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Top 10 Best Free Online Streaming Services in 2021

Want to ditch cable and save money while you’re at it? Watch movies, TV show series, sports, news and more for free!

Reasons to look for a good free online streaming service

With the majority of the population still staying indoors as the coronavirus continues to spread, the need to know what the best free streaming services are, has never been greater. Whether you’re a fan of drama, docuseries, or animation, these platforms let you watch your favorite content without paying a single cent!

However, figuring out these streaming services, and which one meets your needs requires digging. This is where OwlRatings comes in. We’ve compiled a master list of the best free streaming services, based on the different interests of viewers. If you want more content, better speed and less ads you can consider a paid streaming service instead of a free one.

Best overall

Peacock free streaming service

Peacock free streaming service

Its ability to offer 7500 hours of video content on a free tier plan makes Peacock clinch the first position. And with NBC Universal owning rights to shows like The Office, you’re sure about a thrilling viewing experience on a free plan.

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Peacock streaming service bears a striking resemblance to the likes of Hulu and Netflix, due to its tiled interface. But unlike these platforms, Peacock offers a package that’s completely free. The best part is, it offers this without skimping on any feature.

Expect to get up to 13,000 hours of content, albeit, ad-supported. On the plus side, you can watch the likes of Modern Family and 30 Rock without paying a single penny. The Office is also available, although only the first two seasons are offered on the free plan.

Navigating this streaming service interface is a cinch. The first thing you’ll be presented with on the browse section is its exemplary catalog of titles. The content is categorized into “Featured, TV Shows, Movies and Kids. This makes it easy to find what you’re looking for.

Best updated content

The Roku Channel free streaming service

The Roku Channel free streaming service

Roku recently launched a mobile app for Android and iOS smartphone users for free entertainment on the go. Its LIVE TV guide is also available on Roku’s home screen, allowing users to surf the channel quickly.

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If what you’re after is a streaming service that constantly updates its content, then Roku Channel is your best bet.

Whether you prefer to watch films or TV series, you can expect the latest content, and all of it for free. You will also have access to shows that were once considered a hit at the box office.

Standout actors that you’ll find on this platform include Will Smith, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christian Bale just to mention a few. In terms of content titles, you’ll be able to watch The Terminator, Concussion, High Fidelity and more.

Another thing you’ll love about using Roku Channel is that it’s not so ad-focused. The ads aren’t as many as those shown on traditional TV, which makes for a better viewing experience.

Roku Channel also prides itself in offering an easy-to-navigate interface. The content is split into sections that the majority of viewers are likely to head to. These are: “Continue Watching”, “Netflix binge-watching” and “New This Month”.

Best original content

Crackle free streaming service

Crackle free streaming service

Crackle has up to 700 movies, a pretty vast selection for a free streaming service. A detailed overview shows the service has a more extensive movie library than paid options like CBS All Access.

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Original TV shows and movies are usually among the most highly-rated. So to find a streaming service that offers original content, and at zero cost, is a godsend. This is exactly what you get from Crackle, a streaming service owned by giant firms: the Soul Entertainment and Chicken Soup.

Offering a whopping 700 movies and 100+ TV series, this streaming service sets itself apart with a broad selection of content. In fact, its catalog offers more content than paid alternatives like CBS All Access.

Another thing we love about Crackle is that it’s incredibly easy to use. Contrary to other streaming services, you don’t have to create an account to be able to watch. The only reason you’d need to do that is if you like the freedom of being able to add items to your watchlist.

Best for news

Haystack News free streaming service

Haystack News free streaming service

Its handy news ticker at the bottom of the videos (when in full-screen mode) makes it easy to scroll through headlines, local weather, and stock prices.

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If you’re looking for a way to watch news without cable, Haystack News is your best bet. This free streaming app can be downloaded on an array of devices, ranging from Roku players to Apple TV boxes and Amazon Fire TV. This level of compatibility is one of its key selling points.

Another feature that makes it attractive is its ability to showcase news stories from a ton of different sources – both local and national. Once you launch the app, you might be greeted with a story from BBC News followed by a weather forecast from a local station and then a story from a network like Newsy.

Just recently, the platform also incorporated live streaming new channels, namely, CBS, ABC, Newsmax, Yahoo Finance, Euronews among others. This means you can actually content in real time.

Best for ad-free content

Kanopy free streaming service

Kanopy free streaming service

Unlike other free streaming services, Kanopy doesn’t have ads. This means you get to stream your movies and TV shows uninterrupted.

