Are you tired of paying $100 or more every month for cable TV? When you need to make money fast or quickly cut expenses, cutting the cord is one of the easiest ways to improve your financial situation. The only problem is you no longer get access to your favorite channels, unless you follow these tips to legally get free cable TV.
I haven’t had cable TV in over a decade! Although those first years were tough when I had nothing to contribute to the conversation around the work coffee pot, getting free cable TV is easier than ever!
Install an HDTV Antenna
Remember those trips to Grandma’s house and you had to adjust the rabbit ear antennas in a particular direction every time you changed the channel?
Let me tell you; antennas have come a long way since you went over the hills and through the woods to see Grandma. Some people say that with an HDTV antenna, their picture quality is clearer than with cable or satellite.
I currently use rabbit ears and I can access my local networks –ABC, CBS, Fox, and NBC– clearly and I even get a few additional channels including:
- CW Channel
- Home Shopping Network
In all, I get about 20 channels in my rural area but could get up to 35 channels if I lived in our nearest town. If you live near a major metropolis like Phoenix, you can get up to 109 channels from an HDTV antenna! And, you don’t have to mount an antenna to your roof to access all of these channels.
Head over to Antenna Web to see which channels you can get from your home. And, AntennaWeb will also recommend which type of antenna you need to install to get the best picture quality:
- Directional antenna
- Multi-directional antenna
- Omni-directional antenna
Depending on your terrain and how far you live from the broadcast towers, you may need to buy an antenna that mounts in your attic or on your roof. AntennaWeb can help you determine which antenna to buy.
HDTV Antenna Types
There are three main HD quality antennas to choose from depending on where you live and the distance you are from the television broadcasting towers in your area.
Indoor HDTV Antenna
Your flat screen TV probably doesn’t come with an indoor HDTV antenna. Lucky for you, the Freeview Indoor HDTV Antenna only costs $25 and comes with a 75-mile range and built-in 4K video quality.
Setup is simple as you mount the receiver in a nearby window and you plug the antenna into the “Ant In” receiver on your TV to begin delivering your local TV channels for free!
Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna
If you need to mount an antenna outside or in your attic, consider the ClearStream 4 Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna. You can install the antenna where you current satellite dish is and receive broadcast signals from up to 70 miles away.
Outdoor HDTV Antenna
If you live in a wooded area or rural area, you might have to opt for an outdoor, roof-mounted antenna. While you might think this is the most expensive option, you can actually get one like the 1ByOne Outdoor/Roof HDTV Antenna for about $30 with an 80-mile range.
You can also purchase a 150-mile range outdoor antenna that rotates 360 degrees for only $55 with the SkyTV Amplified HDTV Antenna.
Stream Cable TV Online for Free
One reason why I say it’s easier to get cable TV for free today than even five years ago is that home internet speeds are much quicker. It seems like yesterday that 56k dial-up access was the digital equivalent to driving a Ferrari.
Because you already pay for high-speed internet, regardless of if you have cable or not, these options can maximize your monthly internet subscription and stream your favorite shows for free!
TV.com displays your local TV programming schedule so you know which channel to watch. If you can’t watch the episode live, you can also watch the full episodes from multiple networks for free!
Visit the Network Websites
The major networks and several cable channels make show episodes available to stream the next calendar day. This is especially true with the major local networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and PBS.
You can also visit the websites of your favorite cable channels to see if they stream most recent episodes online. Even if they don’t air the most current episodes, you can usually watch past seasons too.
Each cable network has differing selections, but some of the better channels are:
Watch Movies on YouTube
You can also find old movies on YouTube for free. Unless the content is public domain, the picture or audio quality isn’t always the best to comply with copyright laws. Or, you might have to rent a movie for $2 to watch it in HD, but this is still significantly cheaper than keeping your cable subscription for that one specific channel.
Some cable channels also offer live simulcasts for free on YouTube or publish the content the next day; this is especially true for cable news channels. Subscribe to your favorite channels to never miss the latest programming.
Use a Roku Device
The Roku Express gives you access to 500,000 movies and TV shows in 1080p HD for a one-time investment of $30. Select Smart TVs are now beginning to integrate Roku so you get instant access to their programming as soon as you connect the TV to your home internet network.
