Best Ways to Get Free Cable TV Channels Legally in the US
Best Ways to Get Free Cable TV Channels Legally in the US

It feels good to “cut the cord” and save money by switching to streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Prime. However, cable companies still offer certain types of content you won’t find using an on-demand service.

The good news is that you don’t have to go back to paying for premium or basic cable. In fact, there are a few ways to get free cable TV channels or something close to it while still leaving that cord safely cut and your cable bill at zero dollars.

If you know the right methods (and we’re not talking about pirating cable and stealing your neighbor’s cable here!), there are plenty of ways to watch TV for free.

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What is free TV?

Photo: Tech 21 Century
Photo: Tech 21 Century

Free TV means the scheduled linearly programmed delivery and/or exhibition of a motion picture, television show or other entertainment product by any means of transmission to a television set or other viewing device by any technology (whether now known or hereafter devised), which shall be advertising supported and/or contain programming breaks (except in the case of the BBC), where the consumer is not charged any fees or charges (other than any compulsory fees charged by a government or governmental agency assessed on those who use television sets) . For clarity, Free TV does not include Subscription Pay TV or Basic TV.

Your local broadcast station signals are free to anyone with an over-the-air antenna. We’re not talking about your grandfather’s rabbit ears – you know the ones with tin foil at the top. Today’s TV antennas are sleek, powerful and affordably priced, especially when you compare them to the monthly fees some cable and satellite companies charge. That’s why in the past few years, the number of people choosing free TV has grown exponentially with everyone from millennials to seniors adopting the trend.

When you install your TV antenna it will perform a scan to find the channels available in your area. Then it will pull in signals from your local stations, such as ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, Univision and Telemundo. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. PBS, ION and The CW are available for free, too, along with MeTV, Antenna TV, Comet TV, Escape and Laff, which air past and current shows. There may be dozens of free channels available to you, depending on your location.

Antenna users get a crystal clear picture of their favorite programs — everything from local news and weather reports to live sports and the highest-rated network shows, all for free with no monthly subscription fee.

What Hardware Do You Need for Free Cable?

Photo: Shutterstock
Photo: Shutterstock

Most of the free cable solutions require internet service and a compatible device. If your device has a modern browser or explicitly supports one of the apps we’re covering below, you’re good to go.

That means a smart TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Playstation, Xbox, Android or iOS smartphone, tablet, and many other devices are already primed for free cable services. Of course, not every option requires an internet connection.

Method 1: Add a Free-To-Air HDTV Antenna to Your Setup

When we say “cable,” we mean traditional network television. It doesn’t have to use a cable to count! You can add broadcast television using other mediums, including radio waves transmitted freely over the air (OTA).

Yes, it’s easy to forget that televisions still have tuners, with more recent models equipped with digital tuners. All you have to do is connect a suitable TV antenna, and you can receive broadcasts to your screen. If your TV doesn’t have a digital tuner, you can always buy a digital receiver box to convert the signal into HDMI and use it with any compatible TV.

The antennas aren’t too expensive and represent a once-off cost. But which channels you can receive depends on where you live and which broadcasts are within range of the antenna. Different antennas are rated for different ranges. Using an indoor or outdoor antenna significantly impacts the strength of the signal and whether you’ll get local channels or ones from broadcast towers further afield.

The good news is that you can find plenty of sites on the net to figure out which broadcasts are in your area. The FCC hosts a Digital TV broadcast map site, just enter your location, and you’ll see what’s available. Networks such as ABC still broadcast OTA in some regions. You need to put in your address and see what’s on.

Types of Antennas: Directional and Omni-directional

There are two types of antennas, “Directional” and “Omni-directional” or “Multi-directional”.

Photo: SCTV
Photo: SCTV

Directional antennas

A directional antenna is an antenna which radiates or receives greater power in one direction, allowing increased performance and reduced interference from unwanted sources. There are plenty of HD directional antennas available on Amazon and most of them are quite similar and less than $50. It is well worth the price to cut the cord. Most people with directional antennas are very happy with them and have them set up on multiple TVs with over 40 channels on average.

Omni-directional antennas

An omni-directional or multi-directional antenna is an antenna which radiates or receives greater power in all directions. You would use this over a directional antenna if you aren’t sure where the TV signal is coming from. Omni-directional antennas can also be found on Amazon, however, are a bit pricier. If you live in an apartment in an area with difficult reception or there are apartment buildings blocking line of sight you may want an Omni-directional antenna. They are easy to set up on your balcony and you can get over 40 channels depending on your location.

Where to place your antenna (indoor vs. outdoor antennas)

Depending on your housing, you’ll want to choose between an indoor TV antenna or an outdoor TV antenna. Here’s how to decide.

Indoor TV Antennas

With this option, you’ll basically get a basic cable that cable providers charge at least $30.00 a month for. Indoor TV Antennas like the Plug-In HD Digital TV Antenna just requires you to plug it into the back of each TV. It’s that simple to get free cable tv with an indoor TV antenna.

Outdoor TV Antennas

Outdoor TV antennas include rooftop antennas that are strong enough for multiple TVs in your living room, bedroom, bathroom, etc. Installation is pretty simple too.

Stream Cable TV Online Directly

Cable TV providers know that people are moving to streaming. Most streaming platforms are paid. For example, Paramount+ requires a paid subscription, but that’s not universally true for all platforms. Peacock, NBC’s streaming service, has a free tier with a heap of cable content.

