The Best Free Alternatives to Paid Streaming Services
Taken individually, streaming services aren’t that expensive. It’s $5/month here, and $10/month there. However, once you start paying for a few streaming services those costs can add up. And before you know it, you can find yourself spending $100/month.
If you’re looking to cut down on unnecessary spending, switching from paid streaming services to free streaming services can make a huge difference. And to help you achieve this, we have found the best free alternatives to the biggest paid streaming services.
To keep things simple we have focused on three different types of streaming service: Live TV streaming, on-demand streaming, and music streaming. So even if the service you pay for isn’t mentioned by name, these free alternatives are worth checking out.
If You Pay for Sling TV or YouTube TV, Try Pluto TV
Live TV streaming services are often the most expensive streaming services you can pay for. While there are cheaper options like Philo TV, which starts at $16/month, even Sling TV will cost you at least $25/month. For other options like DirecTV Now, you can pay as much as $135/month.
Pluto TV, on the other hand, is entirely free and offers more than 100 channels. You’ll find movies, sitcoms, dramas, and even a smattering of sports available, all streaming live 24 hours a day. The service also offers on-demand movies and TV shows.
Much of the content on Pluto TV is already available online in one way or another, whether it’s on YouTube or through another company’s website. What makes Pluto TV useful is how it gathers this free content into one place and presents it in a familiar format.
The Drawbacks of Pluto TV
While it has plenty to offer, Pluto TV isn’t a complete replacement for your live TV streaming service of choice. Sports coverage is one area where Pluto TV is seriously lacking. You’ll find sports commentary and replays, but if you’re looking for live sports, you won’t find them here.
You’re also not going to get the latest episodes of your favorite TV shows. While you’ll find re-runs of shows that are still airing new episodes, they won’t be coming to Pluto TV anytime soon.
One more drawback is the ads. These aren’t much of a problem with live TV, since we’re already used to seeing these on paid live TV services anyway. With on-demand content though, the ads can get annoying.
If You Pay for Netflix or HBO Now, Try Tubi TV
Compared to live TV streaming services, on-demand services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now don’t cost as much. However, you may not use them as much as you thought you would, which means you’re spending money for no reason. This is especially true if you subscribe to multiple services.
If you’d like to cut one or more of these services without giving up on on-demand TV shows and movies, give Tubi TV a try. It’s entirely free of charge, relying instead on ad revenue. That said, the ads aren’t any more obnoxious than what you’ll find on Hulu’s cheapest plan.
While you’ll also find on-demand content with Pluto TV, Tubi’s library is much larger. The service has content from more than 200 partners, including Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount, and Starz. The service even has a “Not on Netflix” section that makes it ideal as a supplemental service to Netflix.
The Drawbacks of Tubi TV
Tubi TV generally has a wealth of content available, but there are some areas where its library seems lacking. TV comedies are one example. Unless you’re looking for older sitcoms like Alf or 3rd Rock From the Sun, there isn’t much for you here.
One other drawback with Tubi TV is the lack of subtitles. Because only some of Tubi’s content partners provide subtitles, you won’t find subtitles available for every video. This won’t be an issue for everyone, but it could be a deal breaker for some, especially since there is no way of filtering by the availability of subtitles.
If You Pay for Spotify or Apple Music, Try Spotify Free
It seems like most people pay for a music streaming service such as Apple Music or YouTube Music Premium these days. The vast majority of them start at $9.99/month, which isn’t all that much for access to millions of songs. The surprising thing is just how much they offer for free, especially Spotify.
If you let your Spotify Premium subscription lapse, you might not even notice at first, especially if you mainly use the app on a computer. That’s an indicator of just how much you get with a free Spotify account. You can listen to most of your favorite artists, playlists, and other songs without problems.
On a mobile device, the free account is more limited. You can only listen to artists and albums in Shuffle mode. You’ll also hear ads every few songs. Still, it’s surprisingly capable for something that’s free to use.
The Drawbacks of Spotify Free
Aside from what is already mentioned above, there are a few more drawbacks with a free Spotify account. The first is that with some new releases, you won’t be able to listen to them until they’ve been out for a couple of weeks.
The other, more glaring drawback is audio quality. While Spotify Premium streams at a 320 kbps bitrate, the free version streams at 160 kbps on your computer or 96 kbps on your mobile device. This is a drop in quality that won’t be noticeable to everyone, but will be noticeable to the audiophiles out there.
Furthermore, on the Free tier, you can’t save songs to your device for offline playback. This means if you live in an area with spotty cellular reception, you may end up without access to music for long periods at a time.
Other Free Alternatives Worth Considering
Streaming services aren’t the only services with monthly fees that can chew a hole in your wallet. Audible is the go-to source for audiobooks for many people, and the service starts at $14.95/month.
Popular as it is, Audible isn’t the only place you can get audiobooks. If you’re looking to save money on this front, take a look at our guide to getting audiobooks on the cheap.
Another Amazon service, Kindle Unlimited, promises an all-you-can-eat buffet of books for $9.99/month. Instead of paying for this service, these websites that all Kindle owners should know about can help you save some serious dough.
Looking for Even More Free Content?
To keep things easy, in this article we have focused on one recommendation for each category of streaming service. However, there’s obviously more than one alternative worth considering.
Take movies, for example. If you’re looking for even more free movies to watch, here are the best free movie streaming sites that won’t cost you a cent.
Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.