Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV (FAST) Explained + The 8 Best Services

TV Lists Streaming Services
Free Ad-Supported Streaming TV (FAST) Explained + The 8 Best Services

Over the past year, you may have started hearing more and more about FAST services, and the promises of free TV that come with them. FAST stands for Free Ad-Supported Television, and it’s not unlike traditional cable; you press play on an episode, and the service will mark designated ad-breaks where they will show an allotted amount of ads before resuming. Despite its name, a FAST channel will actually add time to your binge watch, since these channels drop ads into the middle of a show’s playback. 

With Warner Bros. Discovery already intending to move mega-hits like Westworld to FAST channels very soon, it’s clear what the incentive is for studios to move towards this model and away from streaming: with slots to sell to advertisers to have their product or promotion in front of viewers’ eyeballs each time an episode is watched, these channels are already more profitable than the flat rate each customer pays per month. For audiences, it’s not a bad deal either: you can watch shows like Westworld for totally free, only paying for your time spent watching the mid-roll ads like broadcast TV. 

However, FAST channels are not only offering on-demand titles and options, but also curating live feeds as well, resurrecting the bygone days of cable by offering surfable feeds and marathons to tune-in to 24/7. Additionally, some series on FAST channels may only be available in pieces, with only a few seasons out of the entire series’ run actually streamable on the service (which includes a number of the shows listed below).

Below, we break down the best FAST channels, how to access them, and what they have to offer. 

The Roku Channel

Bones TV show

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What it is: The Roku Channel is a FAST service offered from Roku, of Roku device fame. Boasting licensing deals with major studios like Disney, Paramount, Sony, and more, this service really does have a little something for everyone. 

How to access: The only requirement is to create a free account. The Roku Channel can be accessed through the Roku / Roku Channel app, which is available on iOS, Android, and most smart TV devices. 

The best of The Roku Channel: The Roku Channel features hits like Two Broke Girls, Bones, The Mentalist, Friday Night Lights, the original Quantum Leap, Weeds, Death Note, My Babysitter’s a Vampire, and more. They also feature their own originals, though mostly movies like Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Live channels for surfing: Like most FAST live offerings, Roku’s live channels vary between actual channels and just live 24/7 feeds of the same series. Dateline 24/7, the Ice Road Truckers channel, and the Bob Ross Channel do just that, while Ion (and Ion Mystery), NBC News Now, Shades of Black, Nosey, Haunt TV, Cinevault Westerns, WB TV Watchlist, and WB TV Supernatural all play series in their specific genre. 

Amazon Freevee

Leverage: Redemption Has Much to Make Amends For

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What it is: Amazon Freevee, previously known as IMDb TV, is a leg of Amazon’s Prime Video offerings. Boasting more originals than any other FAST service on this list, Freevee feels a bit more like a true streaming service of its own rather than just a host for other content. 

How to access: Since Freevee is under the Prime Video umbrella, you do have to have an Amazon account to access the service, but a Prime subscription is not required. Freevee can be accessed through its own app, or through the Prime Video app on iOS, Android, and most smart TV devices. 

The best of Amazon Freevee: Freevee originals like High School, Leverage: Redemption, Alex Rider, and Bosch: Legacy are all stand-out series available for totally free. From other networks, Freevee offers Schitt’s Creek, Fringe, Murder, She Wrote, Lost, White Collar, Person of Interest, The X Files, Degrassi: The Next Generation, the original Magnum P.I., and more.  

Live channels for surfing: Like The Roku Channel, Freevee offers a mix of actual varied channels as well as just 24/7 streams of the same series. The Leverage, Bosch, Project Runway, and Judy Justice channels fall into the latter category, while Ion, Crime 360, Prime Video Sports Talk, and Game Show Nation fall into the former. 

Pluto TV 

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What it is: Pluto TV is a FAST service from Paramount, so a number of on-demand and live offerings on this service are from under that umbrella (which includes new and classic CBS series, shows from MTV and VH1, and more). 

How to access: There is no account required, but creating a free account will allow your watchlist to be synced across multiple devices. The Pluto TV app is available on iOS, Android, and most smart TV devices. 

The best of Pluto TV: As mentioned, most series offered are from under the Paramount umbrella, which includes FBI and its spinoffs, NCIS and its spinoffs, CSI and its spinoffs, Star Trek: The Next Generation and The Original Series, Beverly Hills 90210 (1990), Survivor, 48 Hours, Numb3rs, Sailor Moon, Daria, Stargate SG-1 and many other Stargate series, Taskmaster, and The Andy Griffith Show

Live channels for surfing: While offering generic genre channels like Crime Drama and FaithTV, Pluto also offers channels that play series from the same franchise like the Star Trek channel, the Stargate channel, the CSI channel, and more. CBS Sports HQ, Paramount+ Picks, Showtime Selects, britbox Mysteries, Reality, Buzzr, FunnyAF, Nick Jr. Pluto, and more all offer 24/7 streams of various programs under their respective genres. 


