Tubi 101: The Free TV App That Can Save You Money on Streaming Services

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It’s no secret that streaming services are one of the biggest trends in entertainment. And the trend is certainly here to stay, especially when you consider the increasing number of streaming services that seem to be popping up on a regular basis. But what was once appealing about all these services — namely the fact that you can “cut the cord” with old-school cable, save money and pick subscriptions a la carte that have programming you know you’ll actually watch — is now becoming one of its downsides. Because we have access to such a high number of streamers these days, many of us risk spending even more for monthly subscriptions than we were on the cable bills we’d been so relieved to get rid of. What’s a binge-watcher to do?

Enter Tubi, a streaming service that won’t impact your budget — at all. Tubi, which was founded in 2014 and has recently started growing in popularity, offers a vast variety of popular television shows and movies available to watch for free. It sounds too good to be true, but it isn’t — as long as you’re willing to make a few concessions. Here’s everything you need to know about what Tubi is, how it works and whether it can help you unclench paid streaming’s tight grip on your wallet.

Tubi Is Absolutely Free 24/7…With a Few Catches

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Tubi is a video streaming service with over 20,000 movies and television shows that you can access online or through the company’s app on your phone, tablet, smart TV or another device.. What’s even better is that the content comes from big-name studios like Paramount and Lionsgate, so you’re not stuck watching reruns from decades ago. Like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video before it, Tubi has also announced plans to launch a slate of its own original programming, beginning sometime in autumn of 2021.

Unlike Netflix, Hulu or other streamers, though, Tubi’s biggest draw likely lies in the fact that it’s completely free to watch — but there’s a tradeoff. The service inserts short commercials and ads into the content to generate revenue in the absence of charging subscription fees. That may be a turnoff for some users. However, it’s hard to top a free service that could potentially replace at least one of the several subscriptions you’re thinking about canceling — and it’s better than paying fees and having to sit through commercials, which you’d still encounter with regular cable.

You Don’t Have to Do Much to Access Tubi

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Many of the services that Tubi is up against require you to create accounts, purchase subscriptions, provide billing details and jump through a few more hoops before you can watch their content. Tubi takes these steps out of the streaming equation. If you prefer, you can simply go to TubiTV.com to watch any movie or show the streamer offers. However, Tubi does provide a free signup process that allows you to access additional features on the platform. For example, having an account on Tubi lets you create a list of content to watch later and allows you to resume watching a show or movie at the point where you left off. 

As far as the devices where you can watch Tubi are concerned, you can connect to the service easily using your smart TV through other apps like Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. It’s also available on Xfinity through Comcast. When you’d rather watch on the go with your smartphone or tablet, you can download the Tubi app (it’s available for Android and iOS) to play content. The gamers out there can also easily connect to Tubi on PS4 or Xbox One, so you have plenty of options for enjoying this streaming service.

Tubi’s Content Certainly Isn’t Lacking — but It’s Not Totally Fresh

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Tubi has partnered with over 250 studios and networks to provide free content for users. As previously mentioned, those partners include Paramount and Lionsgate, along with MGM, A&E and a variety of other popular networks. Some classic movies and shows the service has streamed include The Terminator, Coming to America, Hell’s Kitchen, All Dogs Go to Heaven and The Inbetweeners, among others. While there is some newer content on the platform, overall, many of the shows and movies available are at least a few years (or decades) old. You won’t find any sports programming here, either.

A large section of Tubi’s selection is made up of generic, straight-to-DVD-type movies that you might not have heard of before. It’s not the place to watch the latest episodes of currently airing shows, but Tubi could be intriguing if you’re interested in finding titles that are a bit more obscure. You’ll have to really dive into the platform to see what classic content or hidden gems Tubi offers. And the selection may become a bit more enticing once Tubi’s original content starts streaming later this year.

Could Tubi Replace a Paid Streaming Service?

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Could Tubi possibly replace other streaming services tying up your money right now? That depends. It’s certainly worth taking a look at the content Tubi offers and seeing if there’s anything appealing to you. If you’re not really watching a certain streamer that you’re paying for, it’s worth unsubscribing anyway to save a few dollars, and you might find yourself turning to Tubi as a new alternative. However, it’s important to remember that there are some cons.

The ads Tubi displays are short, about 15 to 30 seconds long, but you’re not able to skip them. You may find them inconvenient, especially if you’re used to watching ad-free programming. As discussed, the platform also doesn’t air newer episodes of shows. All these slight inconveniences might add up to something bigger for you because they don’t follow the familiar format of paid streamers that many of us have grown to enjoy.

There are certainly flaws to the service, but millions of people are already trying it. FOX clearly saw the great potential, because the company acquired it in 2020 for $440 million. According to the Los Angeles Times, Tubi had approximately 25 million monthly active users at the time of the acquisition. This “free streaming” idea is nothing new, however, and other companies are beginning to throw their hats into the ring in adopting this model: ViacomCBS bought into the free streaming service Pluto TV last year as well. So it appears bigger companies see the value in these free platforms and may develop other content for them later — content that grows more appealing as the competition between companies potentially heats up.

As far as actually replacing another streaming platform goes, it really depends on what you’re looking for. If you’re building a better budget and need to cut back on subscriptions, cancel one or two for a month and experiment with Tubi to see if it still satisfies your needs. If your primary goal with streamers is to watch live television or brand new episodes of your favorite shows after they air, Tubi isn’t the provider for you. Ultimately, you don’t have much to lose in trying Tubi out, and you could find some great shows and movies from back in the day that give you a satisfying hit of nostalgia.