Gone are the days of cable TV — well, almost. Nowadays, it’s very rare to see a living room with a TV that’s still hooked up to cable. That’s because, for the most part, media entertainment is now controlled by streaming services, like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney Plus, to name a few.
But as we know, most of the best streaming services out there cost money. What if you don’t want to shell out $14 a month for a Netflix subscription? Well, you’re in luck, because there are tons of free movie apps that you can choose from. And today, we’re giving you a rundown of only the best free TV streaming apps that you should try this 2021.
Inside This Article
- What Are TV Streaming Apps?
- The Best Free TV Streaming Apps
- Are Free TV Streaming Apps Legal?
First things first: what are TV streaming apps, and how do they work? TV streaming apps are apps that let you watch TV shows (and usually movies, too) over the Internet. For that reason, it’s most often known as “Internet TV.”
Unlike cable TV, you don’t need to wait for your TV shows to come on for you to start watching them. With TV streaming platforms, you have the power to play whatever you want, whenever you want. All you need is a good internet connection, a mobile device to watch even when you’re on the go, and a TV streaming app. To help you along, we’ve curated this list of the 15 best free TV streaming apps.
Let’s kick off this list with Peacock TV, a free TV streaming platform owned by NBCUniversal. Peacock is probably the best out of all the services that offer free streaming in the market today. Its free tier alone offers over 13,000 hours of top-quality TV shows, which are mostly from NBC; you can watch fan favorites like The Office, Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock, Cheers, Will & Grace, and This Is Us. It also has some original shows that feature a wide variety of genres. However, with a free account, you won’t be able to watch all of the episodes of their original series.
With a free Peacock TV account, you can stream live TV shows, like Saturday Night Live and The Today Show. You also don’t need to register to be able to access shows for free. Overall, Peacock TV’s free tier is truly a steal.
If you’re looking for free TV streaming that features live channels, Pluto TV is the app for you. It offers over 250 live channels, including CBS News, NBC News, Fox Sports, Paramount Movie Channel, Nickelodeon, and VH1. On these channels, you can watch a wide array of TV shows, such as the classic Doctor Who, Survivor, NFL, CSI, as well as shows for kids. Another great thing about Pluto’s live TV service is that it’s organized into categories in a grid format, so it’s very easy to look for the content you want to watch.
Besides its impressive selection of live TV channels, it also offers on-demand TV content. There aren’t as many options for on-demand content, though, as it mostly only consists of crime and reality shows.
Another good thing about Pluto TV is that you can stream it on almost any device, including Android and Apple mobile devices, smart TVs, and gaming consoles. Plus, you don’t need an account to watch shows; you can just stream for free as a guest user. But you do need an account if you want to designate favorite channels and continue watching on a different device.
The Roku Channel is another one of the best free TV streaming apps out there. This comes built-in if you have a Roku TV or device, but you can also download it for free on any smartphone or tablet. Like most of the apps on this list, Roku doesn’t require you to set up an account, though signing up has its benefits, like resuming playback on other devices.
It offers both on-demand and live TV content. Its live lineup includes 100 channels, which mostly air live news and lifestyle shows. Roku’s on-demand content, on the other hand, has more variety; here, you can watch popular TV shows like Growing Pains, Hell’s Kitchen, Bewitched, and Hoarders. In addition to that, they have a dedicated kids section, where your kids can watch shows such as Mr. Bean, The Cat in the Hat, and Bob the Builder.
IMDb, the source for all things film for the longest time, has pretty recently launched a streaming service called IMDb TV. You can download it for free to any of your devices, including Android and iOS smartphones and tablets. But unlike most of the other streaming services on this list, you do need an account to use IMDb TV for free.
This free TV streaming app is owned by Amazon, so you can expect that it’s got a pretty impressive content selection. Besides popular film options like La La Land, Spider-Man, and Donnie Darko, you’ll also get to stream TV hits like Schitt’s Creek, Desperate Housewives, Mad Men, and Lost. On top of that, they also produce original shows, like You’re Not a Monster, an animated series featuring Eric Stonestreet, Amy Sedaris, and Kelsey Grammer.
