Video streaming services can take up a good chunk of your budget, especially if you are paying for two or three every month. Tubi (recently purchased by Fox Corporation) is a free streaming service that includes a decent range of popular movies across many genres, even besting the film catalogs of many paid services. Of course, since it is free, the videos are ad-supported. You also miss out on top capabilities of other services, namely offline downloads on mobile devices and full HD streaming. If you are looking for entertainment that won’t affect your monthly budget, though, Tubi’s downsides shouldn’t dissuade you.
What Can You Watch on Tubi?
Tubi’s library currently holds about 20,000 movies and series—an impressive count, though it is unclear whether individual episodes count towards that number. By comparison, the paid Criterion Channel service has about 2,000 films. CBS All Access only has about 50 total movies available for streaming.
At the time of my review, some popular films on the service include All Dogs Go to Heaven; A.I. Artificial Intelligence; Black Hawk Down; Donnie Darko; Failure to Launch; House of Sand and Fog; Legally Blonde; Memento; Minority Report; Planes, Trains, and Automobiles; Rain Man; Road to Perdition; Shaun the Sheep Movie; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; The Adventures of Tin Tin; Thelma and Louise; The Founder; The Way Back; and We Need to Talk About Kevin. Check out our feature on what you can stream on Tubi each month.
Some of the TV shows on the platform are 3rd Rock From the Sun (season 1-5), Degrassi: The Next Generation (seasons 1-14); Haven (seasons 1-5), Hell’s Kitchen (seasons 1-14), Jojo’s Bizarre Adventures (seasons 1-4), Leverage (seasons 1-5), Naruto (seasons 1-4), One-Punch Man (season 1), Shipping Wars (seasons 1-8), and V (seasons 1-2).
Unlike some paid on-demand services, Tubi does not produce original content. If you want to watch the latest streaming hits such as Disney+’s The Mandalorian, Netflix’s The Witcher, Prime Video’s The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, or CBS All Access’s Star Trek: Picard, you’ll have to pay for those services.
If you want to watch live TV, Tubi can’t help, but you do have some free options. Pluto TV, for instance, offers a good variety of interest-based channels and aggregate content. Locast broadcasts local channels in many geographic regions, too.
Value and Platforms
As noted, Tubi is free. No-cost services are a great option for those looking to reduce monthly costs in the wake of an ever-fragmenting market of services. Whether Tubi’s inconveniences are fair trade-offs against paid services is a personal preference. Note that there is no way to watch Tubi without ads; it does not offer any sort of premium account subscription tier. That said, Tubi’s may get new features and tiers as a result of its recent acquisition by Fox Corporation. Other free on-demand services include Crackle, IMDb TV, and Vudu.
Hulu’s ad-supported plan and Disney+ are both available for the relatively affordable prices of $5.99 and $6.99 per month, respectively. Horror-focused Shudder costs $5.99 per month as well. All of those services are good options for movie fans and support full HD streaming.
Going up in price a bit, HBO Now ($15.99 per month) and Netflix’s Standard plan ($12.99 per month) are both excellent options for watching top movies and series. Netflix even has the advantage of creating original films, such as El Camino: A Breaking Bad Story, Roma, and The Irishman. The Criterion Channel ($10.99 per month) is a better fit for fans of older and contemporary classic and art-house films (domestic and international), and especially those who enjoy watching extra features.
Prime Video ($8.99 per month) and CBS All Access ($5.99 per month for the ad-supported plan), in addition to Netflix, Hulu, and HBO now, are other options for watching popular network and original TV shows.
Tubi is available on all major platforms, as well as on the web and mobile devices (Android and iOS). As for media streaming devices, it offers apps for Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV Chromecast, Android TV, and TiVo. Tubi even supports gaming consoles (Xbox One, PlayStation 3, and PlayStation 4) as well as select smart TVs from Samsung, Sony, and Vizio.
Tubi on the Web
To get started with Tubi, you can sign up for a free account, but you aren’t required to create one. Pluto TV doesn’t have this requirement either. Setting up an account is just a matter of providing a name, email, and a few other basic details. As I discuss later, some advantages to creating an account are the ability to set up parental controls, add titles to a personal queue, and view your watch history.
Tubi’s web interface looks slick, with a gray, orange, and white color scheme. It has very few navigational buttons, too, which helps keep the emphasis on the content. Across the top of the page, there’s an overflow menu button, a search bar, and a link to your profile settings. Most of the site navigation happens via this menu. It organizes films and shows into four broad categories (Popular, Genres, Collections, and Channels) with subcategories listed below that. For instance, the Collections list includes Award Winners and Nominees, Cult Classics, Highly Rated on Rotten Tomatoes, and Not on Netflix.
The search bar works fine and supports queries for anything that appears on a movie’s or show’s description page, such as an actor, director, or genre. From the account section, you can edit your profile details, delete your account, set up parental control options, and modify your viewing history. I would like the option to customize the account’s profile photo. As it is now, the profile photo is just a circle with different shades of orange. Disney+ allows you to change your profile icon.
When you find something to watch, just click on the thumbnail to view its details and begin playback. Tubi presents a playback window at the top of the screen, with other information laid out in cleanly outlined areas below it. Apart from a basic description of the title, the page also includes the run time, parental rating, genre, director, and main cast members. On the right side of the screen, you can add the entry to your Queue as well as share it via Facebook or Twitter.
