Watch Free TV Shows and Movies on Apple TV

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Free TV Shows and Movies

Apple TV offers a variety of tvOS apps providing free TV shows and movies. This article examines the most popular apps offering free content.

At first glance, Apple TV may seem like a vending machine in your living room. The most popular video apps often require a subscription fee. Renting a movie on iTunes usually costs $5.99. For those who go for the most obvious options, cable may actually be the cheaper alternative. Fortunately, you can watch free TV shows and movies on Apple TV from a variety of sources.

This isn’t too good to be true. After all, if you have a TV and an antenna, you can watch free TV shows. As with broadcast TV, these free Apple TV content apps use advertising to make a profit. The difference is that, with Apple TV, many of these programs are available on-demand. You don’t have to plan your life around the TV schedule.

There are myriad apps offering free TV shows and movies, but it’s not possible to cover them all. Virtually every TV network offers a tvOS app. While most of them require a TV provider (cable, satellite) subscription for full activation, they usually offer a few shows for free. There’s also a lot of news apps that offer free, 24/7 news coverage. This article doesn’t cover these apps, as they do have limitations. We’ll be looking at apps that offer free TV shows and movies, instead of just free samples or news.

Crackle

Crackle Apple TV App

Sony Pictures Entertainment purchased Grouper in 2006 and later rebranded the platform as Crackle. The free service has been streaming video for about a decade, and is available on virtually every platform, including Apple TV.

The service features popular TV shows such as Seinfeld, Who’s the Boss and Firefly. Crackle offers original programming, including Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, Joe Dirt 2, Sports Jeopardy! and SuperMansion. Overall, the service offers about 70 different shows, however, the selection changes often. Viewers don’t have access to every episode of a TV show. For example, there are only 9 episodes of Seinfeld available, from different seasons. It’s similar to syndicated shows on broadcast TV. The episodes are random, with a sparse selection. If you’re not picky, you’ll probably find something entertaining to watch.

Crackle also features a decent selection of over 200 movies, including new releases and classics. Movies include Animal House, Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle and Apollo 13. Titles are rotated often. Make sure to watch your favorite movies before they expire. These movies are presented in their original, unedited form, with the addition of advertising breaks.

The Crackle tvOS app for Apple TV is simple and easy-to-use. The top menu makes it easy to access the Home, Shows, Movies and My Crackle screens. Users can quickly browse TV shows and Movies by category. Although there is no search feature, given the limited options, it’s unnecessary. Users can also activate Crackle, for free, to enable additional features. Activation is required to add videos to the queue.

Comet TV

Science fiction fans will find a lot to like about Comet TV. The new tvOS app streams science fiction programming to your Apple TV. Owned by the Sinclair Broadcast Group and operated by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Comet TV delivers science fiction, fantasy, supernatural and horror programming to a variety of TV devices. Comet TV is also available on select digital broadcast TV stations.

The Comet TV app for Apple TV offers a clean and simple user interface. There are no on-demand options. Upon launching the app, a splash screen is displayed and live programming commences. It’s very much like watching a TV channel, although there are some basic interactive features. Clicking the Touch surface displays current program information and the title of the next show in the schedule. Pressing the menu button shows a simple menu with three options — Watch, Schedule and About. Watch takes the user to the live broadcast feed. The Schedule option displays an interactive schedule. The About screen presents information about Comet TV, including terms of use and their privacy policy.

Comet TV programming will probably appeal to some fans of science fiction, fantasy, adventure and horror programming. Don’t expect to watch Star Wars movies on Comet TV. That said, they offer some popular programs and movies, such as Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Terminator and Stargate SG-1. Programming is punctuated with advertising breaks, which keeps Comet TV free for all viewers.

Overall, the Comet TV app is simple, elegant and virtually flawless. Although programming isn’t offered in widescreen format, the tvOS app offers excellent picture quality, with stable, consistent streaming performance. The lack of on-demand content, however, is a throw-back to broadcast and cable television.

