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Could free television streaming catch on?

Peacock TV on iPad
Peacock TV on iPad (Image credit: Bryan M. Wolfe / iMore)

Last week, NBCUniversal introduced Peacock TV, the latest video streaming service to launch in the United States. Unlike Disney+, Apple TV+, and HBO Max before it, Peacock TV offers a free tier alongside paid options. This begs the question of whether other streaming services such as Netflix and Hulu should consider freebie plans. Perhaps, although viewers already have plenty of other free options to consider first.

What is Peacock TV's free service?

Not everything in the world of cord-cutting will cost you money. Peacock TV's free option includes thousands of hours of on-demand film and TV content and a sampling of its live streaming channels, such as Top Stories and Today All Day. What the free plan doesn't offer, however, is access to the service's original content, such as "Brave New World," and much of its library content.

NBCUniversal should be praised for at least offering a piece of Peacock TV for free. And yet, there's no denying the goal here isn't to attract a long-standing army of free subscribers. Instead, it's about opening the paywall just enough to convince those doing the sampling to switch to a paid tier quickly. Whether NBCUniversal's gamble pays off is unknown at this point. However, if much of the country remains mostly locked down this fall and winter, someone at the company will deserve a raise.

Other Freebie Opportunities

Peacock isn't the only game in town, although some of the alternatives are better than others.

Plex Live TV

Perhaps the most interesting is also the newest. On Thursday, Plex began offering a free 80-channel Live TV package to go along with its ad-supported movies, podcasts, and streaming music. The service includes Reuters and Yahoo Finance, Tastemade, fubo Sports Network, kids shows like Toon Googles, and more.

The new service requires no new hardware or setup and works through an updated Plex app across multiple platforms, including iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.

Pluto TV

Pluto TV is available across all the common platforms and features on-demand movies and a selection of live TV channels. It recently started offering a sampling of select ViacomCBS shows, including "Survivor," "South Park," and "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Sling TV Free

Launched in May, Sling TV Free is similar to Peacock TV's free offering in that it offers a selection of movies and TV shows for absolutely nothing. All the content is ad-supported with many of the commercials designed to convince you to move up to a paid plan.

Others

There are other free solutions to take a look, including:

  • IMDb TV: Once called FreeDive, IMDb comes from the Amazon subsidiary by the same name. You can stream the free content through any browser and the Amazon Prime Video app. It's also (surprise, surprise) available through Fire TV streamers.
  • Crackle: The free service comes from Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Sony Pictures Television, and Columbia Pictures, and offers programming from those companies and more.
  • Tubi TV: Recently acquired by the newly created Fox Corporation, Tubi TV includes programming from Paramount, Lionsgate, MGM, and Starz.

Hardware-Specific

Free video streaming packages aren't only tied to software. You can also find them through devices such as Roku and smart televisions. These options aren't available on mobile devices but instead are designed for a bigger screen.

  • Roku Channel (opens in new tab): You'll find an ever-changing mix of free movies, shows, live news, kids' TV, and more, on this service exclusive to Roku streaming devices and televisions. You can also add premium subscriptions within the app to enhance the experience.
  • Samsung TV Plus (opens in new tab): New Samsung smart TV owners can experience a large line-up of free channels built right into their device's operating system. Included here are news, sports, entertainment, and kids' channels.
  • LG Channel Plus (opens in new tab): The home to the best-selling OLED television also offers a list of free channels that the entire family can enjoy. The 175-channel package is powered by XUMO and combines digital internet channels with your broadcast or cable/satellite television lineup.

Are more freebies coming?

We shouldn't expect Netflix, Disney+, and similar services to offer free-tiered subscriptions anytime soon unless subscription numbers unexpectantly fall. And even then, the services might forgo a forever free option for longer free trials. In the meantime, there's plenty of free content already available across multiple services and platforms. Sample the ones that are right for you and enjoy!

What free TV service do you use across your devices? Let us know below.

Bryan M Wolfe
Staff Writer

Bryan M. Wolfe has written about technology for over a decade on various websites, including TechRadar, AppAdvice, and many more. Before this, he worked in the technology field across different industries, including healthcare and education. He’s currently iMore’s lead on all things Mac and macOS, although he also loves covering iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch. Bryan enjoys watching his favorite sports teams, traveling, and driving around his teenage daughter to her latest stage show, audition, or school event in his spare time. He also keeps busy walking his black and white cocker spaniel, Izzy, and trying new coffees and liquid grapes.

1 Comment
  • Free is a joke. They have one season of a show that has five, and then only four episodes of that season. A currently running show. CBS All Access makes Peacock look like a plucked chicken. It's as worthless as Quiby. And it's not free. They have two tiers of paid programming. They are nearly as bad for NBC's inventory of shows. There's some interesting-looking new shows. But I'm not going to bother. There's already so much good stuff out there I don't have time to watch it all anyway.