As most of us already know, cable TV has a lot of great channel choices.
And if you’re a fan of watching House Hunters on HGTV or the Walking Dead on AMC, unfortunately, you’re going to need a cable subscription to watch these premium cable TV channels.
While the Internet has changed the way we have watched TV and offers online options instead of the bulky cable TV box, I wanted to research ways to potentially watch cable TV for free, all while being LEGAL.
Yes, there are illegal ways to watch cable TV, but that’s not what this website is all about. We need to follow the law to keep this website running in the United States!
In my research, I found some cool strategies and resources you could use if you wanted to either watch live TV or a specific show for free and wanted to share them below.
And while I tried to list free options only, some may cost a few dollars, but I will let you know in the subheading before you read about the resource. And some may only include the big networks, so bear with me.
Regardless, using these free sources should fill your watching library for the next few months.
It’s time to ditch the cable bill and start paying next to nothing!
How to Get Free Cable TV Legally
Purchase an HDTV Antenna
If you haven’t done so already, purchase an HDTV antenna and simply hook it up to your TV.
These antennas cost less than $30 on Amazon.com and it can be considered as a one and done purchase (unless it breaks in the future), simply meaning you’re paying about $30 for a lifetime subscription.
For example, check out these highest rated HDTV antennas on Amazon:
- Amplified HD Digital TV Antenna Long 65-80 Miles Range – Supports 4K 1080p & All Older TV’s
- 1byone HDTV Antenna (50-80 mile range)
- Vansky Outdoor 150 Mile Motorized 360 Degree Rotation OTA Amplified HD TV Antenna for 2 TVs
All of these antennas have thousands of reviews and cost less than $40 in most cases, and these were the top three HD antennas I found when I was browsing Amazon at the time of writing this guide.
Now, here’s the cool thing.
Before you purchase your antenna, you can view the channels you can get in your area by visiting the official FCC.gov website.
And if you really want to get in-depth, hardcore HD antenna users recommend TVFool.com, which is a pretty neat resource which shows you which channels you can get and how you should position your antenna.
When doing so, just enter your zip code and then, once you do, you can view all of the channels you can get in your area.
And yes, I know this isn’t “cable” TV, but in some cases, you can receive more than 30+ channels just for having the antenna installed.
For instance, I could get the following channels:
For example, check out the channels I can get for 100% free as long as my antenna is powerful enough:
Again, I know it isn’t FREE cable TV, per se, but I just wanted to include this tip since many people often look over the power of a cheap antenna.
In the end, don’t expect ESPN or HGTV over your antenna because it just isn’t possible.
NOTE: Before you check out the following tips, I highly recommend either a Roku, Google Chromecast or Apple TV in order to stream these resources to your TV. However, if you just want to stream to your laptop or computer, then that’s fine, too!
Check the Networks’ Official Website
You may think that you need to have a cable subscription in order to access a cable channel’s lineup.
And yes, while this is the case with a lot of networks, did you know that some will let you watch their content, even without a subscription?
The following networks let you watch a variety of content for FREE, regardless if you’re a cable TV subscriber or not:
- Cartoon Network
- Discovery Network
- Food Network
- HBO (very limited)
- Lifetime (limited to some shows)
- Nick Jr.
- PBS Kids
- TLC (limited)
All of the networks will vary in terms of what you can view, but it doesn’t hurt to download them onto your Roku, Firestick and/or Apple TV device to see what the limitations are. You can also download them on your Android or Apple device.
In most cases, at least from what I researched, a lot of networks do offer free content, but most of the time, it’s extremely limited.
And remember, if you already have some sort of cable subscription, be sure to log in to maximize your content viewing.
To start watching, you simply head to the free section on the website via the menu at the top, and from there, you can browse by category, which are then broken down into the following categories:
- family and kids
- kids TV
- black cinema
With hundreds of options, the only caveat is that you do have to watch ads while doing so, but this is the case with most of the resources I list on this page. The only way to drop the ads is usually by upgrading to a premium account.
And if you want to watch the latest and greatest, as mentioned, you can rent your choice for as little $0.99 or even free if you can find a valid promotional code.
- Website: Vudu
Hulu (ALMOST free)
By far, one of the best ways to watch TV for next to nothing is via Hulu. And yes, while it does have a small fee, it’s definitely one of the best bangs for your buck online, aside from Netflix.
