A magazine devoted to free and cheap TV

What to do When You Can't Get Free Broadcast TV

By Brian
Published 10/01/2014
 | Updated 09/02/2021

There are still a lot of people who live too far from the TV transmitters to get free broadcast TV using an antenna. If you are one of them, here are some ideas. Note, many of these require Internet access.

Free Options


The options below are free, though some have paid add-ons.  Some require high-speed Internet access and a device (phone, tablet, or computer) to view them on.

1. Pluto TV

Pluto TV is an Internet streaming service that offers live streaming TV and on-demand movies It's available as a website or on streaming devices like Roku. No, it doesn't offer the same channels as cable TV, but it does have a pretty good assortment of movie channels, news, comedy, food shows, and other content. The movies are old, but pretty good classics like "Blade Runner".  It's totally free, although there are commercial interruptions.

Pluto TV
Pluto TV offers both on-demand options and a live-TV like viewing experience
Channel guide on Pluto TV
Channel guide on Pluto TV

2. The Network Websites

I often watch “The Big Bang Theory” for free on the CBS.com website the day after it airs on broadcast TV.  The major networks have lots of shows available for free on their websites, if you’re willing to wait a bit.

Check out my Internet Remote Control for links to all of these sites and more. Or, you can use the CBS iOS or Android app.

If you want to watch these sites on your TV, you can do it using a Google Chromecast and a computer.

The bad news is that more and more of these sites are starting to require you to sign in using a cable provider login.

3. YouTube

Along with viewing broadcast TV using an antenna, I personally watch a lot of content on YouTube for free. Check out this article on how to find professional content on YouTube.

Kristen Bell on the Houzz YouTube Channel
Kristen Bell on the Houzz YouTube Channel (click to view)

You can watch YouTube on your TV using almost all of the set-top boxes and Chromecast (although searching on some of these devices is cumbersome).

4. Sony Crackle

SonyCrackle.com is a website that offers free older movies. Yes, these are mostly “B” or “C”-level (or lower) movies, but there are a few gems in there.

Most of the set-top boxes have a channel for Crackle as well, so you can watch shows on your TV that way.

5. Your Local Library

Did you know that many libraries have free DVD rentals?  Here is the video section of the Rogers Free Library in Bristol, RI:

DVDs at the Rogers Free Library in Bristol, RI

Not bad, eh? This library also shows free very recent movies (just a few months old) every week in their community room!  Check your local library for events like that.

6. Borrow or Swap DVDs

DVDs
DVDs

A lot of people are phasing out their DVD collections and have many old movies sitting around in their garages and closets.  Ask friends if you can borrow or exchange movies to watch. Many of them will be so eager to get rid of them, they might just give them to you outright.

7. Social Viewing

I used to live in an apartment complex where we’d have a potluck and watch “Friends” together every Wednesday night in one of our apartments.  More recently, I met up with hard-core “Breaking Bad” fans to watch the finale.

Find other hard-core fans of shows you like, like “Game of Thrones”, “Walking Dead”, and so forth, then see if they’d be willing to have you over for mini viewing parties.  Do the same thing for big sporting events like the World Series, Superbowl, Stanley Cup, etc.

Offer to make dinner or provide snacks in exchange for being able to watch special shows with friends or family.  Make TV viewing a social activity!

Non-Free Streaming Services


These options are not free, but are cheaper than cable TV in most cases. Most of these require a high-speed Internet connection.

1. Sling TV ($35 per month and up)

Sling TV costs $35/month and gets you many cable channels including ESPN, AMC, A&E, History Channel, etc. all streaming live just like cable or broadcast TV.

Disclosure: Some of the links on this page are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. I test or research each product or service before endorsing. This site is not owned by any retailer or manufacturer. I own this site and the opinions expressed here are mine. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

2. Netflix/Hulu

These subscription services do not stream live TV, but rather have a library of movies and TV shows to watch at your convenience.

Netflix is great for movies and original programming like "Game of Thrones".  Hulu is best for TV shows but has some movies as well.  Both start at $8 per month and go up from there.

If you want the network channels as well, check out Hulu with Live TV.

To view these services on your TV, you’ll need a set-top-box like an Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Chromecast, or a "smart" TV or DVD player with Internet capabilities.

3. Amazon Prime ($119 per year)

Amazon Prime gives you access to a library of TV shows and movies, as well as free shipping on Amazon.com for $99 per year. The selection of movies and TV shows is not as extensive as Netflix' or Hulu's, but there are some good ones in their library. You get other perks like access to thousands of songs and books, and free online photo storage.

4. Amazon Video Rental or Purchase (Starting at $6 per rental)

Of course, you can also buy or rent movies and TV shows à la carte on Amazon.com.  Typical cost to rent a recently released movie is $6 while cost to buy is around $20.

5. YouTube TV ($64.99/month)

Confusingly, YouTube TV is different from regular YouTube. For $64.99 per month, YouTube TV will let you stream live TV from over 85 cable channels including the major networks, AMC, ESPN, Fox News, MSNBC and FX. Unfortunately, this price approaches the cost of cable TV, so I'd only recommend it if you really need the channels it offers.

Other Options


1. DVDs from Thrift Stores and Used CD Stores

Don't forget about thrift stores and used CD stores - you can find some good DVD’s at these places, if you don't mind watching older movies and TV shows. One example is FYE.

