Use these Fire TV apps and accessories for free live television and gaming
There are a lot of easy ways you can get free live TV out of an Amazon Fire TV.
It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about a Fire TV Cube, or an inexpensive Fire Stick.
You can put together a solid alternative to cable or satellite TV with a few key Fire TV apps and additional hardware. Stop paying $150 to $200 per month to Spectrum or Comcast.
It’s time to cut cable from your life for good. You’ll have more to watch than ever before, and you’ll save plenty of cash.
A Primer on Amazon Fire TV Devices
Amazon is currently selling the Amazon Fire TV Cube and two versions for the Amazon Fire Stick (a.k.a. Firestick). There has been a number of Amazon Fire TV products released dating back to 2014. But right now, only three models are being sold new by Amazon.
- Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote is the most basic streaming player that streams up to 1080p (Full HD).
- Fire TV Stick 4K with Alexa Voice Remote supports 4K Ultra HD streaming with HDR10, Dolby Vision, HDR10+ and Dolby Atmos on select Prime Video titles. Note: This is the only Fire TV with Dolby Vision.
- Fire TV Cube has hands-free Alexa voice controls, and supports 4K Ultra HD and HDR. The Cube accepts voice commands to turn off/on TVs, A/V receivers and sound bars. There are voice commands for changing live cable TV or satellite TV channels, or dimming the lights.
These streaming devices should not be confused with the Amazon Fire TV Recast, which adds over-the-air channels to the Fire TV. The Fire TV Recast is a DVR for over-the-air channels. There are two models. One has two built-in TV tuners, the other has four. The Recast requires a TV antenna (sold separately).
Best Amazon Fire TV apps for streaming live TV
This guide is geared towards people looking into cutting the cord, or folks who already have done so.
My main focus will be on free Fire TV apps, but I am including some nice low-cost solutions such as Hulu, which costs $5.99 per month.
One of the most compelling reasons for a Fire TV is that you can build your own customized channel lineup. So let’s say you just wanted your local NBC, and a bunch of other stations from your antenna and HBO. A Fire TV device has the ability to pull all that into a single menu. I’ll show you how to do that below.
This guide isn’t a far cry from a post I did on how to use a PlayStation 3 as a streaming device.
You should consider adding some hardware to get the most out of Fire TV, especially if you are replacing a cable box or satellite TV setup. Even just getting an inexpensive gamepad can add a lot of value to a Fire Stick or Fire TV Cube. I’ll cover the best choices for additional equipment based on months on testing and everyday use.
Let’s run through the best Fire TV apps first.
Amazon launched IMDb Freedive offering up hundreds of movies and TV shows for free. Among the streaming services offering free movies, IMDb offers one of the strongest lineups.
As of this writing, IMDb Freedive had a number of hit movies from the last decade and beyond. Blade Runner, Magnolia and Reservoir Dogs were among the free movies on Freedive while writing this guide. They’re the types of movies that you’ve seen before. But they’re so good, you’d gladly kick back and watch them again if given the chance (especially if they’re free).
The TV shows section is on the thin side. Freedive’s value really comes with its movie titles.
How are these movies free? You should be aware that this Fire TV app is ad-supported. I counted about four stops for commercials (a.k.a. bathroom breaks) during Reservoir Dogs. The video quality is excellent. And it beats the price of a rental for the same movie.
The IMDb Freedive app should already appear on your Fire TV, or watch it on the web.
Kanopy: The Criterion Collection & Worldwide classics
Check your local library to see if it subscribes to Kanopy. This is one of the best Fire TV apps because you are getting movies from The Criterion Collection, classics from Paramount Pictures, documentaries and other hits from around the globe.
Library card holders get 10 free movies per month. Recently I watched the original The Girl with The Dragon Tattoo trilogy, Three Days of the Condor, Mississippi Grind, Purple Noon and Trespass Against Us. (Another streaming service, The Criterion Channel, has a much larger collection of titles from The Criterion Collection and Janus Films.)
With Kanopy, you’re going to find a number of titles that you will not find on other streaming services. Get the Kanopy app from Amazon.
Pluto TV: Free Live TV and Sports
Pluto TV offers an original lineup of more than live TV channels that’s just getting better over time.
Live news, sports, movies and genre-specific channels are part of Pluto TV’s powerful channel lineup.
Nick, Nick Jr. and channels based on old MTV shows are here. A couple of Spike channels and the Paramount Movie Channel has just been added.
There are hundreds of on-demand movies and TV shows. You’ll find live news from digital platforms such as CBSN, Newsy and Cheddar. There is aggregated news from CNN and MSNBC.
For sports, there are 15 channels such as Major League Soccer, Stadium and Glory Kickboxing.
My go-to channel on Pluto TV remains Live Music Replay. It reminds me a lot of what MTV used to be when it started in the early 1980s, and the focus was live music.
Pluto TV has dozens of movies on demand as part of an agreement with major movie studios like MGM and Lionsgate. So even without Netflix or Amazon Prime, you can still find something to watch — for free.
