Cut the Cord from Cable TV using these 32 Streaming Services
Finding the best streaming services to replace your cable TV subscription will depend on your personal needs.
This guide is written for people who are thinking about cutting the cord, but feel a little overwhelmed, and for people who have already braved the uncharted territories of streaming live TV and on-demand.
It’s time to level the playing field so you can be a more discerning customer when it comes to picking your own cord cutting options. By the time you finish reading this guide, you won’t even need me. You’ll become your own expert.
Whether you’re curious about Disney+, in search of free streaming services or want to discover new ways to legally watch live TV, you’re in the right place.
There are about a half dozen live TV streaming services on the market right now. I’ll quickly cover all of them – big, small and unheard of.
These new pay-TV services are a lot cheaper than cable. You will also learn about high quality, but lesser known on-demand services. I’ll give you a rundown of free streaming services, which might be enough for you.
Roughly 99 percent of everything listed here falls under two camps. I’m either using it right now or I have used it in the past. So, this isn’t some random, thrown-together list. It’s functional. And it’s been road tested over time. The remaining one percent is Disney+, which I just signed up for. I’ve included Disney+ in the streaming services list because it’s poised to be one of the best deals in streaming.
How to Find New Streaming Services
This guide is quickly approaching 10,000 words. So the sake of convenience (and to reduce any feelings of being overwhelmed), this jump-down menu will let you quickly hunt down a topic or specific streaming services that might interest you.
Note: Given that Netflix is a such a known quantity in the world of streaming, it’s not listed here. You probably already have Netflix. So no need to go on about it.
- Live TV and Live Sports: Getting entertainment networks like A&E and History channel is a breeze. But a lot of people don’t know that it’s just as easy to watch live sports on ESPN or a regional sports channel. This section covers watching college football, NFL, NBA, MLB, soccer and NHL games. Watching ESPN networks and regional sports networks such as NBCSN, FOX Sports, NESN and YES Network. I’ll cover what’s on ESPN+ including UFC fights and PPV events, college football, Big 12 basketball and baseball games. Lesser known options such as DAZN for Bellator will be in this section too.
- Disney+: The new streaming service by Disney is a game changer for the industry and the consumer. Star Wars, the Marvel Universe, National Geographic and Disney’s deep catalog of family-friendly movies. Disney+ only costs $7 per month.
- Best On-Demand Services: You might be familiar with Hulu. Great. But it’s time to start streaming like a pro and learn about The Criterion Channel, Sundance Now and Shudder. Once you dive into niche streaming services, you might find that a more mainstream choice such as Netflix doesn’t do it for you as much anymore.
- Free Streaming Services: When I started out as a cord cutter, there was pretty much nothing for free outside of what I got on a TV Antenna. Now there are free live TV services and vast libraries of free movies. The catch? You will likely have to deal with commercials. Boo-hoo, a first-world problem. tubi, Pluto TV, kanopy and newer entrants into this field are covered here.
The subscribe-to-everything myth: Don’t fall for it
There’s a false narrative out there in news stories, hot takes and opinion columns that you need to subscribe to everything to watch your favorite networks, TV shows or movies. These so-called experts say you’ll end up paying just as much as cable or – gasp — even more just to watch TV!
I say: Get lost.
I know the subscribe-to-everything idea is bogus because I ditched cable years ago. Now I have almost too much to watch -– more than I have time for. And I’m saving even more money today than when I started out years ago.
What these so-called experts never address is that you’re probably paying too much for Internet to begin with. I have a guide that can help you get your monthly Internet rate down to about $40 per month.
There’s one more false narrative that we need to get out of the way before we begin. It goes like this: most people want all of their TV watching options under one app. A growing number of TV viewers suggest otherwise.
Cable companies have lost 3.4 million subscribers since 2012, while streaming services have been on the rise, according to a recent study. Streaming isn’t going anywhere, my friends – except to your living room and smartphone.
Even the biggest entertainment giants in the world like Disney are now in the streaming business. In fact, they believe it’s the future.
One last thing…Free TV channels!
Before we dive into all these streaming services, you should also consider whether you can get free over-the-air channels by using a TV antenna.
