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The cord-cutter's guide to free (and legal!) TV streaming

Jared Newman | Dec. 19, 2014
You don't need to pay to watch great TV. The networks are offering more and more of their top shows online, where you can watch them for free on set-top boxes, game consoles, and other devices. We'll show you how.

History Channel

Much like A&E, the History Channel mainly offers reality programming--Pawn Stars is a staple--but occasionally makes good on its name with history-minded variants like Museum Men and Search for the Lost Giants.

Platforms: Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku

Restrictions: The "featured" section is your best bet for full episodes, though you can find a handful of other episodes that aren't behind the cable paywall elsewhere in the app. The number of free episodes varies by series.


Lifetime subsists largely on reality shows such as Project Runway All Stars and True Tori, but a bunch of the network's made-for-TV movies are included as well.

Platforms: Apple TV, Fire TV, Roku

Restrictions: Most shows have are behind the paywall, so check the "featured" section first for full episodes. Those cheesy movies, however, are largely free to watch.

Food Network

Get your celebrity chef/competitive cooking fix with shows like Beat Bobby Flay, Cutthroat Kitchen, and Sandwich King. For foodies, it could be the one app that makes Google's Nexus Player worthwhile.

Platforms: Android TV

Restrictions: Most older episodes are behind a cable paywall, but many shows have a few of their most recent episodes available for free.

Smithsonian Channel

Compared to more popular TV networks, Smithsonian is extremely liberal about putting full episodes online, with specials like The King's Speech Revealed, When Lions Attack, and Secrets: Easter Island.

Platforms:Fire TV, Roku

Restrictions: None

Keep in mind that this is only a list of networks with proper apps available on streaming TV devices. If you can access the desktop Web through a Chromebox, Chromecast, Apple AirPlay Mirroring or a Miracast dongle, your options for free streaming video expand dramatically. But that's a topic for a future column.


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