Free Netflix alternatives: The best streaming services for movies and TV shows

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Free Netflix alternatives: The best streaming services for movies and TV shows
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If you’re a Neflix subscriber who has run out of things to binge-watch or you just want to cancel your membership to save money, there are other options for streaming TV shows and movies online.

I’ve spent the last few months testing out three free streaming services: Pluto TV, The Roku Channel and Sony Crackle.

RELATED: The best live TV streaming services for cord-cutters in 2018

Free Netflix alternatives: Pluto TV vs. Roku Channel vs. Sony Crackle

Like Netflix and other subscription-based streaming services such as Hulu and Amazon Video, these free services have hundreds of movies, TV shows and documentaries to view.

After you download the apps, you can start streaming to your TV set within seconds by connecting a supported device.

The biggest difference between Netflix and the free streaming services that I’ve reviewed is the content itself. Netflix offers more original hit shows like “Stranger Things,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Master of None.”

The streaming libraries for the free services are more random, but plenty of entertaining options can be found.

My favorite of the three free streaming services is Pluto TV. In addition to its library of free movies and TV shows, its live TV guide makes it easy to watch 24/7 news from CBSN, Cheddar, Bloomberg News and more.

In general, hit movies, news and TV shows grab the most attention on Pluto TV, according to a company spokesperson.

Pluto TV organizes its more than 100 channels by genre to keep you entertained for hours. Here’s a sample of Pluto TV’s lineup and descriptions provided by the service:

  • Pluto TV Movies: Box office smashes featuring the biggest stars 24/7; new movies added every week
  • CBSN: Never miss out on breaking news with CBSN, the channel that brings you original reporting from CBS News
  • Crime Network: Full seasons of hard-hitting detective dramas, action-packed movies and true crime docs
  • FOX Sports: Game highlights, clips from FS1 studio shows and Fox Sports Digital originals
  • FrontDoor: Information and inspiration to help you make the most out of your home
  • Food TV: Featuring hit TV shows, “Iron Chef: America” and “Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations”
Pluto's TV guide feature
Pluto’s TV guide feature

The content library is impressive for a free service, but many of the movies and TV shows were released several years or even several decades ago.

If you download Pluto TV or any of its free competitors and expect shows from 2018, you’ll likely be disappointed.

To support the service, Pluto TV and other free streaming services run advertisements. However, there are far fewer ads than if you sat down to watch a traditional broadcast network like ABC, CBS, FOX or NBC.

Here’s a closer look at the key things you need to know about Pluto TV, The Roku Channel and Sony Crackle…

Pluto TV 

Pluto TV: Pros and cons

Pros Cons
Live news networks among 100+ channels; lots of content to browse Live TV guide only lets you see 2 hours into the future
Navigation: Live TV guide and thumbnails for on-demand content Can be hard to tell which channels are live vs. recorded shows and clips only
Far fewer ads than traditional TV

RELATED CONTENT: Pluto TV review: 5 things to know about the free live TV streaming service

The Roku Channel 

The Roku Channel: Pros and cons

Pros Cons
“Featured” and “Catch it Before it’s Gone” categories Non-Roku streaming players like Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast aren’t supported
ABC News Live and other live news networks Limited recent TV shows and movies
Half the ads of traditional TV
Now available to stream at TheRokuChannel.com without a Roku device

RELATED: The Roku Channel review: Watch free movies and TV with half the ads

Sony Crackle 

Sony Crackle: Pros and cons

Pros  Cons
Original shows that you can’t find on any other streaming service No live programming options
Half the ads of traditional TV Lots of TV shows but not enough episodes
Simple navigation by category: comedy, action, drama, etc. Advertisements may play before shows or movies even start

RELATED CONTENT: Sony Crackle review: The free way to stream hit TV shows and movies

Find the best free movies and TV shows faster 

If you have a Roku device, finding the best free movies and TV shows from Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Sony Crackle and others just got a whole lot easier.

Roku launched “Featured Free” in August 2018 to spotlight programming from multiple content partners — all in one place.

In addition to TV shows and movies from The Roku Channel, you’ll find entertainment options from ABC, The CW, FOX, Freeform, Pluto TV, Sony Crackle, Tubi and others.

That way, you don’t have to open up a bunch of separate apps to search for TV shows and movies.

Featured Free doesn’t include the entire streaming library for The Roku ChannelPluto TV and Sony Crackle, but you’ll get a glimpse into some great content that you probably didn’t realize you could stream for free.

What’s your favorite free streaming service? Let Team Clark know below in the comments section!

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Michael Timmermann paid off his mortgage in two years. Now, he shares his money-saving tips on his blog, MichaelSaves.com.
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