The reason? You might find that a cheap subscription to Hulu ($5.99 per month), or Disney+ ($7 per month), along with 30 or so local channels like NBC, ABC, PBS, CBS or FOX is all you need.
I encourage you to read How to Choose the Best TV Antenna & DVR and even learn to stream over-the-air channels to a Roku, Apple TV or Fire TV. And look over my extensive study that resulted in The Best Indoor TV Antennas: The Definitive Cord Cutter’s Guide.
How to Watch Live TV and Live Sports
About a half dozen live TV streaming services deliver networks that you used to only see exclusively on cable. We’re talking A&E and CNN, and yes, even sports networks like the coveted ESPN, or Big Ten Network.
But the majority of what’s out there are known as on-demand platforms. We’re talking about streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, which maintain vast inventories of movies, TV shows and original content.
There are lesser known live TV streaming services like Philo, which gets you 58 must-have networks like AMC for $20 per month.
Philo: The skinniest live TV bundle
Philo is now the least expensive way to get live TV channels like AMC, BBC America, A&E and Discovery Channel. For $20 per month, you get 58 entertainment networks.
Just be aware that Philo takes a very different approach to live TV. There are no sports and no locals. But maybe if you have that TV antenna that I was talking about, and you are not a sports nut, Philo is all you’ll need.
It’s the cheapest way to watch The Walking Dead on AMC or Live PD on A&E. My favorite channels on Philo are AXS TV and MTV Live because I’m a huge live music fan. So I get a lot great concerts to watch on the weekend and a healthy dose of “Austin City Limits” and “Live… with Jools Holland” on MTV Live.
Philo launched in late 2017, and you can use its service on a Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, PC, Mac or iPhone. You can access apps for AMC, and nearly every other network in the Philo lineup on Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku and other devices.
I’ve been using Philo since December 2017. You can read my review of Philo that I wrote after three months of subscribing. The menu isn’t very sophisticated, but I’m very happy with the service.
Sling TV: Slim channel bundles with lots of add-ons
Sling TV wore the crown as the cheapest cable alternative for a few years, but that all changed when Philo came on the scene.
Starting at $25 per month, Sling TV is still plenty cheap and gets you a nice mix of live TV networks for sports and entertainment. Cloud DVR costs another $5 per month for 50 hours of storage.
It’s easily the cheapest way to get ESPN, but if you want a lot of specific sports channels, the price goes up.
Sling TV has two main channel bundles: Sling Orange and Sling Blue. The Orange plan gets you ESPN, AMC and CNN as part of a 30+ channel lineup for $25 per month.
Sling Blue gets you 45+ channels with additions like FX, FS1, FS2, both National Geographic channels and regional sports for $25 per month. You have the option of mashing both bundles together for $40 per month as well.
Sling TV is unique because it offers a lot of add-on bundles. Example: Sports Extra is another $5 per month and gets you another 14 channels like NHL Network, SEC Network and beIN Sports. There are add-ons for news, lifestyle, premiums like HBO and the list goes on.
Thechannel lineup for Sling TV will give you a lot of browsing the potential for you to create your own channel lineup more than any other live TV streaming service.
Sling TV offers a free trial that lasts a week.
fuboTV: local NBC, CBS, regional sports networks and entertainment channels
fuboTV began as a sport-first service, but has branched out into offering a mix of entertainment channels like AMC, History, IFC and HGTV. Right now, the entry-level subscription gives you 100+ channels for $54.99 per month. You’ll get 30 hours of Cloud DVR storage with your subscription. You can add up to 500 hours.
For sports channels, there’s NBCSN, FS1, FS2, CBS Sports Network, NBA TV, Golf Channel, beIN Sports, and Pac 12 Networks. fuboTV has been aggressive with adding regional sports channels as well to its offerings. In New England, subscribers can get NESN (home to the Red Sox and Boston Bruins games) and NESN Plus. There are regional FOX Sports and NBC Sports networks available across the U.S.
fuboTV has added dozens of local NBC, CBS and FOX stations to its roster. (But no ABC or ESPN.)
Subscribers also have the option of add-on channel bundles focused on cycling, international sports, expanded PAC 12 coverage and adventure networks like Outside TV. You can add all 9 Showtime channels for $10.99 per month.
