Ways to Stream for Free or Cheap

As more consumers are cutting cable, I thought it would be interesting to compare a few free and cheap sites for online streaming of television shows and movies.  Below are some of the more popular websites – it’s pretty overwhelming how many choices there are, but there is quite a bit of overlap!

  • Netflix – For $7.99 monthly, you can purchase unlimited streaming from Netflix online.  Pros include no ads, but notably Netflix’s TV shows always seem at least a season outdated.  I don’t have a Netflix account myself but my son uses it for its large selection of movies.  Currently, they also allow users to use the same account on many devices at different locations, I know my son has watched Netflix while staying in a hotel.
  • Hulu – Hulu allows viewing of a limited selection of shows for free with only 2-3 minutes of ads, so I highly recommend checking out their site.  If you pay the $8.99 monthly fee, you will get access to all their shows.  For me, Hulu is great for TV shows and probably has the best, most current selection for TV shows, but has such a limited movie collection, it’s sad.  I watch the documentaries there too, but even that is a pretty small collection.
  • AmazonPrime – For $79 a year, Amazon offers Amazon Instant video which has television shows, classic movies, and some other rather random offerings.  The perks include free 2-day shipping on orders (unless those items are “Add On” and then you have to order at least $25 worth) and you get to borrow one free Kindle book each month, the selection is limited to what is offered at the time you want to check out a book.  Because $79 is a hefty commitment, some consumers might be better offer just purchasing individual shows or movies from Amazon individually.
  • Crackle – Crackle is 100% free.  Advertisements pay for the streaming, but the selection is what you pay for.  Crackle is worth checking for movies, but not dependable as a main source of streaming.
  • Television station sites – From PBS to ABC, many stations have their own sites where they offer a few episodes of popular shows for free.  The ads are typically longer than on Hulu and the streaming tends to be a bit slower, but the most recent episodes are typically posted, so this is a great source of really new material.
  • YouTube – recently I discovered that there is a channel on YouTube which presents a series of short films and documentaries about the lives of women. It is called WIGS, each show is about some issue that women face. There are several series and each series is made up of a few episodes, each show lasting just a quarter of an hour. I’ve watched a few of the series, here’s a link to one of the newest ones: Susanna is a single mother with a history of depression who is afraid of hurting her infant who is always crying.  On YouTube you can now watch some television shows like The Office for $1.99 per episode.

We subscribe to DirecTV but that is mostly for my son who is disabled. I personally don’t watch television, although years ago I watched quite a lot.  I was just commenting to my husband the other day how it’s so weird that we never watch television. We do have AmazonPrime and watch movies occasionally.

What I thought was very interesting is that with television there is a beginning and an end, there are commercial breaks.  I wondered if television has an effect of helping to keep people on a schedule?  Some people live by the shows they watch, retiring at night in bed to watch the news or the late night show.  Now that I never watch television I feel like I’m constantly working at something. If it’s not on the computer, it’s cleaning, paying bills or reading.  Hmmm… maybe I should start watching television again?

How do you watch TV?

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2 thoughts on “Ways to Stream for Free or Cheap

  1. We have streaming Netflix and other sites like Crackle from our Roku device but we don’t use it very often because for me, nothing beats a good Lifetime Movie Channel movie with bad husbands and evil mother-in-laws you just love to hate! For some reason, watching Lifetime movies is the best stress reliever I know besides Hershey’s! It gets me off my laptop in the evening and that’s quite an accomplishment! My husband likes Lifetime too, although he’s hooked on Animal Planet and Walker, Texas Ranger reruns on WGN. To each his own…
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