Millions of Canadians have officially cut the cord, ditching their expensive cable TV packages for the better value and improved flexibility of streaming services. Streaming services are solid businesses, and are taking the world by storm right now.
Streaming has several other advantages compared to watching traditional TV. You don't have to sit through 22 minutes of ads per hour of programming. You can watch your favourite show on your own schedule. And there's no need to wait until next week when the whole season has been released all at once.
As various media providers have realized their content is valuable, the number of streaming services has grown exponentially. A few years ago, customers could count on most everything being on Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. Then Apple TV and Disney+ showed up, and the next thing we knew, there were dozens of streaming services, each trying to take a small part of a huge market.
And, to make things even more complicated for Canada, U.S. versions of popular streaming sites would have programs they wouldn't be allowed to show to Canadians, and vice-versa for American audiences, thanks to deals with various media companies.
The real problem with all this competition is two-fold. Firstly, things are complicated. Access to all your favourite shows went from two apps to half a dozen. Remembering all this takes a certain amount of mental energy. And most of these new services cost money. Many find by the time they add up all their subscriptions, they're not saving much of anything compared to cable.
There's a solution. Canada has several free streaming services, platforms that show all sorts of different movies and TV shows, supported only by commercial breaks, and can be streamed on all sorts of different devices -- like a Chromecast, Roku, or smart TV.
What are the best free streaming sites in Canada right now?
- CBC Gem
- Pluto TV
- Amazon Fire TV
- Android TV
- Roku TV
Canada's most popular cable channel is also a powerhouse streaming platform.
The CTV app is available on almost every device -- including Roku devices -- and shows all sorts of content. It has an excellent selection of current shows, albeit at a few-week delay from their network debut. It also has an ample selection of free movies, predominantly classics readers will remember from their youth.
CTV's app also features channels and collections of content that closely match the station's various TV channels. App channels include CTV Comedy, CTV News, and Much Music.
The app is free but ad-supported, with the app playing commercials at the same pace as the network. To their annoyance, some users have noticed the same ad being played repeatedly. Still, it's a small price to pay for such a wide variety of content.
Many of the same shows can be watched on Crave TV, the paid streaming service offered by CTV's parent, Bell. Crave also delivers HBO, Showtime, and Starz movies.
CBC Gem is perhaps Canada's biggest free streaming service, at least regarding the sheer volume of content. It has all sorts of free TV shows, free streaming of the various CBC channels, a massive library of kids' shows, and all kinds of movies -- including an impressive collection of documentaries.
CBC Gem also has an impressive collection of live sports, including any Hockey Night in Canada NHL games and a large variety of other sports like basketball, track and field, and skiing, depending on the season.
This is an excellent find for those who like watching sports other than the NFL or MLB.
Note that most of the programming on CBC Gem is free, but some is hidden behind a premium tier. You'll pay $4.99 per month for that.
YouTube has a paid streaming service that starts at $11.99 per month. YouTube Premium offers ad-free play, unlimited downloads, and the ability to play your music in the background.
However, YouTube also has all sorts of value as a free streaming service. There are thousands of unique creators who host their content exclusively on YouTube.
There's also a huge volume of TV shows and movies on the service, some posted with the blessing of their creators and others uploaded by users.
YouTube Live is another excellent free streaming service, with many TV channels offering free streaming of important events, like election coverage or breaking news.
Pluto TV, a partnership between Corus Entertainment and Paramount, is one of Canada's top free streaming services. It offers over 100 free channels, 20,000 hours of programming, and a massive collection of classic content from Paramount and its partners.
Let's start with some of the many TV shows this new streaming service offers. You'll find classics like Happy Days, Matlock, or Baywatch.
You'll also find newer shows -- like South Park, CSI, The Drew Barrymore Show, and Judge Judy. Additionally, there are hundreds of classic movies.
Pluto's free TV channels are also impressive. It offers channels based on genres like comedy, reality shows, food, or DIY. It also provides various Global TV news channels.
Pluto is available on all devices, including IOS, Android, Xbox, and PlayStation. It'll also work on tablets and smartphones.
Amazon Fire TV
Amazon Fire TV is a line of digital media players developed by Amazon. They're small internet-connected devices that plug into any high-definition TV via a USB port. Think of it as a hub connecting the user to any third-party streaming service.
The device supports various streaming services, both paid and unpaid.
For instance, users can download the HGTV and Food Network apps on their Fire TV devices and enjoy the content from those apps -- for free. Or they can download paid apps like HBO Max, Starz, or Peacock TV.
Android TV is a version of Google's operating system designed and adapted to work on various smart TVs, including the ones manufactured by Samsung. You may also see Android TV referred to by its new name -- Google TV.
The good news for free TV fans is Android TV has a nice feature that puts all of the free content offered by the various streaming services in one place.
You can search by genre, channels, or for the content itself. Once you find something that you like, it can be easily saved for quick viewing later.
Android TV doesn't offer any free programming of its own, but it is a nice choice for those with the right smart TVs and who don't want to mess around with a bunch of different apps.
Like Amazon Fire, Roku TV is primarily a hardware device used to connect users to various streaming services. You then use these services to access the content.
Roku also offers the Roku channel, a combination of free and premium TV services. Users can watch an ever-changing array of original series, live news (North America only), movies, TV shows, and kids' entertainment, all for free.
Current movies offered to Canadian customers include The Karate Kid, Sleepless in Seattle, and The Wedding Singer. Prominent TV series include The Beverly Hillbillies, Hell's Kitchen, and Shameless. There are various Roku Originals available as well.
Put it all together, and Roku doesn't necessarily have the sheer number of shows as do many of these other services. Still, it's a nice addition to a device many will buy anyway.
Unfortunately, there aren't many choices for Canadians who want to stream major sports for free. Legally, anyway. Illegal streams are commonplace but come with pop-up ads, spotty services, and potential pitfalls like viruses and malware.
However, there are ways to get at least a few different sports for free.
As mentioned earlier, the CBC Gem app offers various sports for free, including NHL games. The MLB.tv app offers an MLB game for free on most days and will occasionally have days where every MLB game is free.
Sportsnet and TSN will also periodically offer free streaming of some of their programming. You get free access to both channels' online streaming services if you're a television subscriber.
I've saved the best for last. Tubi is the largest, most diverse free streaming service in Canada. It offers over 50,000 TV shows and movies, some of the best streaming technology available today, and it is available on every device you can think of.
Tubi is owned by Fox and has partnerships with many different studios, including MGM, Lionsgate, and Paramount.
It has a robust personalization engine to help you discover new content. And it even offers exclusive shows you won't be able to find anywhere else.
Some prominent movies Tubi offers include The Pelican Brief, Despicable Me, and Scarface. It isn't quite as robust for TV shows but offers choices like Mr. Bean, Midsomer Murders, and Fear Factor.
Tubi has so many shows from other parts of the English-speaking world I guarantee you'll be able to find something new to watch. You can't beat the price, either.