A person watches Netflix on a couch
Illustration by Umi Caldwell

College student’s guide to video, TV streaming

Subscribing to numerous streaming services is a luxury that can be difficult to afford on a college student’s budget. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in affordable and even free streaming services that are completely legal. Be sure to keep this non-exhaustive list handy the next time you are looking to settle down for a movie night, without having to break the bank on a monthly Netflix subscription.

1. Hulu and Showtime

Hulu itself is relatively cheap compared to other mainstream services, at only $5.99/month. However, if you pay for Spotify Premium on a student account, you can access Hulu and Showtime free of charge. By signing into your Spotify account online, you can either set up new Hulu and Showtime accounts or connect existing accounts, which automatically shifts the billing to the Spotify account. That is $4.99/month for unlimited music, as well as access to shows and movies on Hulu and Showtime, all for having a Lewis & Clark email address. Hulu and Showtime both feature popular movies and shows in addition to original, exclusive content, such as “The Handmaid’s Tale” on Hulu and “Shameless” on Showtime.

2. Kanopy

If documentaries or independent films are more your style, Kanopy is a good site to look into. It is available through Aubrey R. Watzek Library, where you have access to a wide variety of educational documentaries with your email account. For a more expansive video library, Kanopy is also available with a Multnomah County Library card. Applying for a library card online is free, at multcolib.org. Kanopy primarily features independent, classic and world cinema, including popular A24 releases “Moonlight” and “Hereditary.” 

3. Hoopla

Hoopla is also available with a Multnomah County Library card. Hoopla features a limited number of movies, TV shows and music. Titles are borrowed from Hoopla for three days and are returned after you are finished watching. Some recommended titles available on Hoopla include Christopher Nolan’s “Memento” and horror classics like “Halloween” and “Scream.”

4. Peacock

This past summer, NBC released a streaming service called Peacock. There are multiple tiers to Peacock: a free level and two premium levels. The free level requires only an account on peacocktv.com, and videos contain short advertisements. There are a number of hit movies and TV shows on Peacock, including “Parks and Recreation” and “Psych,” both for free.


A newer feature on IMDb.com is IMDbTV, where numerous titles are available to stream for free with an IMDb account. The available titles change often and also have advertisements. Currently, the first five seasons of recent Emmy Award-winner “Schitt’s Creek” are available for free, as well as movies like “Shrek.”

6. Tubi

Tubi, found at tubitv.com, is another free-with-ads streaming service, and an account is not required to watch. Tubi is currently home to numerous action and horror films for free, though titles tend to come and go frequently.

7. YouTube Movies

Yes, YouTube, and not just looking up a movie to see if someone has happened to illegally upload the entire thing. YouTube Movies has a number of less popular titles, but the most notable film that you can watch for free, albeit modified from its normal R-rating, is “The Silence of the Lambs.”

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