A Guide to Free Subscriptions During the Coronavirus Pandemic

The fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic has been interesting, to say the least. Life went from being social to isolating in the blink of an eye as restrictions were put in place to flatten the curve, and let’s be honest — while the restrictions are necessary, they’ve also made life pretty boring. Schools have gone virtual, summer vacations have been postponed, jobs have gone remote, and entire countries are off-limits to tourism.

These changes have led the majority of us to try and find new ways to entertain ourselves. Some people are baking bread, others have taken up crafting or a new hobby, and most of us have participated in at least one virtual happy hour to try and pass the time. Luckily, many companies have taken notice of the boredom struggle and now offering free or cheap access to their services — which include everything from premium video content to coronavirus-related news stories.

So, if you’ve been thinking about trying out a new video streaming service or subscribing to that legacy newspaper, now is a great time to test things out — for free. Taking advantage of these COVID-19 deals will help you pass the time and save you money in the process. That’s what we like to call a win-win situation.

Free or cheap entertainment and interest subscriptions

Have you run out of content to stream on Netflix? Join the club. As you’re well aware, one of the major hurdles during the COVID-19 pandemic has been finding ways to entertain yourself. Luckily, some companies and services have stepped in to offer things like free streaming access or expanded content menus to help you through the COVID boredom fog.

You can save a ton of money on streaming and other entertainment or content services right now, which may be necessary, as finances are tight for a lot of the country right now. Here’s a look at what’s being offered for free or at discounted rates:

Streaming services

  1. Amazon Kids — Amazon has made its library of kids’ TV shows free right now, and if you have little ones at home, it could be worth taking advantage of this free video content to help keep the kids entertained. This content is normally only available for Amazon Prime customers, but right now, it’s free to everyone who wants it.
    • Cost savings: $12.99/month (the month-to-month cost of an Amazon Prime membership)
  2. Shudder — You may not recognize the name Shudder, but this streaming site is dedicated to thriller, suspense and horror movies — and you can now pass the time indoors by streaming these bone-chilling films for free for an entire month, because Shudder is offering 30 days of free access to its titles with the promo code SHUTIN.
    • Cost savings: $3.99/one month of free access
  3. Movies Anywhere —Movies Anywhere, a video rental site that charges members rental fees instead of subscriptions, recently added a Screen Pass, which is a new feature that allows members to lend digital movies to their friends and family for free. You can share up to three movies a month, and the recipients can watch or rewatch the films as many times as they want over the two week sharing period.
    • Cost savings: Varies depending on the rental cost of shared movies
  4. Sling TV — The streaming service Sling is offering free access to a number of live channels, select on-demand movies, television shows and other programs at no cost right now. This offer is open to anyone who wants to try Sling out, so if you’ve been itching to rewatch your favorite TV series or catch the news, you may want to jump on this.
    • Cost savings: $20/month (cost for a full Sling subscription)
  5. Redbox — Redbox may be best known for its bright red video rental kiosks, but this rental and streaming service is now offering free live TV to anyone who wants to watch — no credit card or account required. You can stream TV shows like Forensic Files or Family Feud, or even stream a movie or two, all for free.
    • Cost savings: Varies depending on cable/streaming services in your area
  6. YouTube streaming — YouTube is best known for its crowdsourced video content, but did you know this video platform also offers movie streaming, too? Well, it does, and there are nearly 400 different free movies available for you to watch for free right now, including options like “Jet Li, Legend of the Red Dragon.”
    • Cost savings: Varies
  7. Netflix documentaries — Netflix made a ton of its documentary content available for free on its YouTube channel at the start of the pandemic and it’s still available to watch for free. A lot of the content is educational, but there are some real gems hidden in the mix, including “13th,” director Ava DuVernay’s examination of how the country’s history of racial inequality drives the high rate of incarceration in America.
    • Cost savings: $12.99/month (the cost of a Netflix subscription)

News subscriptions

Easy, free access to the news is extremely important right now, and luckily, a ton of news outlets have recognized this. Several major outlets have removed the paywall for coronavirus coverage, and while the paywall removal won’t allow you access to all of the content offered by the outlets, it will allow you to access the information you need about the pandemic and allow you to test out the content for free.

It will also save you money because you won’t have to subscribe to the news outlet in full, so if times are tight, you’ll get access to pertinent information that you can trust without having to shell out cash for it.

Some of the news organizations that are offering free coronavirus-related content include:

  1. The New York Times — This legacy newspaper is offering its top-notch coronavirus coverage completely free to readers. Per the Times, “We are providing free access to the most important news and useful guidance on the coronavirus outbreak to help readers understand the pandemic.”
    • Cost savings: $17/month (the cost of a digital subscription)
  2. The Washington Post — The Washington Post is offering a free email newsletter for coronavirus-related news, and all articles linked in the newsletter are free for people to read, no login required.
    • Cost savings: $15/month (the cost of a digital subscription)
  3. Miami Herald (and other McClatchy-owned outlets) — The Miami Herald, which is owned by McClatchy, as well as other McClatchy-owned news outlets, have made coronavirus coverage free for readers.
    • Cost savings: $15.99/month (the cost of a Miami Herald digital subscription)
  4. The Atlantic The Atlantic is also offering all coronavirus-related articles for free, no sign-up required.
    • Cost savings: $49.99/year (the cost of a digital subscription)
  5. The Seattle Times — The Seattle Times is another paper offering free extended coverage of the outbreak of a new coronavirus known as SARS-CoV-2, the illness it causes and its effects on the Seattle area.
    • Cost savings: $3.99/week (the cost of a digital subscription)
  6. The StarThe Star is labeling free articles related to the coronavirus with a red “free digital access” label.
    • Cost savings: $19.99/month (the cost of a digital subscription)
  7. The Globe and Mail — Canadians can get access to coronavirus coverage for free through The Globe and Mail, which is offering access to its pandemic coverage free of charge.
    • Cost savings: $6.99/week (the cost of a digital subscription)
  8. STAT — Medical publication STAT, which covers health and medicine, is offering its coronavirus coverage for free right now, too.
    • Cost savings: $35/month (the cost of a digital subscription)
  9. Chicago Tribune — The Chicago Tribune has also made its coronavirus coverage free to access right now.
    • Cost savings: $14.96/month (the cost of a digital subscription)
  10. Baltimore Sun — The Baltimore Sun is another paper offering free access to coronavirus coverage.
    • Cost savings: $3.99/week (the cost of a digital subscription)
  11. Most local papers — Most local papers have followed the trend and are offering free access to coronavirus-related coverage, so it’s worth checking with your local outlet to find out.
    • Cost savings: Varies based on your location

If you want to make the most of the situation and try out some new services or news outlets for free, now is the time to do it. Coronavirus may have changed life as we know it, but it also brought with it a few unexpected bright spots, at least when it comes to free video streaming and news, anyway. Might as well take the wins where you can get them right now — and save some money on entertainment in the process.

Angelica Leicht

Mortgage Researcher

Angelica Leicht is a writer and editor who specializes in everything mortgage-related for Interest.com. Her work has spanned topics that include lending product reviews, interest rate trends, racial biases in mortgage lending and the role of fintech in lending practices, and has appeared in publications such as Interest, The Simple Dollar, Bankrate, The Spruce, Houston Press and VeryWell, among others.