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How to Stream TV for Free: The Ultimate 2023 Guide

If you‘re looking to cut the cord on expensive cable bills but still want access to great TV content, streaming for free is an awesome option. Thanks to the rise of free ad-supported platforms, live TV apps, and over-the-air antennas, you can access a huge selection of programming without spending a dime.

In this ultimate guide, I‘ll show you how to finally stop paying for TV and still watch all your favorite shows, movies, sports, news, and more!

Why Stream TV for Free?

Let‘s start with the reasons why free streaming is worth a look:

  • Saves money – The average cable TV bill now costs over $100 per month. Free streaming gives you entertainment without the high monthly costs.

  • No contracts – Many cable and satellite plans lock you into long-term contracts with early termination fees. Free streaming has no contracts or cancellation penalties.

  • Tons of content – Between on-demand libraries and live channels, free streaming services offer thousands of hours of TV.

  • Available anywhere – Watch free shows and movies on your phone, tablet, computer or TV. No cables required!

  • Easy to use – Free streaming platforms have simple, intuitive apps and interfaces. Easy to get set up and start watching.

  • Upgrade anytime – If you want more options later, you can always subscribe to Netflix, Hulu, etc. Easy to upgrade.

According to a survey by Deloitte, 61% of consumers now use free streaming services. And 79% subscribe to paid services as well. Mixing free and paid options is an ideal approach.

So if you want to reduce your TV costs, streaming for free is definitely worth considering. Now let‘s explore the best ways to access tons of free entertainment.

Overview of Free Streaming Methods

Here are the primary legitimate ways to stream TV without paying:

  • Ad-supported streaming apps – Services like Pluto TV, Tubi and Xumo offer thousands of free TV shows, movies and live channels supported by ads.

  • The Roku Channel – Roku‘s free streaming app with tons of live and on-demand movies, shows, news and more.

  • YouTube/Facebook – Watch limited TV programming and live events for free on these platforms.

  • Network apps – Apps like NBC, ABC, FOX and others let you stream live and on-demand with cable credentials.

  • Over-the-air antenna – Access free broadcast channels like ABC, CBS, NBC and more with an antenna.

  • AVOD services – Paid platforms like Hulu and Peacock have limited free tiers supported by ads.

  • Free trials – Take advantage of 7-30 day free trials for paid streamers like Netflix and HBO Max.

  • Sharing services – Split the costs (and passwords) for subscriptions with family or friends.

Those are the main ways to start streaming TV 100% free or at low cost. Now let‘s dive into the details of each option.

Free, Ad-Supported Streaming Platforms

Services like Pluto TV, Tubi TV, Xumo and others offer thousands of on-demand movies and shows, plus live TV – all free in exchange for watching some advertisements.

These platforms license content from major studios and TV networks, so you get access to lots of popular programming alongside original content.

According to Conviva, ad-supported streaming saw 57% growth in viewing hours in 2021. Here are some top free, ad-supported platforms:

Pluto TV

Pluto TV has over 250 live channels spanning categories like news, sports, movies, reality, cartoons, and more. You can also access over 100,000 hours of on-demand movies and shows. It offers a cable-like channel guide and the ability to "favorite" channels.

Supported on: Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, web, iOS/Android


Tubi offers over 40,000 movies and shows available on demand, including content from studios like MGM, Paramount, Lionsgate and more. Great for movies especially.

Supported on: Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Chromecast, web, iOS/Android


Xumo provides 190+ live channels leaning heavily towards news, sports, and entertainment. It integrates programming from brands like NBC, Fox Sports, and TMZ. Light on-demand library.

Supported on: Roku, Fire TV, smart TVs, web, iOS/Android

The Roku Channel

The Roku Channel offers over 200 free live channels and thousands of movies and shows on demand. Programming comes from studios like Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount, Sony Pictures and more.

Supported on: Roku devices, web, iOS/Android

The major benefits of these services are convenience, broad content selection, and availability on almost all streaming devices. Downsides are ads interrupting shows and less premium original content compared to paid services like Netflix or HBO Max.

But these free platforms offer an easy way to enjoy endless entertainment without any costs. They‘re absolutely worth trying out!

Other Free Streaming Options

In addition to dedicated free streaming apps, you can watch select TV programming at no cost on other major platforms:


YouTube offers some movies, TV shows, and live streaming events between all the user videos. Some TV networks like CBS and NBC provide full episodes of certain shows on their YouTube channels. YouTube also streams live events like album premieres, concerts, sports and more. Just have to search to find quality TV content among the huge catalog.

