Watch TV for free with these 10 Android apps

You don't need a pricey subscription to enjoy top TV on your phone.

free tvapps lead
Andrew Hayward/IDG

Cutting the cable cord? You need these apps!

Nearly every TV network has its own Android app nowadays, but many offer little or nothing to watch if you don’t have login info from a cable or satellite subscription. Luckily, if you’re not paying for cable, you can still catch up with many of your favorite shows and sample a wide array of fresh offerings without paying a cent.

All 10 of these apps offer up popular—and yes, legal and official—streams of popular television shows without any need for a subscription or a cable/satellite hook. The only price you’ll pay is in potential bandwidth and a few extra minutes of your time for commercials. If you’re looking for on-the-go entertainment that won’t cost you a thing, grab these apps and start watching now.

free tvapps abc


Previously called Watch ABC, the ABC – Live TV and Full Episodes app is a free offering from the major network, and it actually gives you quite a bit to watch without needing to input login details. There’s still a lot under lock and key, but also plenty to see if you need a quick fix. 

Pros: The ABC app is stocked with current TV series of all sorts, including Dancing With the Stars, Black-ish, American Crime, and Designated Survivor, and you’ll usually find free access to five recent episodes of each. Older shows offer more to watch, including a full season apiece of The Muppets and Felicity as of this writing. And Jimmy Kimmel Live! locks its most recent episodes, but had about 15 slightly older ones on tap. 

Cons: While many shows offer a handful of free episodes to watch, the most recently aired one is often locked away for people with logins. And older episodes are likewise unavailable. Live TV also requires a login to access. 

ABC – Live TV and Full Episodes (Free)

free tvapps cbs


CBS has seemingly larger digital ambitions than ABC in this space, as its one app not only serves as a repository for free content and even more with a login, but also a hub for its paid All Access subscription service. That can be confusing, but there’s still a lot of free TV to watch here. 

Pros: The CBS app is loaded with content new and old alike, whether you’re looking for current hits like The Big Bang Theory, Elementary, or NCIS, or older favorites like The Brady Bunch and multiple Star Trek series. With newer shows, you’ll typically find five recent episodes available without a login, and unlike ABC, the CBS app doesn’t lock the newest of each. Older shows are less consistent with their free offerings: some have a couple episodes, while others have many more. Meanwhile, the CBS Evening News had all 18 of its recent episodes available for free.

Cons: All Access can be a confusing roadblock, especially since some TV shows (like The Good Fight, the new The Good Wife spinoff) and movies require a subscription but aren’t always clearly marked. It’s $6/month with commercials or $10 without. Without the pricier subscription, you can expect about two minutes of commercials during each ad break for the free shows available here.

CBS Full Episodes and Live TV (Free)

free tvapps thecw

The CW

Not only is The CW’s app a lot more attractive than those from the larger networks, but it also has a handy advantage: you won’t run into any locked content because the app doesn’t have any exclusive content for cable/satellite subscribers. Nice. 

Pros: Everything on the app is free to watch, and The CW has its full roster of current shows, including Arrow, Supergirl, iZombie, Jane the Virgin, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, and Riverdale. And that’s not all: a separate app, called CW Seed, is also totally free and has larger chunks of episodes for things like Whose Line is it Anyway? and Everybody Hates Chris.

Cons: On the main CW app, you’ll only find five recent full episodes for each show—and if you do have a cable or satellite login, that means you can’t type in your details for more. There’s also no live TV option, given the lack of login. 

The CW (Free) and CW Seed (Free)

free tvapps crackle


Crackle is a unique beast, in that it’s not based on a single network—but unlike a Netflix, it’s totally free and ad-supported. Sony’s service has a wide selection of offerings, including classic TV series from various networks and also an array of full-length movies.

Pros: You’ll find quite a lot of content on Crackle, and while not everything is top-tier, there are some classic shows in the mix—things like Seinfeld, The Shield, NewsRadio, and All in the Family. Also, Crackle has a few originals of its own, including Jerry Seinfeld’s Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, as well as Snatch and Startup. Crackle has full-length movies, as well, such as Ali, Joe Dirt, and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.

Cons: The interface isn’t much to look at, and the selection is very scattershot. Also, seeing random commercial breaks right in the middle of full-length movies is definitely odd. But all of that is a small price to pay for some of the pretty great and entirely free content here.

Crackle (Free)

free tvapps foxnow

Fox Now

Fox’s app is largely centered on its current or recent broadcast network shows and doesn’t have a vast library, but it does have a striking look and a solid array of free content. And if you have login info, there’s a fair bit more available.

Pros: Fox Now includes all of the network’s top shows right now, ranging from dramas like Empire and Gotham to comedies like Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The Last Man on Earth, as well as animated fare including The Simpsons and Family Guy. And yes, chef Gordon Ramsay is well represented with both Hell’s Kitchen and two different MasterChef varieties. Shows in their first season offer the last five episodes for free.

Cons: You’ll also get five free episodes of longer-running shows, in most cases, but the most recent episode is locked for eight days—so you’ll have to wait for those. Pop in a cable or satellite login and the locks are lifted, along with those for additional episodes in the library. Also, while you might be excited to see Marvel’s Legion show from FX in the listings, it’s solely for folks with a login. Same for live TV, too. 

