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Free and cheap TV without Cable or Satellite

Save Thousands of Dollars While Watching the TV Shows You Love

By Brian Shim | Updated 
10/27/2021

I’d like to help you save money by canceling cable TV and replacing it with free and cheap alternatives. It’s called “cord cutting” and the techniques I present in this site are completely legal!

The average cable customer spends $100 a month on cable. That’s $1,200 per year for the rest of your life, or about $60,000 in your lifetime! Why pay when you can watch many of the same shows for much less or free?

Part of the solution to the ridiculous cost of cable and satellite TV is to switch to FREE broadcast digital TV using an antenna like one of the ones below. If you live near or in a decent-sized metropolitan area, you should be able to get most of the network channels (ABC, CBS, NBS, Fox) plus PBS and local stations with an inexpensive indoor antenna.

Broadcast TV antennas that I have tested
Some of the TV antennas I have tested

You can also connect your TV to a device like a Roku or Amazon Fire TV to get additional free and pay TV and movie services using your Internet connection. I explain all of this on DisableMyCable™.

Start with Free Broadcast Digital TV

Did you know that people in or near big cities can receive most of the major network channels (ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, CW), plus PBS and local stations in hi-def for free? It’s called broadcast digital TV. I was able to get thirty channels total in Providence, RI, and over 100 in Los Angeles, CA. It takes a little work to set up, but I’ll guide you through it.

To see which channels YOU can get using an antenna, click the big Station Finder button below and enter your zip code.

You will see a map of your area like the one to the right. Wait a few seconds for the colored list of stations to appear on the left. You should be able to pick up the green and yellow channels with a good indoor flat antenna. The ones in orange will probably require an outdoor antenna. The list is not exact but will give you a ballpark idea of the number of channels you should be able to get.

Finding TV Stations at DisableMyCable.com
The FCC's Station Finder

If the stations you want are available, then keep going! If not, skip down to other options.

Test Your TV’s Reception Now – No Antenna Required!

If you have a modern flat-panel TV (the kind that you can hang on a wall), all you need is an antenna to get these channels, and you’ll be getting most of them in high-definition, with better picture quality than you got with cable!

If you don’t have an antenna right now, here is a quick-and-dirty way to test your TV to see if it will work:

For detailed instructions on how to hook up your antenna and configure your TV, go to the antenna setup page on this site!

If You Have an Old Analog Tube TV

If you have an old analog tube TV, you can still get free TV using an antenna.  You’ll need to get a converter box to do it.

Tube TV
Tube TV

My Two Favorite Indoor TV Antennas

I’ve done extensive testing and come up with my top two favorite indoor TV antennas – the ones which bring in the most channels reliably in my testing. Hint – they are both flat! Read more about the TV antennas I chose!

The Mohu Leaf and Cable Cutter Aerowave antenas
The Mohu Leaf and Cable Cutter Aerowave antenas

How to Record Broadcast TV Shows

Many people ask me if they can record the shows from free broadcast TV.  The answer is a resounding “yes”!

If you love the Amazon family of products like the  Echo and Fire TV, I recommend the Fire TV Recast. If you don’t use Amazon products, I would recommend Tablo

How to Get Cable TV Channels Without Cable/Satellite

Using an antenna is great for getting your local stations plus the major networks and PBS. But what if you need certain cable TV channels like AMC, ESPN, or HGTV?

Happily, there are now more than a few companies offering live cable-TV-like streaming services over the Internet. Cost is a lot less than cable or satellite, and you can watch the shows on your computer, tablet, or phone, or on your TV using a streaming device.

One of my recommended streaming services is Sling TV (affiliate link), which has plans starting at $30 per month. You can get all of the channels below for $45 per month:

Sling TV Orange and Blue Plan Channels
Sling TV Orange and Blue Plan Channels (affiliate link)

So, by using an antenna to get the networks and local channels for free, combined with a low-cost streaming service like Sling TV (affiliate link), you have an impressive package of channels for a fraction of the cost of cable! And there is no contract, and no dealing with the cable company!

If you can’t get the networks using an antenna, don’t fret, there are services that offer live TV channels for you. For more information on all of the options, check out my page on streaming services.

My Favorite Way to Watch Streaming Services on My TV

If you want to watch streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, or Sling TV on your TV, you’ll need to get a streaming media player. These connect to your TV and require an Internet connection.

Roku Ultra
Roku Ultra

There are many streaming devices available, including Amazon Fire TVApple TV, and Chromecast. But the one that I am recommending for most people is Roku. It offers the most channels, voice search across many content providers, and headphone output, all at a reasonable price. Read my full Roku review here.