Tubi TV is another free TV streaming app that you’ll definitely love. It has an on-demand library that has over 20,000 films and TV series from more than 200 partners, including Hollywood giants like Lionsgate, MGM, and Paramount. They don’t have the latest, high-profile TV titles that you can find on Netflix or Hulu, mostly because they’re a free streaming service. But you can stream TV show hits like Duck Dynasty, Hell’s Kitchen, Degrassi, and Flavor Flav’s Flavor of Love.
You don’t need to set up an account to stream shows on Tubi TV, but an account will come in handy if you want to set parental controls, queue your shows, resume playback, and access your viewing history. You can watch shows on Tubi TV using any of your devices, including Android and Apple phones and tablets, smart TVs, and video game consoles.
If you’re a fan of classic TV shows, then Airy TV might be the streaming app for you. Airy TV is one of the best free TV streaming apps out there, and they have partnered up with several entertainment companies to bring you a wide selection of movies and TV shows that’ll have your nostalgia kicking in.
Through this app, you can stream various shows like America’s Funniest Home Videos, Family Affair, Saturday Night Live, and Alien Abductions. They also have live channels, where you can watch sports, travel and food shows, and the news. On top of that, they also have a dedicated section for kids’ TV; here, your kids can enjoy popular shows like Looney Toons, Teen Titans, and Peppa Pig. If the show you want to watch isn’t available on Airy TV, you can simply hit them up and send them a request for that show.
You can download Airy TV to almost any device, including Android and iOS phones and tablets.
Plex isn’t just a media server anymore; it has now expanded into a global streaming service that also offers free TV streaming in addition to movie, music, and other forms of media streaming.
Plex has partnered up with big Hollywood companies, like Lionsgate, MGM, and Warner Bros. to bring you thousands of TV shows. Their list includes hits and classics like Roseanne, Kitchen Nightmares, and Third Rock from the Sun. They also have over a hundred live channels, including Reuters, Euronews, FailArmy, Sports Grid, and AFV Family.
Streaming on Plex is pretty easy as well. You just need to sign up for a free Plex account to start watching the shows they have on offer. Plus, you can watch Plex content on a multitude of devices, including Android and iOS phones and tablets, smart TVs, and gaming consoles.
Check out our Plex guide and review to learn about this streaming service.
Another free TV streaming app you can use is Xumo, which offers both live and on-demand content. You can surf more than 190 channels on this app, including popular ones like NBC News, TMZ, Fox Sports, and Funny or Die. In terms of on-demand shows, you can watch hits like Family Feud, Unsolved Mysteries, and Forensic Files on Xumo.
Xumo is available to stream on almost any device, including smart TVs, laptops, and PCs (through an Internet connection, of course), gaming consoles, and Android and iOS phones and tablets.
Redbox is another app you can use if you’re looking for free TV streaming. Redbox started out as a video rental company with kiosks all over the United States, and they’ve since evolved to incorporate online movie rentals. In February 2020, they decided to launch Redbox Free Live TV, a streaming service where you can watch movies and TV shows, absolutely free of charge.
Redbox doesn’t have as many movies and shows as the other streaming services on this list. Currently, they only have about 60 live channels. However, their lineup includes channels and shows that lots of people love, such as TMZ, USA Today, FailArmy, and some channels that are exclusive to the app. On Redbox, you’ll also find tons of hit TV series, like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Fargo, Modern Family, This Is Us, Atlanta, and Breaking Bad. It’s easy to find what show you want to watch because the service’s content is organized into categories.
Popcornflix is another free TV streaming option that you can use with a wide range of devices, including smart TVs, gaming consoles, and Android and iOS mobile devices. On this streaming app, you’ll find critically acclaimed movies like Roman Holiday, The Adventures of Tintin, Short Term 12, and We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Besides great films, Popcornflix also offers a wide selection of TV shows. Included in their list are classic shows like Forensic Files, 21 Jump Street (the one that stars Johnny Depp, not Jonah Hill), and Unsolved Mysteries. They also have newer series, including Knights of Mayhem, Hell’s Kitchen, and On the Ropes.
It’s pretty easy to watch TV shows on Popcornflix; they have a search function that lets you look for what you want to watch more easily. Plus, you don’t need an account to start streaming your favorite shows.
