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The Many Ways to Access Movies and TV Shows Online
Not long ago, Netflix represented the golden age of cord cutting but alas that's no longer true.
Now, paywalls and content silos are back in fashion with seemingly dozens of streaming services on offer to choose from.
But alternative methods for enjoying movies & TV shows online do exist - from free streaming sites, torrent file-sharing, Usenet downloading, Kodi add-ons & more.
However, be aware that some or all of these methods may not be safe or even legal where you live. Please check your local laws before engaging in any of these alternate methods for watching movies and TV shows. Cogipas.com does not endorse pirating content. The information on our website is for educational purposes only which you use entirely at your own discretion and risk.
[+] 'Movies & TV Shows' contents (select to expand)
Summary of Alternative Methods
There are many different ways to watch the movies, TV shows and other media content online.
Here are a few of the most popular:
- Unofficial streaming sites
- Popcorn Time / Torrents Time
- BitTorrent file-sharing
- Online downloader services
- Usenet newsgroups
- File locker / hosting sites
- Kodi (with the right add-ons)
- Apps like MediaBox HD & others
- and more!
Let's explore why people use these alternative methods rather than sign up for official streaming services. After that, we will get into lots of details about some of these alternative methods.
Why Aren’t People Going “Legit”?
There are many reasons why people are going back to (or never left) these alternative ways to watch movies & TV shows online.
- People hate big, greedy corporations. Many people perceive the parent companies of the streaming services as falling into this category of company. Some people want to give these companies a poke in the eye. Even if people don’t hold a grudge against the streaming services themselves, they consider the Hollywood studios and their executives as greedy and don’t want to support their geo-restricted licensing arrangements.
- People hate waiting too. Why should people in one country have to wait weeks or months later for a TV show that has already aired in another country? Regional licensing makes a frustrating patchwork of what content is available, when it's available and where.
- Although buffering is not a common problem with the big streaming services, when it does happen it drives people crazy! With many of the methods above, you first download movies and TV shows to your computer or device and then watch them. This gets rid of any buffering annoyances.
- Lastly, some people just love to collect things and movies & TV shows are no different. Many people are proud of the terabytes of content they have collected.
For the reasons above, we think the alternative methods for watching movies and shows online will be with us for many years to come.
But one goal you should have in mind is to be totally safe when setting out to watch your favorite movies and TV shows online. You can't simply open up your Internet browser and start searching for content to watch.
Below, we detail the best & safest alternative ways to access content, from most private and safest to the least.
But First: Importance of Privacy
Before we outline the alternative ways to access movies and TV shows online in detail, let’s look at why you would want to do so as privately as possible.
Remember, the unauthorized, free downloading of content can get you into trouble.
Although you’re not likely to be raided by the FBI for streaming or downloading your favorite TV shows and movies, there can be consequences. For example, notices and warning from your ISP are not uncommon.
Fortunately, several of the methods we’re going to talk about will not only protect you from the enforcers out there, they’ll even keep your activities hidden from your own ISP.
Given the proliferation of paid streaming services, the many alternative methods for getting movies & TV shows online will only grow in popularity.
In other words, even if your ISP can see that you’re accessing or downloading something online, they won’t know what it actually is. For all they know, you could be watching a free nature documentary or downloading software updates.
Top Alternatives for Accessing Movies & TV Shows Online
So here they are: the best alternatives for enjoying movies and TV shows online for free.
For each one, we've also assigned a Privacy Rating to let you know how safe it is.
1. Downloading from Usenet Newsgroups
- Cost: from $5 per month
- Privacy Rating: A+
- Pros: tons of content including new releases; even more secure than torrenting; can even be automated
- Cons: learning curve; not free as the best Usenet providers charge a subscription
If you want the best and latest content without sacrificing any privacy or security, Usenet is the way to go.
There's a learning curve for Usenet, but once you get accustomed to the interface (called a newsreader), it’s no harder to use than torrents.
Plus, Usenet is safe, since you’re downloading directly from the provider's private servers. Plus, the best Usenet providers don’t keep any logs of your download activities that could come back to haunt you.
If you’re eager to get started, we recommend signing up for Usenet access with Newshosting as it comes bundled with an easy newsreader and a reliable VPN at no extra cost; it also doesn't log your downloads. Although even cheaper Usenet exists, Newshosting gives you great package for one of the lowest monthly prices around.
Later, once you start getting the hang of Usenet, you can 'up' your Usenet game and use Newshosting together with NZB indexers and even fully automate your movie & TV downloads with tools such as NZBGet, Radarr and Sonnar.
2. Torrenting (but with a VPN!)
- Cost: from as little as $3 per month
- Privacy Rating: A- with a VPN (that drops to an 'E' without a VPN)
- Pros: tons of content; easy to use; good privacy and security (if you use a trusted VPN)
- Cons: torrent users and their communities are under constant scrutiny; using a VPN adds a small monthly cost
Want to download your favorite content in a way that’s fast and convenient? Torrents can make it happen. Straight up BitTorrent file-sharing (torrenting for short) is easily one of the most popular ways to download on our list.