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One of the biggest drawbacks of free streaming services is the fact that their content is always ad-supported. But what if I told you that there’s a way to stream for free without having to endure watching those painfully-long commercials?

Enter Kanopy streaming service. This video streaming service gives you access to a broad range of films and documentaries, along with a completely ad-free viewing experience. But there’s a catch. You need to be either a student or a member of an actively participating public library or educational facility.

If you’re eligible to use the streaming service, you’ll have access to more than 30,000 films and TV series, and this includes several standout titles.

Another feature that draws many viewers to this platform is the premium quality of its content. Out of the 6000+ movies on the service, at least 2,600 titles are backed by an IMDB rating of 7+. Kanopy proves that just because you can stream for free doesn’t mean you should settle for low-quality content.

Best for live TV

Pluto TV free streaming service

Pluto TV free streaming service

Pluto TV doesn’t restrict the number of people who can stream similar content. Since you don’t need to sign in, you can launch as many instances as you want.

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Pluto TV is the best streaming platform for those looking to ditch cable but still crave live TV channels.

Sounds too good to be true? Well, it’s completely free, and no, there is no catch. This over-the-top streaming platform gives you access to more than 250 live TV channels. Examples of premium channels that it’s added fairly recently include MLB and Paramount Picks.

Its ease of use is one of its main draws. You can stream directly from the website or download the app, which is compatible with a variety of streaming devices. These include Apple TV, Amazon kindle/fire tablets, Google Chromecast, Android TV among others. The best part is, you don’t need to key in your credit card details or even your email address to utilize this streaming service.

Best for classic shows

IMDb TV free streaming service

IMDb TV free streaming service

Unlike other free streaming services with long ads, IMDb TV’s ads aren’t lengthy or intrusive.

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IMDb TV is the happiest place in the streaming space for fans of classic movies. Whether you want to watch The Great Gatsby, Pride and Prejudice or Moby Dick, this platform has it all.

And the good thing is, you don’t have to sit through so many advertisements. If you’re watching a 1 ½-hour movie, the total ads take up about 10 minutes, which is not long compared to the hour-long TV shows.   

Another feature that makes IMDb TV exceptional is that it’s managed to create a sort of community. The titles available on this platform are accompanied by insights from viewers and crucial details about the movie.

Plus, it has a pretty extensive catalog of movies and TV shows. While some free streaming services offer a limited selection of movies and tv shows, IMDb boasts 4.7 million+ titles.

Best for an extensive selection of content

Tubi free streaming service

Tubi free streaming service

Out of the 20,000 titles, 1200 movies and TV shows are kid-appropriate. This is a pretty decent range compared to other free streaming services that hardly provide kid-based content. Most of the new Lego series features here.

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Owned by Fox Corporation, Tubi is one of the best streaming platforms for a sizable library of TV shows and movies across numerous genres.

Despite being completely free, its content beats or stands up well against many paid services. You’ll be able to choose shows from a library containing up to 50,000 titles. The only tradeoff you’ll have to make is being able to sit through a few ads whenever you’re watching.

The fact that Tubi is readily accessible is another one of its main highlights. You can access this streaming service on pretty much any device; be it the web on yourPC, smartphone, tablet, game console or set-up box.

Best for on-demand content

Vudu free streaming service

Vudu free streaming service

Vudu not only streams content for free but also allows subscribers to rent or buy content. The paid option allows subscribers to watch the most recent movies in a higher resolution.

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On-demand content offers numerous perks, one of which is the ability to watch whenever you want. If you enjoy this convenience, then the best free streaming service for you is Vudu.

Here, you’ll get to watch popular shows, such as King Arthur, Mr. 3000, Magic Mike XXL and Black Hawk Down. Other standouts include Bad Boys for Life, Dolittle, and Bloodshot. There are also several titles suitable for kids, namely, Norm of the North, Escape from Planet Earth, and My Little Pony.

If you loathe the ads that come with free streaming services, you will love what Vudu has in store for you. It offers a superb viewing experience by placing ads only at the beginning of a show, and that’s it.

The search feature on this platform is another one that sets it from the crowd. It lets you search titles based on different categories like TV shows, movies, genre, MPAA rating as well as ratings from the Rotten Tomatoes website.

Best for a balanced mix of live and on-demand content

Xumo free streaming service

Xumo free streaming service

Since Xumo doesn’t require users to create an account, there are no limits as to the number of devices you can stream content simultaneously.

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If you’re looking for a free streaming service that strikes a good balance between live and on-demand content, Xumo is your best shot. Not only does it have a sizable catalog of on-demand movies, but it also offers more than 180 channels.