Once you view DVDs, you can trade them with friends.

2. Sports bars

If you want sports, why not watch the occasional game at your local sports bar?  It's true that you have to spend money on food or drink at a sports bar, but if you don't go too often, the extra money you spend won't be nearly as much as your monthly cable bill.

What else?

Okay, these are the ways that I could think of to watch TV and movies if you are far from broadcast TV stations and don’t have cable or satellite TV. Many of these require high-speed Internet.  Here are some tips to reduce the cost of your Internet access.

Can you think of any other ideas?  Please share below! - Brian

Did You Like This Article?

Brian Shim, DisableMyCable.com
If you did, please share it and sign up for my email updates. I'll send you my new articles, no more than once a month.

Check out my other site, thefrugalnoodle.com, with ideas on saving money and living simply.

Ask a Question or Tell Me Your Story

If you have a question about this article, leave a comment below. I personally read and answer each one. If you want advice on TV reception, leave your zip code. 

When you comment, you'll automatically receive replies by email. Your email address will not be displayed.

I'd also love to hear how you're saving money on TV. Tell me your story!  Thanks! - Brian
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24 Comments
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Valiant
Valiant
5 years ago

I'm curious how to find the free Hulu on computers option?!? I've looked all over and I can't find it. Or at least I can't find it without first canceling my subscription. Perhaps Hulu's website designer allows for it to show up that way?

Brian
5 years ago
Reply to  Valiant

HI Valiant,

GREAT question. The way they hid the free shows pisses me off. Here's how to get to them.

Go to the Hulu site: http://www.hulu.com/

This will redirect you, but if you click the hulu logo in the upper left corner, you'll get to the regular site where you can select some free shows. Unfortunately, it seems like more and more of them are requiring subscription. But, there are some free shows there.

Brian

Valiant
Valiant
5 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Ah! I see it now. Thanks!

wanda
wanda
5 years ago
Reply to  Valiant

I tried to click on the hulu logo and it wouldn't do anything!!!

Brian
5 years ago
Reply to  wanda

Hi Wanda,

Sorry, Hulu has gotten rid of their free shows since then...

Brian

Elizabeth
Elizabeth
6 years ago

Best prices on DirecTV or Dish. I can also help with Charter, Time Warner, Dish Net, Hughes Net, AT&T, Century Link, etc.... Email me at 1stchoicesolutions2015@gmail.com.

Gerald Franks
Gerald Franks
6 years ago

If you live too far away to receive shows on broadcast TV you're likely too far away to have high speed internet to watch via websites too.

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Gerald Franks

Hi Gerald,

But, there are actually a lot of people who live within range of high-speed Internet but can't get broadcast TV due to geographical obstructions. For these people (who are many), Internet options are helpful.

Thanks,
Brian

Gerald Franks
Gerald Franks
6 years ago
Reply to  Brian

I would love to hear solutions for both -- either how to obtain high speed internet with unlimited data such that streaming video is feasible and the solutions presented in this article can be used or how to obtain TV and movies without using high speed internet. That was what I was getting at by the original post.

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Gerald Franks

Hi Gerald,

Internet depends on local providers. Unfortunately, I can't offer much help on that other than to compare your local services.

Thanks,
Brian

Valiant
Valiant
5 years ago
Reply to  Gerald Franks

Gerald, When you say, high speed, could you please tell me what speeds and type of Internet you have now re; DSL, cable, etc., and the names of your provider options? Brian already answered and he's the guru but I'm still hoping somebody here might have had a similar experience to yours that could assist.

Gerald Franks
Gerald Franks
5 years ago
Reply to  Valiant

I use the hot-spot on my Verizon phone for my internet access. Other than that, it's the horrid satellite dish internet that is way too expensive with way too many limitations.

Valiant
Valiant
5 years ago
Reply to  Gerald Franks

Gerald, Maybe my situation will help. I have a cable provider that offers high speed internet without data caps so I can watch as many hours as I want without worrying about the amount of data I use.

I live on an island and I only have one provider option for cable, I've also used DSL in the past to watch video with so I may be a perfect example @your scenario.

feyemahi
feyemahi
6 years ago

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applesandoranges
applesandoranges
6 years ago

Your link to your Internet Remote Control goes to your Chromecast instructions.

Brian
6 years ago

applesandoranges,

Thanks so much for finding that error and letting me know about it! Fixed now.

Sincerely,
Brian

Brenda
Brenda
6 years ago

The local library system in Miami-Dade County offers a service named "hoopla" for anyone that has a current local library card. Hoopla allows you to view videos (some available before Redbox has them), books & audio books on smart phones & computers only.......it's probably just a matter of time before it can be streamed to a TV.

Brian
6 years ago
Reply to  Brenda

Awesome, thanks for sharing Brenda!

Brian

Antonio
Antonio
7 years ago

Thanks for your articles, after watching you in youtube, I red almost all of your articles and they become to be very enlighted.

Anonymous
Anonymous
7 years ago

Thanks Brian for providing the BEST "cut the cable" site available!!!!

kathy
kathy
7 years ago

Regarding tip 5 - I bought a "smart" DVD-Blu-ray player with the apps. My tv is not a smart tv. It works great for receiving Amazon instant video/hulu, you-tube, etc.

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