Cutting cable - what can you watch online for free?

For most of us, cutting a cable subscription is about cutting costs — not adding them. While subscribing to a streaming service (or two) and buying an episode or TV season from iTunes or Amazon is likely to be less than what you've paid for cable, the whole point is to keep all the little costs from adding back up. Happily, there are some great online options for streaming video that also happen to be completely free.

Unfortunately though, to watch videos for free online you have to be willing to make some compromises. Expect to spend more time searching for the content you want, as well as watching ads. However, with a bit of patience to sift through what's available, you'll find there are some real gems.


Most major networks offer a lot of content online for free, including their most popular shows, which typically show up online the day after broadcast. But expect to get what you pay for: Shows will only be available for a limited time, include advertising, and it may be difficult to navigate and find them ... or at least more difficult than searching Netflix. If you have a favorite network, you should also check to see if they have a mobile app, which can offer on-the-go access to your favorite shows.


Though I've talked about Hulu before as a pay-for service, it also offers many episodes online — no streaming to your smartphone or computer — for free. Though the free version doesn't offer as many shows and episodes as the pay-for Hulu Plus, it still offers an excellent catalog of entertainment from Fox, NBC and ABC, all in one easy-to-search website.


Crackle is a service run by Sony that offers completely free streaming of television and movies — and even some original content. The catalog of available content is limited — nowhere near what Netflix or Hulu has — and you'll have to watch ads while you stream, but it certainly delivers a lot of value for its $0 price tag. Crackle also has an app for mobile viewing and is available to stream to your TV through Roku and other set-top boxes.


You may think of YouTube as a place to watch cat videos, but the network is also home to a lot of content. You can find classic and independent movies, streaming of live events and tons of video clips and trailers. The video quality isn't always the best and the site can be overwhelmed with ads at times, but you can't beat YouTube for variety.


Think of Vimeo as YouTube for the art house crowd. Like YouTube, Vimeo is a service where anyone can upload their videos — but unlike YouTube, the site is ad-free. There's less variety here, but you'll find lots of interesting content from independent film and music creators, the best of which is collected into the easy to find Staff Picks section of the site.

Have your own favorite free video site, or any other questions on cutting the cable cord? Be sure to let us know.


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