A new fubo extra bundle includes Baby TV, Cooking Channel, DIY Network, Sony Movie Channel and others. Look over the fuboTV’s channel lineup to see what might match your must-have list that you’re building. fuboTV has a free 7-day trial for new customers.
Hulu with Live TV: live channels and huge on-demand library
Hulu with Live TV offers quite a decent value at $44.99 per month. You’re getting about 65+ live TV channels with 50 hours of Cloud DVR included. The extra value for subscribers is getting unlimited access to Hulu’s full on-demand library – the same one people pay $5.99 per month and up for.
So you’re essentially getting two of the best streaming services in one. The on-demand library includes Hulu Originals like “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “The Path”.
You can watch Hulu with Live TV on up to two screens at once. For a little extra, you can also have “unlimited screens” if two devices at once isn’t enough. HBO, Cinemax and Showtime can be added on as well.
The Hulu’s channel lineup also has more locals than any other streaming service on the market right now. So if getting a local NBC, ABC or FOX station is important to you, then this is probably the service you want.
Sign up for a free trial of Hulu with Live TV that lasts a week to see if it’s a good fit.
YouTube TV for locals, sports and entertainment channels
With YouTube TV, you get more than 50 live channels for $40 per month and unlimited Cloud DVR. I currently subscribe to YouTube TV and remain impressed with the selection of channels and the picture quality. YouTube TV has recently added support to Roku and Apple TV recently.
For local channels, you’ll find ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS in many parts of the U.S. Big Ten Network, FS1, FS2 and four different ESPN channels round out sports. Bravo, the FX family of channels, IFC, TBS and TNT are among the major networks here.
ESPN+: for sports fans wanting MLB, NHL games
The streaming service ESPN+ has live college basketball games, college football, soccer, UFC and NHL games.
But it shouldn’t be mistaken as a straight out replacement of ESPN that’s available on cable TV, and some of the live TV streaming services listed above.
That said, ESPN+ packs in a lot of value at $5 per month. That includes daily coverage of Major League Baseball during the regular season. You’ll also get daily games during the regular season of the NHL.
There are Major League Soccer and PGA events, too. You can look over what ESPN+ offers to see if it carries any teams or sports that you are interested in.
Once you sign up, you watch ESPN+ through the ESPN app. If you want to save a few bucks, you can pick up a subscription for $49.99 per year.
CBS All Access: Live streaming, originals and on-demand library
CBS All Access has pushed into the exclusive series space with shows like Star Trek Discovery and The Good Fight.
It’s a smart move, but it’s surprising how large the CBS library once you start looking it over. Forget about shows for a minute. This streaming service is even rich with news programming for daily and weekly consumption for a mere $5.99 per month.
60 Minutes, CBS Evening News, Sunday Morning, CBS This Morning and Face the Nation are among the marquee news programs. There’s also a new CBSN on Assignment, an offshoot from the networks 24/7 online platform CBSN.
If you live in a region where a live stream of CBS is available, you’ll be able to watch NFL football and any other sports carried by the network. But CBS is best known for primetime dramas like NCIS, CSI and Blue Bloods, which are all included.
Even if you get your local CBS station with an antenna, it’s still a good service to plumb the huge on-demand library. That’s especially true if you’re a diehard Star Trek fan. You may already know that Star Trek: Discovery or Star Trek: Picard are exclusively produced for CBS All Access. But the streaming service also has 79 episodes of the original series, Deep Space Nine, Star Trek Enterprise, The Next Generation, Voyager and Star Trek: The Animated Series.
On the Sci-fi front, there is 156 episodes of The Twilight Zone, 30 episodes of Twin Peaks and all three seasons of Under the Dome, based on the popular Stephen King novel.
CBS All Access is offering a free 7-day trial.
Why you should subscribe to Disney+
Disney+ is one of the best deals in the streaming realm at only $7 per month.
