When cord-cutting became a thing, it was all about saving money. Today, cord-cutting costs are catching up with cable. Indeed, with Disney Plus coming, with its must-watch package of Marvel Universe, Star Wars, and Disney films, plus internet TV streaming services like AT&T DirecTV Now drastically raising its prices, I can easily see a cord cutter's total viewing bill crossing the $100-a-month barrier.
Fortunately, there are some answers.
There's at least one inexpensive TV-bundling service: Philo TV. At $16 a month for three simultaneous streams of 45 popular channels, it's a steal. But, if you can live with commercials, there are at least 10 good free streaming services to try.
Cord cutting on the cheap
First, get a Roku
To access most of these streaming servcies, you'll need an up-to-date Roku streaming device. A big reason why I recommend Roku is it gives you access to more online-streaming services than any of the others. To find these, check out the Roku Channel Store
In addition, there are literally hundreds of more obscure channels. Want to stream stuff for your cat? Your dog? Want to watch 50s TV shows? Practice yoga? Follow technology news with CNET? It's all there -- and it's all free.
Next, try private channels
There are also private Roku channels, which are not listed on the Roku Channel Store. To add these, you'll must manually enter their channel access codes. The best of these let you watch The Internet Archive's public domain videos. The best known of private channel had been Nowhere TV with a hodgepodge of content, but it's no longer available in the US.
While private channels can be fun, be wary of them. Roku doesn't support or vet these networks. Some content may be pirated, or they may disappear from one day to another.
Now check out these free streaming services
The networks below are legal, stable, and will likely to be available for years to come.
Hoopla and Kanopy
The first two -- Hoopla and Kanopy -- require you to have a library card with a library system that supports either of them. Their offerings aren't quite identical, but they both offer high-end movies and documentaries. They also come with a lot of PBS titles and The Great Courses (a personal favorite). Hoopla also offers ebooks and music, while Kanopy comes with movies from the Criterion Collection.
Unfortunately, you probably can't get both services. Darn it!
Crackle is perhaps the best-known free streaming TV and movie service. Sponsored by Sony, Crackle boasts TV shows and movies from the 80s through the 00s. You'll also find newer films on it sometimes, as well as bit of original content such as StartUp, a dark show about technology companies. Call it organized crime 2.0. It's a hidden gem of a show with actors such as Martin Freedman, Ronald Perlman, and Adam Brody. Give Crackle and StartUp a try.
Everyone knows about Amazon Prime Video. It's a great add-on if you're already an Amazon Prime customer. But, did you know Amazon also offers a commercial-driven free video service? Well, now you do. It's IMDb Freedive. This is a video-on-demand (VoD) service. It features older TV shows including Fringe, Heroes, The Bachelor, and Without a Trace and commercial movies such as Awakenings, Memento, Monster, The Illusionist, and Groundhog Day.
IMDb Freedrive is only available in the US. It's also the only free channel not available on Roku. You can either watch it on your computer or with an Amazon Fire TV device.
For another good free VoD network check out FilmRise. Its movies tend to be more obscure, but it offers a good selection of popular TV shows such as Third Rock from the Sun, Cybill, and Roseanne.
You may already know about Pluto TV. If offers access to dozens of other streaming networks with a single interface. Some of these "channels" aren't that interesting, but then, there are others, like Mystery Science Theater 3000 (classic MST3K shows), The Onion, and RiffTrax, which bring a smile to my face. Give it a look. I'll bet you'll find something you like, too.
Viacom is buying Pluto TV, however, so I'm not sure how much longer Pluto TV will be free.
The Roku Channel
Roku is also offering its own network now: The Roku Channel. It borrows free movies and TV shows from other streaming networks and its own free content. It offers a mix of older and current TV shows and films. One interesting twist is you can watch these not only with your Roku but on the web via The Roku Channel for the web.
TubI TV is one of the better free VoD services. It comes with perhaps the biggest video library, with 7,000 titles. That's thanks to its access to Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount Pictures, and Starz Digital's libraries. If you register, which I recommend you do, you can resume play from where you stopped to let in the cat. For a free service, that's a nice benefit.
You probably know Vudu as Walmart's online rental VoD service. What you probably didn't know is it also offers free movies and shows, with commercials. These are usually older shows (21 Jump Street and WildFire) and movies (National Lampoon Vacation, Gods of Egypt). But, for free, what's to argue with?
Finally, Xumo is a lot like Pluto TV. It others a wide variety of networks with an even wider variety of shows. If you're a golfer, you'll like that Xumo is the first network to carry the PGA Tour' new streaming channel. One nice feature is that as it learns what shows you like and offers you selections it believes you'll want to watch.
Yes, you do have to put up with commercials on all of these -- and there's no DVR features to be seen. But, they are free, and with so many selections to choose from, I can guarantee you'll find something to watch that won't hurt your pocketbook by even a single penny.