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What is Kanopy? Top facts about the free library-supported streaming service

Here's what you need to know about Kanopy, the free streaming service that's supported by school and public libraries.

Published onSeptember 16, 2022

kanopy logo

There are a lot of free streaming services worth checking out, but none of them are quite like Kanopy. The service is free to access, but only if your public or school-based library is partnered with it. Once you do gain access, you can stream a limited number of movies every month, and an unlimited amount of content from its Kids section.

Read more: Best video streaming services

So what is Kanopy and how can you gain access? We will give you everything you need to know about this library-based free service in this article. You can check the service out at the link below.

What is Kanopy?

What is Kanopy

Founded in 2008, the service offers over 30,000 movies and TV to stream for free from a variety of devices and platforms. It’s currently available in over 200 countries. The service is available for patrons of tons of public library systems, along with a number of major college and university libraries.

Since the service is so heavily tied to libraries, much of the administration is done by actual librarians. How much the service costs for libraries depends on how many of its patrons actually use the service. As a result, it doesn’t offer unlimited streaming for most content.

How does it work?

Unlike most free streaming services, Kanopy requires that your local public library, or the college that you are attending, supports the service. If it does, you will need to log into the service with your confirmed public or college library login to access it.

Once logged in, you can browse through the selection of Kanopy movies and TV shows. They are broken down into a number of different categories, including popular movies, documentaries, and more. You can also type in a specific movie you are looking for in the search bar.

As mentioned above, Kanopy users are limited in the number of movies they can stream from the service. Each library system has a set number of Kanopy credits they give to their patrons, which can be used to access the films and shows on the service. Once the credits run out, the patron cannot stream anything from Kanopy’s main content library until the next month.

However, Kanopy Kids movies and shows are exempt from this restriction. These feature unlimited streaming, which is fantastic news for parents.

Is Kanopy worth it?

If your local public or college library supports the service, we definitely think signing up to Kanopy is worth it. You will be able to access and stream movies that are not normally available on the major streaming services. Considering it’s free, it’s pretty tough to beat from a financial standpoint.

Plus, if you are a parent with kids, the Kanopy Kids section offers unlimited access to lots of entertaining and educational content for young children. Combined with books from your local library, it’s a great way to keep your kids learning and engaged in the modern era.

What platforms does Kanopy support?

what is Kanopy

You can stream Kanopy shows and movies from a variety of different platforms. There are Kanopy apps for iOS and Android to watch its content on mobile devices and tablets. It’s also available on Roku streaming sticks, set-top boxes, and TVs that have the Roku OS installed and the same goes for Amazon Fire TV-based sticks, set-top boxes, and TVs. The service also is available on Android TV-based devices such as the NVIDIA Shield set-top box.

Kanopy supports casting to TVs via Google Chromecast and devices that have Chromecast built-in. It’s available for the Apple TV set-top boxes. You can stream the service on Samsung smart TVs. PC owners can use their web browser to surf over to the Kanopy site to sign up and watch content. 

Kanopy movie and TV show lineup

What is Kanopy

You will not find the latest popcorn blockbuster movies on Kanopy like you might find on other streaming services. However, what you will find is a curated selection of new and older films.

You can stream terrific modern indie movies like the Best Picture Oscar winner Moonlight or acclaimed documentaries like Super Size Me. There is also a great selection of foreign language films to watch on Kanopy, along with shorts and classic movies.

Kanopy Kids

Kanopy Kids - what is kanopy

As we mentioned, the content on Kanopy Kids is available for unlimited streaming. The target audience of Kanopy Kids is ages two-eight, but the truth is parents should enjoy the selection of great movies and TV shows that it has just as much as their children do.

You can watch select episodes of Sesame Street on Kanopy Kids, and there are lots of great short films that adapt classic children’s books as well. There’s also plenty of educational content to watch as well, from science and history videos to language instruction and more. Keep in mind that Kanopy Kids is only available from public library systems. It is not available for Kanopy users in college or university libraries.

Best alternatives

Kanopy is certainly not alone when it comes to free streaming services, and most of the alternatives don’t require a library card. Here’s a look at just a few of its rivals.


Crackle stock photo 2
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Crackle offers a lot of great classic and more recent movies and TV shows for free. It also has a growing number of exclusive shows and films to stream. While there is some content made for kids on Crackle, it’s not as extensive as what you might find on Kanopy. If you have children, you can set up parental controls to keep them from streaming any mature content.

Pluto TV

Pluto TV includes hundreds of channels that stream content 24/7. That includes both classic and recent movies and TV shows, along with a ton of content made for kids, including shows from Nickelodeon, which is own by Pluto TV’s parent ViacomCBS. Unfortunately, Pluto does not have any parental controls yet, so you will have to keep an eye out for your children if they check out some shows not made for an adult audience.


tubi tv app
Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

The Fox-owned Tubi TV also offers tons of great movies and TV shows to stream. It even has its own dedicated section devoted to children, similar to Kanopy. You can also set up parental controls to keep them from watching more mature content. And of course, you don’t need a library card for this service.


amazon freevee 2

Amazon’s free content streaming service (formerly IMDb TV) is being added to more and more devices as its own app, rather than a part of the company’s Amazon Prime Video. You can watch a bunch of great shows and movies for free. That includes a growing number of movies and series for the whole family.


Peacock stock photo 2

NBCUniversal’s recently launched Peacock streaming service lets you watch thousands of movies and television shows for free. That includes a lot of great documentary films for adults, and great cartoons and other shows for kids, including the recently revived Punky Brewster. If you want to watch even more content, you can sign up for the service’s Peacock Premium for $4.99 a month with ads, or $9.99 a month without ads.

Other FAQs

At the moment, the service does not offer 4K streaming shows or movies.

Yes, you can share your Kanopy account with others, but keep track of the streaming limits set by your participating library so your friends don’t use up your monthly allowance. 

Yes. You can set up a PIN on your account so that when your children access Kanopy Kids they won’t be able to access anything else unless you type in the PIN.

No, the service has no advertisements.

Unfortunately, the service’s mobile apps do not currently support downloads of its shows. However, that feature could be added at a later date.

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