The new streaming service allows four simultaneous streams at once, and pulls together a number of studios that have produced blockbuster family films and movies up to PG-13 rating. The studios are:
- National Geographic
- (FX) The Simpsons
Recent blockbusters from the Marvel universe including Captain Marvel and The Avengers: Endgame will be on the service at launch on Nov. 12. Any 4K content offered by the service won’t cost extra, and each account can have 7 subscription profiles for customizing menus and preferences.
For Star Wars fans, they will be treated to the whole movie catalog, all Star Wars animated series and the first live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian.
There’s been a fascination with Bobba Fett for years. Now The Mandalorian will take up the story of another member of Fett’s race. The story is set five years after Return of the Jedi, and chronicles the adventures of the lone bounty hunter.
It won’t be the only live action Star Wars series. Disney+ is already working on a prequel to Rogue One. An Obi-Wan Kenobi series is also set to debut in 2020 with Ewan McGregor set to reprise his role as the powerful Jedi.
PRO TIP: Consider bundling Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+ for $13 per month. Hulu will cover anything new from network television, more adult-oriented movie fare and Hulu Originals such as The Handmaid’s Tale. ESPN+ carries live college basketball, NHL, UFC and originals such as 30 for 30. And Disney+ gets you everything that I listed above.
Best On-Demand Streaming Services on-demand
Hulu: lots of network TV, movies and original series
If you want to follow a number of shows from a cross section of networks, then Hulu’s on-demand service has a lot to watch. The most basic service costs $7.99 per month with limited commercials. If you’re not into leveraging commercials for bathroom breaks and raiding the fridge, then you can pay a little more for the commercial-free plan.
Either way, you get unlimited access to full seasons of prime time TV. Comedies and drama from the likes of NBC, FOX, CBS are staples on Hulu. There are shows from AMC, A&E and HGTV. But understand you won’t find every show from a particular network.
Other streaming platforms may have already bought up the rights. So if you want to watch every season of The Walking Dead, that’s on Netflix. But Fear of the Walking Dead (at least Season 1) is on Hulu.
Hulu, like many streaming services, has been staking its claim on exclusive rights for a period of time. A couple shows on FX are a good example. If you want to watch the much-lauded series Atlanta, you’ll only see it on Hulu. The same is true for Season 1 of Taboo.
It’s worth taking in a general overview of Hulu’s library and checking out a free trial of Hulu for a week.
Amazon Prime Video: original shows, movies and exclusives
Amazon Prime Video has a pretty huge collection of newer movies, and more importantly, exclusive shows that are really well done. It’s now $119 per year, and comes with an assortment of other perks like free shipping, a one million song library and access to free Kindle books. But for me, the value comes with Amazon’s homegrown movies and series. Many, if not all, are shot in 4K HDR (Ultra HD) so it’s nice to have that option without having to pay more for it (like Netflix).
Amazon produced series Bosch, Goliath and even the cancelled-too-soon series Mad Dogs make a pretty excellent case why streaming platforms are doing it better than traditional cable or network TV.
Amazon is also in the movie business these days so you can catch its award-winning produced films like Moonlight and Manchester By the Sea. And it has gotten into the business of scooping up movies from the Sundance Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival. Amazon has a much longer free trial of 30 days.
Amazon Channels: alternatives to getting HBO, Showtime and other premium streaming
If you already subscribe to Amazon Prime Video, you can also add on premium channels like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and dozens of others.
These add-ons are called Amazon Channels. Some channels are ones you’ve heard of. Many others you haven’t. Amazon Channels range in price and sometimes premium channels are slightly cheaper than subscribing directly to the platform. It’s worth looking over Amazon Channels to see if there’s a combination of streaming options that works for you to replace cable TV.
The Criterion Channel: For the film aficionado
The Criterion Channel pulls together the most important films ever made from around the world.
It’s my favorite streaming service because I always feel like I’m about to watch something special when I have a movie night with Criterion.
So you’ll find a movie such as Five Easy Pieces starring Jack Nicholson alongside Pale Flower, a classic, hard boiled tale from Japan directed by Masahiro Shinoda.
If you were a fan of the FilmStruck streaming service, the Criterion Channel is a welcome sibling. Lately, Criterion has really hit its stride with curated collections based on a specific director or theme. I also love the Friday Night Double Feature, which was co-opted from FilmStruck. The Criterion Channel has a free 7-day trial.
