FAST, or free ad-supported streaming television, is the closest thing you can get to having cable without actually paying for it. As the name implies, FAST services let you watch a wide selection of content as you flip through individual “channels,” all without a subscription. While FAST services might not get the latest and greatest content, they’re still a nice option to have whenever you want to jump into some random show or movie without taking ages to decide what to watch on Netflix. Plus, you don’t even need to create an account to watch shows on most FAST services, allowing you to drop in and out as you please. All you have to do is watch some ads.
Here, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most popular FAST services that you might want to consider trying when suffering from Netflix burnout.
Pluto TV, which is owned by Paramount, offers over 250 different channels to browse through, along with thousands of free shows and movies that you can watch on demand, no account necessary. It’s got one of our favorite user interfaces, launching from the channel you last watched instead of forcing you to choose a channel every time you open the app. Like most other FAST services, Pluto TV offers channels dedicated to specific shows and their genres, but because it’s Paramount, that means it has a lot of Paramount properties you’ve heard of, including Star Trek and CSI.
There’s also a host of movie channels to choose from, and Pluto TV has some of its own channels, too, like Pluto TV Spotlight, Pluto TV Crime Movies, and Pluto TV Staff Picks, which feature shows and movies curated by the service.
And because Paramount owns CBS, Pluto TV also offers access to local CBS news stations in major cities, like Baltimore, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, New York, Detroit, and others, making it feel like you actually are using a linear TV rather than a FAST service. You can use the Pluto TV app on a range of smart TVs and devices, including Android, iOS, and on the web.
The Roku Channel
Roku, the company known for its set-top boxes and its Roku-enabled smart TVs, also has a FAST service called The Roku Channel. Here, you can access tons of shows and movies across over 350 channels without creating an account. That includes some of the discontinued shows Warner Bros. Discovery sent away earlier this year as well as some of Roku’s original content, like Die Hart 2 with Kevin Hart or Martha Cooks featuring Martha Stewart.
What really separates Roku from other services is its UI. Browsing through The Roku Channel is a bit more like scrolling through Netflix than typical linear TV, with live content featured in a carousel toward the top of the screen and all other on-demand content split into categories below. It has a pretty wide range of content, including classic movies and TV shows, sitcoms, reality shows, and sports.
The Roku Channel also lists Premium content from services like Paramount Plus, Showtime, and AMC Plus, which you have to pay for. While some of these Premium shows allow you to play the first episode for free, you’ll have to pay for a subscription to the service it’s from if you want to go any further. This makes The Roku Channel seem like a cross between a FAST service, a traditional media store, and a hub for your subscriptions.
Now for the bad. One of the biggest drawbacks of the service is that you can only watch it from your TV if you have a Roku device, Amazon Fire TV device, or a Samsung smart TV. Otherwise, you can use the service from Roku’s desktop site or its mobile app, no casting allowed.
The Fox-owned Tubi has a massive collection of live and on-demand content. It sits behind The Roku Channel as the second most popular FAST service, netting 64 million monthly active users in February. With over 50,000 movies and TV shows on tap, Tubi has one of the largest streaming libraries in the FAST space. It also has a wide selection of local news stations from networks like Fox, ABC, and NBC. That makes it one of the more compelling options for people looking to replace cable (or their ancient TV antenna).
Like Roku, Tubi also has some of its own Tubi Originals, although some of them seem kind of cheesy. The service added even more content when Tubi and Roku struck a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery earlier this year, bringing Westworld, The Time Traveler’s Wife, Raised by Wolves, How It’s Made, and others to both platforms. Aside from that, you can find basically just about any genre of movie or TV show that you’re looking for (just look at that massive menu when you hover over the Browse button).
Tubi is available on a number of platforms, including Android, iOS, Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Xfinity X1, Xbox, Samsung smart TVs, Sony smart TVs, PlayStation, the web, and more. You can view the whole list of supported devices on Tubi’s website.
