|Best for variety: Amazon Prime Video||Best for originals and live TV: Peacock||Best for movies: Vudu|
The cable and satellite TV industry has been threatened for a number of years now as video streaming services gather momentum and more television viewers become cord-cutters. Unlike cable TV, free streaming services offer a ton of convenience — you get to watch exactly what you want at your own time and pace without paying a cent. Gone are the days of waiting for the 9 p.m. show every Friday; now you simply have to connect to the internet and enjoy your favorite content without the fear of missing out.
With a vast range of streaming services, and new ones coming up every day, it can be a tough viewing decision to make. We tested six of the best free streaming services, so you can have an easy pick.
|Prime Video||Crackle||Vudu||Sling TV Free||Peacock||Peacock|
|Popular channels||N/A||N/A||N/A||ABC News, ET News||NBC News, Telemundo||Stories by AMC, CBS News, NFL Channel|
|Popular titles||Mr. Robot, Star Trek, The Widow||Charlie's Angels, 3rd Rock From The Sun||Crank, The Founder, School For Scoundrels||Hell's Kitchen, Highway To Heaven, Forensic Files||Saturday Night Live, Battlestar Galactica, Parks and Recreation||The Wolf of Wall Street, Something Wild, Twilight|
|Number of account users||Up to six||One||Up to eight||One||Up to six||One|
|Streaming speed||1 Mbps||9 Mbps||4.5 Mbps||3 Mbps||2.5 Mbps||3 Mbps|
The best part about a free video streaming service is that you do not have to stick to only one. Since you do not have to pay, you can subscribe to more than one streaming service, although managing the different apps and libraries can sometimes be confusing.
Your choice of free video streaming service will ideally depend on the kind of content you want to watch. Some networks are popular for live streaming while others are better for on-demand content. The variety of content is also something to be mindful of. Many free streaming networks include the same TV shows and movies in their libraries and can become repetitive. Make sure to check out the contents in the library before choosing a free streaming service.
Although not entirely free — you have to be an Amazon Prime member to be able to access the service —
However, you can get access to over 100 more channels with a Prime Video subscription that begins at $9/mo. and has a 30-day trial period.
The free version of Prime Video does not let you watch some of the original content or the very latest shows and movies (you may have to rent or buy them). If you are not a regular online shopper with an Amazon Prime subscription, this is not going to be a free service for you.
What to watch on Prime Video
Even with a "free" subscription, you can get access to a handsome selection of content, from the cybercrime thriller Mr. Robot to the Star Trek series to the British suspense drama The Widow. Whether you want to rewatch a classic TV show or the new movie everyone is talking about,
Most free streaming services do not offer too much in terms of original content. Peacock is different because it is owned and operated by NBCUniversal, which means that that entity has brought its top-tier talent from its broadcast and cable networks to this new streamer. It is the home of the Saved by the Bell reimagining from Tracey Wigfield, the Dr. Death limited series starring Joshua Jackson, Alec Baldwin, and Christian Slater; and new feature rom-com Marry Me starring Jennifer Lopez and Owen Wilson. It is also where you can watch The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air reboot, just titled Bel-Air.
Peacock is an ad-supported streaming service, so be prepared to watch 30- to 60-second commercials at regular intervals. Users also report glitches, such as buffering, from time to time.
What to watch on Peacock
In addition to the above titles, you can also rewatch older favorites on Peacock, from sitcoms 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, to such movies as Dazed and Confused and the American Pie franchise. It also has sports, including WWE, and it just added Yellowstone.
Hooked on popular movies? Fandango-owned Vudu has a neat selection of over 10,000 titles for your viewing pleasure, as well as an equally wide range of TV shows. None of those may be fresh from the oven, but they are still superior to the content you find on some other free streaming apps. You need to create an account to be able to access the service, though you may also use your existing Fandango or Walmart (the retailer formerly owned Vudu) account if you have them. The interface is easy to navigate, and free titles are clearly marked for more convenience. You can also purchase movies and TV shows from the Vudu marketplace.
Vudu has no original content, no live TV, and no brand new shows or movies to watch for free. Plus, the ads may start to seem repetitive after a while, and since most of them are interactive, you have to choose an option to get back to what you're viewing.
What to watch on Vudu
If you do not mind annoying ads, Vudu has a fine list of well-known movies and TV shows. There's Jason Statham-led Crank, a high-octane action flick. There's the epic All Good Things featuring crackling chemistry between Kirsten Dunst and Ryan Gosling. Can't get enough of zombie movies? Catch the Train to Busan, a Korean movie about a father and his daughter trying to survive during a zombie outbreak. Other famous movies on Vudu include The Founder, School For Scoundrels, Pray For Rain, The English Teacher, and many more.
While Sling is a mostly paid streaming service popular for live TV, it also has a free option that does not require registration. Sling claims that free users can access a library that includes live channels and more than 5,000 movies and TV show episodes. You also get the choice to try out some premium content and then subscribe for more access. Although the selection may not be as exciting as some other free streaming networks, it is a good way to get a taste of the service before committing to more.
Sling TV Free has a limited library, which means you will only get to pick from the titles you can easily find anywhere else. Live TV only includes news channels, with ABC being the most recognizable name. The movie selection does not include any recent releases or popular titles.
What to watch on Sling TV Free
You can get your daily dose of news flash on Sling Free, thanks to ABC News and ET News, among others. For entertainment, there's Showtime, AMC, and Discovery. Some popular shows include Hell's Kitchen, Highway to heaven, and The Commish. Among popular movies on the network, Bernie, Nine Lives, and Flyboys are some of the most familiar names.
NBCUniversal's free streaming service is Peacock, which offers live and on-demand content without signing up. The 13,000-plus library gives you a broad range of content to pick from, especially from all NBC brands. Peacock has one of the largest live TV selections for a free service, though you also have the option to sign up for premium tiers. If the library seems too humongous, the user-friendly interface is easy to browse to find something suitable to watch.
Peacock is heavily ad-supported, even more than other free TV streaming, and that also applies to one of the premium tiers. Live sports is only available to paid users, and there is no offline download feature.
What to watch on Peacock
Peacock viewers are spoiled with so many choices. Take your pick from The Today Show, Saturday Night Live, Battlestar Galactica, Parks and Recreation, and many more.
For a wide range of on-demand as well as live offerings, Pluto TV is one of the best free TV streaming services out there. The live TV interface has a cable TV feel, and you can browse and pick what you want to watch in real-time. Since Viacom owns the streamer, expect Pluto TV to have a vast library from the mass media company's brands — including CBS, MTV, Paramount, VH1, and more — so you'll never run out of things to watch. Meanwhile, Pluto TV does not require registration to access its services.
The list of brand new content is limited on Pluto TV, which is not surprising for a free service. There is no offline download option, and live TV from major channels only play clips.
What to watch on Pluto TV
Depending on your region, there is a decent list of content to pick from. Popular movies include The Wolf of Wall Street, Something Wild, The Night of the Hunter, and Twilight, while TV shows feature some well-known series like Degrassi, NCIS, and The Equalizer. You also get news channels, comedy channels, as well as live sports channels such as Fox Sports and NFL Channel.
Not all free streaming services are the same. Each one offers something more than the other and you may or may not have to sign up. Peacock is great for live content, while Pluto TV has a vast library and an interesting mix. But Crackle takes the cake with the largest selection of originals among all free streaming services.