You can also upgrade to the Roku Streaming Stick+ for 4K video and a voice-activated remote for hands-free watching.
With your Roku device, you can watch current and past episodes from network and cable channels for free. Some of the free TV channels you can watch include:
For instance, Crackle is owned by Sony Pictures so you will be able to watch shows and movies in the Sony catalog like Seinfeld or The Matrix. You will be surprised by how many free streaming options you have.
Amazon Prime Video
When you join Amazon Prime, you can get Amazon Prime Video for free. Or, you can join Prime Video for $8.99 a month without being a full Amazon Prime member.
You can also rent movies with Amazon Prime Video for the same price as through iTunes, however the rentals are available to watch for 72 hours after renting versus only 24 hours through iTunes.
However, you can stream 4K and HD content including original Amazon programming for free still. Believe it or not, streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon are investing huge sums of money into creating exclusive TV shows and movies to win over reluctant cable and satellite subscribers just like you.
Another reason to choose Prime Video is discounted access to these premium networks:
- CBS All Access
- HBO Now
- Hallmark Movies Now
- History Vault
DVR Live TV with Tablo
One drawback to cutting the cord is you lose access to DVR capability, unless you use a Tablo OTA DVR. You can record programming in HD on up to six devices that can be played on demand. Now you can record that ball game or TV episode that you couldn’t sit and watch in entirety.
These standalone DVR devices didn’t exist a few years ago and since we don’t have VCRs to record your favorite shows anymore, there was a “recording gap” for a few years and held many people from canceling their cable subscription. Now, that problem is solved as Tablo connects to any smart device connected to your home WiFi or ethernet.
Crackle lets you watch new and classic TV shows and movies for free from any device. You might choose to download the app to your Roku device, but it’s not mandatory.
It’s free to join and you can watch unlimited content with limited commercial breaks. Like the paid streaming platforms like Netflix or Hulu, Crackle is producing original content that can be exclusively seen here.
Do you think canceling your cable TV subscription is just a fad when even the free apps are producing exclusive content? I don’t think so.
Movie lovers will enjoy Popcornflix, as they offers movies for every genre. You can watch classics like Stagecoach and Coneheads or newer releases. Take a look at their catalog, you’ll find something to watch.
If you like watch documentaries, Snagfilms is right up your alley. They have a catalog of more than 10,000 films for adults, children, and families on a variety of topics and individual characters. Snagfilms also offers some fictional programming that can take you back to 18th century England or TV comedy series.
Classic Cinema Online
Classic Cinema Online can be a free alternative to Turner Classic Movies and similar channels that show movies from Hollywood’s Golden Age lasting from the late 1920s to the 1950s. Westerns, horror, romance, comedy, and drama, all of these genres can be found at Classic Cinema Online for free!
Classic Television Online
Watch classic TV shows that you used to watch on TV Land or Nick-at-Nite at Classic Television Online. Here are some of the series you can watch for free:
- The Andy Griffith Show
- The Beverly Hillbillies
- Leave it to Beaver
Classic Television Online even airs sports classic games and they are also planning to offer classic episodes from game shows, late night TV, and weekend cartoons.
Comcast Xfinity Stream
Comcast internet customers can stream select on-demand and live TV programming for free with Xfinity Stream. You’re already paying for Comcast internet service and this is a complimentary benefit that lets you watch your favorite programming on TV or on-the-go from any internet-connected device.
Yidio is a free digital content search engine. You type in the name of the TV show or movie of your choice and Yidio tells you which streaming platform offers it for free. If the program you want to watch requires a subscription, Yidio also lets you know which platform like Prime Video or Netflix stream the title.
Your Local Library
Another free option to consider is your local library. Most libraries let you rent DVDs for free and partner with online library databases like Overdrive to offer movies and TV shows that you can stream. You usually only need a library card to begin borrowing digital titles from Overdrive.
Get Affordable Cable TV
Buying an HDTV antenna and using one of the streaming platforms like Roku and Amazon Prime Video can be all you need to replace your current cable TV subscription. Sometimes, these recommendations still aren’t enough and you need to subscribe to a streaming service to watch premium movies or live sports.
Cable and satellite TV providers still maintain a competitive edge on these products, but that doesn’t mean you still need to pay $100 a month to watch your favorite team take the field.
