The library loves free content--not only do we provide oodles of it ourselves, but we love looking for other free resources to share with our patrons. What many people might not know is that there are a lot of video streaming services out there that offer a free version of their service. This is a roundup of services that let you stream content for free, and some tips and tricks on how to get the most out of these services.
Aspiring streamers should keep in mind that many of these services offer both both free and paid editions; for some of these services, some content will be restricted, while others pepper in advertisements into their content. We've noted some of this below so you can plan your streaming appropriately. Just remember that, for everything listed, it is never, ever required for you to share your financial information.
This one might be a little obvious; doesn't everyone these days know about YouTube? What you might not know, however, is just how many TV shows, movies, and stage productions you can find on YouTube. Many movies in the public domain are completely freely available on YouTube, from channels like PizzaFlix and Timeless Classic Movies. Youtube's Movies and TV Shows section also includes a "Free to Watch" section. For plays and musicals, you can hit up Starkid for parody musicals unlike any other, or try The Shows Must Go On. Fans of East Asian content will enjoy Viki, mentioned below, but they'll also find a wide variety of shows for free on YouTube. Try googling "cdrama," "jdrama" or "kdrama" for live action content; anime fans will find full free episodes on the Funimation channel.
Pluto TV acts much like conventional TV--most content is streamed on a variety of "channels." But with hundreds of channels, many dedicated to specific shows, it's pretty convenient for a binge fest. And if that doesn't suffice, there's also a rotating selection of on-demand movies. Pluto TV and all of its content is completely free, but like conventional TV, there's breaks for ads. You don't have to make an account, but doing so will sync your watchlist across multiple devices.
Crackle offers a wide variety of TV shows and movies. It is completely free, and has advertisements. We've also found that Crackle has an interesting variety of modern and older shows and movies, so if you're looking for something that's hard to find elsewhere, Crackle is a good place to look. We'd like to recommend Spy Kids, a personal favorite, all-ages movie currently available on Crackle. You don't have to make an account, but doing so will sync your watchlist across multiple devices.
Tubi is much in the same vein as Pluto and Crackle--completely free, with ads, and you only need an account if you're interested in keeping track of your watch history. The variety of movies and TV shows here is a bit different than what the others offer, so it's another good source for shows. We recommend pairing all three services with a site like JustWatch, where you can look up specific movies and TV shows you're looking for, to make sure you find them.
Viki specializes in the TV shows and movies of East Asia. Whether you have roots in an East Asian country or you're simply interested in some good content, these TV shows and movies are a good bet for a great time. Viki also allows for "watch parties," allowing you to watch their content over the internet with friends. (Viki does require you make an account in order to start or join watch parties.) The free tier of Viki has ads, and some newer or premium content is only available to subscribing users. We recommend thrilling content like Signal, a show about two policemen in different decades connected by a mysterious radio signal; or, romantic content like Tale of the Nine-Tailed, about an immortal fox spirit who will have to fight the forces of evil to earn a second chance at life with his reincarnated girlfriend.
Protip: We tested the watch party feature and found that the show we shared became ad-free! We're not sure if this is a bug or a feature, but it's all the more reason to share shows with family and friends!
"Anime," the shortened name for Japanese animation, thrives on Crunchyroll. With the breadth and depth of anime available out there, we can guarantee there's a show out there for you, whether it be about robots, relationships, a horror story, or high fantasy. There are hundreds on hundreds of hours of thrilling, funny, and heartwarming content on Crunchyroll, so if you are looking for the bingefest to end all bingefests, look here for a new anime to watch! We recommend A Place Further Than The Universe, a show about a group of girls who become united in their mutual dream to go to Antarctica. Crunchyroll is free with ads, and doesn't require an account.
Musicals and plays can be hard to catch online; the specific copyrights and rules around these shows often require that they only be available for a limited time. That's why, for this one, we're not recommending any one streaming service, but a resource for many of them. This website updates regularly with the latest in free shows, so when something you're interested in becomes available, you can take advantage before it's too late.
You know we had to bring it back to home--yes, we do have free streaming content! Check the link above for a complete list of everything we offer online for free, but in terms of video, we have: Creativebug, a source for tutorials and free how-tos for all things crafty; and LinkedIn Learning, formerly known as Lynda, with classes on everything from photography to video game coding to ukulele playing. Explore the hundreds of hours of content available with your library card!