There’s a lot of good free streaming services these days. They’re getting easier to use and are having more content to watch by the day.
Sometimes called FAST services (Free Ad supported Streaming TV), they’ve been growing their libraries and popularity as traditional streaming services become less affordable.
Pluto TV is going to be the best one for most people, but it’s better to have more options in case that changes.
Why you should use free streaming services
Now’s a good time to know about the “free” streaming services out there. The usual names like Netflix and Disney are raising their prices and adding advertisements across the board. Sadly, the return of ads was likely inevitable.
But why pay for those ads if you don’t have too? I actually have a video that shows that these “free” services are getting better and will soon have more content.
The best services strike the right balance between minimal ads and greater variety or quality of content. And currently, there’s only one big winner…
Pluto TV is the Best by FAR
Right now, Pluto TV is by far the best of these free streaming services.
It's been around for a long time and has gone through many iterations and feature sets. Once upon a time I remember you could sign into your Hulu account through Pluto TV and access Hulu content in a way that resembled a traditional cable TV guide. It was pretty novel back in the day and I wish they kept that feature around personally. Pluto TV is owned by Paramount now though, so I don't think they'll be featuring their competitors anytime soon!
One of the things that makes Pluto TV stand head and shoulders above its competition is its incredible variety and quality of content. Want a channel that's dedicated to fails or Minecraft or financial news? Pluto TV has it. Want to marathon some old Godzilla movies for a limited time? Pluto TV has it. Want to watch the first season of Star Trek strange new worlds without paying for Paramount Plus? Pluto TV even has that.
Paramount uses Pluto TV sort of as an app selling tool for Paramount plus. So it will occasionally preview con tent that is in Paramount plus specifically to Pluto TV users. Their goal is to get you to sign up for Paramount Plus but honestly, I just love having something new added that I can watch even if it's for a short amount of time.
This consistent rotation of fresh things to watch along with very specific things that I enjoy makes Pluto TV a home screen app for myself and many others.
As far as advertisements go, I'd say it's very reasonable. You're still not viewing nearly as many ads as he would on cable. And a lot of ads you see are just advertising other Pluto TV channels or Paramount Plus. As the service grows in popularity, I wouldn't be surprised if we see more advertisements on Pluto TV. And as far as making money goes, Pluto TV is $1 billion revenue stream already. I'm happy they're successful.
Personally, I just hope that they don't flood my screen with ads. If they get too successful that's one of the reasons why I encourage everyone to find a few of these free streaming services there and inventories are low right now, and we should take advantage of that while we have the chance.
Smart TV Services
I think a huge factor in which of these free streaming services to use comes down to convenience. And if you have a smart TV or streaming stick, then chances are it has a free streaming service built into it! Google TV, Fire TV, Samsung TV, and a long list of others basically built in a free streaming service into their smart TV interface. Not only is it a clever strategy, but it makes it very convenient to just flick a few buttons without having to open an app and find something to watch.
I don't use any of these services personally because I already use Pluto TV. That applies twice here because a lot of these services just license Pluto TV! If the channels ever look familiar or included, Pluto TV branding, then that would be why. A lot of these companies just pay to use Pluto TVs library and technology and rebrand it/white label it for their television sets.
So then why use these over Pluto TV? Again, I think it comes back to convenience. Smart TVs make it very easy to navigate to their free streaming offerings, and it's often easier than opening and finding an app. For some people that's probably going to be enough, but you can probably tell by the length of this list that there are plenty of options.
Roku TV is a streaming service that is nearly exclusive to the smart TV platform of the same name. You can watch it through the Roku TV app on the various app stores, but they have to share real estate with the remote function which is a strange choice.
But I wanted to give it a special mention, because unlike the other smart TV services, Roku has gone through the trouble of having exclusive content!
Remember Quibi? All of the “shows” that were created for that short live service was acquired by Roku and it’s now the only place where you can watch them. Is it all worth watching? I don't know because I haven't seen all of them, but I caught Survive and The Stranger which were enjoyable.
There's another free service with exclusive content as well….
Freevee used to be known as IMDb TV. Frankly, I don't like either of the names, but I do like the service. It's basically Amazon's free streaming option placed right next to Amazon Prime Video.
But Freevee has no subscription and has a great variety of content right off the bat, though, not as much as Pluto's. It also has the added benefit of Amazon, making shows specifically for Freevee.
The main thing holding Freevee back is that, at least, in my experience, it has the most ads. This could be a thing having to do with my local area, but at the end of the day I want as few ads as possible, and Freevee has a lot.
Otherwise, I think its integration with Prime Video is its best feature. Being able to watch it from a service I already regularly use is a value-add in my book. I just hope the ads become less intrusive and obnoxious.
I considered this an honorable mention at first. But I personally use it the second most after Pluto, so that's felt a bit disingenuous.
Plex is known for their personal media server software, but they've been focusing on building out a free streaming services out of that, to the dismay of many users, who just want to use, the media management part.
I personally don't have a problem with it, and I'd rather have it and not use it to not have it at all. It's library is not terribly competitive, but it's getting better and I find myself using it a few times a month. And if you're already using the Plex software, it's a fun free add on to have in my opinion.
Crunchyroll has been around for a while and has made a name for itself as one of the biggest anime streaming services, at least in the US. To my shock and awe, it still has a free tier that lets you watch a decent variety of shows and movies. To get the latest and greatest you have to pony up for the subscription, but they give away a lot for free and for that they have my respect.
This one is a bit more obscure at the moment, but I think it will grow pretty soon. Viki is a streaming service that specializes in Korean shows and movies. Due to the success of SQUID GAME and the current shut down of Hollywood, Korean content has become more in-demand across the globe. It's been a while since I've checked in with the service and seen the quality of the content, but they still have a free ad supported to hear so I felt they were worth a mention.
On a side note, if anyone knows of a similar service, where we could stream Indian content, please let me know because I'd love to watch it!
Crackle is another one that's been around for a very long time. It doesn't have a lot of content to be fair, but it's always rotating through its library, and sometimes some gems pop up. I recently re-watched the BBC Sherlock show on Crackle, a show that I used to watch all the time on Netflix until it wasn't on there anymore. I think it's worth keeping an eye on, maybe checking in on it once a month.
Tubi gets mentioned a lot in the list of best free streaming services. But honestly, when competing head to head with Pluto TV, I think it loses on almost every front.
The other services mentioned have some sort of advantage or specialization would be in compared to Pluto TV.
- The smart TV services are more convenient since they just live on your TV.
- Services like Freevee or Plex are right next to services you might already use.
- Crunchyroll and Vicki specialize in a very specific category/language.
Tubi has no such differentiating factor. Its closest comparison is Pluto TV. And given the choice between the two, I think Pluto TV will ultimately emerge victorious.
But it is worth mentioning sense it has a pretty strong library of shows and movies each month.
Free Streaming Services have a Cost
I’ve been using the term “free” in quotations for most of this post. That’s because while you don’t pay a subscription for these services, you do pay for them in a sense.
Just like with “free” services like Instagram or YouTube or TikTok, these streaming services collect a lot of data from the devices you use them on. They uses the data mostly to match ads. But some of them reserve the right to re-sell the data they’ve collected to third parties.
Are they worth it?
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Free streaming services like Pluto TV give a much needed form of choice in the streaming space. Having the option to put up with ads without a subscription is an option I enjoy having.
I don’t think we’ll see premium streaming services go away (I didn’t cancel al of mine that’s for sure) and I do still think they’re valuables long they’re producing good stuff to watch.
Having these services compete for our attention/money is only going to make them better, which is a win for us all!