Just head to therokuchannel.roku.com and get your stream on.
Loads to watch, nothing to pay
The Roku Channel offers up movies, TV shows, news, sports and more — all for the low, low price of free. (Or having to watch some ads, really.) And you don't even need a Roku device to watch.
Sling TV also is enticing prospective customers with free content. And it's ramped things up even more now that everyone's stuck at home, with its "STAY IN & SLING!" Initiative. (Because what we all need in trying times is more exclamation points!)
In addition to having access to ABC News Live, Fox News and 18 local fox affiliates, there also are a number of series up for free viewing via distribution service Filmrise. And, of course, there will be ads.
A few of the series we see right off the bat include Hell's Kitchen, Forensic Files, Kitchen Nightmares, Black Sails, 3rd Rock From The Sun, Rosanne, Grounded For Life, Crimes of Passion, Hunter, Grace Under Fire, Shameless, and the original 21 Jumpstreet.
All this free slinging is available on any device that already has Sling TV, as well as at watch.sling.com without a Sling account.
Stay in and ...
News, shows and more
Sling TV is offering ups free ABC News, as well as a wealth of series — as in full seasons of series — via its "Stay in and Sling" program.
Pluto TV once was a promising young ad-supported TV service, racking up subscribers by having a surprisingly decent stable of channels — some familiar, and some borrowed from content farms more used to seeing their work on YouTube and Facebook.
Today? Pluto TV is very much all of that — only it's now owned by CBSViacom, which purchased it (OK, Viacom purchased it before recombining with CBS) back in 2019 for $340 million in cash.
The important part, though, is that Pluto has more than 200 channels at your disposal. We're talking movies of all stripes. (And a full-blown James Bond movie channel.) We're talking entertainment channels like MTV and Spike and BET and an entire channel dedicated to Baywatch. We're talking news channels like NBC and CNN and CBS and Bloomberg and Cheddar. There's comedy and sports and tech and kids and music and ...
You get the point. And you're literally not allowed to say that there's nothing on so long as Pluto is in existence.
And Pluto is available on most every device on which you would want to watch such a thing, including your web browser.
Viacom's new baby
More than 200 channels, all free
Pluto TV has a surprising number of channels that you've actually heard of. So long as you don't mind advertising, you could well get away with this being your only streaming service.
See if you've heard this story before — an ad-supported streaming service does pretty well for itself, with a smattering of channels and content that people actually want to watch. And then it gets purchased for many millions of dollars.
Such is the story of Tubings TV, which just got picked up by Fox for some $440 million in cash.
In any case, Tubi is more about movies and shows and not live TV, which is fine. And you'll definitely find something you want to watch tucked inside there.
It's very much like what you'd expect to find on an airplane somewhere if it didn't have access to the more recent movies and shows. Something to pass the time, for sure.
And you can't beat the price.
All the shows
Good enough to binge
You'll find a lot of your old favorites on Tubi TV — enough to make you wonder why you hadn't subscribed already. And for the low, low price of free.
Fun fact: IMDB is now owned by Amazon — which is why you'll very quickly see it point you toward Amazon Prime Video. But it's also where you'll find IMDB TV, which is another way to watch more recent movies for free. (So long as you can put up with advertising, of course.)
There are a few caveats here. First is that you have to be in the United States and its territories. Second is that you'll be going through either the IMDB webpage, Amazon Prime Video app, or through an Amazon Fire TV device.
But after that? You've got access to all kinds of quality movies — as in, better and more recent than you'll find on many of the other services we've listed here.
There's no way to not see ads here, and you can't purchase or download. But what you do get is good content, for the best price possible.
Amazon gets you even more for free
Amazon Prime Video is already full of "free" stuff to watch. (You're paying for it via your Amazon Prime subscription, of course.) And IMDB TV adds to that quite nicely.
And still on the way — Peacock
One more free(ish) streaming service that's not quite here yet is NBCUniversal's "Peacock." (You know, Peacock because of the iconic NBC logo.)
Peacock isn't scheduled to be available until April 15 for Comcast Xfinity X1 and Flex customers, and June 15 for the rest of the public. And it'll launch with three tiers: A $5-a-month option for the general public that includes ads, and a $10-a-month ad-free plan. And if you're a current Comcast subscriber, you'll get an ad-supported version of Peacock for free.
Ideally, NBCUniversal would move up the launch and open up the free tier to anyone who wants it, even if it was for a limited time as a sort of extended trial in the time of coronavirus, then convert a good number of those trials into paying subscriptions. But so far, it's status quo.
Over-the-air TV with an antenna
One more tried and true method for proper free TV — an over-the-air antenna. For the one time cost of the antenna itself — plus the time it takes to install it (which shouldn't be much at all) — you get access to all kinds of broadcast content. Your local affiliates — things like ABC and CBS and Fox and NBC — and their secondary counterparts. That's news. That's daytime shows. That's primetime.
The only thing it doesn't have is sports, because, well, yeah.
But the process is super simple. Get an antenna and install it. Outside and higher is better, but indoors may work, too. It really all depends on where you live and where your affiliates are located. Then plug the antenna into your TV, or into a streaming tuner box like HDHomerun or Tablo or a Fire TV Recast.
And then, just watch.
Sky's the limit
It uses radio wave technology
Sometimes the old methods are still the best. A decent over-the-air antenna pointed the right direction can get you all of your local channels, for just the cost of the antenna itself.
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