But that popularity comes with increased scrutiny. Torrent sites are regularly being shut down, torrent users routinely receive nasty warning notices from their ISP, and some unlucky downloaders have gotten in even worse trouble.
If you value your safety and privacy, it’s highly recommended that you pair your torrenting with a good VPN. After all, you can get one for as little as $3 per month. If you’re careful and only download torrents while using a trusted, no-log VPN, you eliminate almost all risk. But it’s still not quite as private or secure as Usenet newsgroups above.
The biggest benefit of torrenting is simply how easy it is to use and the sheer amount of content available. Plus, finding torrents to download is super easy too.
3. Cloud-based Download Managers
- Cost: starting from free
- Privacy Rating: B
- Pros: more private than torrenting and equally private as Usenet; tons of content; crazy fast
- Cons: free accounts are quite basic with premium accounts charging a membership fee
Cloud-based download managers (sometimes called cloud torrenting or cloud Usenet services) were pioneered by zBigz, Offcloud, Bitport.io, TorrentSafe and Seedr. These services allow you to download any kind of media files - including movies and TV shows - directly to an online storage locker instead of to your computer or other devices.
From there, you can then stream the files right from the online locker or download them if you want to watch them offline.
The storage locker creates a valuable middleman between you and your downloading activity, encrypting your traffic and keeping your IP hidden. Think of it like a cloud version of a VPN. In fact, with one of these services you don't even need a VPN because your own devices and IP address are not involved in the downloading process at all.
The best part? It’s free. Well, it can be. You’ll need a paid account to get the fastest speeds and lots of storage, but generous free accounts are available.
Of course, you have to trust the cloud-based provider. When it’s all said and done, this alternative won't appeal to everyone, but it can be a great option. Plus, what's the harm of a free account?
- Cost: free (or from as little as $3 per month with a VPN)
- Privacy Rating: D (that improves to 'A-' with a VPN)
- Pros: XDCC is free to use and it relies on less “peers” than torrenting (so is safer)
- Cons: harder to find content than torrenting or Usenet; adding a VPN adds a small cost
XDCC uses the Internet’s original chat network, IRC, to facilitate high-speed downloads between two users.
It doesn’t enjoy the popularity of torrents or Usenet, so this makes it harder to find content you’re looking for. But XDCC is under less scrutiny by snoops and monitoring firms. As you’re only downloading from a single user, rather than the dozens or even hundreds of peers used with torrenting, your activities are spread among much fewer actors.
Adding a quality VPN to the mix ensures you are protected, even if the person you are sharing with turns out to be working with the snoops.
You can still use XDCC without a VPN, and it will be somewhat safe, at least compared to unsecured torrenting (when you use torrent file-sharing without a VPN). But given that a monthly VPN subscription costs less than a cup of coffee, it's a no-brainer that you should use one.
5. Tor Browser (The Onion Router) [Not a Workable Option]
- Cost: free
- Privacy Rating: B
- Pros: free and easy to use; offers decent anonymity
- Cons: slow speeds; not entirely foolproof when it comes to privacy let alone anonymity; under tons of scrutiny by government agencies
The Tor browser has become somewhat infamous for its role as the browser of choice for many of the folks engaging in illicit activities on the “dark web”. That’s a bad rap.
When it comes to providing privacy and even anonymity, it does a fairly good job. Unfortunately, its infamy has led to increased scrutiny, to the point that even using Tor can raise a red flag with authorities.
On top of that, Tor can slow your Internet speeds to a crawl, making downloading and especially streaming difficult. Don't even bother trying to torrent over Tor, it doesn't support it. In short, Tor can be a great option for keeping your web browsing safe, but it’s far from the best alternative method to enjoying movies and TV shows online.
6. Proxy Services [Not a Good or Safe Option]
- Cost: free
- Privacy Rating: F
- Pros: free and easy to use
- Cons: not private or secure; connections are often too slow to stream (or download at good speeds); free proxy services can even be unsafe
A proxy is a server that acts as an intermediary between your computer or device and the websites you visit, such as movie or TV streaming sites. A proxy can hide your IP address temporarily, but most free proxies are nowhere near as safe or reliable as a good VPN. Plus, a proxy won't encrypt your Internet connection while a VPN will.
Lastly, free proxies have very little, if any, incentive to protect your privacy and keep your true (connecting) IP address a secret if someone kicks down their door. In contrast, a no-log VPN stakes its business and reputation on having your back.
On top of that, proxies can make your Internet connection so slow that it’s difficult to stream or download content at a decent speed. Proxies are more of a last resort or “better than nothing” option than a viable alternative to the other entries on the list. We include it here only for completeness.
Pro Tip: Pay Anonymously
There’s a way to make any of the premium (read: non-free) options above even more private. And that’s by paying for them anonymously.
Paying anonymously is possible using cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, or with gift cards bought in person with cash.
With the golden age of Netflix streaming now coming to an end, it's not hard to see the attraction of these alternative ways to watch movies and TV shows online, especially when some of them are just as easy.
But choose carefully and know the risks.
By the way, if you’re on the lookout for a VPN deal or Usenet discount, we’ve got some great Cogipas savings on both. Check them out today and start streaming or downloading safely and privately for as little as a handful of dollars per month!
Now get out there and have some fun!