With THOUSANDS of movies and TV on demand, plans start at as little as $5.99 a month, with a free trial offer available to first-time users and even eligible returning subscribers just to see if you like it. And if you’re lucky, the sometimes throw in a free Roku if you commit for a few months.
Aside from the on-demand library, Hulu also offers Live TV options (this does cost more), Hulu originals and optional add-ons, such as Showtime.
All paid users will have unlimited access to the streaming library, where you can watch an exhaustive list of TV shows.
- Website: Hulu
Crackle has been around for quite some time now and is a 100% free option that allows you to watch a variety of hit shows and even movies for FREE.
Owned by a name you can probably trust, Sony, Crackle has a large variety of hit shows, such as Seinfeld, The Shield and so many more, including movies.
And while the selection includes a lot of shows that don’t air anymore, the selection is pretty good if you want simply browse through the list and find something of interest.
To see your options, you can do so by visiting the official website and clicking on either the TV or Movies tab at the top.
And the great thing about Crackle?
You do not need to sign up in order to watch the shows, so if something is of interest, click on it and start watching as creating an account is 100% optional.
Expect about 50-70 TV series and upwards of 150 movies.
- Website: Crackle
Researching online, TV.com appeared to be a decent option if you wanted a true 100% option.
To use, register for an account and then search for a show using the top search bar. Granted, NOT every show will be available.
Next, once you find the show of interest, click on it and you should be taken to a page which looks like the screenshot below.
Once here, you will want to click on the “watch online” tab to explore your options.
Now, again, don’t get mad at me if no free options are available as your options will greatly available, but to see if a free option is available, you will want to filter your results by “the source,” only checking the “free” option.
You will see the screen below when you click on the “watch online” tab as noted above.
In doing so, it will present you with all of the free options if they are available.
And aside from the looking for free options, you can also select other options as well, such as filtering by the device, by the season or in the case you don’t want the freebie, you can filter it by the streaming service as well.
Now, in my example, I could not find any “free” Walking Dead shows, but with Tosh.0, for instance, I could select from over 30 episodes as seen here:
TV.com can be an okay resource if you have a particular resource in mind, but I wouldn’t say it’s my favorite as it’s kind of clunky and very ad heavy when I was playing around it.
Regardless, add it to your resource list if you want to find a free show online.
- Website: TV.com
tubi, like Sony’s Crackle, lets you watch a variety of TV shows and movies online without registering, allowing you to break it down into the following categories:
The selection was quite extensive, and I was pretty impressed with what you could watch.
Again, no registration is required and the interface is so simple to use.
Just click on a category of choice (as seen in the screenshot above) and then scroll through the options, in which you can view the artwork, the release date, rating and what kind of genre it’s considered to be.
- Website: tubi
The Channel4.com website offers a variety of TV series on-demand content, ranging from new box sets to various categories.
Whether its the hit TV show from the 1990s or the Vice Channel, I found the selection to be quite good, even though I didn’t see a lot of other websites mentioning it.
Unlike many websites, which only allow you to watch a select few of the episodes in the season, the “box set” section lets you play every episode for that particular season, simply meaning you don’t have to worry about episode three missing.
Depending on what you want to watch, most of the content you can ride almost immediately, but you will have to enable your Adobe Flash player in order to watch it on your desktop.
- Website: Channel4.com
Yahoo! View offers a TON of TV show options, which you can break down either by genre or browse in alphabetical order.
And to start watching, you don’t need to log into your Yahoo! account nor do you have to sign in to your Yahoo! account if you want to start watching the show.
Similar to the free Hulu option available in the past, Yahoo! is a very good alternative.
And if you do decide to use the service, keep in mind that most of the options listed here will come from most of your major networks, such as FOX, NBC and ABC.
Regardless, it’s yet another free option to consider if you want to watch popular TV shows on demand.
- Website: Yahoo! View
Global TV (Canada)
Global TV lets you watch a variety of full episodes, all broken down in a variety of genres.
DO NOTE: to watch most of these shows, you do need to be a Canadian resident or watching from a Canadian IP. I just wanted to include it just in case you reside in or even plan on visiting.
When I was on the website, I could look at the new series, the latest primetime shows, latest daytime, or if I wanted to, I could break it down by the TV show, such as Big Brother only, via the main dashboard.
Or if I wanted to watch live TV, I could as long as long as I was a subscriber to Shaw, Rogers, Bell, Videotron, Telus or Cogeco.
While a lot of these shows were free and appeared to come from the big networks, such as ABC or NBC, there were some shows that you had to log into your cable provider if you wanted to view that particular show.
