As cable subscription prices rise higher and higher and customer satisfaction ratings dive lower and lower, cutting the cable has never been more popular.
Sure, there are the usual big names in streaming services available for a monthly fee, but it’s possible to kick subscription fees entirely.
Luckily, there are more options than ever for replacing your traditional cable setup. Many free streaming services have stepped up to offer access to content overlooked by subscription-based services.
And you aren’t confined to squinting at your phone’s screen or gathering the family around the old iPad to watch your favorite TV series and movies — you can download apps to your Smart TV or even your Xbox or PlayStation consoles.
Of course, there are some rather shady options out there that stream pirated content. But we’ve rounded up free, legal streaming apps that provide no-strings-attached cable-cutting solutions.
13 Free TV Apps That Will Help You Cut Cable
With so many free streaming options out there, it’s easier than ever to cut the cord and save big. Whether you’re looking to keep up with the news, find a good movie for date night or entertain your kids with educational content, a streaming service exists to ensure you can do so without paying a dime.
Try these free TV apps out and see which works best for you.
One of the go-to names not just in free streaming but in streaming video in general is Crackle. The cost-free service has a variety of content, ranging from classic TV shows like “Bewitched” and “Barney Miller,” as well as the newer “Snatch” series. It also has hundreds of films from major studios.
For a free streaming service, Crackle’s library is truly impressive. Crackle even has a handful of original series to its name. Best of all, Crackle works on nearly all mobile devices, streaming boxes and smart TVs.
2. TV tubes
A division of FOX Entertainment, Tubi TV has deals with major studios like Paramount Pictures, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and Lionsgate. It also features lots of foreign and independent productions.
Tubi TV’s library is updated regularly, and the service claims to add new content every week. The Tubi TV app works on more than 18 devices, including Android and iOS, Roku, Apple TV, Xbox, Samsung Smart TVs and Amazon Fire TV.
The library is solid and has started offering popular Fox TV series like “The Masked Singer” and “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back.”
Since the service is ad-supported, you can expect to watch a couple minutes of ads every 10 minutes or so. The experience is pretty similar to watching normal television.
3. Pluto TV
Pluto TV offers TV channels of linear content much like a cable package
There are dozens of classic TV, movie and sports channels — and even some highly curated streams of niche content.
If you’re looking for breaking news, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels that are live streaming.
The kids (or kids at heart) can check out Nickelodeon classics like “The Fairly Odd Parents” and “Dora the Explorer.”
Or if you just want to veg out, switch over to their Binge menu for a seemingly endless stream of TV series, like “The Hills” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000.”
Pluto TV boasts a large list of supported devices including iOS and Android devices, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TVand Chromecast devices and Android TV.
Like Tubi TV, Pluto TV has advertisements similar to the ad load of normal TV.
Streaming video isn’t always just about entertainment. The NewsON app provides hundreds of local and national news streams.
Both live TV and on-demand news broadcasts can be streamed from over 275 local news affiliates in 160 markets. The broadcasts are available for up to 48 hours after they air, so even if you don’t catch the news as it happens, you can catch up later.
Users can then select which news segments they want to watch from categories like sports, weather or entertainment. NewsON is compatible with iOS and Android phones and tablets, as well as Roku and Amazon Fire TV.
5. PBS Kids
Kids need free streaming content, too. PBS has a PBS Kids Video app that provides hundreds of hours of educational and enriching content for the youngest members of the family. The app has a colorful, child-friendly interface, which makes it easy for kids to take control themselves.
You can even tap the “Live TV” button to watch what’s currently airing on your local PBS station.
Almost all of the networks and cable TV channels have their own free apps for you to download — although many charge you to actually watch current content.
Videos from many of PBS’s most popular series are available for streaming including “Curious George,” “Wild Kratts” and “Sesame Street.” The PBS Kids app is supported for Android phones and tablets, iOS phones and tablets
Whether you want it now or later, Xumo offers live TV and on-demand options.
Like Pluto, you can choose from an assortment of major network news channels like NBC News that are live streaming.
