How to watch PBS online

Whether you're interested in 'Downton Abbey' or 'Austin City Limits,' here's what you need to know.

Jun 18, 2020, 7:45 pm*


Joseph Knoop 

Joseph Knoop

Whether you’re an adult watching Frontline and PBS News Hour, or your kid is learning lessons from Big Bird on Sesame StreetPBS is still a healthy part of a balanced media diet. If you’re looking to get rid of your cable box and watch a PBS live stream instead, there are a few solid options. But it’s a little different than simply subscribing to a streaming service like Hulu with Live TV or AT&T TV Now. And, it’s worth noting, PBS Kids is a different channel together.

Here’s everything you need to know to watch PBS online.

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‘Poldark’ Poldark/PBS

What is PBS?

The Public Broadcasting Service, as the name would suggest, is a public non-profit broadcasting organization that produces content for public television channels in America. Founded in 1969, PBS’ programming spans the gamut, from award-winning dramas and news to documentaries and children’s shows. It’s most famous properties include Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Antique Roadshow, Frontline, Downton Abbey, and The Great British Baking Show. It also the home of Austin City Limits, the iconic live music series.

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‘Downton Abbey’ Downtown Abbey/PBS

PBS live stream: How to watch PBS online

1) Amazon Prime Video with PBS Masterpiece

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Cost: $5.99 per month (after 7-day free trial) for PBS Masterpiece | Prime subscription for $119.99 per year or $12.99 per month
Devices: Amazon Fire Stick, Fire TV, Fire tablets, and Fire phone; Roku, Google TV, TiVo, Nvidia Shield, PlayStation 3 and 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Wii, Samsung TV, and LG TV

If you’re using Amazon Prime for two-day shipping, you also gain access to Prime Video. It’s a great hub for your premium channels, including PBS, where you can stream classic prestige drama like Downton Abbey and Poldark.

1) PBS Passport

PBS is kind enough to post the most recent episode of whatever your local affiliate has aired online for free the day after it airs, where it will remain for two weeks before getting locked down. If you want to watch one of 1,500 available episodes (and Masterpiece films) at your own discretion, you’ll need PBS Passport. Passport is an added benefit to a PBS membership subscription, which you can either pay for monthly or yearly. Make sure you’re logged into the proper affiliate station (WTTW is Chicago, for example) before subscribing.

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PBS Passport

2) YouTube

If you’re interested in PBS NewsHour, a live stream is offered on its YouTube channel, and episodes are usually posted quickly after they’ve aired, but you won’t find much else from PBS on YouTube.

Is PBS available on live TV streaming services?

Unfortunately not. PBS’ nature as a content distributor for regional channels makes it difficult to strike a deal with a national service, given that everything it produces is involved in various licensing deals. However, in a recent report by USA Today, PBS did say it wants to be included on streaming services like YouTube TV and Sling TV and hopes to make that a reality by the end of 2018.

New to cord-cutting? Here are our picks for the best movie streaming sites of 2018 and free live TV apps and channels. If you’re looking for a specific channel, here’s how to watch HBO, Showtime, Starz, Sundance TV, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, Willow, AMC, FX, Fox News, Freeform, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, FS1, TBS, TNT, Tennis Channel, Golf Channel, Syfy, HGTV, Cartoon Network/Adult Swim, Bravo, Lifetime, Discovery, the CW, BBC, CSPAN, NBA TV, MTV, Comedy Central, Food Network, TLC, HLN, A&E, Animal Planet, National Geographic, the Weather Channel, the History Channel, and NFL RedZone without cable, as well as free movies on YouTube. If you’re on the move, here’s how to watch Fox Sports Go and live stream NBC Sports.

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*First Published: Nov 9, 2018, 6:00 am