If this were the case, you would see a lock next to the screen as seen in the screenshot below:
All in all, Global TV had a very clean interface, it was easy to use and the selection wasn’t bad. It’s also a nice option for those residing in Canada since residents are often blocked from United States-based websites.
And if you did have a cable subscription from a major provider, your selection was even greater than those wanting to just watch the freebies.
- Website: Global TV
As another way to watch free TV shows and movies online, popcornflix offers a variety of options sprawling across a variety of genres, including comedy, action, reality TV and sci-fi, to name a few.
When I checked it out, it appeared to be a lot of shows I never heard of, but being a fan of reality TV shows, some did seem to be interesting and could be worth checking out.
The website did a good job breaking down the genres (as seen below), and to start watching, just click on the show of interest and it will start playing.
No registration is required and is 100% free.
I wouldn’t say this is the greatest option on the list, but it could be worth browsing through to see if anything is worth bookmarking for the future.
As the selection was mainly obscure and older shows, don’t be surprised if you don’t find anything you want to watch.
- Website: popcornflix
ShareTV allows you to browse, view the upcoming TV schedule and even see what’s trending at the moment in the ShareTV community.
Offering a library filled with THOUSANDS of TV shows, all you need to do is use the search bar the top, type in the show of choice and see if anything is available.
If so, click on the episode guide tab, find an episode you want to watch and click on the show.
Now, this was the only confusing part for me.
Once you do find an episode you want to watch, you will land on a page that offers a summary and when it first aired, and to me, I had no idea how you could start playing the show.
But beneath the ads, you will see a small subheading which says “Watch Episode On,” with all of your options.
Depending on which option you choose, some may allow you to watch the show immediately, while other providers may require you register.
- Website: ShareTV
As you may have guessed by the name, Retrovision showcases a lot of hit shows from the 1950s and 1960s era.
With popular hits, such as Bonanza, Dragnet and Sherlock Holmes, to name a few, it could be an awesome option if you’re a fan of these shows.
And while you will not be able to watch the entire season, it only appeared you could pick and choose certain episodes from the list, but regardless, you could be entertained for hours, if not days, again, if you’re into these types of shows.
As for the usability, the website was easy to use.
Just click a show of interest from the list and the video will start to play. For me, it loaded fast, and while the website did have a few ads, they were not obtrusive to me at all.
Like most of the resources I listed here, no registration was required.
- Website: Retrovision
Yidio is a pinch different than most of the resources I listed here as it’s considered an aggregator of free TV websites, which simply means they crawl multiple third-party sites and show you where you may be able to watch it.
Easy to use, the website allows you to filter your choices in many ways.
Whether you want to watch a 100% free show or you want to watch something on iTunes, Netflix or Amazon Prime, the website did a pretty good job listing a variety of options based on your selection.
To use the free filter, just make sure click on the “free” tab near the top, and from there, you can then either scroll through the endless list or break it down by genre.
Once you find a show of interest, click on it and then scroll down to the “watch episodes” tab to see which episodes you can watch.
Again, since it’s an aggregator, some websites may require you to register in order to view the content while other resources may let you watch the show without the need to sign up.
- Website: Yidio
Like Yidio, JustWatch.com works in the same way, showing you exactly where you can watch your favorite TV show.
Whether it’s on Netflix or somewhere else online, the website does a great job narrowing down your search and showing you both free and paid options.
Working as an aggregator, if you’re going to use the website and only want to watch the free options, just make sure your filter is set to the “free” only as seen in the screenshot below:
When I did this, I was presented with more than 600+ TV shows I could watch for nothing at all.
And the great thing is if you do have a TV show in mind and don’t mind paying a few dollars to watch it, the website will show you where you can find it online and what it would cost.
- Website: JustWatch.com
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “I won’t even click on this link because I’m not an Xfinity customer.”
I thought the same thing!
But did you know that Xfinity offers a massive list of shows for guests and you do not have to be a customer?
To start watching, you can browse hundreds of TV shows from this massive list. And when you find something of interest, click on the show, find an episode and start streaming.
From the TV shows I did look at, as long as I clicked on “watch as a guest” tab, I could watch a few episodes for free without logging in.
While I was limited, the selection actually wasn’t that bad, and I did find that Xfinity was pretty generous in its offering to the public.
Granted, if you have an Xfinity account, then you could sign in and get everything included.
No registration is required, but if you are an Xfinity customer, then I would recommend you sign in to gain access to the entire library.