The cool, new thing about Pluto TV is that it is among a selection of apps that is integrated into Fire TV’s channel guide.
Get the Pluto TV app for Fire TV.
Red Bull TV: free sports documentaries, live sports and concerts
The documentaries on Red Bull TV often focus on extreme or more-daring-than average sports like Kiteboarding. But you don’t need a simmering desire to try cliff diving to enjoy the quality programming on here.
There’s a real element of travelogue in the stories told on Red Bull TV that makes their shows and sports coverage really compelling.
There’s live sports coverage for the Volcom Pipe Pro in Oahu, Hawaii and the FIA World Rally Championship. I always tune in to Red Bull to check out what kind of music festival is on.
Forget about buying tickets to Lollapalooza or the Montreaux Jazz Festival. Red Bull TV is already there. Add the Red Bull TV app to your Fire TV.
Plex adds streaming movies, free live TV and music
The software hub Plex allows you to tap into all the movies you have ripped to a PC, and watch them on a Fire TV or Fire Stick.
And it’s free.
I’ve been digitizing my Blu-Ray collection with a Pioneer BDR-XD05B 6X Slim Blu-ray Burner. With a a WD MyBook 4TB external hard drive, I can have my entire movie collection on my Fire TV device. It’s like having your personal Netflix service without the monthly fee.
There are other free services on Plex that make it worthwhile. Plex Podcasts pulls together a huge collection of shows you may already be familiar with along with newer titles that you can dive into.
Plex News offers up a number of local and national newscasts, including locals that you can’t get on your antenna. And you can pull in your digital music collection that you have on your PC.
Music on SiriusXM, Pluto TV and TuneIn
Pandora is well known as a go-to for free music on Fire TV and Fire Stick.
But there area other free sources for music you should check out right away. Scroll to the bottom of the channels menu on Pluto TV, and you’ll find more than 30 music channels. Channels are named after their genre. There’s Reggae King, Ratpack, and Subindustrial. And there’s a few by decade: 70s, 80s, 90s and Y2K are at the top of the menu.
TuneIn has some of the greatest radio stations from across the U.S. at your fingertips. Count KEXP in Seattle among them. It’s among the few radio stations that’s not corporate owned or cowed to a specific genre of music.
If you subscribe to Spotify or Sirius XM with an option to listen online, you can turn the Fire TV or Fire Stick into a nicer audio hub that has live channels and on-demand concerts and shows. For the largest music collection, Amazon Music Unlimited has tens of millions of songs.
For Amazon Prime members, Amazon Music Unlimited costs $7.99 per month. Non-prime members can subscribe for $9.99 per month. The cheapest option is the single device plan for $3.99 per month. No matter what you choose, Amazon Music Unlimited has a 30-day free trial.
You may have read about the popularity of Slow TV in countries like Norway. It’s a trend that’s SLOWLY making its way into the U.S.
EarthCam TV has been ahead of the curve with this new style of television. The collection of well-placed outdoor cameras deliver crisp and often refreshing views of cityscapes, lush paradises like Hawaii and sunny coastlines around the globe.
My wife and I sometimes leave this running in the background while we’re on the couch working on our laptops, and it’s pretty neat to hear birds chirping half a world away in New Zealand or the rustle of a little breeze picked up by the microphone. The EarthCam TV app is free, and you might be surprised how often you’ll turn it on once you start using it.
Best cable alternatives on Amazon Fire TV
There are 10 live TV streaming platforms that have support for Amazon Fire TV and Fire Stick. These streaming services can bring you channels like AMC and ESPN that were once exclusive to cable. Others might just deliver premium networks such as HBO.
Some also carry local NBC, ABC and CBS networks in many parts of the U.S. And others will have totally unique live events like the sports offered on DAZN. The links below will show you local channel lineups for your area.
If you learn how to pay less for Internet without cable, then you can really save some money. I’m going to dive into just one of these services as an example of how you can add live TV to your Fire TV interface.
Philo: Add A&E, History, Science Channel Without Cable TV
Philo is a low-cost alternative to networks such as A&E, Discovery, AMC and HGTV.
Subscribers get 58 entertainment channels and unlimited Cloud DVR for $20 per month. There are no sports networks, but that’s why the service is so inexpensive. Philo has a deep on-demand library of movies and TV shows. You can stream on up to three devices at once. Pause any live channel, or even start a program from the beginning. Watch any program that has aired in the last three days.
Fire TV adds Philo to its in-app channel guide (pictured above) along with a couple of other streaming services and Amazon Channels such as HBO.
There’s another feature that makes a Philo subscription pretty valuable to a Fire TV.
You can activate apps to most of the channels in Philo’s lineup. What’s the big deal about that? Activating an app on Fire TV gives you more to watch.
Example: if you activate the BBC America app, you can watch all five seasons of Orphan Black. Apps are great for catching up too. So if you’re just jumping into a new show like Killing Eve, the BBC America app can help.
Add HBO, Showtime with Amazon Prime Channels
Definitely check out all the offerings of Amazon Channels if you subscribe to Amazon Prime.