CuriosityStream: Science, Nature and Docs in 4K
CuriosityStream has that kind of fortifying experience you used to be able to find on certain cable networks years ago. Plans start at $2.99 per month.
The three-year-old streaming service focuses on non-fiction programming about nature, history, science and technology. Remember when you could actually learn something from Discovery Channel, History and The Learning Channel?
John Hendricks does too. He founded the Discovery Channel years ago. He jumped into the cord cutting market by creating CuroisityStream.
After spending a few weeks trying out CuriosityStream, I’m really impressed with their unique and satisfying programs. The cheapest subscription is $2.99 per month, and you can stream a number of episodes for free.
If you want to marvel at all the eye-popping potential of your 4K television, CuriosityStream is one of the most reliable ways to do it. A 4K streaming subscription costs a little more ($9.99 per month), but I’ve been enjoying it, especially with shows that take you to places like the Galápagos Islands.
My favorite series so far has been Deep Ocean narrated by David Attenborough. Most people will recognize Attenborough’s omniscient narrative from the wildly popular Planet Earth series.
With Deep Ocean, you’ll get to see the kinds of fish and creatures that live miles below the ocean in the Mariana Trench.
Right now, CuriosityStream is letting new customers use their service for free between now and Dec. 31. You just need to sign up. After that, you’ll be charged the monthly rate for a subscription, but right now, it’s an absolute steal.
Redbox is in the on-demand business now. So you don’t need to visit the red box at the grocery store for a new movie.
It’s worth looking over Redbox’s on-demand library because rentals start at $1.99. If you want to watch something new — such as John Wick 3: Parabellum — expect to pay about $5. But even that price might be cheaper than competing streaming services that carry brand new movies.
The Redbox app is available on Roku, Andriod TV, Apple TV, Android devices, iOS and PCs.
STARZ: Original programming with some movie gems
The crime drama “Power” is enough of a reason to get a free trial of Starz. Just to give you fair warning: you’ll get hooked pretty quick. The acting is really on point, and the plight of “Ghost”, a drug kingpin trying to go straight before he gets arrested, makes for a compelling story line.
The movie selection is a bit of a grab bag, but part of the fun is discovering something unexpected. I was happy to see a couple of new titles, “All the Money in the World” and “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” in the queue. I found a couple of classics too. “Manhunter”, an early Michael Mann film from 1986, is something I’ll gladly watch again.
I don’t get out to Redbox too often, and I probably wouldn’t think to hunt them down these titles on VUDU or something like that.
The real value in Starz is the original series; namely, “Power”, “American Gods” and “Counterpart”.
I do wish my Roku app on Starz gave me a live stream of the actual channel, but you can watch anything the network has on demand. And you can see a live stream of the network through your web browser. Starz costs $8.99 per month, so it’s the cost of renting a couple of movies. Check out a free trial of Starz that lasts a week.
Sundance Now: a cheap alternative for indie movies and series
Sundance Now, an AMC-owned streaming service, has movies, compelling documentaries and series that were big hit in the UK and elsewhere around the globe. A subscription costs only $4.99 per month – much less than the typical streaming service.
The movie catalog within Sundance Now has innovative movies from the past like “Taxi Driver”, and critically acclaimed foreign films, including “Amor”. This service was once known as Sundance Doc and the service still has great and offbeat documentaries. I watched “Love & Terror on The Howling Plains of Nowhere” and thought it was both haunting and offbeat.
Sundance has been developing original programming by picking up the rights to overseas hits. “Riviera” starring Julia Stiles has been getting some attention since arriving. As of this writing, the BBC hit “Motherland” is about to debut. Sundance Now offers a free 7-day trial.
Shudder: a horror fan’s streaming service
Shudder is geared for horror fans, and it carries more than just movies. There are classic movies that you’ll recognize like “Reanimator” and “Hellraiser”.
There’s campy horror, and foreign horror. There are a number of series from overseas. One of the better ones, “Beyond The Walls”, is a three-part mini-series that starts when she inherits a house across the street from her apartment. It was willed to her by an elderly man she never met. There are also longer series like Jordskott and sci-fi based Missions.