- Website: Xfinity stream
Pluto TV is a pinch different than the resources mentioned above since you watch TV shows live just as you would with your cable box.
Here, you can browse through a variety of network, all broken down by the genre, and pick a channel which suits your fancy.
For example, when I was watching it, I could choose from a TON of channels, including the following:
- PlutoTV Movies
- TV Election
- NBC News
- Today’s Top Story
- TYT Network
- Sky News
- Fox ports
- The Onion
- PlutoTV Movies 2
- TV Family
- Action Movies
- TV Comedy
- TV Drama
- Flicks of Fury
- TV Thrillers
- Horror 24/7
This is just a sample of the channels.
The list would go on and on, broken down into so many genres.
Aside from watching TV live, Pluto also lets you watch multiple TV shows and movies on demand as well as view the trending shows as of today.
Best of all, you can just load the website and start watching 100% free.
No registration is required, either!
If you want something that lets you watch live channels for $0 and is the closest to a cable TV alternative, Pluto was very tough to beat.
- Website: Pluto TV
Yes, the AOL of the 1990s does have a nice variety of free shows you can watch via their free video section.
Browsing through it, I saw some shows I was familiar with, but a lot of them seemed to be obscure to me at least.
With a decent selection, some titles sounded intriguing and I actually bookmarked some for future viewing, so you may want to check them out just to see what’s available.
AOL requires no registration, and like most of these websites, you just need to watch a few ads while watching the content.
- Website: AOL
If you have a library card, you may be aware of the Hoopla service. If not, it’s a wonderful service offered by libraries which allow you to stream audiobooks, music, ebooks, and yes, even videos at no cost.
Whether it’s a TV show series or movie, they have thousands of options to choose from. While the selection isn’t as good as Amazon or Netflix, you will find a lot of classics that you have heard of.
Even if you don’t have a library card, it’s very easy to get one as long as you can prove where you live.
In the meantime, take a gander at the TV/movie selections to see if there are any shows of interest. Once your account is live, you can start streaming immediately.
- Website: Hoopla
Free TV Shows App
While a lot of the resources above are mobile friendly, I did find a highly reputable and reviewed app on the Google Play store called “Free TV Shows App.”
And according to the description, members could watch all YouTube videos, episodes, and TV shows, including NBC, Fox, the NFL and ESPN, to name a few.
Other features include more than 170 channels, including news, sports, entertainment, cartoon, movie, talk shows and reality TV.
I did not mess around with the app much, but from the looks of it, 45,000+ gave it a 4.6/5 rating and said the selection was “really good.”
The only downfall seemed to be the lag in some cases and/or the excessive ads.
- Website: Free TV Shows App
Talk with Your Current Internet Provider
If you already have an Internet service provider and they offer a cable TV package, go ahead and call them to see if you can combine your current Internet package with the most basic cable TV package.
In some cases, while it may be a few dollars more a month and only for a limited time due to it being a promotional rate, you may be surprised to find out that you won’t have to pay much.
If you’re lucky, it might be cheaper.
Online, I did find some members on Reddit who reported paying less with Comcast and Time Warner when they asked, for example.
I did this in the past with my Internet provider and only had to pay $5 a month more for 24 months, and while my cable TV selection was very limited, I was able to use this login information on the multiple cable network apps.
Live in an Apartment Complex? Check with Them!
If you live in an apartment complex, some people report that they were able to receive basic cable simply by plugging in a coax cable into the wall.
When I lived in an apartment years ago, I tried this by mistake, and to my surprise, I was able to get about 25-30+ channels as part of my rent and I had no idea it was even possible.
Now, even if you find this tip works, there are two downfalls.
For one, the channels will more than likely not be in HD, meaning you’re going to have to watch TV like it was in the 90s. And secondly, since you won’t have a cable TV account, you will, unfortunately, be unable to use any of the network apps online if they require you to login into your cable provider.
Check out your local library to see what kind of DVDs they have available as you might be surprised at the selection.
At my local library, I can search the database before I even go and place my favorites on hold, including new releases. See if you can search your library’s database before you waste the gas going there.
If you don’t mind driving up to your local library, this is an awesome way to binge watch your favorite TV series or even rent the latest movie release.
You probably already know this, but I will add this here anyways.
If you’re one of the millions of people who have a Prime account, don’t forget that Amazon lets you watch tens of thousands of TV shows and movies as part of your membership.
To browse the current list of movies/TV shows, you can search by genre here.