HBO, Showtime, STARZ and Cinemax all have channel guide support on Fire TV. So you can easily see what’s live on HBO networks that come with a subscription, and you can see what’s coming up.
An HBO subscription through Amazon Channels has all of live channels such as HBO Zone HD, and HBO Family. You can use your account to activate the HBO Now app if you want to do that as well.
A Showtime subscription through Amazon also gets you multiple live networks on the Fire TV channel guide. You can use a number of free trials through Amazon Channels to check out HBO, Showtime, STARZ and other premium networks.
Best Ways to add Live OTA Channels
Fire TV Recast: Integrate Free Live TV into a single menu
The Fire TV Recast is a DVR for your over-the-air channels such as NBC, ABC, CBS, FOX and PBS. It’s well worth having if you have use Fire TV devices and live in an area where you can get decent antenna reception.
When I reviewed the Fire TV Recast, I was impressed with its channel guide and picture-in-picture option while your surfed through the menu.
The Fire TV Recast stands out among OTA DVRs because you don’t have to pay any monthly fee.
A number of manufacturers require monthly subscription for a channel guide so you can schedule recordings. The Recast also broadcasts over-the-air signals across your home WiFi network. So you can watch your local channels and recordings on phones, tablets and Amazon Echo Show.
Watch NBC, CBS and FOX live on Fire TV with HDHomeRun
Then download the HDHomeRun app to your Fire TV or Fire Stick. In return, you’ll get a lineup of major networks like NBC, ABC, CBS and PBS free for the rest of your life.
You’ll also be able to watch these channels on your Fire TV and Fire Stick. Smartphones, PCs and tablets connected to your home network can stream your live TV channels coming in from the antenna as well.
My review on HDHomeRun TV tuners explains how to setup the device, and even add a DVR with equipment that you probably already own. SiliconDust, makers of HDHomeRun, offers a subscription DVR service for $35 per year.
Tablo: Watch and Record Live TV
Buy an external hard drive, and attach a Tablo OTA DVR to your WiFi network.
A Tablo adds live TV through a Tablo app. And you can watch the channels coming from your TV antenna on smart phones, tablets and other streaming devices. Tablo’s 14-day channel guide service costs $4.99 per month. Without a subscription, you can use a channel guide with one day’s worth of programming. You can read about the Tablo Dual Lite and Tablo Quad in my review of the Best OTA DVRs.
Best Game Controller for Fire Stick or Fire TV
When the 2nd generation Fire TV was released, the gaming version came with a pricey, $50 gamepad. The better way to enjoy the gaming offered on Fire TV is to buy a third-party gamepad.
The Matricom G-Pad BX Wireless Pro Gamepad is one of the best game controllers you can buy for Fire TV or a Fire Stick.
It’s rechargeable and operates via Bluetooth. I’ve been using the Matricom G-Pad for more than a year now, and I’ve been really happy with it. There are other gamepads for Fire TV that work well, too.
The G-Pad BX is priced under $20, and can also be used for PC gaming, a Samsung Galaxy smartphone or VR device. Get a Gamepad, and you can start playing some cool free Android games like Badland and Beach Buggy Racing. There are a number of Grand Theft Auto titles you’ll want to get as well.
Tips and Tricks: Best Fire TV Channels Setup
All Fire TV devices have an “On Now” section in the menu. If you want a channel guide that pulls together dozens and dozens of channels, here’s what to do.
Add a Fire TV Recast & Antenna to your setup. If you’re within range of broadcast towers, you may be able to add free NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and PBS stations. Keep in mind this will not only pull in prime time shows and local news. These networks still carry a huge amount of live sports, including NFL football, Golf, NCAA basketball, soccer and more. Read my guide on How to Choose a TV Antenna & OTA DVR for more tips.
Get a Philo subscription for $20 per month. That will add 58 channels such as A&E, AMC and HGTV to your Fire TV channel guide alongside whatever local channels your TV antenna pulls in. Look over Philo’s channel lineup, or kick off a free 7-day trial with your mobile number.
Add the Pluto TV app for 100 more free live TV channels. Sure, Pluto TV doesn’t have the traditional networks you are used to, but it does have a lot of older TV shows, cartoons, live news and movies on-demand.
Do a free trial on Amazon Channels for HBO, Showtime or STARZ. These subscriptions carry multiple live channels, vast on-demand libraries and original shows. By subscribing through Amazon Channels, you’ll get these premium networks added to the Fire TV channel guide.
Consider your costs and needs. The list above is meant to demonstrate that you can really get a lot of programming for little money.
Even if you went without the Fire TV Recast and TV antenna, you could scoop up a free 7-day trial for Philo, and another for HBO through Amazon Channels. If you kept both services after the free trials, your total cost would be $35 per month.
Picking up an inexpensive Hulu subscription is worthwhile for $5.99 per month, too. The best Fire TV apps will not only free you from a pricey cable TV bill. You’ll also be free of any contracts or obligations.
What do you consider the best Fire TV apps? Do you use the Fire TV Recast? Tell others about your setup in the comments below.
This guide was originally published Jan. 30, 2018, and has been updated.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble