June 26, 2023 at 6:00 p.m. PST
- Apple TV is a device that connects to your flat-screen television, enabling you to run many of the same apps you use on your iPhone.
- Although services like Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV+ require monthly subscription fees, Apple TV offers numerous options for free entertainment.
- Apple TV runs the tvOS operating system, featuring an App Store with thousands of streaming apps, games, and information services.
- It’s possible to enjoy free content on Apple TV without paying for subscription services or games.
Introduction: Free Content for Apple TV
We work hard for our money, and for many of us, the future is uncertain. Right now, Silicon Valley is laying off tech workers in record numbers. Globally, many countries struggle to shift into the post-pandemic world, with wars and conflict shattering lives. Even if you have a career, there’s a 99% chance that we’ll be in another recession soon. Wouldn’t it be nice to escape this reality, if just for a moment, without racking up more credit card debt?
The good news is that you can enjoy hours of free content on Apple TV. Apple’s hockey-puck device is very much like your iPhone, except it’s a lot cheaper, and you connect it to your television. If you’re sitting in your bedroom hunched over your iPhone, watching your favorite shows, there’s a better way. Every TV show, movie, game, or app you enjoy on your iPhone is even better on Apple TV.
This article will show you the best free tvOS apps for movies and TV shows. We’ll also let you in on some of the most popular free games. Beyond popular apps, you’ll discover some of our all-time favorite tvOS apps.
What Is Apple TV?
Apple TV means many things. It’s a device, an app, and when you add a plus to the end, it’s a subscription service. For the purposes of this article, Apple TV is a device.
Apple TV first debuted way back in 2007; however, the first version was more of a DVR. In 2007, streaming popular TV shows and movies was still in its infancy, as lawyers, networks, and tech executives struggled to update antiquated business models for the digital age.
We could have had Netflix back in the early 2000s; however, the entertainment industry was fine with cable, DVDs, and movie theaters. As pirated content threatened Hollywood’s bottom line, streaming became a way to salvage profits. Within the past five years, we’ve seen an explosion in streaming, with long-time services like Netflix taking a beating from competitors.
The second Apple TV model was Apple’s first viable streaming device. Debuting back in 2010, at launch, it only provided access to the Apple ecosystem, Netflix, YouTube, and Internet radio. With its A4 processor, the second-generation Apple TV was essentially a stripped-down iPhone 4 without a display or an App Store.
Apple’s third iteration of Apple TV added 1080p support with an upgraded processor. Without an App Store, the company managed Apple TV’s Home screen directly. Every few months, new “channels” appeared. Users could only choose to show or hide Home screen icons, with channel availability enabled by Apple.
The fourth-generation Apple TV was a great leap forward, transforming Steve Jobs’ former hobby into a proper television streaming device. It came with a new operating system — tvOS — and, for the first time, an App Store. Since tvOS is a variation of iOS, developers could quickly repurpose iPhone apps for Apple TV.
Apple TV 4K and later models build on the fourth-generation device. They’re essentially the same, only offering faster processors and superior video quality. If you don’t own a 4K TV or play a lot of games, it’s best to stick with a regular HD version. That said, you can often find the 4K version for less, and it’s completely compatible with older 1080p HD TVs. When you set it up, your Apple TV will automatically detect your television’s resolution.
Now that you know what Apple TV is and what it does, let’s look at what you can get for free…
Free Video Streaming Apps for Apple TV
The following Apple TV apps are entirely free. You don’t need a TV provider or cable subscription to enjoy them. There are no subscription fees or restricted content.
Other sites may list over a hundred “free” video apps for Apple TV, but many require a cable subscription or only offer a fraction of their content to non-paying viewers. Unlike this page, other sites list video portals that are not tvOS apps, so you must use an iPhone, iPad, or Mac to beam them to your Apple TV via AirPlay.
At Appleydstopia, we don’t like to fool you or waste your time. This article only lists native tvOS apps that are completely free. You won’t need to fiddle with another device or go to your cable company’s website for authorization.
Although some apps listed work better with a free account, it’s not required. A free account will allow you to build a watchlist and receive recommendations. Still, if you have privacy concerns, you can use any of these services anonymously without creating an account.
Ready to watch your favorite TV shows and movies without paying a cent? Let’s take a look at free content for Apple TV.
The American Broadcasting Corporation is one of the oldest television providers in the world. Founded in 1943, this 80-year-old network has gone through many transformations. Today, it’s one of the best sources of free content on Apple TV. Popular shows include The Rookie, The Good Doctor, and Will Trent.
If you’re looking for breaking news and in-depth analysis, Bloomberg has you covered. Co-founded by billionaire Michael Bloomberg in 1981, the network has grown to provide worldwide news coverage from 176 bureaus with almost 20,000 employees.