Watch TV and Movies on Your Computer for FREE

The Internet Remote Control: Free TV and Movies Online
My links to free movies, TV, and video online

People have asked me for an easy way to watch their favorite TV shows on the Internet. Here it is: your Free Internet Video Links! I’ve assembled the best sources of free TV on the Internet and put them on one easy-to-use page - you Internet "Remote Control"!

Note, these sites mostly work on desktop and laptop computers, not phones or tablets.

My Story

I was a loyal cable TV customer for all of my adult life, paying about $34/month for basic cable (which sounds ludicrously cheap now). Then I moved to a different city where the cost was $52/month for basic cable. I paid it and figured, “well, that’s just the cost of getting TV”. More and more, however, I realized that I wasn’t getting good TV. I was just surfing through the channels over and over looking for good TV. Then, my 6-month “introductory cable rate” ended and my cable bill went up to $57/month. Sure, it was only a few dollars more, but that was the last straw. After a few months of putting up with the higher cost and lack of good shows, I decided to “Disable My Cable” and try broadcast digital TV. The first thing I tried was an old rabbit-ear antenna that I had from the pre-digital TV days… Read the rest of my story here.

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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Judy
Judy
1 year ago

If I use outdoor antenna can I use existing cable wiring? If so how. Will this allow us to watch local channels on all tv's in my house?

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  Judy

Hi Judy,
Yes, you can! Just make sure the existing cable wiring is completely disconnected from any cable TV equipment, boxes, etc.
Best,
Brian

Tyrus
Tyrus
1 year ago

Nice work Brian

James Moneypenny
James Moneypenny
1 year ago

I came

across your site and loved it. Lots of well written and informative stuff. I have begun the cut the cable plan but have hit a snag. Bought 3 roku s for older TVs but replaced main tv with a Samsung smart tv. Got YouTube tv. Navigating YouTube tv via roku is more or less intuitive. With the Samsung smart tv, using the Samsung remote, it is a nightmare. I have found no website or source of info describing how to get from live channel to another live channel. Everything was how to connect things “out of the box” but nothing for how to change channels. So one question -can you refer me to some old fashioned written instructions or alternatively, can I just use another roku on the Not so smart tv?

Thnx

Brian
1 year ago

Hi James,

I'm so glad my site has been useful to you! Yes, you can absolutely use another Roku on your smart TV! Give it a try!

Best,
Brian

James Moneypenny
James Moneypenny
1 year ago
Reply to  Brian

thnx for the timely and helpful reply. I will do so. i feel a little frustrated with not being able to "get with the program' and use the factory remote. I'm not entirely sure the remote is working. It doesn't seem to consistently elicit a response from the tv. However, the ROKU seems much, much more easier to navigate with on the other (dumb) tv's. thnx again.

Kevin West
Kevin West
1 year ago

Hi Brian,
I cut the cable cord in early 2018. I am saving over $80/month AND have so many more choices in programming than I did with Dish! I am so happy!

My second generation Firestick TV (the first version with voice command) is giving me fits. I have it in the basement with the TV on the same west wall as my upstairs TV, but about 10 feet horizontal separation (TV downstairs is not directly below the upstairs TV). The downstairs Firestick is connected to the TV with an 8 ft long premium HDMI cable, so it is several feet away from the back of the TV. I do not have the downstairs TV hooked up to any local broadcast antenna.
The upstairs TV has a ROKU stick which works flawlessly. I replaced the first generation Firestick upstairs with the 2018 model ROKU Stick because the Firestick was giving me fits - very slow response, frequent re-booting. My ISP guy told me that Firestick's are always "broadcasting" and he could see some bandwidth consumption from the Firestick.
I live in a very hilly area. My ISP broadcast tower in in direct eyesight so I have a good consistent internet signal for streaming. My streaming provider (Fubo TV) does not offer ABC local station, so I installed an amplified HD antenna to pick up ABC from a broadcast repeater tower about 10 miles away. The signal can be weak especially when it snows outside, but generally I get a good "fuzzy-free" HD signal.

So that's my set up now read this - My wife was watching ABC OTA - The Bachelor last night. I went downstairs to watch something else!!

I happened to have the Firestick unplugged (a day ago I was messing with a Blue Ray disc player and had to unplug the Firestick to get at other cables).

When I powered-up the downstairs Firestick, the upstairs antenna ABC OTA signal was lost. I experimented by plugging and unplugging the Firestick power. Every time I plugged-in the Firestick the antenna lost it's ABC OTA signal. There must have been very strong RF interference coming from the Firestick downstairs where the RF interference was traveling maybe 12 feet AND through the wood floor, through the wood wall of the house to interfere with the antenna signal at the antenna (kind of scary wondering what this strong RF signal is doing to our bodies).