Hoopla Digital is a tad bit different from the other free TV streaming apps on this list. While this service is still free, you do need a library card to be able to stream your favorite shows. Plus, your library has to be a Hoopla Digital partner.
This streaming service lets you “borrow” all kinds of stuff, including movies and TV shows. But the catch is that you only have 72 hours to watch them. That way, you’re motivated to actually watch the content that you have, instead of only letting it sit in your collection untouched.
Their library includes a variety of shows, such as Humans, The Jim Gaffigan Show, Murdoch Mysteries, and Collision. They also have a category for kids’ TV, including shows like Gumball, Blaze and the Monster Machines, The Magic School Bus, and Pokemon: Diamond and Pearl. The best part? You can watch your shows totally ad-free, unlike the other apps on this list.
Kanopy is a lot like Hoopla Digital in that you also need a library or university card to access its free TV streaming service. It’s also totally ad-free since all associated costs (including your subscription) are covered by your university or library.
With Kanopy, you can access a wide range of critically acclaimed movies, like Lady Bird, Moonlight, and Eighth Grade. They also include some titles from The Criterion Collection, which you’d normally pay $11 to access. In terms of TV, they have shows like Project Impossible, Wilfred, and I, Caesar. Their catalog is fairly easy to sift through, as they have a search option and their content can be sorted by genre, IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes rating, or the year it was made.
Crackle launched in 2004, way before Netflix started streaming movies and TV shows, so you can say they’re one of the pioneers in the video streaming industry. You can stream TV shows through Crackle on various devices, including Android and iOS phones and tablets, and you’re not even required to set up an account. But if you want to save your favorites, get recommendations, and save your progress when you watch your shows, you’ll need to sign up for a (free) account.
Crackle’s TV show selection isn’t that extensive; it only has a little over 100 shows you can stream, including titles like Roseanne, Hell’s Kitchen, All in the Family, and Who’s the Boss. And just like with other streaming platforms, not all of the TV series available on Crackle are complete. But what’s great about Crackle, besides being completely free, is that it produces original shows, ranging from docu-series to crime drama shows.
Vudu, Walmart’s digital video store and streaming service, now offers free TV streaming. This platform grants you access to over 10,000 free movies and TV shows, including hits like Four Weddings and a Funeral, High Rise, and The Last Days on Mars. Free TV shows you can watch on Vudu include The War of the Worlds, Hell’s Kitchen, Third Rock from the Sun, and Salem Witch Trials.
To start streaming for free on Vudu, you’ll need a Walmart account, or if you don’t have one, you can just sign up for an account on Vudu. You can download the app on almost any device, including mobile phones and tablets, smart TVs, PC web browsers, and gaming consoles.
Last but not least is Sling TV, which has fairly recently rolled out a free TV streaming service. Here, you’ll be able to watch over 5,000 TV shows, including Roseanne, Unsolved Mysteries, Hell’s Kitchen, and Forensic Files. They also have more than 50 live channels you can choose from, like TLC, CNN, E!, MSNBC, and HGTV.
Just like most of the other streaming apps here, you don’t need to sign up for an account to start using Sling TV for free. What’s more is that you can use the app on most of your mobile devices, smart TVs, and gaming consoles.
Sometimes, services that offer free content seem too good to be true and may seem a bit suspicious. That’s because we’re used to the idea that anything free is usually pirated. And to be fair, there are a lot of websites that stream pirated copies of movies and TV shows.
But if you want to enjoy watching your favorite shows guilt-free, you can count on the apps we listed above. Most of the apps here are ad-supported — meaning, you basically pay for their content by watching ads. If they aren’t ad-supported (like Hoopla Digital and Kanopy), it’s because an institution associated with you is paying for the subscription.
Another important thing to note is that all of these free TV streaming apps have made licensing agreements with media distributors (like Lionsgate and MGM) to bring you free content. So, yes, using any of these apps is 100% legal and safe.
You don’t have to spend money to stream your favorite TV shows; you just need to download a free TV streaming app with a catalog that appeals to you the most, and you’ll be good to go! Make the most out of your Internet connection and your mobile device’s capabilities, and download any one of these apps today.