Facebook Watch

Facebook Watch hosts some original shows like Red Table Talk, but also live streams certain sports and programs. You can follow your favorite publishers, shows, sports leagues and artists to get notifications when they go live or post new episodes.


While best known for gaming, Twitch also streams TV marathons, sporting events, concerts, theatre shows and more. It‘s the place to watch live events and engage with host communities.

These platforms have limited TV content compared to dedicated streamers – but the access is completely free. Well worth browsing for gems, events and exclusive programming.

Take Advantage of Free Trials

While platforms like Netflix, Hulu and Peacock require a paid subscription, they offer extended free trial periods for first-time members:

  • Netflix – 1 month free trial to stream full library in HD
  • HBO Max – 7 days free, choose ad-supported or no ads
  • Hulu – 1 month free with ads, or 1 week ad-free
  • Peacock Premium – 1 week free trial
  • Paramount+ – 1 week free trial
  • Apple TV+ – 7 days free

These trials let you freely access a paid streamer‘s full content library for a limited period. You can easily binge through a full series or catch up on must-see movies before your time runs out.

Just be sure to cancel before the trial ends if you don‘t want to pay – set a reminder on your calendar. Once your trial expires, you can always resubscribe down the road.

Taking advantage of the various free trial offers is a simple way to unlock paid streaming content without costs for a short time.

Is Sharing Streaming Services OK?

A morally gray area, but many people split the cost of paid streaming services by sharing account passwords with family and friends.

While this violates most platforms‘ terms, cracking down remains difficult in practice. Screen limits constrain some joint usage:

  • Netflix – 1 to 4 simultaneous streams
  • Hulu – 1 to unlimited streams
  • Amazon Prime – 3 simultaneous streams
  • Disney+ – 4 simultaneous streams

Using someone else‘s login info means taking the risk of losing access anytime. But cost sharing can make services more affordable.

Stream Network Apps With Cable Credentials

If you already pay for cable or satellite, you can use TV network apps like ABC, NBC, FOX and others to stream more content:

  • Access with any cable or satellite provider login
  • Stream live channels and full episodes on demand
  • Use Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, iOS, Android and web
  • Watch without a cable box

For example, with the NBC app you can:

  • Stream Sunday Night Football live
  • Get new episodes of The Voice, Saturday Night Live, The Tonight Show and more
  • Binge previous seasons of hits like This is Us, The Office, Parks & Rec and more

So if you already pay for TV, take advantage of these free extras!

How to Cut the Cord With an Over-the-Air Antenna

One of the best options for completely free access to major broadcast stations is an over-the-air (OTA) antenna. Here‘s a quick guide to getting started:

Choose the Right Antenna

Select an antenna based on your distance from local broadcast towers:

  • Within 10 miles: Small, indoor flat antenna
  • 10-35 miles: Larger directional indoor or outdoor antenna
  • 35+ miles: Large outdoor directional antenna with amplifier

Some top-rated models:

  • Indoor: Mohu Leaf, GE Pro Indoor, ClearStream Eclipse
  • Outdoor: Clearstream 2MAX, Channel Master EXTREMEtenna, Antop AT-400BV

Check Antenna Recommendations by Location for personalized advice. Expect costs between $20-$150.

Get the Antenna in the Optimal Position

Place indoor antennas near windows facing your local broadcast towers for the best reception.

Outdoor antennas should be installed high up (at least 30 ft. above ground) and pointed toward the towers. Avoid interference from buildings and trees.

Connect Antenna to a Tuner

To view antenna channels on your TV, connect the antenna to a digital tuner like a converter box, OTA DVR or directly into an HDTV.

Use a coaxial cable to connect, and an amplifier if needed for long cable runs. You can split the signal to connect the antenna to multiple TVs.

Scan for Available Broadcast Channels

Once set up, scan on your tuner or TV menu for available local broadcast stations. Periodically rescan to check for newly-added channels.

Consider an OTA DVR

For the best experience, use a DVR like Tablo, Plex, HDHomeRun or TiVo to record shows and pause/rewind live TV. They also allow streaming to other devices. Expect one-time costs of $200+.

With some effort up front, you can access dozens of high-quality broadcast channels and cut the cord for good. OTA programming varies by location – use AntennaWeb to check options for your address.

AVOD – Free, Ad-Supported Tiers of Paid Services

In addition to fully free platforms, many popular paid streaming services now offer free ad-supported tiers with limited content:

  • Hulu: Offers a free option with ads and limited programming
  • Tubi: Ad-based free version with thousands of shows and movies
  • Pluto: Free ad-supported TV with hundreds of live channels
  • Peacock: Free tier with ads, pays to unlock more content and remove ads
  • CW: The CW app offers free recent episodes with ads
  • Roku Channel: Free movies and shows with ads on Roku devices

While channel/content options are lighter, these free versions of paid apps can supplement your streaming lineup without increasing costs.