But it also includes more than 180 free channels, including themed ones in case you’re in the mood for action movies or comedies.
Xumo is available on most smart TVs. It’s also available on Roku and for download on iOS and Android devices.
Many of the free TV apps offer “premium” channels — if you see that word, expect to pay for those services.
Anime and manga fans are likely already familiar with Crunchyroll. It specializes in mostly Japanese content, but it also features films and series from all over the world. Crunchyroll boasts a library of thousands of anime films and series, many of which are hard to find on other streaming services.
There is a paid premium feature, but the free Crunchyroll service has thousands of hours of popular series like the “Dragon Ball” franchise, “Attack on Titan,” “Naruto” and “One Piece.”
The Crunchyroll app is supported by Apple, Android and Windows mobile devices, as well as by gaming consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV, Fire TV and Roku.
Crunchyroll is a great app for anyone with an interest in anime. Of course, when it comes to anime content, you have to be watchful with your younger children, as a lot of it is geared toward teens (and sometimes even adults.)
For anyone with even a passing interest in gaming and esports, Twitch is the go-to free streaming service.
Twitch hosts user-created channels and streams focused on video games and other esports. It features a built-in chat feature, so users can chat with other streamers in real time.
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While there are thousands of free streams, Twitch also features premium features for a monthly subscription. Twitch apps are compatible with PCs, iOS and Android devices, game consoles, Chromecast, Apple TV and Fire TV.
While Twitch is popular with children, parents should beware: Twitch streams are somewhat unregulated and can sometimes contain adult language or content.
9. IMDb TV
Owned by Amazon, IMDb TV (formerly Freedive) features a host of full episodes of your favorite current and classic TV shows as well as an array of movies.
The catalogue includes some binge-worthy sci-fi hits like “Lost” and “Fringe.”
The free version of IMDbTV is ad-supported, so you’ll have to sit through a few commercial breaks.
It is available in the United States on the IMDb app, the Amazon Prime Video app and Amazon Fire TV devices.
Yes, YouTube. YouTube apps are compatible with just about every device that has a screen, and the service features videos to choose from on nearly any topic imaginable.
Most of those videos are not exactly premium content, but there are still plenty of full-length films, documentary series and curated channels that provide cost-free entertainment for the whole family.
While there are ways to download YouTube content for offline viewing, proceed with caution: Many of these sites and apps are full of malware.
NBCUniversal launched this streaming service, which includes over 7,500 hours of free content, in July 2020.
Although Peacock offers paid premium options, the free version includes current and classic TV shows, movies, news, sports, kids’ shows, Spanish-language programs and even select episodes of Peacock originals.
If you’re a fan of shows like “The Office,” “Law and Order: SVU,” or “Saturday Night Live,” you can watch them on this streaming service.
Customers can stream Peacock on a variety of platforms, including LG Smart TVs, Vizio SmartCast TVs, Roku, Google and Apple devices and Playstation and Xbox consoles.
12. The Roku Channel
Even if you don’t have a Roku, you can download the free Roku Channel app. This channel hosts a rotating selection of free movies and TV series. Past offerings have included options like 24, Alias and Army Wives.
The Roku Channel is also home to slew of Roku Originals, like Singled Out, Elba vs Block and Mapleworth Murders. Those in the US in Canada can also stream live news 24/7. All content is ad-free, which is rare in the world of free TV apps, and it doesn’t require a subscription.
You can, of course, access the Roku Channel from your Roku device. But you can also get it on any Samsung TV, Amazon Fire TV device or on any mobile iOS or Android devices.
If you’re into action flicks, sci-fi or horror, you might want to check out Popcornflix. Some of the categories of free movies and free tv shows on this platform include: “Attack of the Giant Whatever,” “Horror + Action = Amazing” and “The Spy Who Saved Me.”
You can access Popcornflix on any Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV or Roku device. You can also access it via Xbox One, or any Apple or iOS mobile devices. While you won’t need a subscription for Popcornflix, you will have to watch a few ads spread throughout the content.
Staff writer Nicole Dow and The Penny Hoarder contributors Chris Brantner and Brynne Conroy contributed to this report.