If you're searching online for free TV shows to watch, there's a good chance that you could end up on a sketchy website. Some of them may try to get your credit card information while others provide access to pirated content. Still, there are several websites, apps and streaming services that you can use to watch TV shows online legally and free. Among them are Crackle, CW TV, Pluto TV and Hoopla.
If you're looking for a full list of websites that let you watch TV shows that you'd normally have to pay for, you won't find it here. Instead, I've compiled 12 completely legal websites where you can watch TV shows for free, most of which are ad-supported.
When you visit some of these websites or download the apps, you might have to create a free account in order to access the free content. Still, you shouldn't have to download anything or enter any payment information to watch legal, free TV shows online. At most, you might have to disable your ad blocker.
Hoopla is the digital service of Midwest Tape, which is one of the leading providers of entertainment and media to public libraries across North America. On Hoopla, you'll find digital videos including TV shows and movies as well as music, audiobooks, e-books and more from more than 1,500 libraries.
Hoopla works just like a public library in the sense that you can borrow digital copies of TV shows at any time by using your local library card. If you have a library card, you can create a Hoopla account for free online. You will have to log in before you'll be able to "borrow" anything.
Once you've found a TV show you'd like to watch, you can see the details, description and ratings from other Hoopla users. The shows that I chose let me borrow just one episode at a time. If you're ready to check something out, just click "borrow" beneath the show. You'll see a message that lets you know how long you'll have access to the show (typically 2-3 days) and whether it's available for streaming, downloading or both. The title will automatically be "returned" when it's due back, but you can return it sooner to check out the next episode.
Once you've borrowed a show or movie, you can watch it at any time without any advertisements. Subtitles are also typically available.
CW Seed is a great resource that streams more than 1,000 hours of comedy, action and drama shows in addition to free live TV. CW Seed's tagline is "Free for all," and fittingly, all of the shows you'll find on this resource are available for free.
When I checked out CW Seed, I saw episodes for several popular shows including "90210," "The Secret Circle," "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" and more. You can check out a full list of available on-demand shows here.
If you find a title you'd like to watch, you can click on it to begin playing the first available episode. The show will instantly begin streaming, but you'll most likely have to watch an ad or two before getting started. After that, you can expect periodic ads throughout the show. As you can see in the screenshot above, in a 21-minute episode, I saw three advertisements after the show began.
CW Seed is available online or as an app for your iOS or Android device. You will have to disable your ad blocker before you can stream if you're watching on a web browser. You can also get CW Seed for Roku, Chromecast, Android TV, AirPlay, Apple TV, Xbox One and Amazon Fire TV.
Pluto TV is an internet television service that provides free, ad-supported content including live TV and on-demand titles. There are hundreds of free TV channels to browse and thousands of free movies available on demand.
Whether you're watching live channels and on-demand titles, you'll see occasional advertisements in the same way that you would with traditional TV. In my experience, ads usually popped up around every eight minutes.
You don't have to create an account to stream content, but it is free to sign up for one if you want. Having an account allows you to keep track of your favorite movies and channels and get updates on new content.
Fortunately, you don't have to own a Roku device to access the free content on The Roku Channel. You can visit the website in any browser or download the app for iOS, Android or Amazon Fire TV devices among others.
When I checked out The Roku Channel, I visited the website on my laptop. I was immediately asked to create an account or sign in to access premium subscriptions, continue watching shows where I left off and get personalized recommendations. Still, an account isn't required to stream content. However, I did have to disable my ad blocker before I was able to stream anything.
In the screenshot above, you can see that the show is about 22 minutes and there's only one advertisement, midway through it. For most shows, closed captions are also available.
Owned by Amazon, IMDb TV is another free, ad-supported streaming video resource. You can access content on the IMDb website, the Amazon Prime Video app and Amazon Fire TV devices.
In order to watch free TV shows on IMDb TV, you will have to sign in. Creating an account is easy and free, but you can also log in using your Amazon, Facebook, Google or Apple account. Once you're logged in, you'll be able to stream free TV shows and movies instantly. You'll also be able to add videos to a watchlist and save your place if you need to pause the video. You can continue watching it at a different time or on a different device.
The videos on IMDb TV can't be purchased or downloaded to be watched offline. And you will have to watch a few advertisements throughout the show. In the 42-minute episode below, you can see that there are five advertisement breaks.
When I checked out IMDb TV, I found a few popular TV shows in the "Recently Added" section including "Malcolm in the Middle," "Ugly Betty" and "Lost." In addition to hit TV shows and top Hollywood movies, you'll also find IMDb TV originals and a whole section of "Hidden Gems."
Crackle is owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment and Sony Pictures Television. On this streaming service, you'll find original content in addition to TV shows and movies that have been acquired from other companies.
Crackle features both new and old TV shows and movies. You'll find a variety of genres including TV shows that feature famous names as well as hidden talent.
You can use Crackle for free on several popular platforms including web browsers, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Chromecast, Roku, Android and Apple devices. For a full list of supported devices, visit the website.
You won't have to create an account in order to access free content, but if you want to save any TV shows to watch later, you'll need to log in. Still, creating an account is easy and free. Click "Sign in" on the homepage to get started.
Whether you decide to create a free account or stream TV shows without one, you will have to watch a few advertisements. Because of that, you'll need to disable any ad blockers before streaming online. According to the website, running commercials during TV shows and movies allows Crackle to ensure that the service stays free in the U.S. and Australia.
Before a TV show begins, you'll have to sit through one or two advertisements. After it starts, you'll have a few commercial breaks throughout the show. The episode in the screenshot above is nearly 22 minutes long, and you can see that there are two commercial breaks after it begins.
There's a great selection of independent films and original TV shows produced by Chicken Soup for the Soul, which makes it a great place to look for family and kids' shows. Once you find something you'd like to watch, you can begin streaming it instantly after watching one or two advertisements.
