If you're stuck indoors without much to do, streaming video may be one of your only sources of solace. But if you're worried about making ends meet during the pandemic, we have good news: You may not need to shell out a monthly subscription fee in order to have something to watch while maintaining an appropriate social distance.
Keep calm and binge-watch on
Because much of the world is sheltering in place except for essential travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, there's not much to do except watch videos. Analysts are expecting the surge in demand to cause a spike in Netflix (NFLX 3.29%) usage.
In Europe, increased demand for streaming video has led Netflix, Amazon.com (AMZN 3.60%), and Alphabet's (GOOG 4.41%) (GOOGL 4.16%) Google to slow down streaming speeds for the next 30 days to keep broadband networks from getting overwhelmed.
That hasn't been necessary yet in the U.S., but as more states issue shelter in place orders, we may see it here, too.
Lemonade out of lemons
The protection orders have closed off many other avenues of entertainment. Major league sports have suspended their seasons, leaving Disney's (DIS 1.08%) ESPN channels resorting to a lot of "classic" programming, while theater closures have led studios to postpone releasing movies such as Mulan and Fast & the Furious 9.
Some media companies are moving films to their paid streaming services earlier than expected. Disney is bringing Frozen II to its Disney+ service three months early; Universal's The Invisible Man, which was released at the end of February, will now be available on demand for $20 for a 48-hour rental, as will The Hunt. Warner Bros.' The Way Back starring Ben Affleck will be available on demand as well.
Typically, theatrical releases don't become available for home viewing for three months after they premiere at the cineplex, but now they're being moved to Apple's (AAPL 1.89%) iTunes, Amazon Prime, and other services to salvage some value out of them.
Sit back and relax
Yet while more people may take out a Netflix subscription, purchase an Amazon Prime membership, or bolster Disney+ subscription rates even more to access its video library, consumers stuck at home don't need to pay anything to stream quality video.
You might not get first-run movies from these services, or films that were in theaters prior to their marquees going dark. But for families looking to save every dollar they can during this period of uncertainty, there are plenty of options available for free video streaming.
Below some of the most popular services you can tune into for free movies, though it's not by any means an exhaustive list.
Crackle is a movie and TV streaming service that lets viewers watch uncut, ad-supported content for free from Sony (SONY -0.89%). There are reportedly some 10 million active users of the service, which features movies such as Concussion, Fury, and more.
Most people are likely familiar with IMDb as the movie and TV information website, but might not realize it also offers free streaming movie and TV programming. Owned by Amazon.com, it launched a year ago and is readily available on Fire TV devices, though if you don't have one of them, you can still access the movies through IMDb.com. Among films currently showing at Blade Runner 2049, Salt, and Spotlight.
Plex has been around for 10 years and is an essential service for many people who cut the cord with cable and satellite TV, because it offers live over-the-air broadcasts (with a hardware tuner and an antenna), music, podcasts, and an extensive list of movies that are available for free. It also offers a DVR service, and a $5 monthly premium option gives you access to the ability to record live TV, skip through commercials, and have access to your video library on any device anywhere in the world.
Movies like Bright Lights, Big City and Legally Blonde are available in March, with Boogie Nights, Bloodsport, and others coming in April.
Pluto TV from AT&T (T -0.66%) has also been a popular service for cord cutters/ because it provides live TV broadcasts and movies, but it also offers a slew of on-demand video as well, from classics like the James Bond action adventure Diamonds Are Forever to Road to Perdition with Tom Hanks, as well as TV fare from Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and more.
Fox (FOX 0.13%) (FOXA 0.30%) just bought Tubi, a free, ad-supported streaming service as it became another media company intent on having a presence in the streaming market. Tubi reportedly has 25 million active viewers who can access a vast library of titles from Lionsgate, MGM, Paramount, Starz, and others.
It is offering exclusives on titles such as The Bachelor, Exit Strategy, and Minority Report.
The video service that Walmart's (WMT 1.32%) is trying to get rid of has over 150,000 movies available on it. While most are available for purchase and rental, viewers can enjoy some 4,500 titles for free. There are no subscriptions required or memberships to buy, and signing up to access the library is free.
Available on Vudu is one of the best modern zombie apocalypse movies ever made, Train to Busan, as well as the classic The Karate Kid.
People are familiar with the millions of videos that are posted daily to the streaming service, but it also hosts a catalog of movies to watch for free as well. You can see Atlas Shrugged, Get Shorty, and kids movies like All Dogs Go to Heaven. There are rental and purchase options available as well.