Related: How To Watch TNT Without Cable For Cheap Prices Or Free

Method 2: Look for Cable-like Streaming Options

You don’t need to stream a cable channel to get cable content or cable-like experiences. Several websites offer live streaming channels as well as on-demand cable content. Many of these are ad-supported and don’t require a paid subscription unless you want to get rid of the advertising. There is a wide selection of these free streaming sites and services. Here are a few that stand out.

1. Roku Streaming Stick+

The Roku Streaming Stick is one of your best options. In fact, it is priced for all pockets and adaptable to almost all TV sets so compatibility isn’t usually an issue. It has a great look and design and its application is easy to understand and use.

The price ranges from $40+ to $100+ for different models depending on the choice and usage. You can stream all of your favorite shows with this streaming stick by downloading many network apps to your device and watch there, most of them are free!

Most networks post recently aired TV shows to watch for free, so you won’t miss by downloading network apps and having a streaming stick like Roku.

2. The Amazon Fire TV Stick

Extremely popular with cord cutters and rightly so. The Amazon Fire TV Stick has a modest price tag of $34.99 with great adaptability and ease of use.

It plugs into your TV’s HDMI port providing you access to movies, subscription channels, TV shows, games and much more.

3. Pluto TV

Photo: Plutosis
Photo: Plutosis

Pluto TVis another big name in cable-like streaming services. At the same time, it’s only available in the USA, with a cut-down version available to viewers in Australia, Europe, the UK, and Canada.

Over 250 live TV channels, but notable ones include CBS News, the NFL channel, and Star Trek, because Star Trek is awesome.

4. Crackle

Crackle has been around for ages and has changed hands a few times, belonging to Sony for a few years but now owned by Chicken Soup for the Soul Entertainment.

You’ll find a heap of free content here, including content from cable providers like CBS, Sony Pictures, Universal, Warner Brothers, and more. However, the advertising can be a little excessive, especially compared to Tubi.

5. IMDb TV

Photo: IMDb TV
Photo: IMDb TV

Most people think of IMDb as a place to go if you want to know who was in your favorite TV show or what movies actors have been in. Surprisingly, IMDb is also a place to get free video streaming in the form of IMDB TV. This is still an Amazon Prime Video service, but the IMDB TV filter means everything you see is free.

Method 3: Use a Shared Cable Account

Photo: Ars Technia
Photo: Ars Technia

Many cable providers now bundle in a streaming service so that subscribers can also get much of their content on mobile phones and other internet-connected devices.

This has led to password-sharing with friends and family members so that they can enjoy cable content by logging in to the cable app. This is “free” because you’re not paying for it directly. For example, someone with an HBO cable subscription usually gets free access to the HBO Max.

As you can imagine, this practice is frowned upon by some cable providers, while others offer it as a perk. You may even be eligible for a family-sharing plan with streaming access. You’ll have to check the cable provider’s policy on sharing to know if this is allowed.

Free Trials

Consider using a free trial if you only need cable access for a particular piece of content that will only be on for a short time.

♦ YouTube TV Free Trial (7 days), including cloud DVR.

♦ Apple TV + (7 days, more if you bought a PS5 or Apple device) now includes MLB streaming.

♦ Roku owners get a 7-day free trial of ESPN.

♦ Sling TV offers a 3-day trial.

♦ DirecTV (5-day trial) requires 8Mbps minimum high-speed internet.

♦ PBS (Free trial through Amazon Prime Trial or YouTube TV Trial).

If there’s no free trial, you might be in a position to take advantage of specials, coupon codes, or other less direct ways to access those services for a while without paying monthly fees.

Related: Top 5 Most Popular Streaming Services in the US

The Best Streaming Services

While these streaming services will vary from $5.99 to $12.99, they offer so many different original titles and the ability to watch live TV. Would you rather pay at most $12.99 a month or fork over $50+ to cable TV companies? Plus, you can easily find realistic ways to earn extra money that can cover the streaming services costs.


The number one streaming service is Netflix. Netflix now operates in almost every country in the world and has 139 million paying subscribers according to CNN.

In the U.S. Netflix’s most popular plan, the Standard tier that offers two HD streams is increasing is $12.99 per month. However, in comparison to Amazon Prime and Hulu, Netflix proves to be a bit more pricer. The Standard tier costs a subscriber around $12.99 per month but unlocks HD content and supports streaming up to 2 devices simultaneously. The top tier plan costs $15.99.

If you want to watch your favorite Netflix original shows like Stranger Things, Orange Is The New Black, Black Mirror, House of Cards, or 13 Reasons Why…


Hulu and Netflix are both popular however Netflix has gained its popularity with its original series and a myriad of different TV shows, documentaries, and movies. Hulu is more proactive with talk shows, media channels also almost all major news channels. If you’re used to having cable then making the switch to Hulu will make it easier. This is where Hulu shines.

If you are interested in streaming TV with Hulu there is no better time to sign up than now. While you may not want to cancel your Netflix subscription and just use only Hulu, they both complement each other. Hulu is cheaper than Netflix and has some good promotions going on. In terms of packages, you can go for Hulu or Hulu Plus. With Hulu Plus, members are able to watch live TV on their main device as well as a range of other devices, for easy viewing that is accommodating.

If you’re interested in Hulu they have just introduced a limited-time offer for $5.99/month until 12/3/2022.

Amazon Prime Video

Obviously, when it comes to streaming video Netflix is king. However, that doesn’t mean that it’s your only option. If you are already an Amazon Prime member then you have access to Amazon Prime Video.

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