Fox Now (Free)

free tvapps crunchyroll


Got a thing for anime (Japanese animation) or at least a curiosity about it? If so, then you’ll want to grab Crunchyroll, stat. This app compiles hundreds of popular anime series, new and old, and has plenty to offer without a subscription.

Pros: The library here is absolutely immense—I wish there had been something like this when I was buying $30 anime DVDs as a teen. Hit shows like One Piece, Naruto Shippuden, Dragon Ball Super, Attack on Titan, and Bleach are here in Japanese audio with English subtitles, along with many, many other series. And with the long-running shows, you can tap into the entire library for free: hundreds upon hundreds of episodes in some cases. 

Cons: For series that are currently airing in Japan, the most recent episode of each is locked away for subscribers—it’s $7/month for unlimited premium access, but the episode is available right after it airs. Alongside that benefit, you also get HD video quality and all of the ads go away. Honestly, the standard-def videos look pretty solid, but if you’re using the app constantly, it might be worth the seven bucks a month to upgrade. Likewise, the video ads can be lengthy, but it’s a worthy trade-off for all of this great content.

Crunchyroll (Free)

free tvapps nbc


If you still consider NBC to be the destination for must-see TV, then you’ll be happy to know that the official app offers up quite a bit of current content to check out for free—and even more from a selection of legacy shows.

Pros: All of NBC’s big shows are well represented here, whether you’re into comedies like The Good Place and Superstore, dramas such as Law and Order: Special Victims Unit and The Blacklist, or reality fare like The Voice. Even late night favorites like The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and Late Night with Seth Meyers are here. 

For weekly shows, you’ll typically find the last five episodes available for free. Meanwhile, older shows like Knight Rider, Miami Vice, and Smash offer up potentially dozens and dozens of free episodes, depending on series length.

Cons: For daily shows like Fallon and Late Night, the last few episodes are typically locked down if you don’t have a cable/satellite login—but at least there are more slightly older episodes for free viewing. Meanwhile, weekly shows that aren’t in their debut season typically lock the most recent episode until eight days after airing.

NBC (Free)

free tvapps history


The History network’s mandate is somewhat muddled, given that it’s the same channel that hosts both Vikings and Pawn Stars, but at least it has a broad offering of entertainment. And you’ll find some of it for free in the Android app. 

Pros: History’s app provides a pretty wide assortment of shows, from recent debuts like JFK Declassified: Tracking Oswald and Road Hauks, to recurring favorites like American Pickers, Ice Road Truckers, and Top Shot. Rather than offer the most recent episodes for free, History typically does the opposite: you’ll usually find the first five episodes from the first season unlocked. That’s great for trying out new shows, but not so helpful if you’re already a fan. 

Cons: Some shows don’t have full episodes available, including Vikings, while some newer content—like The LA Riots: 25 Years Later—is only for people with a cable or satellite login. Logging in can get you access to lengthy archives of long-running shows, but otherwise, you’ll usually just get the five first-ever episodes for free. 

History (Free)

free tvapps cartoonnetwork

Cartoon Network

Whether you love the cable network’s original offerings for yourself or you’re just looking for something to entertain your kid, Cartoon Network’s Android app offers dozens of free episodes. There just aren’t very many from each individual series.

Pros: Cartoon Network is a premium cable and satellite network, so the fact that you get anything for free is pretty appealing. Hit shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, The Powerpuff Girls, and Transformers: Robots in Disguise are found here, along with a couple dozen other shows. And the app is very streamlined and kid-friendly: you can pick your favorite shows and it’ll offer a “mix” of available episodes when you first fire it up. 

Cons: While there’s a broad selection of shows here, you won’t find a lot of free episodes for each one: most shows only have three free episodes on hand, and given the length of some of these episodes, that might be about a half-hour of total video. Luckily, the total load here is hefty: I found 102 free episodes across all shows, and there’s even more with a login. 

Cartoon Network (Free)

free tvapps discoverygo

Discovery Go

The Discovery Channel app has seen a significant overhaul since the first time we wrote this piece, but one thing hasn’t really changed: you’ll only be able to access a sliver of the total content without a cable or satellite subscription. 

Pros: A few of Discovery’s most popular and most intriguing new documentary and reality shows offer free content, including Deadliest Catch, Gold Rush, and Cooper’s Treasure. Each has commercial breaks, of course, but these are still hour-long episodes of pay-TV series. 

Cons: Unfortunately, there’s just not much available. As of this writing, you’ll find one episode of Deadliest Catch, one episode of Gold Rush, and two episodes of Cooper’s Treasure, and the other handful of series follow the same trend. Also, the commercial breaks are pretty lengthy. Meanwhile, series like Mythbusters and Yukon Men don’t have any free content at all, and require a login to view. Still, you won’t find these free shows on other services, and it’s an on-the-go way to try something new. 

Discovery Go (Free)

free tvapps chromecast
Andrew Hayward/IDG

Using Chromecast

Chromecast support has become so wide that almost all of these apps have casting capabilities built right into them. Only Cartoon Network is the outlier, which makes some sense given that kids might be handling the phone most of the time, and it’s another button for them to accidentally press. 

If you have a Chromecast hooked up to your TV, you can press the little rectangle button (in each app) with a little Wi-Fi signal icon in the lower left corner, and that will send the video over to your larger screen. For apps that don’t have native casting support, you can download the free Google Home app and mirror your screen to the television.

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