How Do You Watch Your Favorite Shows Online for Free?

By Jack SteinLast Updated April 22, 2019
Photo Courtesy: Mohamed Hassan/Pixabay

Although many streaming services make their money through subscription fees, others rely on ads for income. As long as you can handle a more conventional television experience with periodic commercials, these services — which are often viewable on Roku, Amazon Fire and other streaming devices that can be plugged into your TV — offer a free and convenient way to watch your favorite shows.

There are plenty of apps and websites out there that you can use to legally watch shows and movies of all kinds online. From the latest episodes of The Daily Show to your favorite 90s series, the television you want to see is out there, and it doesn’t have to cost a dime.

Social Media

While it’s true that you can watch videos posted by friends and family on social media sites, you’re missing out on a whole world of entertainment if you think that cat videos posted by your friends are all that’s out there (delightful though they may be). Facebook, for instance, has quietly gotten into the streaming game, and it’s home to a surprisingly broad range of content. In addition to new series, such as Humans of New York, you can also watch some shows that originally premiered elsewhere, including Buffy the Vampire Slayer. You can find some full-episode series by clicking on the Shows button on the left hand menu of the Facebook website, but you’ll have an easier time viewing Facebook’s full television catalogue through Facebook Watch, an app available for Android, iOS, Amazon Fire and Windows devices.

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Similarly, although YouTube may be more famous for videos of amateur artists, performers and commentators, it also has a sizable amount of professional content you can access as well. More recent movies and shows tend to require a rental fee, but others, such as The King’s Speech, The Terminator, Mean Girls and more are all free to watch with ads.

Network Sites and Apps

Just because you don’t have cable or satellite TV doesn’t mean that you can’t watch the shows on them. Many streaming sites host content from the big cable channels, but even if you don’t have a Netflix or Hulu subscription, you can often watch cable shows for free on the websites or apps of the channels that produced them. Comedy Central, for instance, hosts the latest episodes of many of its series at cc.com, including The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. Similarly, FX offers a selection of recent episodes from some of its shows, such as Archer, on its website. You can also sometimes find episodes of your favorite shows by visiting their websites directly. One such example is the popular adult cartoon Rick and Morty, which can be watched at rickandmorty.com.

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If you’re more interested in the shows on your local television channels, you should check the website of your local news stations, such as PBS or any news channels in your area. While there’s no guarantee, many local channels host special programming and recordings of local events online.

Ad-Supported Streaming Services

Those who don't want to pay for access to network TV at all still have a few options to consider. Hulu offers some network shows for free, although you gain access to vastly more content by paying for a subscription. Additionally, Crackle and Tubi TV offer free access to network television shows, both in the U.S. and abroad. Viewers have to sit through ad breaks, but that's true for watching regular television as well.

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Crackle is one such service to consider. With a mix of more familiar titles, such as Unsolved Mysteries and 3rd Rock From the Sun, as well as new series, like Snatch, Crackle provides a surprisingly diverse range of offerings for viewers to choose from. If you can’t find your favorite show there, however, there’s no shortage of other ad-supported free streaming services to choose from. Others that are worth your consideration include Tubi TV, VUDU, Crunchyroll (for anime fans), Plex, FilmRise, Pluto TV and more.

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