Lovecraft Country’s Pulpy Call Is One Even Cthulhu Couldn't Resist

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What it is: Tubi is a FAST service owned by the Fox Corporation, and has recently struck a deal with Warner Bros. Discovery to begin offering live channels as well as on-demand titles that were previously available on HBO Max. 

How to access: There is no account required, but having an account will allow you to create a watchlist and keep track of the series in your watch history. The Tubi app is available on iOS, Android, and most smart TV devices. 

The best of Tubi: Numerous HBO Max pulls have ended up on Tubi, including Lovecraft Country and Genera+ion. Other hit titles include Next Level Chef, Columbo, Merlin, Scooby Doo, Where Are You!, The Nanny, Everybody Hates Chris, Midsomer Murders, Quantico, Heartland, and The Shannara Chronicles

Live channels for surfing: FAST staples like NBC News Now, Ion, Court TV, Today All Day, and more are available on Tubi, as well as a number of sports networks like Fox Sports, NFL Channel, Racing America, and Fubo Sports. Like its peers, there are also a number of show-based channels like The Masked Singer channel, America’s Test Kitchen channel, and The Carol Burnett Show channel. 


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What it is: Crackle was formerly owned in majority stake by Sony, but has since been sold to Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment, who is now running the FAST service. Through its new parent company, a number of BBC series are available alongside its other programming. 

How to access: A free account is not required, but creation of one will allow your watchlist to be synced across multiple devices and save your watch progress. The Crackle app is available on iOS, Android, and most smart TV devices. 

The best of Crackle: Crackle does have a few originals of its own, including Oath, Salvage Marines, Spides, and StartUp, and boasts a number of exclusives as well, including Ghost Wars and The Pinkertons. BBC’s Sherlock, In the Flesh, Dr. Ken, Forensic Files, Pan Am, BBC’s Jane Eyre, Monarch of the Glen, and Tin Man are a few highlights from the service. 

Live channels for surfing: Crackle does not offer a live element, with all of its services being offered through on-demand format. 

Samsung TV Plus

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What it is: Samsung TV Plus is a FAST channel offered through all Samsung devices, with both live channels as well as on-demand streaming. 

How to access: An account is not required, but some channels can only be accessed by having an active Samsung account. This service can be accessed directly through your Samsung or Android devices or through the Samsung TV Plus website. If you have a Samsung TV, the app comes pre-added; if you have an Android or Samsung device, you can download the app from the Galaxy Store or Google Play app store. (Oh, and it’s also available on select Samsung Family Hub+ refrigerators, for some reason.) 

The best of Samsung TV Plus: In comparison to the seemingly endless catalogs of various other FAST networks, Samsung TV Plus’ offerings may seem slimmer, but still admirable nonetheless. Heartland, Highway to Heaven, Project Runway (both regular and All Stars), That Girl, Hell’s Kitchen, and Iron Chef are all available in full. 

Live channels for surfing: Like its peers, Samsung TV Plus offers channels like Deadline 24/7, Ion, Crime 360, Buzzr, LOL! Network, and show-specific channels like the Unsolved Mysteries channel and The Walking Dead Universe channel. The service also offers a number of sports channels including CBS Sports HQ, NBC Golf Pass, Pac-12 Insider, IMPACT Wrestling, and more alongside cooking and reality channels like Plated, Tastemade, Skills + Thrills, All Reality WE TV, and more. 

The CW App

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What it is: Besides just housing the latest episodes of The CW’s original series, The CW App is also home to many other beloved series as well, spanning across various networks under the Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount umbrellas. 

How to access: No account is required to stream, and the service can be accessed through, you guessed it, The CW App (available on iOS, Android, and most smart TV devices) or through their website. 

The best of The CW App: This is the best (and only) place to find all the latest episodes of CW hits like Riverdale, Walker, Kung Fu, Superman & Lois, The Flash, All American, and many more. For older or non-CW series, look no further than Lost Girl, Prodigal Son, Powerless, Scream Queens, Wellington Paranormal, and Ringer

Live channels for surfing: The CW App does not offer a live element, as actual cable or satellite is required to view The CW’s live local feed. 


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What it is: If you went to film school, then you are likely intimately familiar with Kanopy, which is a FAST service that can be accessed through your local or school library. Known mostly for housing essential and indie films, Kanopy also has a decent TV section as well. 

How to access: On Kanopy’s website or app, simply search for your local library or enter your university credentials to access. Unfortunately, not all libraries are automatically opted in to Kanopy’s program, so the service may not be available depending on location. 

The best of Kanopy: Kanopy offers a variety of BBC series, including Father Brown, SS-GB, Atlantis, Death in Paradise, The Catherine Tate Show, In the Dark, Whitechapel, In My Skin, and more. Other notable series include Degrassi: The Next Generation, The Prisoner, The Librarians, reality series like Alone and Hoarders, and numerous PBS and History Channel documentaries. 

Live channels for surfing: Like The CW App, Kanopy does not have a live element. 

Anna Govert is an entertainment writer based in middle-of-nowhere Indiana. For any and all thoughts about TV, film, and the wonderful insanity of Riverdale, you can follow her @annagovert.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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