The Best Free TV Streaming Sites in 2012

Martin Brinkmann
Apr 29, 2012
Updated • Dec 4, 2012

The rise of broadband in many country and regions around the world has opened up new possibilities for bandwidth intensive services on the Internet. TV Streaming services have sprung to life in the past years that often provide their users with access to free TV series and episodes. And while that is a good thing, the services more often than not restrict access to users connecting from a specific region or country.

The following guide looks at the best free web services that stream TV series and episodes. To be included in this list, the services need to offer free streams, and need to be on legal grounds in their country of origin.

Since this is an English website, we are concentrating on English television only. Feel free to add websites that offer television streams in other languages in the comments.

Free Sites that Stream TV

1. Hulu (US-only)

Hulu is probably the best known site when it comes to free TV streams. It offers access to many different TV shows, from shows that are currently airing to a back catalog of tv shows that were once popular. Free users get access to the five most recent episodes of tv shows that currently air in the U.S., and access to classic shows.

Hulu Plus is a subscription-based service that provides access to all episodes of the current season, as well as access to Hulu on game consoles and televisions, and high definition streams when available.

Shows available at the time of writing include Fringe, Grimm, Family Guy, The Office, Southpark, Law and Order, and dozens of other shows.

2. ABC Player (U.S. only)

Here you can watch TV shows that are produced by the U.S. network ABC.  At the time of writing that includes Grey's Anatomy, Revenge, Missing, Lst Man Standing, Castle, Jimmy Kimmel Live or Scandal.

abc player

3. ABC Family (U.S. Only)

A family friendly TV streaming site. It currently offers access to the following shows: Jane by Design, The Lying Game, Make it or break it, Melissa & Joey, Pretty Little Liars, Switched at Birth, and The secret life of the American teenager.

abc family

4. NBC Video Library (U.S. Only)

Another U.S. only network streaming its shows on the Internet.  Available shows include classic television series, like Simon and Simon, Magnum P.I. or The A-Team, as well as 2012 shows like Bent, 30 Rock, The Event or The Biggest Loser. It is interesting to note that NBC provides access to the full back catalog of many shows, and not only a show's current season.

nbc video

5. CBS (U.S. only)

You can watch tv shows that air on CBS on this site. Popular shows include The Big Bang Theory, Blue Bloods, Criminal Minds, all the CSI shows, How I Met Your Mother or Two and a half men. Access is again only available for users connecting to the site from the United States.

6. The WB (U.S. Only)

Here you find shows airing on the Warner Browser network. Shows available include both current season shows like Fringe or The Mentalist, but also classic shows like The Gilmore Girls, The O.C., Babylon 5 or Friends.

the wb

The site unfortunately does not offer access to the full back catalog of current or classic tv shows. You only find a handful of episodes available for streaming on the site.

7. Fox (U.S. Only)

Here you can watch TV shows that air on the Fox network. This includes Family Guy, The Simpsons, House, American Idol, or New Girl.Only select episodes are available on the website.


8. Channel 4 (U.K. Only)

If you are connecting from the United Kingdom, you can head over to the 4OD website to view tv show streams on the website. Full episodes may be limited depending on the show.

channel 4

9. BBC iPlayer (U.K. Only)

This website offers BBC TV streams. Access is limited to the UK, but it is providing users with access to hundreds of programs.

bbc iplayer

TV Aggregators

1. Surf The Channel

This one monitors several streaming video sites, and maintains a database of tv shows, series and episodes that link back to destinations on the Internet where those shows are available as streams. It is mostly U.S.-based but you find British and Canadian offers there as well. Update: The service is no longer available.

2. Sidereel

Another aggregator that monitors various tv network sites and sites like Hulu. Allows you to keep track of all tv shows that are currently airing in the United States, or that have aired previously.

You may also be interested in a guide explaining how to set up a VPN on Windows 7, or on Linux machines.


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  1. Steven J Fromm said on April 21, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Nice post as I did not know too much about these options. Question: What should be your computer specs be on this. Should you have a I-3 pentium or I-5 or above and what about RAM; at least 8 or more or what?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 21, 2013 at 5:18 pm

      Steven, it depends on a couple of factors that include your computer’s performance but also your bandwidth and the quality of the stream. Adobe for instance states that for 720p streams you should have at least a Pentium 4 3 GHz processor, 128 MB of RAM and 64 MB of VRAM, for 1080p it recommends an Intel Core Duo 1.78 GHz or equivalent, 128 MB of RAM and 64 MB of VRAM. Note that these are recommended hardware configurations for Windows.

  2. Jersey Shore Season 6 Episode 10 said on December 2, 2012 at 10:34 am

    Nice post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I
    stumbleupon everyday. It’s always interesting to read through articles from other writers and practice something from their websites.

  3. Cori said on September 25, 2012 at 8:15 am

    Hulu doesn’t automatically work on the Google/ Sony smart TVs. Anyone know how to remedy this problem?

