Life & Lifestyle

Free vs Paid: Streaming TV Services Channel Comparison

I am a streamaholic — addicted to movies, videos, TV shows, and more. I forget when talking with friends that they are unaware of the vast number of services, sites, and apps offering a wide variety of paid or free entertainment options. To make everyone more familiar with these options, below will be a streaming TV services channel comparison of the free and paid versions.

Streaming TV Services Channel Comparison: Which Way Should You Paddle?

Most travel the streams with a paddle: Paid services with a set interface, schedule, and lineup. But a few of us take a journey without a paddle — options that are free, smaller, and more specialized.

Streaming TV Services Channel Comparison

With a Paddle (Paid Streaming Services)

Amazon Prime, Apple TV+, Discovery+, Disney+, ESPN+, Netflix, HBO Max, Hulu, and Paramount+ are the most popular.

AcornTV and BritBox are British services and offer differing collections.

Curiosity Stream features documentaries, including thousands of non-fiction films, television series, and original works.

Shudder provides a terrifying selection of horror, thriller, supernatural movies, TV shows, and original programming.

BroadwayHD‘s collection includes recorded Broadway plays and musicals, movies based on Broadway shows, concerts by famous Broadway performers, and behind-the-scenes extras.

The Criterion Channel manages a magnificent historical collection of classic and foreign films.

Fandor offers a catalog of more than a thousand critically acclaimed classic, foreign, cult, and independent films.

MUBI is a wild card in streaming classic, indie, and cult movies in that its collection is constantly rotating. A new film is added daily but will only be available for 30 days. The collection will always contain only 30 films, so you must check daily to ensure you don’t miss a movie you want to watch.

And almost every major and minor sport has its own pay-to-watch streaming platform.

Without a Paddle (Fress Streaming Services)

NBC’s Peacock includes movies, TV series, original programming, and a free and paid model.

Other networks, like the CW and History, offer free access to their shows via website or app.

If you or your grandkids love anime, Crunchyroll is for you. Crunchyroll says it offers the world’s largest selection of anime, with more than a thousand Japanese anime movies and TV shows. Crunchyroll is free, but you can subscribe to get rid of ads and simulcast new episodes and chapters as soon as one hour after they air in Japan.

Freevee, once known as IMDb TV, is an Amazon service that streams TV shows and movies in addition to originals through Prime and several other platforms.

Tubi hosts thousands of hours of content from Paramount, Lionsgate, MGM, and more studios.

Pluto TV delivers movies and television shows on demand as well as live and linear channels.

Crackle offers full-length movies, TV shows, and original programming on several platforms.

Kanopy and Hoopla are free if you have a valid library or university ID card.

XUMO provides free live and on-demand entertainment with more than 190 different channels.

Popcornflix and DistroTV are unique and, at times, odd little services with movies, TV shows, and sports features.

Create your own video streaming service with favs or collections from YouTube, Instagram, or TikTok.

Yes, TikTok! It is not all airbrushed faces and the latest ridiculous challenge. Search for unique or favorite themes. I found “texasbeeworks” and “divingII – underwater treasure hunt” to be fun and refreshing dips in the video pool.

These are only a few of the hundreds of services out there. I’m fixin’ to switch my smart TV over from Cowboy Channel+ to while I work on a little DIY project. 


Broc Sears

Broc Sears is an assistant professor of professional practice at TCU’s Bob Schieffer College of Communication and also works with the Texas Center for Community Journalism. He has more than three decades of experience in the news, advertising and marketing industries and earned recognition from the Society for News Design, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education, APME of Texas and the Dallas Press Club. He and his wife enjoy the best days of their lives here in Dallas with their family.

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