There was a time when Netflix had the playing field to itself in the streaming game. Even with House of Cards' premiere in 2013, it still took companies like Disney and Warner Brothers years to realize original streaming content was the way of the future. As the streaming wars continue in earnest in 2020, Netflix is ramping up to remind consumers how great its shows and movies are by making a sample of its content viewable to anyone with an internet connection. Here's how to watch Netflix shows and movies for free, even if you don't have an account:
For the first time, Netflix is at a disadvantage in comparison to its competitors. Up until November of 2019, Amazon and Hulu were the primary challengers to Netflix's dominance. But all three were the same type of company, built on a "subscription first, content to follow" model. They had content behind a paywall, and the only way to see the shows and movies, whether on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon, was to sign up for the service.
But Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock are borne of companies that already had linear broadcast stations. In plain English, that means all three companies started with content viewers could watch either free over the air or via their cable subscription, like on ABC, or HBO, or NBC. Fans who signed up for Disney+ were already able to watch Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or Black Panther for free on ABC. HBO regularly does "free weekends" or puts full episodes on YouTube. And Peacock has an entire tier that's free with commercials, and the premiere episodes of its paywall content are available for fans to sample.
With that sort of competition, Netflix is stepping up to make a sampling of its content free. The streamer has created a new "Watch Free" site, where there is a sampling of Netflix programming, featuring some of the biggest titles, and proclaiming:
Watch some of our favorite shows and movies for free. Netflix is the premiere destination for all your entertainment needs. But don't take our word for it — check out some of our favorite movies and TV shows, absolutely free.
Fans will find movie offerings such as the Oscar-nominated The Two Popes, plus Bird Box, Murder Mystery, and The Boss Baby: Back in Business. TV shows include Netflix's breakout hit Stranger Things, plus Grace & Frankie, When They See Us, Elite, Love Is Blind, and Our Planet. The films are available to watch in full; however, fans can only see the pilot episode of each series before Netflix cuts in, asking viewers to subscribe before continuing.
But that's just what's available the week of Aug. 31. As the Netflix Watch Free page states: "The selection may change from time to time, so watch now!"