What Is Tubi (and Is It Worth It?)

In a streaming video market dominated by the likes of Netflix and Hulu, it might seem like there's no room left for alternatives. But an upstartup called Tubi is trying to prove there is, by offering movies and TV at the low, low price of free.

What Is Tubi?

Tubi is a video streaming service, not unlike Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video and others, with a vast library of television shows and movies you can stream from your phone, smart TV or streaming device at no charge. The only catch is that you'll need to watch some ads while you stream its content.

Tubi is free? Is that even legal?

It might be difficult to fathom in a world dominated by fear of piracy that a streaming video service could be free and legal, but, yes, Tubi is legal.

The secret ingredient in Tubi's business model is advertising. The company is trying to use the appeal of "free" to bring more and more people to its service. It then charges advertisers to connect with those customers.

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Those ads run before and during a movie or television show, so you'll definitely be seeing them often. They're not so bad, though — at 15 seconds to 30 seconds, it's not hard to get through them. However, they're unskippable, so if you try to race through them, you won't be able to.

What kind of content is available?

Tubi's library size of more than 7,500 movies and television shows is surprisingly big for a service that hasn't yet reached mainstream status like Netflix and Hulu.

Tubi was able to amass that much content by partnering with more than 200 providers, including Hollywood heavyweights Paramount, Lionsgate and MGM. You'll also find programming from A&E, Complex Networks and others.

In terms of the actual shows and films, it's a bit of a mixed bag. There are some downright popular options on the service, like Hell's Kitchen, Duck Dynasty and others. But on the movie front, you won't find the latest and greatest hits.

Tubi has a handy Most Popular section, which gives you some insight into the most well-known movies  it offers. As of this writing, the 2011 Johnny Depp film Rango is tops, followed by Pride and Glory; the documentaries Little Women: Atlanta, Lionheart, Rock Dog and Congo are also sitting at the top of the list.

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You'll also find a host of categories that aim to help you find content you like. For instance, there are TV dramas, anime, "classics" for old-school favorites, and "preschool" for child-friendly programming.

Arguably, Tubi's most interesting category is "Not on Netflix," a collection of films and television shows that, for one reason or another, you can't get on Netflix. But this category is like everything else on the service, a collection of mostly misses (including Rob Schneider's The Animal and Bulletproof Monk starring Chow-Yun Fat and Seann William Scott) and a rare hit or two (such as the 2010 True Grit remake).

What about sports and live programming?

Sorry, but if you're looking for live channels, you're out of luck. Tubi only provides content that's already aired or premiered on the silver screen (or your home theater).

There aren't any live sports events on the service, either. However, if you search for sports programming, you'll find some options, including Driving Sports and Sports Adventures.

Can I download content?

No way. The only way to watch Tubi is when you're on a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. The company doesn't allow users to download content to their devices for offline viewing.

Where can I watch Tubi?

You might be surprised by the sheer number of places you can access Tubi.

Tubi offers a slew of options for getting the service onto your TV, including apps on Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Chromecast. Tubi is  also available on the Apple TV, PS4 and Xbox One. And if you're a Comcast Xfinity or Tivo user, you'll find Tubi apps on those platforms, as well.

Smart TVs and Blu-ray players from Samsung and Sony also work with Tubi.

Tubi is also available via web browsers at tubitv.com. So, if you're looking to watch it from your laptop or Chromebook, head on over there and you'll find all the content you want.

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On the mobile side, you'll find Tubi is available in both Apple's App Store and the Google Play marketplace, so you can access it on just about any iPhone or Android device available now.

What's missing?

If you're interested in Tubi, you might be wondering what you won't get out of the service. For one, Tubi doesn't come with much, if any, new or original content. What you'll find here is a nice library of media, but not necessarily a boatload of brand-new shows and films. And since there's no live television, Tubi doesn't come with a cloud DVR. It does, however, have a queue that will let you save stuff for easy access later on.

Who is Tubi really for?

If you're looking to watch some older films and television shows, Tubi might be a great place to start. It's free, has plenty of shows and movies for folks interested in any genre and comes with a nice interface.

If you're someone who just enjoys content and you don't necessarily have a particular show or movie you just have to watch, you can have fun on Tubi finding programming. But if you're into the latest and greatest hits or you want to check out exceedingly popular films and television series, Tubi might not be for you.