If you’ve ever had the feeling you’re paying too much for TV, you’re far from alone. Whether its the constant price gauging, or the simple fact that all TV was once free (albeit ad-supported), people are always looking for a way to pay less for their TV time. Then along comes something a tantalizing platform like Terrarium TV, which offers seemingly limitless free viewing of almost anything you’re looking for. The veritable problem is, of course, when things seem too good to be true, they often are.
A few years ago, Popcorn Time was all the rage. Powered under the hood by BitTorrent, Popcorn Time let users watch movies and TV shows for the low, low price of absolutely nothing. Unfortunately, since it was essentially letting users pirate content on demand, it wasn’t long before both ISPs (internet service providers) and Hollywood came knocking, and the service was no more.
Terrarium TV operates similar to Popcorn Time, offering up content sourced via the internet in a sleek user interface, available only for Android-powered devices. While it operates slightly differently behind the scenes — which could be part of why it hasn’t been targeted by Hollywood just yet — Terrarium TV is very much the same idea in a nicer looking package, and it seems that its days may be numbered.
It used to be plenty clear where to download Terrarium TV: Go to the official website and follow the instructions. Then the website suddenly disappeared, followed by the disappearance of the Terrarium TV project on GitHub. There was no reason given — the project’s creator just seemed to give up.
While it’s no longer a clearly defined project, Terrarium TV carries on. Because of the way the app works (which we’ll get to in a second), it doesn’t hinge on a centralized server, so as long as you’ve got the app, you’re good to go. The problem is that without a central website, copycats popped up left and right.
There are some sites that are absolutely not official in any capacity that go to great lengths to try to convince you that they are the real deal. Whether these are just looking for the traffic in order to sell ads or have more sinister motives, you’ll be better off staying away from them.
The closest thing Terrarium TV has to an official website right now is its subreddit. If you’re looking for downloads or information, this is currently your best bet. However, Digital Trends cannot vouchfor any of these sites, so you will be moving forward at your own risk.
As touched on above, right now Terrarium TV exists in a legal gray area of sorts. Similar to torrent sites, Terrarium TV doesn’t actually serve pirated content, it just collects links to videos that are already available on the internet. This is technically legal, but your ISP may not like it, which is why it’s nearly impossible to search for anything related to Terrarium TV without seeing ads for VPNs.
Instead of pointing users to torrents, like Popcorn Time used to, Terrarium TV “scrapes” links to videos from around the internet, including those hosted on legitimate video services. When you choose what to watch, the app gathers linksand uses these to start streaming.
“Terrarium TV contains only links to other sites on the Internet,” the Terrarium TV website used to read. “It does not host or upload any videos, films or media files. It does not store any media stream links on any of its servers. Terrarium TV aggregates links in a convenient, user-friendly interface.”
This is fine by itself. The real problem is that Terrarium TV doesn’t bother to check if these sources are legal or not. This means you might be watching something hosted on a TV network’s website or a rip uploaded to some video service you’ve never heard of.
Unlike many of these types of apps, Terrarium TV is only officially available on Android-powered devices. This includes Android phones and tablets, Android TV devices, and even Chromebooks that run Android apps. You can also get the app running on Amazon Kindle Fire and Fire TV devices.
In all of these cases, it’s a bit more work than simply popping into the Google Play Store and downloading.
Due to the nature of the app, Terrarium TV isn’t available in the Google Play Store or the Amazon App Store. You’ll need to download and install the APK yourself. If you’ve done this before, the process should be familiar. If you’ve never installed an Android app via a method other than the Google Play Store, be sure to check out our guide on how to sideload apps.
There are plenty of places on the internet that offer up APK files to download, but in the case of Terrarium TV, you’ll want to stick to the app’s subreddit. For one thing, you’ll find plenty of helpful information here, and for another, you’ll be sure you’re getting the actual app.
There are a lot of spoofs out there — apps claiming to be Terrarium TV that either aren’t or include malware — and some have even made their way on to the Play Store before. Part of the process of sideloading apps includes turning off some security precautions, so you’ll want to make absolutely sure that you’re downloading the right thing.
A quick glance at search results shows at least 10 sites claiming to offer Terrarium TV, but it’s tough to say which if any of these are safe to use. If you want to be as safe as is possible in such a case, stick to the subreddit.Again, however, Digital Trends cannot verify that you’ll be getting the real deal.
The simple fact that most websites that involve Terrarium TV are usually trying to sell you on one VPN service or the other shows that Terrarium TV isn’t on the most stable ground to be surfing upon. Between the dubious legality, the difficulty even tracking down the app, and the general distaste with which internet service providers regard Terrarium TV, it may prove to be more trouble than many users want to put up with. Fortunately, it’s not your only choice.
Pluto TV is similar to Terrarium TV in a lot of ways but differs in one important one: It’s totally legitimate. Pluto curates content from around the internet, offering it up in a simple, easy to navigate interface, presented as live TV channels. On-demand content is available too, and while it’s limited, it rotates fairly frequently. You’re not going to find the wealth of content available on Terrarium TV here, but Pluto is simpler, available on more platforms, and still 100 percent free. For more information, see our guide to Pluto TV.
Then there are sites like Crackle and Tubi. Both of these offer free movies and TV shows in a Netflix-style layout. Unlike Tubi, these services are actually showing the movies and shows they offer legally. You won’t find anywhere near the sheer amount of content, but you also won’t have to worry about getting a virus or any other sort of malware. It’s entirely possible to get by using the above services for all your entertainment needs — we know from experience.
These aren’t your only options either. Kodi (formerly XBMC) can offer many of the same features as Terrarium TV when using the right plugins, and while it may occupy the same legal gray area, at least there is an official website so you can be sure you’re downloading the proper app.