Freevee — formerly called IMDb Freedive and then IMDb TV — is a FAST service owned by Amazon. And because this is an Amazon-owned product, that means you’ll have to sign in to your Amazon account (or create a new one) in order to actually use the service. Once you’re signed in, you can access a trove of on-demand movies and TV shows in an interface that looks a lot like Amazon Prime Video.
Freevee, too, has its own originals, including a Judge Judy reboot, an Alex Rider series, and documentaries on stars like Post Malone and Luke Bryan. There’s some live content as well, including channels with news, reality shows, classics, and more, but it really feels like Freevee prioritizes on-demand shows.
You can access the Freevee app just about anywhere. It’s available on several smart TVs made by LG, Samsung, and Amazon, and you can also access it from streaming devices, including the Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, and Roku devices as well as on the web, Android, and iOS.
While Plex is primarily known as a kind of build-your-own Netflix server software, it also has its own FAST service that you can use with or without setting a server up. It encompasses a large library of live and on-demand content, featuring a channel guide with a user-friendly interface that allows you to sort through content by genre.
The over 200 channels on the service include ones dedicated to some of the shows you’ll often see on other FAST platforms, like Portlandia, Top Gear, and Ice Road Truckers. It also has a hefty collection of over 50,000 on-demand shows and movies like Pulp Fiction and Hannibal. But the flexibility — and accessibility — of Plex is what really makes it stand out.
Not only can you use the service to set up your own media server but you can also access it on almost any device, including smart TVs, streaming devices, gaming consoles, mobile phones, and even VR systems. Plex also claims it’s available in nearly every country around the world.
The Comcast-owned Xumo Play is yet another FAST option you can try out. It comes with a number of live national and local news channels along with a broad range of networks that play movies, sports, crime TV shows, and more on a 24/7 loop. It’s pretty easy to browse through all the content as well, as you can either navigate through the live TV guide or pick from a list of different networks.
The content on Xumo Play doesn’t really stand out from the other services listed here, but it does have some (very cheesy-looking) originals as well as some semi-recent exclusive shows and movies that you can only stream on the service, like 2021’s Fortress and Catch the Bullet. Xumo’s software also helps power the FAST channels on Google TVs as well as the LG Channels app that comes built in on LG smart TVs, so you might notice some of the same content across all three apps.
Xumo is part of Comcast’s larger goal of creating a streaming hardware ecosystem like Roku as part of its partnership with Charter. While it comes built in on the company’s rebranded Xumo TVs and Xumo Stream Boxes, it’s also available on the web, Android, iOS, Roku, and Amazon Fire TV.
Sling doesn’t just offer a paid live TV subscription — it also has its Sling Freestream FAST service that it just rolled out in February 2023. So far, it has over 270 live channels with 40,000 on-demand titles, including Hell’s Kitchen, The Walking Dead, and Bob’s Burgers. While you don’t have to sign up for a Freestream account, doing so allows you to unlock features that let you save channels, shows, and movies as well as create profiles for different members of your household.
And if you want to watch some more recent content, you can switch over to the Rent tab, where you can pay to rent a variety of films, like Creed and Tár. This obviously isn’t ideal if you can already access these movies on another streaming service, but it’s a nice option to have if you don’t mind paying a fee.
Sling Freestream is available through the Sling TV app on a number of platforms, including web, iOS, Android, Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, and many others.
Samsung TV Plus
Samsung TV Plus is the company’s own take on a FAST service. While it was initially only available on Samsung-branded smart TVs, Galaxy smartphones, and even its own refrigerators, the company has been slowly expanding its reach. The service is now free to watch from the company’s desktop site and Android app, and reports indicate that Samsung is thinking about bringing it to other manufacturers’ smart TVs.
As Samsung looks to grow its service, it’s also been building up on content. Last year, it added Top Gear, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and NCIS to the service and announced its plans to triple the amount of on-demand content it has on the platform this year through “new and expanded partnerships” with Lionsgate, Vice Media, and others.
It’s also been creating some of its own original channels, like the home improvement-focused Home.Made.Nation channel it launched in collaboration with A&E. Samsung TV Plus currently offers access to 220 different channels in the US, a small fraction of the 1,600 total channels it offers across 24 different countries.