This streaming service will give you a free taste of its offerings through its streaming window called Shudder TV. Shudder is also owned by AMC Networks and costs $4.99 per month. Start out with a free 7-day trial.
Acorn TV: Best streaming service for British dramas, comedies and mysteries
Acorn TV is easily the best way to tap into a huge reservoir of comedies, dramas and mysteries primarily from the UK. There are also programs coming to you from Australia and New Zealand.
“Midsomer Murders” has been around for about 20 years across the pond, and has become a hit here thanks to Acorn TV. There’s offbeat comedies like Detectorists and dramas with actors familiar to U.S. audiences. (e.g. Behaving Badly starring Judi Dench.)
One of the great untold stories of streaming is the import of UK, and overseas series and movies. Acorn TV is playing a big role in bringing British programming to a larger U.S. audience. The streaming service only costs $4.99 per month. You can get a free 7-day trial either directly from Acorn.tv or from Acorn TV on Amazon Channels.
How to get HBO cheap
Adding HBO to your cord cutting setup should be one of the last things you do. You may be able to get HBO as an add-on to another service you’re already subscribing to compared to getting a standalone HBO Now subscription.
Amazon Prime Video subscribers should look over what HBO content is already in your membership.
There are already full seasons of older, but popular shows like “The Wire” included in your Prime Video subscription. There are plenty of other ways to subscribe to HBO.
Here’s another pro tip: You can get HBO added to Amazon Channels and you can use your subscription to also activate the HBO Now app. Both HBO Now and the Amazon Channels version gives you all HBO channels live, and a full menu of on-demand content. But it’s nice being able to activate the standalone HBO Now app for your tablet or smart phone as well.
If you subscribe to Hulu or Sling TV, you can add HBO as an option. And if you figure out that AT&T TV Now is a good fit for you HBO is included. I have a guide detailing all the ways to get HBO without cable.
Best Free Streaming Services
Kanopy: The Criterion Collection & Worldwide classics
Kanopy has movies from The Criterion Collection, classics from Paramount Pictures, documentaries and other hits from around the globe.
And it’s all free — without commercials. So what’s the catch? Your local library needs to subscribe to the service. And you need to have a library card.
Library card holders generally get 10 free movies per month.
With Kanopy, you’re going to find a number of titles that you will not find on other streaming services with the exception of The Criterion Channel.
YouTube: a free streaming service with just about everything
If you’ve ever doubted the excellence of YouTube, perform this simple exercise. Pick a favorite band or musical act, type in its name followed by “live” or “in concert”. It doesn’t matter what era we’re talking about, you’re going to find something amazing to watch – and it won’t be a program that you’ll ever find offered by Comcast, Spectrum or any other cable TV or satellite company.
You can perform the same exercise for subjects of documentaries, travel and even just browsing through the 4K section is fun if you own a 4K HDR television.
YouTube is also essential for learning how to do just about anything – from fixing a leaky kitchen sink to solving a complicated math problem. These days, the variety and depth of programming may only be limited to your imagination.
Pluto TV: Watch free movies online and live sports
Without question, Pluto TV is one of the best free streaming services out there.
Pluto TV aggregates shows from various spots online and organizes them into channels. Aside from that, there’s a pretty big selection of free movies. These are available on a couple of movie channels, and through its huge on-demand section. .
The movies are available because of a deal that Pluto TV struck with a number of major studios, including Lionsgate, MGM and Warner Bros. You can find documentaries alongside independent films and major studio blockbusters. It’s easily one of the best ways to watch free movies online.
Pluto TV has more than 200 live streaming channels. There are a dozen news channels. NBC News & MSNBC to The Weather Network are there showing recent news. Under sports, you’ll find pro-wrestling, kickboxing and college football with channels like Big Sky Conference.
The live movie channels have action, and some are genre specific fare like Horror 24/7. My favorite live TV channel is Live Music Replay, which turns out live concerts around the clock and performances rarely seen anywhere else.
There are genre-specific music channels that you’ve seen in cable packages like Comcast.
