Many of us right now are spending more time at home than we normally do, hunkering down as we shelter-in-place or limit the amount of time we traditionally spend outside of our homes. And there’s a good chance we may be turning to our various streaming services to keep ourselves occupied—Nielsen estimates that staying inside can lead to a nearly 60 percent increase in the amount of content consumers watch. But if you’re like me, you may have already exhausted the good stuff worth watching on your regular go-to services.
Before you pony up for yet another service to tear through, consider any of a number of free services at your disposal—and there are a lot. Some, like Disney+ and Apple TV+, offer a year for free to Verizon customers and users of new Apple devices, respectively. Many popular platforms offer free trials that can range from anywhere between seven days to three months, as is the case for the soon-to-launch mobile-first service Quibi. Others are always free, and they may be just what you need to switch up your options. Whatever your need, Gizmodo has compiled a lengthy but in no way exhaustive list of options to keep you busy.
For you live television die-hards, Sling TV is a service that offers live programming on the super-cheap, with a ton of customization and bundle options. Sling TV typically starts at around $30 per month, but the service this week introduced a free, ad-supported version of its service that includes free movies and TV as well as ABC News Live and local Fox affiliates in 18 cities that include: New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, Detroit, D.C., Atlanta, Houston, Phoenix, Seattle, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. It will also stream Thursday’s CNN Coronavirus Town Hall at 8 p.m. ET.
It’s available on Chrome, Safari, Edge, and through apps on Roku, Amazon, or Android devices.
Kanopy is a sleeper hit for high-quality free films and documentaries, typically with a focus on independent filmmaking, foreign films, and classic cinema. Gizmodo named Kanopy the best free streaming service you can subscribe to, but the catch is that it’s not available everywhere (like New York City, unfortunately). The service is available through participating universities and libraries, so you’ll either need a school login or library card to sign up. But if you can, definitely check it out. Kanopy is available on iOS, Android, Android TV, Chromecast, Roku, Fire TV, and select smart TVs.
This streaming service is another Gizmodo favorite, and you may have access to it for free if you’re an Optimum or Suddenlink subscriber. CuriosityStream is a fantastic hub for documentaries and educational content as well as originals—so this is a service to consider if you’ve maxed out on garbage television and are looking for something a little more informative. If you’re not a customer of either of those ISPs, however, CuriosityStream is very, very affordable, starting at just $3 per month or $20 for the whole year. The service is available on the web, Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, Android, Android TV, iOS, Apple TV, Xbox One, and select smart TVs.
Verizon customers who are on unlimited data plans or Fios can still snag a 12-month subscription to Disney+, the digital vault for all of Disney’s catalog, plus National Geographic, Marvel, Pixar, and Star Wars. It’s also home to the first 30 seasons of The Simpsons. Disney+ is fairly cheap too, at $7 per month after a seven-day free trial, but definitely give the trial a try if you haven’t had a chance to yet. The service is available on Fire TV, Android TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, select smart TVs, Mac OS, PC, Chrome OS, Android, iOS, PS4, and Xbox One.
Apple TV+ is another you have free access to if you’ve recently purchased a new Apple product. The service is $5 per month, but you can binge its originals for free during a seven-day free trial. Apple’s original programming is kind of meh so far, but horror fans may enjoy Servant. Apple TV+ is available on the web, Apple devices, streaming platforms, and select smart- and AirPlay-enabled TVs.
This often-overlooked streaming service available on the web and Fire TV actually has a decent roster of free movies and series. Don’t expect to see a ton of new releases, but you will get a nice mix of Hollywood blockbusters that you’ve maybe yet to watch.
YouTube has plenty of free documentary content from channels like Vice or Frontline documentaries from PBS you can subscribe to and build out a nice portfolio of free content. But YouTube also offers free, ad-supported movies as well. Just head to the Movies & Shows tab and select “Free to watch.” Be forewarned: The selection here isn’t great, but you might find something of interest if you don’t mind combing through the garbage—and reader, there is a lot of it here.
Vudu, a Walmart-owned service, actually has a good selection of content in its catalog of free, ad-supported movies. As with many other free services, you may have to dig a bit to find something of interest, but there’s a solid mix of old and new to choose from. Vudu is available on the web, Roku, Chromecast, Tivo, Playstation, Xbox One, Nvidia, iOS, Android, and select smart TVs.
Pluto TV is a good option for folks looking for a massive selection of live programming for free, as this service has more than 250 channels to surf. There’s some on-demand content as well, which is great, but the service is ad-supported. Pluto TV is available on Fire TV, Android, Chromecast, iOS, Playstation, Roku, and select smart TVs.
Tubi is a stellar ad-supported service with a ton of quality movies and series. Again, it’s ad-supported with breaks every 12 to 15 minutes—so this won’t be a service for someone who minds interruptions. But overall, it’s a great service if you’re just looking for something to put on, and a favorite of many of our Gizmodo readers. Tubi is available on Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Xbox, Chromecast, Tivo, Android, Xfinity X1, and Cox Contour.
Keep in mind that most major streaming services have trials that run anywhere from a week to even months. Quibi, which launches April 6, is currently offering a three-month free trial to users who pre-order the app. Streaming giants like Hulu, HBO, YouTube TV, and Netflix all offer free seven-day trials as well, if you’re not currently a subscriber (or mooching off a friend or family member’s account). CBS All Access is also a trial to consider, as it’s got great originals like Star Trek: Picard and Jordan Peele’s The Twilight Zone. And, if you’re an anime fan, don’t sleep on the 14-day free Crunchyroll trial—one of the longer trial periods for premium services that have been around awhile.