TV Everywhere apps aren't just for cable subscribers

Cable-authenticated TV apps provide a secret stash of free video (we'll show you how to find them).

tveverywhere

Officially, cord-cutters aren’t welcome to use video-streaming apps from TV channels such as ABC, Discovery, The Food Network, and many others. Known in the industry as “TV Everywhere” apps, they’re really meant for paying cable or satellite subscribers, who can enter their account credentials to access a trove of on-demand shows and live channel streams.

But if you look in the right places, these apps can provide a trove of ad-supported free TV for cord cutters, ranging from guilty-pleasure reality shows to late-night variety.

To be clear, you’ll probably need a pay-TV subscription (or a mooched cable login) to binge on full seasons within these apps. That’s because they tend to limit the free stuff to only a handful of recent episodes. Still, for content that’s less serial in nature, you can squeeze hours of entertainment from TV Everywhere apps without paying a dime.

Here’s a list of TV channel apps that offer free streaming shows, and how you can find the good stuff in each one:

ABC

abcroku

What to watch: Jimmy Kimmel Live, Modern Family, “throwback” series like Sports Night and Dinosaurs.

How to watch it: Most shows offer a handful of recent episodes for free (just make sure there’s no key icon on top of the video thumbnail), and Roku devices have a “no sign-in required” section. All throwback series are free to watch as well.

Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV (first-generation only, for some reason)

NBC

nbcroku

What to watch: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Saturday Night Live, American Ninja Warrior.

How to watch it: Most shows offer a handful of recent episodes for free (provided there’s no key icon on top of the video thumbnail). The Roku app also has a handy “latest episodes, no sign-in required” section in the main menu.

Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast (from Android only)

CBS

cbsios

What to watch: The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Person of Interest, I Love Lucy

How to watch it: Although CBS requires a $6-per-month All Access subscription on streaming-TV boxes, the mobile app includes a selection of episodes for free with Chromecast and AirPlay support for watching on the big screen.

Devices: Chromecast, Apple TV (via Airplay only)

Cooking Channel, DIY Network, Food Network, HGTV, and Travel Channel

hgtvroku

What to watch: Chopped, House Hunters, Rehab Addict, Expedition Unknown

How to watch it: Each channel has its own app, but they all have the same design. The “stream for free” section (on all devices except Android TV) provides some shows to watch without a cable login.

Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Android TV

History Channel, A&E, and Lifetime

aefiretv

What to watch: Pawn Stars, The First 48

How to watch it: These are all separate apps, but the design is the same for all channels. On Roku, each show has a section for “unlocked episodes” that you can watch without a cable login; on other devices, you’ll have to look for videos that don’t show a lock icon.

Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV

Discovery, Animal Planet, TLC, Investigation Discovery, and Sci

discoverygoroku

What to watch: Deadliest Catch, Dr. Dee: Alaska Vet, Misfit Garage, Outrageous Acts of Science

How to watch it: These are all separate apps, but the design is the same for all channels. On Roku and Apple TV, each app has an “unlocked” section with full episodes for free. On Chromecast you’ll have to look through the “recent episodes” list for shows without a key icon on top.

Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast

Disney Junior

disneyjuniorfiretv

What to watch: Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Lionguard, PJ Masks

How to watch it: There’s no easy way to find the free stuff, but a decent number of shows offer a smattering of episodes without a cable login—enough, at least, to keep the kids busy while you’re making dinner. Just look for shows that don’t have a key icon on top.

Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, Chromecast

PBS and PBS Kids

pbsfiretv

What to watch: Frontline, Austin City Limits, Thomas & Friends, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood

How to watch it: As a public broadcaster, PBS has the friendliest app for cord cutters. You can stream any video you want, no authentication required.

Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV

Smithsonian Channel

smithsonianchannelroku

What to watch: The Real Story, Major League Legends, Secrets

How to watch it: For a cable channel, Smithsonian offers a huge number of documentaries and educational programs on demand, without having to navigate to a special section of the app.

Devices: Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast

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