Pluto TV works on a PC with a viewer you can download. Consider it your portal to free TV online. There are Pluto TV apps for smartphones and tablets. It’s also available on all major streaming devices like Roku, Fire TV and Android TV. (Streaming device app has on-demand movie menu.)
Smithsonian Channel: Free TV online, on-demand episodes
You don’t need a cable TV subscription to enjoy full episodes from Smithsonian Channel. There is a rotating selection of episodes that covers the spectrum of programming that Smithsonian Channel offers.
Aerial America is one favorite show that my wife and I always watch. It makes for great background eye candy while you’re in front of the TV doing something else like reading.
Stream free episodes online from the Smithsonian Channel website or use the app on Roku, Fire TV and Android TV. “Aerial America” gives you an eye opening/bird’s eye view of beautiful spots around the U.S.
The CW: Live stream or on-demand
Super heroes are all the rage these days. Being an avid comic book collector as a teen, I have no bones about it. Personally, I’m more of a Marvel guy.
If you’re fans of “The Flash”, “Supergirl” or “Arrow”, The CW offers up free episodes. What’s interesting is that you can get The CW a number of ways. It comes with cable packages. You can find it on live streaming services like fuboTV, and even get the channel with your antenna. But you really don’t need a pay-TV option to watch it.
The CW website has full episodes online and even notes if there’s a casting device on your home network. The app works well, too.
Comet TV: Stream classic Sci-Fi and watch free movies online
A free Sci-Fi channel is pretty cool, especially when you notice the pay-TV content that’s on it. With shows like “Stargate Atlantis”, and “Stargate SG-1”, “The Outer Limits” and “Mystery Science Theater 3000”, you’ve got a nice variety sci-fi on Comet TV.
Speaking of Stargate, MGM just rolled out a digital platform called Stargate Command, which also gets you all kinds of access to the long running series. “The Outer Limits” has stood the test of time and can also be found on Netflix these days. Mystery Science Theater episodes also reside on Pluto TV at the moment. Cost to you? Nada.
You can get a live feed for Comet TV directly on its website. For antenna users, it’s also available as a sub-channel in many parts of the U.S.
CBSN: Live Streaming News platform
There are few networks dealing with this migration to live streaming better than CBS. Their standalone live streaming channel CBSN functions with its own news anchors and has a vibrant roundup of breaking news from around the world. So it really kicks cable-stalwart networks like CNN in shins. CBSN has original programming, including CBSN: On Assignment.
CBSN also draws upon segments from some of its anchor shows like 60 Minutes and Sunday Morning.
So even if you don’t have those shows in your DVR wheelhouse, there’s a good chance for you to catch up some of the compelling interviews and features that both shows are known for. If you have a need for more news options, look at my comprehensive roundup of the best news apps for live streaming on Amazon Fire TV & Roku.
You can get a live feed of CBSN directly from the web, or apps for popular streaming devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV devices like NVIDIA Shield TV.
CBS SPORTS HQ
The newest leg of CBS’s digital effort is a free sports streaming service called CBS Sports HQ. There is no games or any other sporting events. CBS Sports aims to be a destination for game highlights and talk about your favorite teams. It will be interesting to see where CBS takes this platform in the months ahead. CBS Sports HQ is available on the web or within the CBSN app.
Crackle: Watch free movies online, and original shows like Snatch
Crackle, a Sony-owned platform, has original programming like “Snatch”, loosely based on the popular movie directed by Guy Ritchie that was released in 2000.
“From the Basement” is another hidden gem on Crackle that has such great live music in just about every episode. You can see performances from bands like The Shins and ex-‘Til Tuesday frontwoman Aimee Mann. On the network TV front, the entire season of “The Blacklist: Redemption” is available to stream.
You can watch free movies online with Crackle, too. The movie selection has some hidden gems like “Mission Impossible 3” and the original “Flatliners” starring Julia Roberts and Kiefer Sutherland. “Harry Brown”, “The Professional”, and “The Ides of March” are also all available as of this writing.
Stream Crackle on your computer or download the app to any Fire TV device, Roku or Android TV device.
Bloomberg TV: Live stream business news
If you want live, around-the-clock take on the stock market and business news, Bloomberg TV fill out any needs that a cable channel might satisfy.