Please note that my coax cable is premium double shielded to eliminate stray RF interference. The internet coax and the antenna coax touch as the go through the exterior wall of the house. My internet router is 3 feet behind the upstairs TV, on the floor. The internet and antenna coax cables are each about 6 feet long from inside to the outside of the house. The ISP dish is mounted on the exterior wall of the house about 2 feet above the HD antenna.

I am ready to replace the Firestick downstairs (with another ROKU) but I am very interested in your comments before I react and take a hammer to this Firestick!
Thanks for your reply Brian!
Kevin

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  Kevin West

Hi Kevin,

Thanks for your post! Not sure if the comment got deleted on the site, but I coulnd't find it there so I'm writing directly.
Yes, I've heard from other people about their Fire Sticks causing RF interference (#9 below): https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/antenna-tips/

Try wrapping it in tinfoil if you want to give it another chance.

Best,
Brian

Gail Dunning
Gail Dunning
1 year ago

The cord is cut! I cancelled the satellite on the day my contract expired and when the price went up about $30/month. We spent almost $500 on this project, including hiring an electrician to ground the system . Using the new, higher pricing for satellite, the $500 will be amortized in just under 4 months. Absolutely amazing!

Our ongoing cost will now be $30 for Sling blue, unless I decide to upgrade to the $5/ month cloud dvr. Another ongoing cost is broadband. We pay $60/mo for Xfinity’s lowest class of service which seems to be good enough to stream tv. I would have the Internet regardless, so I am not including it in the tv costs. I bought my own modem and router, so I am saving the rental fee.

Consider this: you could buy the same antenna and cable we got for about $175; use the Titan online free TV guide and just watch tv like we did in the “olden days”, only now the picture is in beautiful HD.

I came across Brian’s website while randomly surfing. I followed the directions. I especially suggest paying close attention to researching and testing whether or not you can get broadcast tv signals in your area. We live in a rural area. The ABC tower is 96 miles away and I was very surprised that we could receive it. None of the process is very difficult. If you can’t get something to work, Google is you friend.

Our stuff: Clearstream 4 Max antenna w/RG 6 coax; Amazon 4K fire stick for Amazon Prime. Channel Master Stream + for OTA and sling. Sling and Amazon had an incredible deal. I think they may have paid us to buy the Fire Stick, plus Black Friday half price for the device itself. The Firestick was easy to set up. The Stream was a bit of a challenge, but Channel Master has help on their website. And Google! After the Stream scanned we got additional channels.

We have had some wind, some rain and some sun and so far, none of it has affected out OTA reception.

The worst thing for me is learning to navigate the system. Which HDMI? Which remote? Which glasses do I need, besides the wine glass...JK.

So, Brian, it’s been fun.

Thank you for the music, the bucks I’m saving....to paraphrase a bit. Regards, Gail.

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  Gail Dunning

Hi Gail,

Great job in figuring everything out! Thanks for sharing!!! So glad to hear you're saving money and getting even far-away channels!

Best,
Brian

K M
K M
1 year ago

Hi Brian. I am in Palmetto, Florida (34221). The local CBS channel - WTSP 10 - is undergoing planned tower work and operating at a slightly reduced capacity to accommodate the federally mandated spectrum repack. Which means not enough signal here. I get about 40% signal strength with 0% signal quality. So, no picture. Most other stations I get 100% on both signal and quality. My question is: if I install a preamp on my outdoor antenna (ClearStream 4V), will it help receive better signal from WTSP 10, and/or make things worse for the good channels?

Brian
1 year ago
Reply to  K M

Hi K M,

Great question. Often, an amplifier doesn't do a good job of amplifying weak signals if there are really strong signals present, which is definitely the case in your area. So, I don't think an amplifier will help, unless you have a super long cable run.

I do see that CBS is a Hi-V (VHF) signal. The Clearstream 4V does have a VHF antenna element, so you're good there.

The only other thing to try would be to make sure it is pointed in the direction of your CBS station. You can use the Station Finder to see what direction it's coming from:
https://www.disablemycable.com/station-finder/

Best,
Brian

Lilia JS
Lilia JS
2 years ago

Hello Brian, you are such a Godsend!

I have been trying to stop paying for Verizon for years now! Right now I am on a month to month plan until I figure it out. But in the past 10 years since I moved to Reston, VA 20191, I have gone up and down (creeping up until we complain) between $99 to $276 a month it starts I'm currently paying $167 a month which is ridiculous. I haven't cut off yet since I was trying to figure out what internet speed to keep instead of how many channels we get.