Xumo also prides itself in having a relatively simple interface. All you need to do is install the app either on your smart TV or phone and start launching channels.

What to look for in a good free online streaming service

One thing you’ll have to come to terms with is that most free streaming services can’t compete with behemoth paid alternatives like Hulu or Netflix. We have created a top 100 list of the best movies on Netflix here. Free services probably won’t showcase the latest episodes, seasons or films that can compare to Netflix or other paid alternatives. They also won’t have any original content or next-day episodes. But, that’s okay because it’s a small tradeoff for a decent amount of free content.

Most, if not all, of the best free streaming services will contain ads. They will display commercials, which run for about 30 to 60 seconds. This is about the same time as commercials shown on cable networks.

Yes, it’s never fun when you get interrupted by a commercial, but then again, these free platforms probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for these advertisements.

Another trade-off you’ll have to make is the type of content you’ll have access to. With some, you’ll be able to watch live channels. Others, however, will only showcase on-demand content, and still a few will offer both.

How to choose the best free streaming services

Track your viewing

If you’re looking to cut cord in the coming week or month, a good place to start is to track your viewing habits.

What TV shows and channels do you use most frequently? Which broadcast channels can’t you live without? Which streaming platform would you be willing to use if you were to go the paid route? Once you’ve answered these questions, it will be a lot easier to pick the streaming platform that fits this criteria

Create a TV diary

There’s one effective tip that we can borrow from the dieting world, and this is the fact that writing or taking notes of what you eat- in this case, view- helps. If you’re struggling to decide your favorite shows or channels, this is the best way to go about it.

Experiment

If you’re used to paying for a cable network, experimenting with different platforms might feel a little weird, initially.

You’re accustomed to watching only what’s being aired at a particular time. With streaming services, you make the decision of what content to watch. And since these platforms are free, you have nothing to lose if you experiment with a couple before deciding which one to settle for.

Why you should consider free streaming services

Minimizes cost of entertainment

One of the greatest concerns when choosing a particular type of entertainment is cost. Paying for a TV subscription service, purchasing or renting new movies and downloading content are costs that can quickly add up, overtime.

And that does not even include the kind of entertainment where you have to leave your house to enjoy.

This is where free streaming services come in handy. They eliminate the need for buying, renting, and downloading; thus, saving you money.

With these apps, you’ll have unlimited access to a decent amount of content. So you’ll no longer have to worry about entertainment taking up a huge chunk of your monthly budget.

Saves you download time

Streaming your favorite content with these platforms means one thing- that you don’t have to download anything. Downloading is a very time-consuming activity, and who has time to waste on this?

Plus, by the time you’re done downloading a movie or TV show, your interest to watch has probably waned. Not to mention, downloading requires you to have a large storage space, whether you’re using your phone, tablet or PC.

If you’d rather use your disk space to store more valuable items, consider investing in these free streaming services.

Offers convenience

If the cost and time-savings aren’t enough of an incentive, then consider the convenience you get from these streaming services.

Think about it, you can watch your favorite shows and movies at your preferred time. You don’t need to wait until you’ve paid for cable or a given streaming platform because everything is available for free.

After many hours of hard work, we all deserve a little break. When that leisure time comes, wouldn’t it be better if you got to watch what you want rather than what’s been programmed or scheduled for you?

Access to a large content database

Depending on the free streaming platform that you choose, you’ll have access to a considerable amount of content.

For instance, Tubi lets you pick from 50,000 titles, none of which you’ll have to pay a single penny. IMDB tv is another great option if you’re looking for a streaming service with an extensive catalog of shows and movies.

FAQ

Can I get a free streaming service with live channels?

Yes, you can. Although there aren’t many options, you can get a free streaming service offering live channels. A good example is Pluto TV, which shows live channels like The CBS News channel.

How do free streaming services work?

These streaming services do show content for free. But in exchange, they permit commercials to be shown, while the viewer is watching a show. This way, the streaming service is still able to earn some revenue.
Now, there are a few free streaming services that don’t show ads like Kanopy. However, this one also comes with a couple of conditions that you should meet before being allowed to use the platform.

Final verdict

Cutting cable and switching to streaming services is all the rage right now. And the best part is, you can pick platforms that don’t charge you anything as you test the waters of this space.

Currently, there are dozens of free streaming services, but they appeal to different audiences. So before you decide which one to choose, consider tracking your viewing habits or keeping a TV diary. This way, you can determine which content really piques your interest and choose a streaming service based on that.

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