Aside from the live feed, there’s on-demand content that you’ll also find on the Bloomberg TV cable channel. Bloomberg TV has the antiseptic vibe of the PBS News Hour mixed with CNBC. Watch Bloomberg TV online or watch it on Fire TV and Roku using streaming apps.
Tubi: Watch Free Movies and TV online
There’s a huge selection of shows on Tubi, including ones that you would regularly see on channels like A&E and National Geographic.
Fans of stand-up comedy have an entire section of specials to watch from pros like Gary Gulman and DL Hughley. There are shows for kids and family movies.
The way Tubi organizes its movies and shows makes it easy to find something to watch. Some of my favorite sections are “Docuseries”, “Highly Rated on Rotten Tomatoes”, “Indie Films” and “Award Winners & Nominees”.
There’s also a very handy Leaving Soon!” section. So you don’t need A&E to watch Season 7 and Season 8 of “Dog The Bounty Hunter”. Tubi has it for free. The movie selection on Tubi is one of the biggest in the free streaming game. The best place to start looking is the “Most Popular” section.
You can either watch free movies online or stream them from a Roku or Amazon Fire TV. Either stream Tubi directly from its website or download apps to Roku, Fire TV and Android TV devices so you can stream on your TV.
Popcornflix: Watch free movies online and National Geographic on-demand
Want to watch free episodes of “Alaska State Troopers”? Popcornflix has a section dedicated to National Geographic/Nat Geo Wild shows.
If your guilty pleasure is that old reality TV show “Cheaters”, Popcornflix will hook you up with 87 episodes.
The movie selection on Popcornflix is poor compared to what you can find on other free sites and apps like Pluto TV, Crackle and Tubi. But it’s another way to watch free movies online, and it’s worth looking over their section of foreign films and indie flicks.
On Windows 10, you’ll need to download the free Popcornflix app to access its library of movies and shows. Otherwise, download the app to your favorite streaming device.
You know you want to watch some “Cheaters” when no one else is home. Go ahead. I won’t judge.
Shout! Factory TV: Free TV online from the ’60s and ’70s
The best way to access Shout! Factory TV is through Pluto TV because that’s where you’ll find the best shows and movies it offers. The Shout! Factory TV channel has movies from the 1960s like “The Pink Panther”. If you watch Shout! TV Factory through its website, head over the Specials section under TV.
When you’re perusing the selection of movies and TV shows, Shout! Factory TV is like strolling through aisles of neatly arranged VHS boxes on display at a Major Video store in 1987.
There’s an episode of “The Glenn Campbell Goodtime Hour”, featuring a performance by Stevie Wonder that you can find around 5 min. and 50 seconds in. Just about every episode of “Soul!” has great performances by talents like Al Green and conversations with James Baldwin. His thoughts about race relations are as relevant today as they were back in the ’60s.
Stream Shout! Factory TV from its website, Pluto TV or via an app on just about any streaming device.
Hoopla: Free on-demand movies for library card holders
A library card can be a powerful thing. With hoopla, you can use your library card to borrow movies and TV shows each month. The selection might not exactly be as current as what you’ll find in your local Redbox parked outside the grocery store, but it’s a massive resource to watch free movies online. It’s worth considering since it’s right in front of you.
The best way to browse through Hoopla is to search by category. You can also borrow music, audio books, ebooks and comics.
You can stream Hoopla content online or on Apple TV and Chromecast.
How do I pick what streaming services to get?
OK, so you might still be feeling a little overwhelmed at all this information coming at you.
This is only a portion of the available streaming services out there, and there’s more to come. So where do you begin?
I always tell people to keep it simple. If were starting out, I would definitely add a few free streaming services like Pluto TV, and Tubi, then pick one paid service that has something that interests you. It doesn’t matter if it’s Hulu, Disney+ or maybe even some live TV option such as Sling TV.
For more a more general overview on how to cut the cord, read my guide: Cord Cutting: The Definitive Guide.
And before you go, tell readers what streaming services you use. Is Disney+ better than Netflix? What’s your favorite way to live stream sports (legally, of course)…
Note: This guide was originally published May 26, 2018 and has been updated.