How to Stream TV Shows and Movies for Free (or Almost Free)
Paid streaming subscriptions aren't your only option. Here, we look at some free (and legal) streaming services for your TV and movie needs. Photo: 10'000 Hours/Getty Images
Whether it’s to replace a cable TV subscription or to augment it, millions of Canadians have turned to streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Crave, Apple TV+, Disney+, and YouTube Premium, to name just a few.
Therein lies the problem: with prices averaging about $13 a month between the big players, subscription costs can really add up — especially if you opt for a few services to binge a variety of TV shows and movies.
It also defeats the purpose of cord-cutting, if we’re back to paying $80 to $100 a month, what we would pay for cable. As a result, budget-conscious consumers are discovering free (and legal) streaming solutions, referred to as “AVOD” or “FAST” services, both of which contain advertisements between and during content.
But hey, free is free.
AVOD vs. FAST
AVOD stands for ad-supported video-on-demand, where you can tune into the content when you want (like Netflix). You can pause a movie or show, skip forward to the next video and perhaps “binge” an entire season of something over a weekend.
Similarly, FAST is an acronym for free ad-supported television, which offer more traditional “linear” channels, with a program guide, you can leave on all day to see what’s playing.
“More and more people are embracing free ad-supported video-on-demand streaming services because they offer an incredible amount of content, a frictionless experience and a low ad load,” says Adam Lewinson, chief content officer at Tubi.
“We know people love their subscription-based services for water-cooler content, but they can really add up, and that’s where the value of a service like Tubi comes in.” The programming also includes shows for Canada’s multicultural population, Lewinson says, adding the service is “dedicated to providing all people access to all the world’s stories … that showcases diverse voices and stories.”
What You Need to Get Going
If you’ve got an internet connection and a screen, you can watch AVOD and FAST services on just about anything. That is, you can usually access content on their websites (and no registration is necessary) or by downloading a free app (iOS or Android) for viewing on a smartphone or tablet.
When on an iPhone, iPad or Android, you can choose to wirelessly “cast” the video to a nearby and compatible smart TV or streaming device plugged into a television (like Roku, Google Chromecast or Amazon Fire TV stick). You need to be on the same Wi-Fi network as your television.
Smart TVs also let you install apps for many of these AVOD and FAST services, as well as video game consoles like PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
Many of Canada’s biggest national networks offer their own streaming apps, including CTV, Global TV and CBC Gem.
These, too, are free to use on a limited basis, but as users begin to unlock more content and features, they’ll often need to sign in with their TV service credentials (or pay a few bucks a month).
A few big ones:
Global TV: From within the Global TV app or on the web, stream live and on-demand content, including 24/7 local and national news feeds, a limited-time collection of popular original series from Food Network Canada and HGTV Canada, plus access Global TV’s primetime shows (free for seven days after their broadcast premieres). To watch shows after seven days, you’ll be required to authenticate with a cable subscription. Content is also available from W Network, HISTORY, Showcase, Slice and, coming soon, National Geographic and Adult Swim.
CTV: Similarly, you can access a vast catalogue of CTV television programming, with no subscription or sign-in required (across the CTV app and CTV.ca), and this includes all CTV Movies, CTV Throwback and MTV content. Episodes from select primetime series are unlocked for a limited period. To access all programming available, including live feeds and on-demand content, you are required to sign-in with an account tied to a service provider.
CBC Gem: A TV provider account is not required to access the CBC Gem app (or cbcgem.ca), but there are three membership options available, including an ad-free Premium membership ($4.99 a month) that also grants streaming access to CBC News Network, live coverage of Olympic games, past seasons on demand, cross-device continued streaming, enhanced audio and video, and more. All content for kids and tweens is always ad-free.