Streaming services step up promotions during social distancing

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Burned through all your favorite Netflix comfort food already? The streaming world has you covered.

With so many people stuck at home right now, streaming services and TV providers are offering a number of discounts and extended free trials to help keep the country entertained in this difficult time. So grab some popcorn, dim the lights and let the #Quarantineandchill begin!

HBO and other premium networks for new DIRECTV customers

DIRECTV is now offering promotions for a variety of premium networks for new customers. Here’s what you can get if you sign up now: 

  • HBO: One year of free HBO. After that first year, HBO will automatically renew on your plan at the then-prevailing rate (currently $17.99/mo.). 
  • Cinemax, Showtime and Starz: First three months are included for free. After that, this package auto-renews at the then-prevailing rate (currently $41.99/mo.). 
  • EPIX: Free for three months, then auto-renews at the then-prevailing rate (currently $5.99/mo.). 

Keep in mind, DIRECTV requires two-year contracts for all of its packages, but you can cancel these premium channels as soon as the promotion ends. In other words, you won’t be forced to pay for HBO if you don’t want to.

Niche streaming services have extended free trials to 30 days

While streaming giants like Netflix, Prime Video and Hulu always offer 30-day free trials, most of the smaller services cut it off at a week. But with so many people staying in, a number of more niche streamers are offering extended sneak peeks into their services. Here are some of the best options we found: 

  • Shudder: In our review of the best Netflix alternatives, we called Shudder the best streaming service for horror fans. Use promo code “SHUTIN” for 30 days of free scares.
  • Acorn TV: Specializing in British television, you can check out Acorn TV for 30 days with the promo code “FREE30.” 
  • Sundance Now: With promo code “SUNDANCENOW30” you’ll get access to the service’s catalog of “true crime, thrillers and immersive drama.”
  • Urban Movie Channel: Calling itself the “best in black film & television,” Urban Movie Channel is offering 30 days for free when you include the promo code “UMCFREE30” at checkout. 

The NBA and NFL are opening the vaults

With every American sports league on an indefinite hiatus, sports fans are desperate for some games. Fortunately, almost every league is running some promotions to help their fans out. Here’s what you can get right now:

  • NFL Game Pass: Until May 31, you can get NFL Game Pass entirely for free. This gives you access to every game from the past 10 seasons. You can watch full broadcast replays, condensed games in 45 minutes and the all-22 coaches film. It also has a bounty of NFL Original films, including past seasons of Hard Knocks, A Football Life and Mic’d Up.
  • NBA League Pass: The NBA is making its premium subscription available for free until April 22. According to the NBA, this gets you “access to full length and condensed replays of all games from the 2019-20 season, as well as an expansive archive of classic games and content.” 

Both of these services can be streamed on web browsers, iOS and Android apps and most streaming devices and smart TVs. 

Amazon makes kids shows free to stream

If you’re one of the many parents who has a kid on break from school, Amazon is lending a hand. The company is making 40 kids shows that were previously only available through Prime Video free to stream to everyone worldwide. That includes popular shows like Arthur and Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, plus Amazon originals like Just Add Magic and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie.

To access them, you’ll need an Amazon account, which is free to create. You can see Amazon’s complete landing page for free children’s shows and movies here.

PBS

If you’re a sports fan jonesing for some action, PBS has your back. The network is making the 1994 Ken Burns series Baseball available to stream for free. You can watch it on pbs.org or through the PBS app on all major streaming platforms.

Sling TV

Sling TV is currently promoting “Stay In & Sling!,” a much-slimmed down version of its live TV streaming service

“To stay informed in these uncertain times, Americans need access to news from reputable sources,” said Warren Schlichting, group president, Sling TV. “With many Americans finding themselves staying at home, we have an opportunity to use our platform to help them deal with this rapidly evolving situation.”

While that sounds great on paper, you’ll only get three live TV channels for free: your local FOX affiliate (in some markets), ABC News Live and FOX News. If you’re looking to keep up with the latest news, you may have better luck using a free live TV streaming service (more on that below). 

You can also access “thousands of hours” of on-demand movies and TV shows from Sling for free, but these are mostly limited to older shows like Forensic Files and Roseanne. Again, you’ll probably have better luck using a free streaming service like Hoopla or Tubi if you’re looking to stream free movies and shows. 

You can use Sling Free on Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Android TV devices as well as most web browsers. Just install the Sling app and select “Browse as Guest” to start watching. On a web browser, simply go to Sling’s Browse My TV page. 

Free TV streaming services

If you’re looking to keep up with the latest news or binge some new TV shows, there are a number of options out there that won’t cost you anything. For channels that broadcast live news, we recommend trying a free live TV streaming service like Locast or Pluto. Locast will get you local channels like ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, but it’s currently only available in 17 U.S. cities. Pluto TV is available everywhere and has a number of live news channels like CNN, NBC and CBS. 

For free on-demand movies and TV shows, you have dozens of options. Hoopla and Kanopy require a library card to use, and they specialize in critically acclaimed and international movies. If you’re looking for more popcorn fare, we recommend checking out services like Tubi, Vudu and IMDb TV. 

Looking for more streaming options to keep you busy over the next few months? Keep up with our TV and internet experts on Facebook, Twitter or right here on our Resource Center.