At the bottom of the page, Tubi shows recommendations for other movies you may like. If any of those catch your interest, you can add them to your Queue by hovering over the thumbnail. It’s unclear whether these recommendations are based solely on the current title you are viewing or if they consider films you’ve watched on the service. One missing feature that I’d like to see added is a user rating or review system. Both Prime Video and Shudder allow subscribers to add ratings and written comments for shows and movies.
Tubi’s Mobile Apps
I downloaded Tubi’s mobile app on a Google Pixel 3 running Android 10. The mobile app interface is visually consistent with the web version and uses a black, white, and orange color scheme. The bottom navigation bar houses three icons, Home, Discover, and Account.
The Home section is where Tubi shows all of its top content, be it via the top gallery or the overwhelmingly long list of sub-categories. From the Discover tab, you can find all the subcategories and genres from the web’s top menu (For You, Collections, Genres, and Channels). The Search bar also lives in this section.
The Account section has few options, the most notable of which are toggles for closed captions and the option to lock the app in landscape mode. I do appreciate the well-designed Help Center interface, but notably missing are options for streaming preferences and parental controls.
Tubi’s video player on the web is understated in design but has all the standard features. Apart from the basic playback controls, you get 30-second rewind and fast forward buttons, a menu for selecting streaming quality, and a button for toggling closed captions. Scrubbing along the progress bar also shows previews of each frame. The mobile playback screen looks largely the same. However, you can’t control the playback resolution from that player.
Unlike some other ad-supported services that only run ads at the beginning or end of playback, Tubi says it runs ads before, in the middle, and after playback. That’s not so bad, considering that Hulu’s ad-supported tier behaves even worse than this (more frequent commercial breaks on shorter videos and sometimes multiple ads play in a row at each break). Anecdotally, I only ever saw ads at the beginning of playback, if at all. Still, I would like the option to pay a minimal monthly fee to get rid of ads entirely. This experience may change when Fox Corporation integrates its ad tech.
Tubi says it only requires internet speeds above 4Mbps (download), which is a pretty low barrier. I tested the service’s streaming performance over a home Ethernet connection (200Mbps download), and, as expected, had no issues with stutters or lag.
One major limitation of Tubi, however, is that its maximum streaming resolution tops out at 720p. Not all of its movies hit that quality either, with many popular films I checked only offering roughly 540p resolution. This streaming limitation is a real drawback. It would be much less of an issue if everything was available in at least 720p. That said, some paid services, namely Acorn TV and BritBox, also limit playback to 720p on the web and mobile devices, which is even more problematic.
Features and Accessibility
Tubi does not support offline downloads for movies or shows, which is to be expected of a free service. That’s one feature that’s standard across the vast majority of the paid options, including Netflix, Prime Video, Hulu (ad-free), and CBS All Access (ad-free).
As mentioned, Tubi does offer parental control tools. To set them up, head to the Parental Controls tab on the Account Settings page of the web interface. Here, you can select from a dropdown list of what content you want to be viewable in the account. The four options are Little Kids (Y, TV-G, and TV-Y); Older Kids (PG, TV-PG, TV-Y7); Teens (PG-13, TV-14); and Adult (R, TV-MA, NR, and NC-17). Tubi makes you reenter the account password to lock down these changes.
There are several problems with Tubi’s implementation of parental controls. The first major one is that since Tubi is a free service, a child or teen could just log out of the monitored account and watch whatever they want. If you don’t see the movies and shows they say they are watching pop up in the watch history, then this may be an indication of their evasion. Another issue is that Tubi locks down these settings with the account password. Presumably, if you want your child to use the account you set up, you will need to give them the password, which would let them disable the restrictions. Also, without the ability to set up individual user profiles, this means that everyone using the account is subject to the same rules. Parents might want to watch content that may be age-inappropriate for their kids.
Tubi’s simultaneous streaming limits are somewhat irrelevant since anyone is free to watch content with or without an account. Still for a household situation, if using the parental control tools as intended, you may want to use the same account as you let your kids use. For reference, I was able to stream content without issues on a mobile and desktop device simultaneously while logged in to the same account.
Don’t expect anything advanced in terms of accessibility. Tubi does support closed captions on the vast majority of its content, but you can’t customize the text size, font, or color. BritBox allows you to customize subtitles directly from the player. You also won’t find any content that supports Audio Descriptions. Currently, Apple TV+, Netflix, and Prime Video all offer Audio Descriptions for at least some of their original content.
Tubi and VPN
A VPN is a great way to protect yourself online from your ISP or malicious actors on a network. VPNs can also be used to spoof your location online. Many video streaming services may prevent you from streaming content over a VPN connection, since some content is locked to certain geographic regions. Oftentimes they will block access even if you are connected to a VPN in supported countries.
I tried to stream a movie on Tubi on my Windows 10 desktop over a Canada-, Sweden-, and US-based Mullvad VPN servers. I had no streaming issues over the US or Canadian servers, but Tubi wouldn’t work with the one from Sweden. Even if you find a VPN currently works with all of your streaming services, it might not work with all of them forever. Most video streaming services actively work to block VPN traffic.
Free Movies and More
Despite not costing anything, Tubi manages to bundle together a solid list of movies and TV shows into an attractive interface. It also supports an excellent range of devices and includes some useful extras such as watchlists and parental controls. Tubi’s biggest limitation is that it only supports up to 720p streaming and that a lot of its content doesn’t even hit that resolution. Although the ads aren’t overwhelming, we would still like to see a low-cost monthly option to remove them entirely and possibly to unlock higher-resolution streaming. For the best on-demand shows and movies, we recommend Editors’ Choice Netflix. Our top choices for live TV services are YouTube TV and Hulu; both offer excellent channel variety and slick interfaces.