Due to the pandemic, original summer TV programming is at a low ebb, especially on the broadcast networks. Fox and The CW both held several spring/summer series for fall, which is starting to look like a smart move as most blue-chip scripted series have yet to resume production.

And while subscription streaming services, especially Netflix, continue to serve up new content this summer, the pandemic-generated economic crisis surely makes adding or even continuing to buy streaming services a challenge for many consumers.

But there’s another option: ad-supported, free streaming services. Yes, there are commercials on most of these services. And few offer original programming, but these free streamers offer reruns of once-popular series, from “ALF” to “Mad Men.” (It’s worth noting that available content on free streamers can change regularly, often at the first of the month.)

Many free streamers ask users to create a free account to access the content. All are available on a website or through an app on assorted devices — smart TVs, Android, iOS, Roku, Xbox One, Apple TV, Fire TV, etc. (Check with individual streamers to make sure they’re compatible with your particular device.)

Not all of these platforms are created equal. Some are filled with cellar dweller dreck while others showcase a broader range of content. Here’s what you’ll find this month on the top free streamers:


Available through: App or crackle.com.

Shows: Formerly Sony-owned and now majority-owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, Crackle delivers docuseries originals (“Going From Broke”) and a mix of movies (“All I Want for Christmas”) and TV shows (“3rd Rock From the Sun”).


Available through: App or hoopladigital.com.

Shows: A rare free streaming service with no ads, Hoopla requires a library card (Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh participates) and offers access to films (“Carol,” “Spaceballs”) and TV series (season one of “The Librarians,” season two of “Reno 911!”).


Available through: App or imdb.com/tv.

Shows: An Amazon-owned free streamer that’s been beefing up its offerings, this month IMDb TV presents eight “Star Trek” movies (“Star Trek II” and “Star Trek III” are MIA), “Ugly Betty,” former Starz series “Spartacus” and “Magic City” and filmed-in-Pittsburgh movie “The Last Witch Hunter.” This week the service added “Mad Men.”

A rare free streamer that has ambitions to add original series, IMDb TV is developing a “Leverage” reboot starring Noah Wyle. On Nov. 13 the service premieres coming-of-age spy thriller “Alex Rider,” based on “Point Blanc,” the second novel in the Alex Rider book series.


Available through: App, Comcast cable or peacocktv.com.

Shows: While there are paid tiers to Peacock, the basic tier is free with commercials and includes access to 13,000 hours of library TV shows (“30 Rock,” “Parks and Recreation,” “Friday Night Lights,” “Downton Abbey”) and movies (“The Bourne Identity,” “Jurassic Park”).


Available through: App or plex.tv.

Shows: This service features fairly moldy TV shows (“Merlin,” “Running Wilde”) and movies (“The Cable Guy,” “The Big Easy”).

Pluto TV

Available through: App or pluto.tv.

Shows: This ViacomCBS-owned option includes both on-demand movies (“The Firm,” “Glory”) and TV shows (“Roseanne,” “Gene Roddenberry’s Andromeda”) and dozens of live TV channels for those who like the channel-flipping experience.

The Roku Channel

Available through: App or roku.com/whats-on/the-roku-channel.

Shows: Available on devices aside from Roku, the Roku Channel offers movies (“Crimson Tide,” “The Perfect Storm”) and TV shows (“Doc Martin,” “Bewitched”).


Available through: App or tubitv.com.

Shows: Purchased in April by Fox Entertainment, this video-on-demand service offers access to movies in multiple genres (“Galaxy Quest,” “Snakes on a Plane”), older TV shows (the first three seasons of filmed-in-Pittsburgh “Dance Moms,” “The Joy of Painting”) and recent Fox broadcast hits (“The Masked Singer,” “Hell’s Kitchen”).


Available through: App or vudu.com.

Shows: Formerly owned by Walmart and now part of Comcast’s NBCUniversal, Vudu streams a mix of movies (“Scream,” “Gods and Monsters”) and TV series (filmed-in-Pittsburgh 1998 “The Temptations” miniseries, “ALF,” “Camelot”).


Available through: App or youtube.com/feed/storefront.

Shows: Not just a place to watch unboxing videos and influencer testimonials, YouTube also offers paid movie/TV rentals and a small, somewhat pitiable selection of free-to-view content with ads, which recently included “School of Dance” and “Fred: The Movie.”


Shark shows

Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” airs Aug. 9-16, but rival “Sharkfest!” on National Geographic Channel commences Sunday with 17 original specials airing through Aug. 2 and then those shows repeat on Nat Geo Wild Aug. 9-20.

New programs include “World’s Biggest Tiger Shark?” (8 p.m. Sunday), “Sharks of the Bermuda Triangle” (10 p.m. July 27), “Shark vs. Surfer” (8 p.m. Aug. 2) and the six-episode “When Sharks Attack” (9 p.m. July 20).

TCA Awards nominations

Late last week the Television Critics Association announced its 2020 TCA Awards nominations with HBO’s “Watchmen” tied with Netflix’s “Unbelievable” with four nods each.

FX on Hulu’s “Mrs. America,” Pop TV’s “Schitt’s Creek” and HBO’s “Succession” each earned three nominations.

Pittsburgh-based Fred Rogers Co.’s “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood” and “Odd Squad” both score nominations for outstanding achievement in youth programming.

Kept/canceled/spun off

Hallmark Channel renewed ”Good Witch” for season seven and “Chesapeake Shores” for season five.

FX renewed “Better Things” for season five.

Hulu renewed “Ramy” for a third season; Amazon did the same for “Hanna.”

HBO Max renewed ballroom competition series “Legendary” for a second season; Fox did the same for “The Moodys.”

After announcing earlier this year that “The Crown” will end with season five, creator Peter Morgan and Netflix have opted to extend the series for a sixth and final season.

Netflix’s “The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” will end with a final batch of episodes debuting later this year.

HBO canceled “Run” after a single season. Showtime nixed ”Kidding,” starring Jim Carrey as a Mister Rogers-like children’s show host, after two seasons.

HBO Max ordered a spinoff series of the upcoming Robert Pattinson-starring “The Batman” movie that will be set in the Gotham City police department.

In 2021 Disney+ will debut “Star Wars: The Bad Batch,” a spinoff of “Star Wars: The Clone Wars.” Like “Clone Wars’ the new show will be executive produced by Mt. Lebanon native Dave Filoni.

Channel surfing

ABC fired “Dancing With the Stars” host Tom Bergeron and co-host Erin Andrews as the show embarks on “a new creative direction” and installs Tyra Banks as host. … CBS daytime soap “The Bold and the Beautiful” returns from a pandemic-forced break with new episodes Monday. … Javicia Leslie (“God Friended Me”) will be the new star of The CW’s “Batwoman.” … Last week MSNBC named Joy Reid host of “The Reidout,” the network’s new 7 p.m. weekday show beginning July 20. … Streamer BET+ will launch “Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Farewell Play” Aug. 27. … A remotely produced season of MTV’s “Catfish: The TV Show” begins at 8 p.m. Aug. 5. … As producers continue to figure out a way to safely shoot a new season of ”Survivor,” CBS pulled the show from its fall schedule.


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