The coronavirus pandemic means that many people are spending a lot more time at home in front of the television. TV ratings are up, studios are offering earlier-than-expect streaming access to films like Frozen 2 and The Invisible Man, and subscription-based services like Shudder and Acorn TV are rolling out extended free trials. Worldwide, streaming jumped by 20% over the weekend of March 14-15, as people around the globe were confined to their homes because of the COVID-19 outbreak.
The good news is that there are more streaming options than ever. But not everyone can afford multiple subscriptions, especially if their work hours have been cut or they’ve been laid off due to the virus. Fortunately, there are some completely free streaming options out there that will help keep you entertained during this difficult time.
Tubi is a free, ad-supported streaming service that you can watch without a subscription on your Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and other devices. Thousands of movies and TV shows are available, from family-friendly films like The Adventures of Tintin to old-school comedies like Heathers and Girls Just Want to Have Fun (because we could all use a little laughter right now). Plus, you can watch episodes of series like 3rd Rock from the Sun, The Dick Van Dyke Show, and Bachelor in Paradise. New content is added monthly.
Pluto TV looks a lot like cable, with more than 250 channels to browse, except that it’s totally free. Shows and movies are broadcast live on channels like Pluto 007, which shows nothing but James Bond films; Buzzr, which brings you classic game shows like Match Game; and MTV The Hills, which transports you back to the ‘00s with vintage episodes of The Hills. Other channels show indie movies, horror, romance, documentaries, and more.
Crackle is another free, ad-supported streaming service available on Fire TV, Roku, and other devices. Create an account to watch movies like Adaptation, The Big Chill, Dead Man Walking, and Dr. Stranglove as well as shows like All in the Family, Forensic Files, and Bewitched. Crackle also had original programming like On Point, a 10-part docuseries about AAU basketball that may help fill the void created by the cancellation of March Madness and the suspension of the rest of the NBA season.
Binge episodes of My So-Called Life or Private Practice or stream movies like Blade Runner 2049 or Lion on IMDb TV. There are also family-friends films like The Muppets Take Manhattan, Muppets From Space, Scooby-Doo, and The Smurfs. It’s available on your Amazon Fire TV or the Amazon Prime Video app. Like most other free streaming options, it’s ad-supported.
Chances are, your local art-house cinema is currently shut down. But cinephiles can still get their fix through Kanopy, a free streaming service offered through many public and university libraries. If your library participates, you can sign up to watch classic, independent and foreign films with your library card. The selection varies depending on institution, but you may be able to watch movies like Moonlight, Rashomon, Bicycle Thieves, First Reformed, and Chinatown. Check here to see if your library participates.
Head to the PBS website or download the PBS app on your Fire TV, Roku, or other device to watch a selection of documentaries, kids programming, and other shows for free. Right now, you can watch the entire Ken Burns Baseball documentary series, as well as select episodes of shows like American Masters, American Experience, and Antiques Roadshow. You’ll also be able to stream new episodes of Call the Midwife for a limited time after they begin airing on March 29. To access more PBS content, like episodes of the upcoming series Beecham House, you can make a donation to your local PBS station.
Normally, you’d pay a monthly fee to get live TV channels like HGTV, CNN, and TLC via Sling TV. But right now, you can get access to a limited amount of content without an account or credit card sign up. The “Stay in and Sling” promotion offers free streaming of ABC News Live, Fox News, and Fox affiliates in select markets, as well as on-demand shows and movies. Simply download the app on Roku, Amazon, or Android and choose “Browse as Guest” or “Try Sling Free.”