You won't have to create an account in order to stream shows on Popcornflix, but you will have to pause or disable your ad blocker if you're visiting the website. The advertisements work more like an ad you would see while playing an online game, meaning you may have the option to skip some ads after a brief preview.
Owned by Fox Corporation, Tubi is another ad-supported streaming service. On Tubi, you'll find thousands of TV shows and movies that you can stream legally and free.
To start streaming, visit the website online or download the app using one of the following devices: Android, iOS, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Xfinity X1, Xbox, Samsung Smart TV, Sony Smart TV or PlayStation. For a full list of supported devices and how to stream Tubi, visit the website.
I found both on-demand TV shows and movies from channels like A&E, Fox, Lifetime and more on Tubi. There were also several popular reality shows including "The Bachelor" and "Dance Moms" as well as quite a few older films including "Ernest Goes to School," "The Temptations" and more.
Once you find a TV show or movie you'd like to watch, you can click play to immediately begin streaming. I didn't run into any ads on the videos I watched, but you can expect them to pop up a few times throughout a show or movie. You will have to disable your ad blocker to begin streaming.
Formerly owned by Walmart, Vudu is a digital video store and streaming service now owned by Fandango Media. You can rent and buy TV shows or movies from Vudu, but you'll also find a selection of titles available for free and instant streaming. Of course, these free shows/movies are ad-supported.
To begin watching videos on Vudu, you'll need to create a free account using your name and email address. Once you're logged in, you can instantly stream any title labeled "free with ads."
If you scroll over the "Free" tab at the top of the screen, you can click on "TV" to narrow your results. From there, you can sort by release date or most watched. You can also click on "Filters" to further narrow your results by genre, rating and more.
After you find a TV show you'd like to watch, you'll most likely have to sit through 2-3 advertisements before getting started. Once the ads are over, you can expect advertisements to pop up periodically. You can choose between SD and HDX video qualities, and most shows come with optional closed captions.
Major Genres: Classic TV, cartoons, crime, drama, sci-fi, war, westers
Best For: Retro TV shows
Platforms: computer (streaming)
If you're strictly interested in retro television, Retrovision TV is a resource worth checking out. On Retrovision TV, you'll find a selection of classic TV shows as well as movies available for instant streaming.
While there isn't currently an app available for iOS or Android devices, the Retrovision TV website is relatively straightforward and simple to use. Thankfully, you don't have to create an account or sign in to access free content. Instead, you can just click on the title of a show or movie you'd like to watch and click play in the website's media player.
When you first visit the website, you can click on the categories listed across the top of the screen to narrow your search results. When I checked out Retrovision, I clicked on "Classic TV" and found a huge selection of recognizable titles including "Beverly Hillbillies," "Sherlock Holmes" and "Bonanza" among others.
I didn't have to disable my ad blocker to watch the TV shows, and I didn't run into any ads while I was streaming. Still, be prepared for ads to pop up occasionally while you're streaming free TV shows.
Crunchyroll is a WarnerMedia company that streams anime in more than 200 countries and territories. If you're a fan of anime, this is the free streaming resource for you. Crunchyroll provides access to both popular titles and original shows for free.
As I scrolled through popular animes, I recognized popular titles including "One Piece," "Black Clover," "My Hero Academia" and "Attack on Titan" among the hundreds of free shows. The majority of the content available on Crunchyroll has Japanese voice acting with English subtitles, but there's a selection of shows that are dubbed in English. You can find a list of these shows on the website.
You don't have to create an account to access the free content on Crunchyroll. But you will see advertisements that encourage you to pay for a premium membership. The paid membership allows you to watch an unlimited amount of shows without ads, plus members get access to new episodes sooner after they're released. Members are also able to download content for offline viewing. You can still stream content online for free with ads though. Just note that the newest episodes may not be available immediately.
When you find something you'd like to watch, you can start streaming it instantly in your browser or on the app/platform of your choice. If you want to add any shows to a watch later list, you'll need to create a free account.
Yidio is a little different from the other resources on this list because it's a video aggregator that compiles links to videos and TV shows available on other streaming services/websites.
Of course, there are a few TV shows on Yidio that are only available from paid streaming services like Amazon Prime, Hulu, Disney+ and Netflix, but you can filter your search results by source and availability including free-only titles.
You can watch most of the videos available through Yidio on any web browser, your smartphone, tablet, through a streaming media player or on game consoles. For a quick reference of which streaming services are supported on which devices, be sure to check out Yidio's website.
You won't have to create an account in order to use Yidio, but signing up for one is free. Having an account allows you to keep track of your favorite TV shows. Whether you decide to create an account or begin streaming instantly, you'll just need to click the TV show's title to see where it's available for free once you've found something you'd like to watch.
If you have a specific TV show in mind, Yidio is a great resource to check and see if it’s available for free online.
If you're looking for an ad-free or offline experience, using your library card to access Hoopla is the best option for you. For live TV and on-demand shows, check out CW Seed, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel or IMDb TV. Additionally, you'll find more ad-powered on-demand TV shows at Crackle, Popcornflix, Tubi and Vudu.
If you’re mostly interested in classic, nostalgic TV shows that you can watch on your computer, be sure to visit Retrovision TV’s website. Anime fans will find thousands of episodes available for free on Crunchyroll. And if you have a specific TV show in mind, be sure to check out Yidio where you can quickly check to see if it’s available for free anywhere online.
No matter where you decide to watch free TV shows online, just make sure you're doing it legally and safely. While you may have to disable your ad blocker online or enter your email address to create a free account you shouldn't have to download anything to your computer or enter any payment information.
What are your favorite websites for watching free TV shows online? Let us know in the comments below!