Right about now in your stay-at-home stint, that free trial to a subscription streaming service may be coming to an end. The middle of a pandemic may not be the optimal time to take on another monthly expense — but there are free streaming options out there.
Unlike subscription streamers (Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video), free streamers usually offer little or no original content. And in most cases — except where noted — there will be commercials that you can’t fast-forward through.
Many, although not all, of these free streamers also require users to create an account to access the content. All are available on a website or via an app on assorted devices — smart TVs, Android, iOS, Roku, Xbox One, Apple TV, etc. — but you’ll need to check with individual streamers to make sure they’re compatible with your particular device. (Note: Available content on free streamers can change regularly.)
How to get it: App or crackle.com
Programming: Formerly programmed by Sony and now majority-owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Crackle has some feel-good docuseries originals (“Going from Broke”) and a mix of movies (“The Adventures of Tintin”) and TV (some but not all episodes from seasons one and two of the original “Fantasy Island”).
How to get it: App or hoopladigital.com
Programming: An ad-free service, Hoopla requires a library card (Seattle Public Library and King County Library System are both members) and offers access to films (“Bel Canto,” “What We Do in the Shadows,” “The Founder”) and TV series (season one of “Hot in Cleveland,” seasons one, two, three and 10 of “Ax Men”) and children’s picture books on video (“Dragons Love Tacos”).
How to get it: App or imdb.com/tv
Programming: This Seattle-based, Amazon-owned free streamer began offering cult TV hit “Lost” this month. Other TV series available include “The Middle,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Murder, She Wrote” and “St. Elsewhere.” Movies added May 1 include “A Knight’s Tale,” “A League of Their Own” and “Shrek Forever After.” IMDb TV recently ordered its first original series, a reboot of the 2008-12 TNT show “Leverage,” which will star Noah Wyle.
How to get it: App or kanopy.com
Programming: Access requires a library card (Seattle Public Library and King County Library System are both members). It can also be accessed by students and professors at participating universities (University of Washington and Seattle University are included). Movies (1953’s “War of the Worlds,” 2019’s “The Farewell”), documentaries (“Hobbyhorse Revolution”) and foreign films (“Iceman”) are available to stream ad-free. Kanopy Kids offers access to children’s content (“Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus”).
How to get it: App or locast.org
Programming: Controversial in the broadcast business, Locast passes through the live broadcast signals of local TV stations in select cities, including Seattle, streaming these channels on the internet. Options include over-the-air primary channels and subchannels such as KOMO-TV’s Channel 4.2 (Comet), KIRO-TV’s 7.2 (getTV) and 7.3 (Laff) and KCPQ’s 13.2 (CourtTV) among others.
How to get it: App or plex.tv
Programming: A new partnership brings Crackle content to this service that features movies (“Deadfall”) and anime (“Ghost in the Shell”).
How to get it: App or pluto.tv
Programming: This Viacom-owned option includes both on-demand movies (“Addams Family Values,” “Hudson Hawk”) and TV shows (“Roseanne,” “Midsomer Murders”) and dozens of live TV channels if you prefer the channel-flipping experience. Content from Viacom-branded channels (MTV, VH1, BET, TV Land, CMT) sits alongside other brands (AMC, Buzzr, NBC News, CBSN) and generic category channels (reality, celebrity, ’80s rewind).
How to get it: App or popcornflix.com
Programming: Categories include movies (“Internal Affairs”), TV (“21 Jump Street”) and viral videos.
The Roku Channel
How to get it: App or roku.com/whats-on/the-roku-channel
Programming: Available on devices beyond Roku, the Roku Channel offers movies (“Driving Miss Daisy”) and TV shows (seven seasons of former CBS drama “Cold Case,” four seasons of “ALF”).
How to get it: App or tubitv.com
Programming: Recently purchased by Fox Entertainment, this video-on-demand service offers access to movies in many genres (“King Arthur: Legend of the Sword,” “Monster Trucks”), older TV series (“3rd Rock from the Sun”) and recent Fox hits (“The Masked Singer,” “Gordon Ramsay’s 24 Hours to Hell and Back,” “Hell’s Kitchen”).
How to get it: App or vudu.com
Programming: Formerly owned by Walmart and now part of Comcast-owned NBCUniversal, Vudu streams a mix of movies (“Encino Man,” “Good Morning, Vietnam”) and TV series (“Cybill,” “Merlin”).
How to get it: App or xumo.tv
Programming: A mix of more than 100 livestreaming channels (news, sports, comedy, travel, lifestyle, science, kids) and on-demand content.
How to get it: App or youtube.com/feed/storefront
Programming: Not just a place for influencers or the grandma next door to post her cooking videos, YouTube also offers paid movie/TV rentals and some free-to-view content with ads, which recently included “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” and “Super Size Me.”