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Watch TV, Free


Cord-cutting was supposed to save money. But these days, just as people are watching more, they’re paying for streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Disney Plus and Apple TV Plus. Added together, those six cost at least $52 a month.

Or you could be getting your TV and movies free — legally — from a swarm of Netflix-like services whose names are much less familiar.

What’s the catch? Some of these services show ads. Recent blockbusters are scarce, and the catalogs are usually padded with direct-to-video, not-exactly-Oscar-bait efforts like “Frankenfish” and “Cocaine Cowboys 2: Hustlin’ With the Godmother.”

Still, there’s a world of watch-worthy stuff on these services, all of it free. They’re available on the web, or if you who prefer watching on a TV, most work with an AppleTV, a Roku box or an Amazon Fire Stick.

These are six of the best free streaming sites.

IMDb TV The free site, owned by Amazon, plays a couple of ads per movie, but rewards you with boatloads of big-name flicks like “Spotlight,” “Memento,” “My Girl,” “Airplane,” “Midnight in Paris,” “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” and “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Good classic TV awaits, too, like “Lost,” “Murder, She Wrote,” “Columbo” and “Friday Night Lights.” imdb.com/tv

Tubi Owned by Fox, this service teems with terrific titles, not all from the Pleistocene era. You can find “The Big Short,” “Kill Bill,” “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “Early Man,” “The Terminator,” “Sweeney Todd,” and four installments of the “Sharknado” oeuvre. You can browse useful categories like “Not on Netflix,” “Highly Rated on Rotten Tomatoes,” “Black Cinema,” “Cult Classics” and “Musicals.”

This also seems to be a retirement home for 1960s TV, like “Laugh-In,” “The Green Hornet” and “That Girl.”

The price: Four minutes’ worth of ads per hour — the same ones, over and over. tubitv.com

Kanopy This service is focused on documentaries (6,000 of them) and independent films. You sign in with a library or college ID card; no ads appear to disrupt the highbrow streaming satisfaction.

The catalog makes you feel as if you’re right there at Sundance: “Lady Bird,” “Moonlight,” “Eighth Grade,” “The Disaster Artist,” “Room,” “Captain Fantastic,” “Ex Machina,” and so on. The documentaries include “Queen of Versailles,” “Leviathan” and enough Ken Burns to last three pandemics. kanopy.com

Crackle With a block of ads playing every 20 minutes or so, Crackle offers a rotating collection of 700 movies (“10 Cloverfield Lane,” “Gattaca,” “Girl, Interrupted,” seven “Friday the 13th” movies) and 4,500 old TV episodes (“3rd Rock From the Sun,” “Charlie’s Angels,” “Fantasy Island”).

You’ll sift through a lot of garbage to find the gems, though. For every “Marathon Man,” there’s a “Snake Man,” “Shark Man” and “Mosquito Man.” crackle.com

The Roku Channel Roku sells set-top boxes, but offers this free “channel” to anyone online. Each category (“Comedies,” “War Movies” and so on) appears on a single row of tiles — TV and movies mixed together — making it tedious to scan the offerings. But if you can handle eight ads an hour, you’ll find treasures like “Memento,” “Purple Rain,” “Contact,” “The Shining,” “Dirty Harry,” “Gremlins,” “Ordinary People” and “Thelma and Louise.”

This site is also a happy home for formative Baby Boomer fare like “Bewitched,” “The Beverly Hillbillies,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” “My Favorite Martian,” “Flipper,” “Lost in Space,” “Batman” and “Charlie’s Angels.” therokuchannel.roku.com.

Pluto TV ViacomCBS’s free site offers two modes: First is a guide grid that impersonates cable-TV listings. Each of the 250 “channels” offers a stream of movies or TV shows in one category: Action, Comedy, Reality, Animals and so on. (You can’t pause or rewind these “broadcasts.”)

The other mode, On Demand, offers a parade of Clinton-era hits like “Johnny Mnemonic,” “Gattaca” and “The Birdcage,” along with a huge trove of TV from Viacom cupboards like Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central. Repetitive ads play every 12 minutes or so. pluto.tv



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