How to Legally Watch Your Favorite TV Shows Online

From New Releases to Old Favorites

Let’s jump straight into the questions that most people ask: can you watch TV online legally? Can you watch TV online legally for free? Can you legally watch pay TV online? Yes, yes and yes. There are tons of legal content providers offering users quality online shows, documentaries, sports, and movies.

Different Options Available

There are two major categories of legal online TV: pay TV and free TV. Pay TV means you actually pay to watch a show or movie like on Amazon or iTunes. Free TV means you don’t have to pay to watch your favorite show or movie.

Pay TV

The main ways you can access Pay TV online is through streaming services, TV rental services and purchasing TV services.

Streaming Services

This is one of the most popular ways to watch TV online. Customers pay a subscription fee to access a huge array of movies and shows over a specified period of time, usually a month. Subscribers have access to the latest premium content. Subscribers can choose to binge watch entire seasons of hundreds of shows available.

Examples include Netflix, Amazon Prime TV, HBO GO and Huluplus. Other premium streaming sites include Warner and CBS All Access.

Huluplus is the premium version of Hulu and takes a day or two to give access to shows after they have been released. Amazon Prime includes an extra incentive of two free shipping items and access to older HBO shows. Premium Netflix allows up to four users to view 4K content on different devices.

Netflix also has an option for downloading TV shows and movies, where users can access later for offline viewing.

TV Rental Services

Gone are the days when consumers were forced to go to the video store and rent a DVD or VHS tape. Online TV rental services work in the same way as renting DVDs; they allow you to watch a movie once for a specified time at a fee. Depending on the content provider setup, content is mostly in HD or SD.

The most popular rental content providers are iTunes Store, Vudu, and Amazon instant videos. iTunes usually charges $1.99 USD per show or $30 USD per season.

Buying TV Services

This is the online version of one-time purchases of DVDs at the store. Due to copyright laws and infringements, not all digitally bought copies can be made into hard copies.

Free Online TV

Finding genuine free legal online TV content can be tricky, especially with an influx of illegal streaming sites that have copyrighted content. The two main ways you can legally watch TV for free online are: free streaming sites and watching shows from the respective network.

Free Streaming Sites

These sites provide great service and enable users to watch their favorite shows legally. Sometimes the content may be limited so you won’t be able to watch current shows. In order to support their content, some sites may have ads for viewers. Here is a list of popular legal free streaming sites:


Crackle is a classic free streaming service that offers older movies and some TV shows. It is ad-based and does require subscribers to sign up to an account. It’s readily available on a wide variety of devices with some new original shows included.

Yahoo View

Yahoo collaborated with Hulu and launched Yahoo View in August 2016. Since Hulu discontinued their free streaming service, they transferred their large collection of content that used to be freely available to Yahoo View.


As the world’s biggest video sharing network YouTube has some great channels where you can watch award winning documentaries including VICE and National Geography. You can also catch some older shows here.

You can find tons of free kids content on Nick.com, Nick Reboot, the Nick Jr. app on iOS, Cartoon Network Reboot, and Watch CN

Watching Shows from the Respective Network Provider

Most giant TV networks like AMC make their top rated shows available on their websites for free. The only drawback is that the shows are available for only a limited period of time and you have to watch a couple of ads before you actually get to watch the show.

Other Ways to Legally Watch TV Online

Streaming sticks come fully loaded with free and premium apps like Pandora, YouTube, ESPN, Crackle, Netflix, Hulu Plus, HBO GO, Google Play, Showtime and thousands more. Apple TV, Google Chromecast, Roku, and Amazon Fire are also options.

Perks of Watching TV Online


Online TV gives viewers flexibility, allowing them to watch what they want, where they want on a multiplicity of devices. In addition you get to watch TV in the best and latest formats available — convenient, right?

Cost Effective

Compared to cable TV, streaming and online TV rentals are way more cost effective. Plus you get to pay for only the shows you want. Cable costs up to $700 USD a year, while streaming sites like Netflix are less than $200 USD.


Online TV provides users with a wide range of content to choose from. Watch all your sports, drama, horror, and blockbuster movies all in one place.


Internet Is a Must

If you have slow or unreliable internet, you will not get much out of online TV.

Additional Upgrades

Other upgrades like streaming sticks are needed if you want to enjoy some features like 4K.