CBS News was a favorite of mine for many years. I would open this app on my Apple TV first thing in the morning to get the news. It’s still a great app. With its history dating back to 1927, CBS’s vast global network of news bureaus and affiliates provides some of the best coverage available today. This app even has local news coverage from select CBS affiliates.
If you’re young and find adult news too tedious and time-consuming, there’s an excellent information service for short attention spans — Cheddar News. Focusing on trending business, tech, and culture, it’s perfect for youngsters who don’t know the difference between Styx and REO Speedwagon but ironically wear their t-shirts. The user interface is simplified to avoid any confusion. Upon opening the app, you can watch live news or view clips.
Crackle is by far the best free source for TV shows and movies. Branded initially as Grouper, Sony acquired the service in 2007, rebranding it as Crackle. Although Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment owns Crackle’s majority stake, Sony is still vested in the popular service. The partnership seems to enable less expensive licensing fees, as Sony owns so much content. Crackle succeeds where so many others have failed, likely because of less expensive content licensing costs.
Another excellent source for high-quality TV shows and movies, FilmRise doesn’t even pester you about creating an account. You just download the app and start watching amazing films and TV shows. It’s no secret that users hate pop-up messages and being continuously bothered about offers or irrelevant details when we really just want to use an app. Both Appledystopia and FilmRise seem to get it!
The CW is one of the first major networks to make everything free, without a cable subscription or TV provider. Few streaming channels do this because of deals with cable providers preventing streaming for all. It’s great to see networks like The CW buck the status quo. While The CW doesn’t have the finest selection of movies and TV shows, there are probably a few gems that most people will enjoy.
Although Tubi may bother you about signing up on the first screen, you can easily bypass it by clicking on “continue as guest.” You can access all of Tubi’s shows and movies; it’s just that you won’t be able to create a watch list or benefit from intelligent recommendations. Overall, Tubi’s selections are excellent. They even produce original content.
Tubi isn’t as exceptional as Crackle, but pretty close. Between the two, you have enough free content to entertain even the most sedentary couch potato.
Free Apple TV Games
Apple TV’s ability to run fully-functional apps sets it apart from most streaming devices. Sure, you can buy a cheap Roku or Amazon stick, but they can’t run games like Apple TV.
The newest Apple TV model features an A15 processor — the same one used in the iPhone 13 series. Even my old Apple TV 4 with an A8 processor runs games remarkably smoothly.
This section covers the best free games for Apple TV. Although some may offer in-app purchases, every one of these games can be enjoyed without paying a cent. You can save up all that money and elevate your gaming experience by purchasing a game controller for your Apple TV.
Yes, you read that right. You can connect a Bluetooth game controller to your Apple TV to play games as you would with any console. If you’re tired of playing iOS games on your iPhone’s small screen, Apple TV features many of the same titles you can enjoy on the biggest screen in the house.
I love this game. It’s by far the best racing game I’ve ever played. What sets it apart from the pack is how it uses the Siri remote. Players steer the car by tilting the remote, just like a steering wheel. The animation and controls are buttery smooth.
I really got addicted to this game for some time. Racing against real people across the globe would really get my adrenaline pumping.
This game is totally free, although, like many, you can buy credits, car packs, and other digital items with real money. You can enjoy this game without paying a cent. I ended up buying some cars, but it’s not necessary. The game will match you up with similar cars and skill levels, so no matter what, it’s a fair and fun race.
If you love car chases, then PAKO Forever is for you! The game offers endless levels of automotive pursuits.
It’s not a challenging game, and it generates new maps every time, so it’s always fun to play. You can steer the car with the Siri remote, but, unfortunately, you use the trackpad instead of tilting the remote. Hopefully, they’ll add the latter capability in an update.
As exciting as car chases may seem, there’s something remarkably chill about PAKO Forever. Unlike Asphalt 8, it doesn’t jack up my adrenaline. Instead, I can just sit on the sofa sipping a drink while I play this with one hand. It’s so fun to watch the police cars crash into each other. I completely understand how one could get addicted to this game.
Crossy Road developers Hipster Whale showed off this game at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference a few years ago. At first blush, I thought it was a childish Frogger ripoff, and to some extent, it is. But it’s also a lot of fun. A recent update makes it more like a mashup of Super Mario Brothers and Frogger.
Despite its derivative nature, the game is fun and free. It’s a perfect example of how Apple TV differs from other television devices. Apple TV is a game console, in addition to a streaming device. You can play fun games like Crossy Road for free, which makes up for the $100 or so cost of an Apple TV.