How to Get Free Cable TV

How to Get Free Cable TV

Free Streaming Live TV

So what about simple, local TV online, streaming online without paying a penny?

Watch Your Local TV Channels with Locast

After all the major networks sued Aereo into bankruptcy, the best option for streaming live, local television became Locast. That was, they were the best option until September 2021, when The Big Four sued Locast out of business too! 🙄

Locast was designed to stream your local TV channels. That meant NYC folks got their own channels and shows stations while San Francisco users got only bay area stations.

As a non-profit, Locast was designed from the very beginning to operate in accordance with the strict letter of the law, but in response to the court’s recent rulings, with which we respectfully disagree, we are hereby suspending operations, effective immediately.

At the time of their closure, Locast covered 28 cities, which was 53% of the US market and reached over 174 million homes!

Stream Basic Live TV Channels with Puffer

Next, there’s Puffer. This is a free test program run by Stanford University. It seems like they’re testing a new encoding or streaming software, but what it means for you and me is we get free TV!

Puffer provides free streams for the most basic channels: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, and Univision. Sound too good to be true? It’s not!

Stream live TV in your browser. There’s no charge. You can watch U.S. TV stations affiliated with the NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, FOX, and Univision networks.

Puffer works well in the Chrome, Firefox, and Edge browsers, on a computer or an Android phone or tablet. Puffer does not work on iPhones or iPads or in the Safari browser.

Puffer is a research project in the computer-science department at Stanford University. Please see our FAQ for more information.

I personally like the very clean, simplistic layout. The channels also change faster than any other streaming service I’ve ever used. I think that’s part of the new software Stanford is testing!

One thing to note is that the service is currently

One thing to note is that the service is currently capped at 500 users at a time. However, this is a freebie I’ve yet to see advertised on any other freebie or cord cutting site, so I’m almost certain it’ll be 500 Hiffers using this 🙂

The channels are also California channels, since this is broadcast from Stanford.

LocalBTV in Select Regions

LocalBTV is another option if you live any of the following areas:

  • Atlanta
  • Chicago
  • Fresno
  • Indianapolis
  • Las Vegas
  • Los Angeles
  • Louisville
  • Monterey
  • New York City
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Reno
  • San Diego
  • San Francisco Bay Area

This list was only 5 cities long a few months ago!

LocalBTV does not currently include major national network programming. However they expect all of the 70-100+ local broadcast channels in each market to be available in the future. You can see all the channels available here.

As I find more totally free options, I’ll keep adding to this list! I’d also love to hear from Hiffers in the comments – have you cut cable recently? How do you best watch TV now? Any sites I overlooked?

Cut the cord: Premium channels

By cutting the cord, you’re also losing your access to premium channels, which often have some of the most daring content on TV. Networks like HBO Max, Showtime and Starz are the prime destination for edgy dramas like Game of Thrones, Homeland and Outlander, respectively. You can also get raunchy comedy specials, niche documentaries and newly released movies. The good news is that premium channels have begun cutting out the middleman. The three aforementioned networks all exist in stand-alone formats. HBO Max contains the entire HBO library for $14.99 or $9.99 with ads. Showtime Anytime costs $14 per month and Starz costs $9 per month; both can be access through standalone apps or via Amazon or Apple channels. Subscribing to these channels allows you to stream shows, either as soon as they air or on-demand after the fact. You can also stream movies, comedy specials, documentaries and even specialty sports events, just like what you get on the cable channel. The price tags are not for the faint of heart, since each one is just as expensive (if not more so) than a comprehensive streaming service. All three apps are widely available, so you should be covered whether you use a smart TV, streaming player, game console, mobile device or computer.


4. Sign up for an On-Demand Service Such as Netflix or Hulu

If live TV isn’t as important to you — or you just want to supplement it — on-demand services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon’s Prime Video provide great value for a relatively small monthly fee. They cost around $10 per month, and allow anywhere from 2-4 streams per account, so different people in your family can watch their own videos at the same time.

16. Purchasing Pluto TV

With this kind of TV, one can watch shows on premium channels live as they stream like when using cable TV. Some of the premium channels that one can watch using Pluto TV include; NBC news, TV comedy, TV thrillers, sky news, cracked, TYT Network, CNBC, The onion, action movies among others.

7. TV Network Apps

Almost every TV channel has an app with on-demand content these days, and a lot of them don’t require a cable account to access. You’ll usually just have to wait a little bit to access the most recent episodes. On ABC’s app, for example, you’re able to watch popular shows such as “The Bachelor,” “The Good Doctor,” and “Modern Family” one week after they initially air.

19. Xbox

Two types of Xbox are one-S and one-Z. The two Xbox allows one to access a few premium channel shows for free through live streaming.

Bottom Line

It’s easy to cut the cord on cable and save money. Start by purchasing a digital antenna to get local channels. In most cases, a digital antenna is also the perfect option to get basic cable channels at no cost.

There are plenty of ways to get television content without paying significant money. If those don’t provide enough shows, you can supplement them with a streaming provider.

Even if you choose a streaming service, you’ll save $50+ per month vs. paying for cable. That can be life-changing money if you manage it wisely.

What do you do to watch your favorite shows? How much do you spend on content each month? 

2. Sign Up for a Free Video Streaming Service

You’ve likely heard of streaming services – services like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+ that allow you to stream your favorite TV shows and movies on demand, any time. Unfortunately, those streaming services charge monthly fees to access their content. But there are also alternatives available online that give you that same capability for free.

With the right video streaming service, you can watch all kinds of TV shows and plenty of movies without spending anything at all. You just need to look for 100 percent free video streaming services.

These services may or may not require an account to start streaming. But they’re all completely free – and completely legal. One great option is Crackle TV. You can watch both TV shows and movies for free any time, as long as you have an internet connection. There’s no catch – you’ll just have to watch a few ads while streaming.

What is the Best App for Free TV?

Pluto is the best overall platform to stream free TV. The app provides access to over 100 networks, from lifestyle to news.

If you like to watch movies for free, Crackle is a good choice, but Pluto is the closest to the cable experience without paying a dime.

How to DVR Stuff Without Cable

Okay, so one of the pitfalls of canceling the cable subscription is that you can’t record stuff, and many people miss recording their favorite shows and movies.

Fortunately, just because you’ve cut the cord, it doesn’t mean that you have to miss out.

All you need to do is invest in a device that records TV.

Here are a few to consider:

Is an indoor or outdoor antenna a viable option?

If you have a TV in your house — that is, a screen that incorporates a tuner — you’re part-way to cutting the cord already. An affordable indoor antenna hooked up to your TV will let you watch free TV over the air from any channel you receive in your local broadcast area. Antennas cost as little as $10. See our comparison of indoor antennas here.

You can also add a hardware DVR such as the Amazon Fire TV Recast or TiVo Edge for Antenna if you want. Then you can record those live TV antenna channels, play them back and skip commercials, just like on a standard cable TV DVR. Here’s CNET’s roundup of the best OTA DVRs for cord-cutters.

A solid, lower-cost alternative to live TV streaming services is the combination of an antenna for live local channels and an on-demand service such as Netflix or Hulu. That way you’ll still be able to watch live programming and also have a choice of on-demand content.

Amazon's Fire TV Recast DVR is a cord-cutting an

Amazon’s Fire TV Recast DVR is a cord-cutting antenna user’s friend.

Sarah Tew/CNET


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