I have a Chromecast and Netflix for at least 5 years now. My family of 5 with (the youngest being 15) each have at least 2 devices and tell me that they need the "fastest" internet otherwise they can't access anything and when we do watch tv, everyone is streaming their own shows or binge watching a season of something but not at the same time. I have been trying to figure out what services to keep to stop wasting all this money for channels that don't get watched.

We do like some of the specialty channels like History, Discovery, HGTV, Comedy Central, Food Network and a few others that are never on the same package so we 'have to get' "extreme HD" with FIOS vs their basic package.

The question I have now is what internet speed do I really need? I currently have a 100/100 Mbps, upgraded from 50/50 almost 3 years ago. The next up is 150/150 and then it's 300/300 or 500/500. If I'm going to downgrade to just internet should I go up to 150/150 or stay at 100/100. If you've already discussed this somewhere on this site please provide the link.

Thanks so much for your help!! Lilia

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  Lilia JS

Hi Lilia,

This is a good article that talks about what internet speed you need for streaming:
https://www.cordcuttersnews.com/internet-speed-need-cord-cutting-break/

Based on that, I would think that 100Mbps is enough, even if everyone is streaming.

One other thing to look at is your Wi-Fi router speed. For example, if you have an older 802.11g Wi-Fi router, that only goes up to 54Mbps, so you'd be incapable of using the bandwidth you're paying for, and throwing money away. 802.11n and 802.11ac go over 500Mbps. If the device is capable of being wired (using Ethernet), such as a Roku Premiere, that is faster still than Wi-Fi.

Best,
Brian

Stanley Wong
2 years ago

Here are some of the services I use to watch TV:
Subscription Fee: YouTube TV to access my sports, Netflix for premium programs
Free TV Ad Supported: DistroTV for live and global shows.

pubgfree
2 years ago

See the problem I have is live Sports. I am a huge Lakers fan and can only get them on the Spectrum Sports Net channel and other love sports channels as well. If it wasn’t for sports I would cut the cable entirely. TV shows and items like that I could care less. I can watch that later on streaming services. Does sling or other services have live sports

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  pubgfree

Hi pubgfree,

Sling TV has ESPN and SportsNet, but I don't think they show Lakers Games:
https://www.sling.com/channels?classification=us

Unfortunately, I don't know of a legal way to watch the Lakers in LA wtihout cable. Let me know if you find anything.

Best,
Brian

eliza
eliza
2 years ago

I live in Santa Monica; have lost ktla and kcbs with the recent changes. Rescanning multiple times has not helped. Have a Winegard indoor antenna. I bought a ClearStream Eclipse amplified antenna, along with some rg6 coax, still no luck (tried without the amplifier too). Went back to an old rabbit ears RCA antenna, nope. Tried the aluminum foil nearby also. Experimented placing all versions in a number of locations in the room, no. NBC4, KABC7, ch9, fox11, and ch13 are fine in all situations. The TV is a sony bravia from the mid 2000's. Windows face south (I know Mt Wilson is northeast so not ideal). If i were to get a very long hunk of coax, there are windows in another room which face north. However, the next building is only about 7 feet away, same height, thinking that would block the signal. On the south facing side, the next building is about 12 feet away. Apt is the third unit back from the street (looking east) so a bit constricted that direction also. I don't think outdoor antennas are allowed on the roof. Would an outdoor antenna help even if indoors? Is it the TV that might not have as good a tuner as a newer set? Every time I run the scan now I get zero (I do still have the previous channels when i check). Is it possible the rescan is not operating even though it says it is? Also, looked on Sony's site; there is an available software upgrade for my model; might doing that help? Any ideas are appreciated!

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  eliza

Hi Eliza,

Wow, we have very similar situations. I have a Sony Bravia from the mid 2000's, and I live in Santa Monica as well..

But, my living room faces North, and I'm able to pick up KCBS, as well as KTLA after doing a re-scan. And, your neighboring buildings are much closer.

I don't think the tuner would be necessarily better on a newer TV.

You've done a lot of good experiments. I think one thing I'd do is open your south-facing window temporarily, hold your antenna outside, and point it to the East, then do a scan. It's not a permanent solution, but it would might give a hint on what to try next. Perhaps you could as the landlord or HOA for permission to put an antenna on the roof if you get channels after rescanning.

An outdoor antenna would "work" indoors, but you only would get any extra benefit from placing it outside.