Sling TV lets you subscribe to your current cable TV channels for as little as $20 a month by streaming the channels to your TV, computer, or mobile device with your high speed internet. If you’re currently paying $100 a month for cable, you instantly save $80 a month–$960 a year!
With the basic Sling TV Orange package, you stream Disney and ESPN for $20 a month. This is the most affordable way to stream these two channels. You might be able to stream your local networks, but I recommend getting an HDTV antenna to get a wider variety of channels.
There are three different core channel packages available through Sling:
- Orange ($20 each month)
- Blue ($25 each month)
- Orange and Blue ($40 each month)
You can also add additional themed channel packages like Sports, News, and Movies for an extra $5 a month. Cloud DVR is also available for an additional $5 a month, but you do get complimentary on-demand viewing on most channels for movies and TV shows that recently aired.
Sling TV offers a 30-day free trial before you commit to paid plan. Since Sling is contract free, you can suspend Sling for the months you don’t anticipate watching much TV or you want to concentrate on saving money.
Hulu used to be a free service, but they now have two paid options to choose from:
- Hulu: On-demand TV and movies for $7.99 a month
- Hulu with Live TV: 50+ live TV channels and on-demand content for $39.99/month
Like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix, Hulu offers original TV series and movies that cannot be found anywhere else. This original Hulu content is available on either streaming plan.
With Hulu Live TV, you can also stream select local channels depending on your zip code. Where I live, I can stream my local CBS, NBC, and FOX Sports affiliates. You might be able to stream more local channels if you live in a larger TV market than I do.
There is a 30-day free trial with the basic Hulu streaming plan and a 7-day free trial for Hulu with Live TV.
Netflix is by far the streaming service with the largest subscription base. If you’re already a Netflix customer and can get all the channels you want from an HDTV antenna, you can cancel your cable TV subscription and supplement your over-the-air channels with the Netflix catalog.
As people cut the cord, Netflix is seeing a surge in subscribers looking for on-demand movies and TV shows. While you won’t be able to watch last night’s episode of your favorite show, you can probably watch the prior seasons.
Or, you can also find an alternative programming option similar to your favorite cable TV show or movie. In 2017 alone, Netflix invested a mind-blowing $6 billion in exclusive TV and movie programming!
After getting your first month free, Netflix offers three different subscription plans:
For $7.99 a month, you can stream unlimited content in standard definition on one screen at a time. With the basic plan, you don’t have access to HD or Ultra HD video quality.
The Netflix Standard plan costs $10.99 month and offers HD video quality and the ability to watch Netflix on two screens simultaneously.
For families with multiple screens, you should consider Netflix Premium to watch on up to four screens at once. You’ll also have the ability to stream in HD and Ultra HD.
CBS All Access
When you only want to watch to CBS programming, you can subscribe to CBS All Access for $5.99 a month. As an All Access member, you watch live programming from your local CBS affiliate and on-demand TV shows and movies for current series and classic TV series like the original Star Trek or old episodes of The Big Bang Theory.
If you can’t access CBS from an HDTV antenna, CBS All Access is the most affordable way to watch live CBS sports programming that’s airing on your local channel. So, you won’t miss the latest SEC football games, NCAA basketball, or NFL programming.
Sports lovers will love fuboTV and now you can finally cut the cord without losing access to your favorite teams. You can watch 70+ channels including:
- Big Ten Sports Network
- CBS Sports Network
- Fox Sports Network
- NBA TV
- NFL Network
- Pac 12 Networks
- BEIN Sports Network
- Hallmark Channel
If you’re a basketball, baseball, soccer, cricket, or rugby fan, fuboTV can save you bundle in premium sports content.
The first step to cutting the cord and getting free cable tv legally is to start using a HDTV antenna as you can potentially get every channel you currently watch for free over the air or with an on-demand streaming device from Roku. If that still isn’t enough, you can supplement with a contract-free online streaming plan that offers on-demand or live TV for a fraction of the cost you’re currently paying.
Whatever you decide to do, the good news you’re saving a ton of money as soon as you make the decision to end high-cost cable services. Also, if you have tried any of these mentioned above or you have a question, please ask in the comments below and we will be sure to answer and help everyone out at the same time!
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