It’s no small secret that Netflix is kicking all kinds of ass, today, but it’s not available for free. If you want to get in on the Netflix Original Series that everyone is talking about, this usually means that you need to conjure up a legitimate, paid-for Netflix account, not to mention the fact that you also need to have a reliable, persistent online connection. Some might argue that it’s a small price to pay for some of the best TV that you can find, but in reality, the multifaceted costs of keeping up with a subscription streaming service can be seriously taxing on the budget!
Therefore, we’re here to tackle a question that comes up fairly frequently alongside the topic of Netflix’s great original series—is there any way to watch them for free?
Whether you’re an active Netflix subscriber or not, it has to have been difficult to miss the plethora of mainstream landmarks that Netflix has put out in the recent years. Daredevil. Jessica Jones. Luke Cage. Beasts of No Nation. The list goes on and on, dancing back and forth between episodic television shows to feature-length films. And they all seem to fit in perfectly with the rest of Netflix’s other offerings, such that they don’t feel like something that was developed for online broadcasting. This simultaneously allows Netflix Originals to fit in alongside other films and TV shows from other sources, while also standing out as the best that Netflix has to offer.
Anyone who argues against this strategy has to reckon with the fact that it’s been immensely successful, and other streaming services have struggled to perpetuate the same types of success. Hulu, Amazon Prime, and others have certainly tried, and while each has achieved singular successes, none of them have Netflix’s reputation. The only alternative that’s doing anything close is HBO; its dedicated streaming apps—HBO Go and HBO Now—are representative of anything and everything that the cable giant is doing every month, while also packing in the entire backlog of HBO original programming.
That might seem like an odd comparison, but hang in there—we’re going to return to that point, eventually. Netflix and HBO have far more in common that you might ever have suspected.
Free Online Streaming
If you search for free, online streaming solutions, you’re going to be spoiled with apparent choices. We’ve talked about them quite a few times before, here on Digital Recourse. Usually, the discussion goes something like this:
“Is it safe or legal for me to stream [insert TV show or movie here] for free?” After which, we’re of course obliged to answer, “It probably isn’t, no.” There’s a reason that you’re not going to find many free online streaming services. Many reasons, actually, and once you’ve taken all of those reasons into account, there isn’t much of a remaining case for anything being offered free of charge, apart from the fact that people want it. But when haven’t people wanted free things, right?
What’s the Problem?
Far and away the largest reason that free streaming content can’t be a reality is because it always costs money. Apart from the user-generated types of content that you see on YouTube, anything else almost certainly had a certain budget invested into its creations. And as is the case with popular TV shows and movies, quite a few copyrights are tied up in the mix as well. Seriously, take a look at the budget for even a middle-of-the-road film released during 2016, and then try to determine how that movie is going to generate revenue if it’s made available, at no cost, to anyone who wants to stream it.
For this reason, almost no service online—apart from user-generated hubs like YouTube—are offering anything for free. This includes Netflix, by the way; none of the Netflix Originals that are generating so much buzz were cheap to make. And with that knowledge, take this into consideration—how many other places have you ever seen Netflix Originals being offered? On regular cable access? On other streaming services? They’re only available through Netflix, which is another reason that you’re not going to find them legally available anywhere else, much less as a free streaming option.
The profitability of Netflix Original series and features is hugely dependent on people subscribing to Netflix, in order to view them.
Is It Illegal?
Long story short—watching these shows anywhere outside of Netflix probably is illegal, apart from the rare circumstances that a Netflix Original gets a physical release on DVD and Blu-ray. But even those forms of media carrying Netflix shows is a rare circumstance.
That hasn’t stopped plenty of illicit online streaming options from offering Netflix shows as part of their “libraries,” and it certainly doesn’t stop people from illegally sharing copies of that content via P2P torrent and sharing applications. If it wasn’t obvious enough, this is also illegal!
It suffices to say, perhaps, that the only place you’re going to find legitimately viewable Netflix Originals is on Netflix. And if you encounter them anywhere else—especially as a free alternative—you’re either being duped, misled, or guided towards illegally shared content. We’re not in the habit of directing our readers into danger, and thus we highly advise that you steer clear of such offers. There are only a few options for free streaming online that are also 100% legal. They stand out fairly well by being so few.
- YouTube is one, of course. While much of what’s available is user-created content, you’ll frequently find videos being sponsored by copyright holders of major content. Vintage movies and TV shows? They certainly exist. And if you’re more in the mood for TV shows and feature-length films, you can check out Sony’s streaming venture,
- Crackle. It’s filled to the brim with popular movies and shows, and perhaps best of all, you don’t need to sign up for the service. You certainly can, but you can visit the website and just start watching—thus far, it’s the only online service that makes streaming popular movies and shows so easy.
But we’re not here to talk about alternatives; we’re here to talk about Netflix Originals. And apart from a subscription to Netflix itself, you’re not going to be able to find them anywhere else. However, that might not always be the case, if recent decisions by third parties are any indication.
Oddly, the chances of seeing Netflix Originals—especially films—grows higher the better that the content is received.
Watching Netflix Originals
The convenience of Netflix was a landmark when the service debuted, but competition has largely drowned out how significant it is. After all, there are how many similar services being offered by well-funded alternate services? Now, the convenience of strong streaming access—being able to watch whatever you want, whenever you want—is largely taken for granted.
And we’re not going to act like shills for Netflix in telling you this—it’s not the purpose of this article—but you get one hell of a value with a Netflix subscription. More than just the ability to watch highly-acclaimed content, but the ability to watch it at your leisure, whenever you want. HBO is figuring out the same thing with HBO Now, the first time ever that HBO has been offered separately from the premium access cable option, itself.
Remember when we said that we were going to come back to HBO? That’s because there now exist more tangents between the ways that Netflix and HBO debut their respective content. On each network, practically the only ways to watch that content is to have an active subscription to the respective service. It’s part-and-parcel the same model, nearly, and it has worked exceptionally well for both of them. After all, an active subscription for each—between $11 and $15 per month—will get your thousands of hours of movies and TV shows that you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else.
HBO only has a few outliers to this model, and that might help to predict the future of Netflix, too. Because you can also find HBO Original Series on Amazon Prime, as long as you have the right subscription. And in addition to that, you can purchase most HBO content on DVD or Blu-ray.
Streaming Services & Original Content
Traditionally, many of Netflix’s original productions have been well-received. So well-received, in fact, that they get nominated for smatterings of awards now and again. Only recently, the Cannes Film Festival has ruled that in order for any further Netflix productions to be considered for awards, that content needs to see a large theatrical release; it can’t have been locked behind a paywall erected by the company itself.
If this ruling is widely adopted for more media festivals, it could lead to more Netflix programming being available in theaters, or even through other online services. It goes to show that the ways we consume TV and movies are constantly changing, and thus nothing is off the table when we’re considering the future.
What is off the table, however, is the idea of ever getting access to Netflix originals for free in any legal sense. It might be some of the best stuff that you can watch online, but quite a lot of money, talent, and work went into making it. Thus, we shouldn’t ever expect to see free access to those highly-regarded shows. If you have any further questions on the topic, be sure to hit us up in the comments, below!