The CW

Founded in early 2006, The CW is a partnership between CBS, Warner Bros. Entertainment and other entities. The “CW” abbreviation represents the first letters of CBS and Warner Bros. Entertainment. Programming is geared toward 18 to 35-year-old women. The network is available in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.

The CW tvOS app differs from most network apps in that it is absolutely free. There is no need to activate the app with a cable or satellite subscription. Viewers can enjoy shows such as Riverdale, Supergirl and The Flash for free. Just like with cable, satellite or an antenna, content is monetized with commercial breaks. The CW tvOS app only offers content on demand. There is no live TV stream. Viewers don’t need to tune in at a certain time or remember to set their DVR. The CW has embraced the future of television and we can only hope other networks follow suit.

The app itself is similar to most network tvOS apps. The Home screen displays popular shows in a scrolling marquee. Viewers can also access new episodes and programs that are about to expire from the Home screen. (Like many digital TV apps, The CW doesn’t offer every program indefinitely.) Users can browse shows by name and also search for a specific program. The Recents screen keeps track of what you’re watching, making it easy to get back to your favorite show. Best of all, The CW integrates with Apple’s TV app, making it easy to access shows directly from tvOS Home screen.

Godvo

Godvo Apple TV App

For those who prefer Christian content, Godvo offers free live TV broadcasts on Apple TV. Founded in 2016, the California-based company is already the fastest growing religious TV network. Their mission is to “bring all churches to all people through free Christian TV”. The service isn’t supported by one specific church. Instead it provides access to numerous Christian TV channels, all in one app.

The Godvo tvOS app works just like the channel guide on a digital cable box. Users scroll through the channels and click the Touch surface to start a channel. Pressing the menu button displays the channel guide again. The channel guide features a small video window with a preview of each selected channel. That’s all there is. There’s no settings or on demand selections. It’s one of the simplest tvOS video apps in the App Store.

Livestream

Livestream Apple TV App

Live TV streams are easily accessible using the Livestream app. The New York City based company was founded originally as Mogulus in 2007, as a free streaming service with additional professional services. The company rebranded as Livestream in 2009. Beyond the app, the company develops hardware, software and offers professional services to facilitate live video streaming. (continue…)

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24 comments

  1. I have had my Apple TV for several years and do experiment checking out the shows but I have not seen these as yet- glad to know they are available.
    Thank you-

    1. Thanks for your comment!

      There’s new free content apps every day. The major networks are adding more ad-monetized content every day. There’s so much to watch on Apple TV, even if you don’t have cable.

  2. My husband loves the old westerners like Gunsmoke,Bonanza Big Valley etc.
    Is there a channel that provides these shows?
    He watches it on INSP, butI didnt see that channel on Apple T.V.

    1. For new movies, you’ll want to use iTunes, Google Play or Amazon. Google Play is my preference, as their content is more portable. I can sign in on any computer in the world and watch a Google Play movie rental or purchase. That’s not true with iTunes. I would need to install iTunes to play anything. Even with Apple TV, one can watch Google Play content through the YouTube app. Just sign in, and your purchases are right there.

      That said, you can’t expect to watch the latest movies for free. You’ll have to rent or purchase them, a la carte.

      Subscription services like Netflix and HBO NOW do not offer the latest movies.

  3. There are so many options these days. Here are some that I use regularly:
    – Subscription: YouTube TV (mostly for sports), Netflix (for kids shows and programs)
    – Pay As You Go: Apple TV (iTunes Movies & TV Shows)
    – Free (Usually Ad Supported): YouTube (everything under the sun!), DistroTV (lots of global content and interests)

    Don’t use an antenna (have a flat Mohu) much as it is very unreliable where I live. In many cases these services have a much better picture quality than my old Cable TV service.