Best,
Brian

Philip Cain
Philip Cain
2 years ago

Thanks for all you do, Brian. You’re the man! It’s good to see the cool and honest assistance you’re providing for everyone during these days of transition. Can you tell me what exactly is inside the Mohu Leaf antennas? What kind of antenna is it? Might it be a fractal type of antenna or just a simple loop? Because of their physical shape, is it safe to assume they are all bi-directional antennas? I can find no specs at all, anywhere, for the Mohu Leaf antennas as if they’re some magical gizmo which “just works – so buy it”. If they are a fractal type of antenna, can they be utilized with some type of reflector to create a uni-directional antenna? I’d really appreciate your input on all of this. Thanks again.

Brian
2 years ago
Reply to  Philip Cain

Hi Philip,

Great question! I'm out of town at the moment, but when I get back I'll split open one of my older Leafs and take some photos. I don't think it's fractal, but we'll see.

Best,
Brian

inb
inb
2 years ago

try this out

Kővágó Kristóf
Kővágó Kristóf
3 years ago

Cool! Really

Mike Nowak
Mike Nowak
3 years ago

Looking for a recorder that functions like the old DVD/VCR recorders. Don't want to use(nor pay for) a program guide. Just want to be able to enter channel, day of week (if repeating) or date, and start/stop times. Tried the new Channel Master Stream, but didn't appear capable of recording without using the program guide. Would the older Channel Master DVR+ work? Or, do you have some other suggestion(s)? Thanks, Mike

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Mike Nowak

Hi Mike,

I believe this one does what you want... and it's cheap!!
https://amzn.to/2Ry3XLp

Best,
Brian

Liane Morris
Liane Morris
3 years ago

I need recommendations on a long range TV antenna for rural areas. I was told if it says 100 miles it truly is 50 miles. The closest metro area (stations) are 65 miles away. I currently get 3 PBS stations when weather is good with an indoor antenna.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Liane Morris

Hi Liane,

Can you go with an outdoor antenna? An outdoor antenna (vs indoor) could make a big difference in your reception. What is your zip code?

Thanks,
Brian

Jaypal
Jaypal
3 years ago

hi

Christine George
Christine George
3 years ago

I found this site name in AARP magazine. So glad I did. I am preparing to start using my tv as my PC monitor allowing me to stream content on a bigger screen. Thank you for all the advice about the local antenna. I got 6 green hits for local stations only 6 miles away so that part should be ok. Here's my question. As a member of Amazon Prime already, do I need Fire TV also? And if I understand correctly, the stick or the box is simply a choice. Thank you for making all this understandable.

Brian
3 years ago

Hi Christine,

I'm so glad you found my site and that it was useful to you!

Roku, Apple TV, and Fire TV have the Amazon app on them, so you could get any one of them to watch Amazon Prime on your TV. I would probably go with a Roku due to the uncertainties of getting YouTube on Fire TV. If that doesn't matter to you, then either is fine.

Regarding the Amazon Fire TV stick, vs. the "box", the box has 4K whereas the stick does not. If your TV is not 4K, then you can go with the stick.

Best,
Brian

joe
joe
3 years ago

I want to receive OTA independent stations that are out of range of my external antenna with a preamp. These stations do not have an online service or feed. Is there any way to watch these stations. A new antenna isn't the answer as the old one is already a long range antenna. I am wanting to watch UHF stations 80 to 120 miles away over flat terrain.

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  joe

Hi Joe,

I don't know of a solution; in fact, getting UHF signals from that far away may be nearly impossible due to the curvature of the earth. Check out this article to better estimate the transmitter's range:
https://www.disablemycable.com/blog/estimate-tv-reception/

Best,
Brian

Ugo
Ugo
3 years ago

Let's do it

Ugo
Ugo
3 years ago
Reply to  Ugo

what

Amanda Allen
Amanda Allen
3 years ago

Hello..
I just had direct TV out in my home. I can afford only one box at this time, however, I really want to watch TV in my bedroom. What do you suggest I use to also get TV in my room? I watch HIST, TLC, DIScovery, Investigation Dis, Tru Tv...
THANKS!

Brian
3 years ago
Reply to  Amanda Allen

Hi Amanda,

With cable and satellite, you're kind of stuck; you'll have to pay for a separate receiver for each TV. Generally they are at least $100 to buy and even more to rent over the long run.

These Internet streaming services offer a lot of the same channels for less:
https://www.disablemycable.com/streaming-services/

These require a streaming box such as a Roku, which starts at $29.95.

Best,
Brian

Chaz
Chaz
3 years ago
Reply to  Brian

Hello

Related Articles

My Favorite Indoor Antennas

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