Netflix and Amazon Prime increased their prices this year…yet many subscribers complain that they can’t find much to watch. But paying ever-escalating subscription fees isn’t the only way to stream shows and movies—some ad-supported services now are owned by huge media companies, improving their access to desirable content. Main downside: Their programs have commercial breaks.
Many free streaming services are similar to over-the-air TV in another way, too—they feature “channels” that play a never-ending feed of live news, classic movies and episodes of a single TV show on an endless loop. Sometimes called “lean back” streaming, these channels are popular with people who don’t want to search for programs or who like to have the TV on in the background.
Best free, ad-supported services…
Freevee, previously IMDB TV, is owned by Amazon, and many of its on-demand shows and movies were available through Amazon Prime. Movies recently offered: Knives Out*…Shrek…and A Few Good Men. Popular shows: Mad Men…Chicago Fire…and Lost. Amazon.com/adlp/freevee-about
Peacock is owned by Comcast, which owns NBCUniversal. Much of Peacock’s on-demand content requires a subscription to Peacock Premium, which costs $4.99 to $9.99 per month, but there’s quite a bit that’s free, including the first five seasons of the hit show The Office…the first two seasons of Parks and Recreation…and all eight seasons of House. It also offers some movies and sports…and Peacock’s “Channels” feature content that originally aired on NBC or an NBC sister network such as Bravo or Syfy. PeacockTV.com
Pluto is owned by Paramount, which owns CBS, so you’ll find many CBS shows among its on-demand options. Pluto has more than 250 channels. Examples: Channels that play only episodes of CSI…Happy Days…Antiques Roadshow…Gunsmoke…and more. Other channels offer regular news, sports news, old movies, content on a specific topic…and since Paramount owns Nickelodeon, there are kids’ programs. Pluto.tv
Roku Channel is owned by the company that makes Roku streaming devices, but you can use this service even if you don’t have one of the company’s devices. Its strength is lean-back viewing, with more than 250 live TV channels offering news, movies, classic TV shows and more. Roku Channel offers some on-demand shows and movies—recent options included films Napoleon Dynamite and Moneyball, plus shows Downton Abbey and Forged in Fire. It even has some original programming. TheRokuChannel.Roku.com
Tubi, owned by Fox, offers a range of on-demand content, including shows like The Masked Singer, older shows like Bonanza and imported programs such as the British quiz show Q.I. Its on-demand movie lineup recently included Drive and Beetlejuice. Some lean-back viewing options include news, sports news and entertainment channels. TubiTV.com
XUMO is owned by Comcast, but you can access it even if Comcast isn’t your Internet provider. Its selection of on-demand content isn’t as extensive as some of the services listed above, but there are enough appealing films to make it worth trying—recent options included The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo…and The Whistleblower. XUMO offers lean-back channels, including multiple news channels. XUMO.com