  4. After I connect to appletv everything has a cost to watch. Is the subscription fee to just allow me to access these and then I have to pay to watch

  5. I have one years subscription of apple TV on my new MacBook Pro – do I still need to pay extra to watch movies and TV shows?

  6. Deeply dissatisfied with Apple TV, you have to look hard to find content that you don’t have to pay to view, what is there is good bit it’s often just a repost of things that you can get elsewhere for free. I’ve not seen anything that would make me switch from netflix or prime, it may be cheaper but you waste a lot of time looking for things that you can watch. I’ve counted only about 30 items that are free to watch, unique material. Poor value for money.

  7. Apple TV is the most disappointing major streaming subscription on the market…a couple of really of expensive “free” shows” that in no way justify the need for Apple TV as a must have.

    HBO Max is a close second as the major selling point to a “new” streaming app” is a TV that went off the air 13 years ago. There is very little new content despite being the most expensive subscription out there.

    Netflix, even with how many misses their original program generates, the consumer at least feels like they are not gouging you.

  8. I just signed up because it was free with my purchase…when I ask what is free I never get a straight answer…they just send me to another site?? I’m just going to cancel….everything I would watch is something I can get free on amazon…even at free with apple its not a deal

  9. Got Apple TV for a year. Save your money. Most movies you have to pay for. The rental prices are outrageous. Especially since they have the audacity to charge a subscription fee. Total rip off

    1. I concur. It took me several years to realize Apple TV isn’t a good deal. I bought three of them! Of course, the TV’s back then weren’t as smart as they are today. Most new flat-screen TVs are smart TVs. They have all the streaming apps you could ever want. If not, just connect your PC to your TV.

      The worst thing about Apple TV is that customers may pay the 30% Apple tax. Most consumers are unaware of this fact. Apple takes 30% of developers’ revenues, so they just pass these costs onto consumers. If you subscribe to most streaming services outside of the Apple ecosystem, you’ll get a better deal.

      Everything Apple has to offer is a bad deal. I bought my first Android phone three months ago. It’s amazing. I can’t believe I stuck with Apple for so long. My new Android phone is recommended by Consumer Reports and is as well-made and durable as any iPhone. It’s blazing fast, as far as user experience goes. The iPhone 12 gets better benchmark scores. It has a massive 6.8″ screen with 1300 nits brightness and a 120Hz refresh rate. Apple still puts garbage screens in their iPhones — even the ones that cost $1400. My OnePlus 8 Pro? $919. They’re $750 now. Should have waited a few months!

      It took two defective Macs for me to wake up and try something else. So glad I did!

  10. I’ve had Apple TV since it came out! It is covered up with 3 inches of dust! Apple is a multi billion dollar company that offers its clientele the very least amount of free tv. I’m hoping soon Apple changes their way of doing business but it probably won’t be anytime soon! On a scale of 1-10 I give Apple tv a 3, that is being very generous!

    1. You’re far more generous than Apple ever was or will be. Apple TV (the device) doesn’t make much sense anymore. If you want an expensive streaming device that can serve as a mediocre game console, Apple TV is a good choice. People who just want to stream video can get an Amazon stick for less than $20. If you want to play games, a proper game console, like an Xbox or PlayStation can also stream video. I believe the only reason Apple keeps the product alive is because it was Steve Jobs’ pet project.

  11. We recently subscribed to Apple TV and in the first week watch three good movies but after that I have not found anything that’s not a rental or you have to buy. Consequently, I cancelled my subscription, I think, as I have not received any kind of confirmation within one week of purchasing it.

    It most certainly is nowhere close to either Netflix or prime which has countless of free content. Very disappointed with Apple.

    1. I agree. I think Apple is trying to create something that’s complementary to Netflix, rather than a competitor. At about $5/mo, they feel it’s worth it. The problem is, there’s a glut of streaming services out there. I haven’t even watched Netflix, because I have Amazon Prime too. I subscribe to both, as do many people. Yet another subscription is superfluous and wasteful.

      Thank you for the comment!

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