  4. Laurie said on August 4, 2012 at 9:28 pm

    Does free Hulu have R or X rated shows that are accessible?
    Not wanting any of that junk.
    Any ideas on something that would work for us?
    Currently we have basic cable, which is fine and keeps out access to HBO an Cinemax type shows, but wanting to save some money.
    Really need some direction on which way to go.

  5. monique said on July 24, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    i just bought a samsung ¨smart¨tv and csant download anything! Do you know who I can watch online tv with this stupid tv,I cant figure it out!!

  6. Mike said on June 10, 2012 at 1:16 am

    Great list of sites. Also, really love X-proxy, great way to bypass country restrictions… Thanks

  7. Caitlin Roberts said on May 2, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    I would like to add CWTV to the list, (US only) and for Scandinavian countries (Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland). They steam old films and series for free, the latest releases have to be paid for.

    You can watch Voddler using a Swedish VPN.

  8. Lonet said on May 1, 2012 at 10:13 am

    “U.S: Only & U.K Only” – Include that in the title, i wasted my time reading this article ¬¬’

  9. Beach Bouy said on May 1, 2012 at 7:20 am

    Some Internet service providers have arrangements with ESPN to allow their subscribers to view a variety of sports programming for free on Charter Communications is my ISP and I’m watching last Sunday’s Barcelona Open tennis finals (go Rafa!) now. Very cool. In the USA, American NFL football is the main problem. Most of the games are not available via IP. For me, NASCAR racing is another thing that isn’t available via IP.

  10. Annie said on April 30, 2012 at 3:12 pm

    I just hope it wouldn’t surprise me with the warning/phrase: “This video is not available in your country”.

  11. Ed said on April 30, 2012 at 9:02 am

    Hey Martin, allow me-
    In the US, the Major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX) are broadcast freely over the air along with PBS and some limited local programming depending on you’re area. It’s free and one just needs an antenna and a TV. Since the shift to digital, local TV stations have gained the ability to broadcast extra channels. Currently, I have 16 channels I can pick up freely over the air.
    Cable packages are purchased through a service provider and can offer hundreds of channels like CNN, Fox News, Comedy Central, Disney Channel, SCiFi, The Cooking Network, plus the major networks. Then there are the premium channels that can be added to a cable package like HBO, Showtime, Cinemax, Playboy, etc.
    Then there are also satellite services available like Dish Network and Direct TV. They are similar to cable in their channel offerings and that they require a subscription.
    Personally, I gave up paying for cable about five years ago. Between broadcast, netflix and a few other sites like veetle, I can watch just about anything I want. Like Bob mentioned, NFL is the most difficult to find without cable or satellite, they are pretty quick about getting streams shut down.
    So how is that different than how Germany handles TV?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 30, 2012 at 9:21 am

      Ed, it is pretty similar. You can get about 30 channels for about €20 per month over the air, including all major German channels plus CNN and a few others like Eurosport. From next year on, every German household will have to pay this, even if no TV is owned.

      Standard cable gets you more or less the same channels, making it a different way of providing TV. You pay extra for cable access, and can add packages to your subscription that cost extra but give you access to more channels. You also got IP TV and Satellite options available, which more or less all offer you access to the same channels.

      On top of all that, you got premium cable offerings which costs extra again, but gets you contents like live sports events, movies that have not been shown yet on free TV, or tv series.

      If you would get it all, you’d probably spend around €70 per month for television alone, which is a lot of money (about $92).

      1. Ed said on April 30, 2012 at 2:52 pm

        Wow, is German TV own by the government? Otherwise how could a private company force every household to purchase their product? And what about the competition? How can you determine which provider gets your money?

      2. Martin Brinkmann said on April 30, 2012 at 2:55 pm

        It is basically state TV (and other media like Radio and Internet) that gets the money. The private television networks get nothing.

  12. Bob said on April 29, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    I watch almost all of my TV online. The only sites you really need are Hulu and CBS (Hulu carries no CBS shows). Unless you require the ability to watch Hulu on a device like Roku, I would skip paying for Hulu Plus (something like $8.99/month). I pay for it but it ticks me off because the free version gets you almost as much. If CBS had a Roku channel, that would be about perfect.

    If it wasn’t for the NFL games on ESPN/NFLN and cable shows like Mad Men and Walking Dead, I would ditch paying for cable TV completely. There’s an MLB channel for Roku but I doubt it will ever exist for the NFL. Depending where you live, a cheap price (under $50) gets you a decent digital antenna that will pick up all of the major channels in perfect HD for free. I can only get NBC and Fox because my house has a lot of big trees around it. I also have Netlfix ($7.99/month) but it’s a toss-up between that and the free online content that comes with an Amazon Prime membership (about $80/year I think). I’m moving soon and decided to cancel Netflix. I’ll keep Prime because of the free 2-day shipping alone.

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on April 29, 2012 at 11:33 pm

      Would you say the quality on Hulu is good enough without the Hulu Plus subscription, even on a big television?

      I never really understood how TV is handled on the U.S. market. You got the networks, and then you got cable. Is that right? How are those different from each other?

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