Pro Tips to Enhance Free Streaming

Here are some expert tips for getting the most out of free streaming:

  • Use a streaming device like Roku, Fire TV or Chromecast for wide access to free apps.

  • Try multiple free services to create a customized channel lineup – Pluto, Xumo, IMDb, CW, etc.

  • For live TV, check YouTube, Facebook, Twitch – free events and exclusives pop up occasionally.

  • Take advantage of new member device/app store promotions for extended free trials.

  • Split costs of paid apps with family or roommates – just know account risks.

  • Use an amplified outdoor OTA antenna high up for best reception if indoor channels are spotty.

  • OTA DVRs like Tablo allow recording, commercial skip and streaming antenna channels.

  • Subscribe annually vs. monthly to paid streamers – you can save up to 25%!

  • Follow r/cordcutters for more tips on reducing TV costs.

With the right devices, services and strategies, you can ditch cable and still stream tons of free TV content!

Limitations of Free Streaming to Consider

While free streaming opens up a world of TV access, there are some limitations to be aware of:

  • Video quality maxes out at 1080p HD – no 4K. And quality depends on internet speeds.

  • Content selection is much more limited compared to paid services like Netflix, Hulu, etc. Those have deeper libraries of new movies/shows.

  • Ads interrupt your viewing on free services. Paid platforms offer commercial-free options.

  • Device support varies – some free apps only work on certain gadgets like Roku or Fire TV. Paid apps are universally available.

  • Reliability – free streaming services tend to experience more crashes and buffering vs. paid platforms.

The key is mixing and matching paid and free sources to customize your ideal entertainment lineup at the lowest cost.

How Much Can You Save by Streaming Free TV?

To illustrate the money you can save by turning to free streaming options, here‘s a quick breakdown:

The average traditional cable package costs around $100 per month, or $1,200 per year.

The average live TV streaming service like YouTube TV or Hulu with Live TV runs $65+ per month, or $780+ per year.

Meanwhile, accessing free streaming services costs $0 per month outside of an internet connection you likely already have. OTA antenna channels are 100% free as well.

So the potential savings are massive:

  • If you switched from a $100 cable package to free streaming options exclusively, you could save $1,200 per year.

  • If you switched from a $65 live TV streaming service like YouTube TV to free streaming, you could save $780 per year.

And you can always supplement free options with lower cost premium subscriptions like:

  • Netflix ($15.50/month for HD streaming)
  • Disney+ ($8/month)
  • HBO Max ($10/month ad-supported)

Free streaming provides huge savings – and with the right mix of other low-cost services, you can still access plenty of premium programming without paying a fortune.

Free Streaming Services At a Glance

ServiceContent LibraryLive ChannelsProsCons
Pluto TV15,000+ hours on-demand250+Huge channel lineupLimited originals
Tubi40,000+ movies & showsNoMassive on-demand libraryMostly older licensed content
XumoLight on-demand190+Integrates known brandsSmall library, few originals
The Roku Channel10,000+ hours on-demand200+Giant libraryOnly works on Roku
Crackle8,000+ movies & showsNoSony Pictures moviesLight overall selection

Key Takeaways on Streaming TV for Free

Hopefully this guide provided you with tons of tips, insights and options for streaming TV 100% free!

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Ad-supported platforms like Pluto TV and Tubi offer a wealth of free content spanning live channels, on-demand shows and movies.

  • YouTube, Facebook Watch and Twitch provide limited but free access to TV shows, movies and especially live events.

  • An over-the-air antenna lets you tap into 100% free high-quality broadcast TV in your local area. Pair with a DVR for the best experience.

  • Take advantage of 1-month free trials from premium services like Netflix and HBO Max to sample paid content for free.

  • Splitting the cost of paid subscriptions with family or friends can provide free access, with some risks.

  • Free ad-supported tiers from services like Peacock provide additional options at no cost.

  • Significant savings – hundreds of dollars per year – come from switching from paid TV packages to free streaming.

The bottom line is cord cutting through free streaming is absolutely achievable with the right mix of ad-supported platforms, premium trials, antenna TV and more. Stop paying a fortune for TV while still accessing great entertainment.

Hopefully this guide gave you everything needed to start watching your favorites for free. Let me know if you have any other questions! I‘m always happy to help out fellow cord cutters.

Happy streaming!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.