- Website: Amazon Prime
While YouTube has its paid premium service, YouTube TV, you may be able to find what you’re looking for on YouTube for free.
As you probably already know how to use YouTube, just search for something along the lines of “[TV show name] + full episodes” to see what comes up.
Honestly, you may be surprised to find what you can watch for free. Keep in mind that some may not be legal, however, and will be taken down quick.
Even if it’s not a full episode, some networks will often list clips, which can sometimes be just as good.
Regardless, try out YouTube, but don’t expect to have a ton of luck with it.
- Website: YouTube TV
DVR Tip: Record ANYTHING
If you have a favorite app, such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, HBO Now, ABC or something else, I just wanted to point out a service I have used in the past to record any show.
It’s called Playon.
With Playon, memberships cost less than $2 a month, AND the cool thing about is that you can record ANYTHING from the top streaming apps. Seriously, they work with a ton of providers and have great reviews. Don’t believe me? Just search to see what I’m talking about.
Once recorded, you can then download your show as an .MP4 file, which you can then watch at your leisure, either on your desktop, tablet or phone. You can even stream it to any device, such as your Chromecast, Roku, Xbox and PlayStation, to name a few.
The downloads never expire and you can take these downloads anywhere you go.
And the best thing?
You can skip commercials, download an entire series via a subscription and even send to iTunes with a click.
Cheap Rentals/Cable Providers
And lastly, all of the resources above highlight the best ways to watch TV shows and movies for free, but I also wanted to include some cheap options if you don’t mind spending a few dollars on a movie and/or TV show series.
Here are some of my favorites:
- Redbox: All releases range anywhere from $1 to $2 a night, and honestly, search for coupon codes online to even get your rental for free.
- Netflix: Need I say more? Netflix offers A TON of unique programming, all for less than $10 a month. By far the best investment you can make.
- Vudu: I mentioned Vudu earlier for good reason. And if you don’t feel like driving to a local Redbox, check out Vudu for some cheap rentals. If you haven’t created an account yet, they often throw in the first rental for a dollar or so.
- Philo: I recommend Philo in my final thoughts, but it’s one of the best online cable providers out there. 43+ major cable TV channels and only $16 a month. This is the best deal as of right now and is no different than your old-school cable TV box.
- Sling TV: Like Philo, Sling TV offers some awesome popular cable TV packages for as little as $25 a month. You can also add many extras, including a 50-hour cloud DVR, sports channels, premiums and so much more.
- DirectNOW: I personally have DirectTV Now, only because I get a deal with my unlimited phone contract and highly recommend it. 65+ live channels and is only $40 a month. It’s even less if you have an unlimited cell phone contract with AT&T.
- PSVUE: Like Sling, Philo and DirectNOW, the PlayStation Vue package is highly recommended among the cord cutters community. Depending on the package you choose, prices start at $44 a month and include a TON of channels.
I did write about these cable TV alternatives in detail if you wanted to check it out.
As you can see, there are SO many ways to watch TV shows and even movies on demand, all without spending a dime.
And while your live TV shows are limited, you may be surprised at how many channels you can get if you were to purchase an HD antenna for your TV. Remember, refer to the official FTC website to see which channels you can get in your area.
I promise all of these resources are 100% legit and even if you can’t find a specific TV show, you could consider renting them for as little as a few dollars on Amazon, Google Play or even Vudu or just refer to the subheading prior for additional options.
Just think of it, if your cable bill used to be $90+ a month, it’s not going to hurt to spend a few dollars on some television series or pay $16 a month for cable. You’re still saving a ton.
Now, if you still like the idea of basic cable and want live TV, it’s going to be hard to find a free alternative unless you’re doing so illegally.
And honestly, if you don’t mind spending a few dollars, your best option is Philo.com — a live TV and on-demand service which offers 43 channels for $16 a month! And these are well-known channels, such as HGTV, MTV, etc. It’s not much different than the cable TV you’re used to.
It’s highly rated and works just as well as your cable provider, but at a fraction of the price.
Even if you’re questioning it, you can sign up for a free trial with your phone number.
Again, if you don’t like the idea of Philo, you could try Hulu, DirecTV Now or PS Vue as well to see what may fit.
I tried to include as many LEGIT free options as I could and I’m probably missing some!
Try them out and let me know your thoughts. In today’s day and age, it’s no hard to keep yourself entertained for free online.
If you know of any that are 100% legit, do let me know as I would love to add them.
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