This page has grown too unwieldy to properly manage. As of June 2023,
this directory has been pulled from the Web in an effort to clean it up
and reduce the large number of dead links that have begun to crop up and
to try and discern which channels listed here are true
simulcasts—available over-the-air and/or through cable and satellite
providers—and which are simply carrying the brand of an over-the-air
network or program but only carry old episodes or clips that do not
match the linear feed.
I am still leaving the list of tips and advice for finding free television content for your assistance. A directory of weather television channels remains available on Atmosphere Live, the Fullervision weather page.
An antenna will be your best source of free television programming. The
major broadcast networks still broadcast with an antenna, and you'll get
programming live that isn't available on the Internet. Note that if you
are in a hilly area, television reception is going to be difficult,
regardless of what kind of antenna you use. The higher you can get your
antenna, the more likely it is to work properly. Point your
antenna in the direction of the broadcast stations you want to receive
(consult the FCC
digital TV signal reception maps to figure out which direction to
point your antenna), and make sure that there are as few obstructions in
that direction as possible. If you live in a rural or hilly area any
substantial distance away from a broadcast signal, an amplifier will
likely be necessary.
If you want to watch programs on demand, invest in a DVR.
This may seem a bit counterintuitive considering the need for a good
antenna, but especially if you have difficulties in picking up signals
because you live in a valley, a portable, battery-powered TV will give
you the best chance at actually finding them. The trick is to head to
the highest publicly accessible hill in your area, then run your channel
scan. Hilltops offer MUCH more favorable signal reception conditions,
and a smaller antenna (usually included with the portable) will usually
Then, when you come down off the hill, if you have your bigger
home-based antenna, you can hook it up. One of the biggest differences
between analog and digital TV is how it handles weak signals: an analog
TV can display whatever shows up on that channel, no matter how weak or
distorted it may be. For digital, you have to scan first, and if that
channel's signal is weak or distorted, it'll be skipped over and not
added to the channel lineup—meaning there will be no way to actually get
that channel on your TV. By scanning on a hilltop, when you come down,
all those channels are already in your lineup, and you can then manually
adjust your antenna to lock in a usable signal, just like you used to be
able to do with analog. (Otherwise, you're basically aiming blind and
hoping for the best.)
The one drawback to this method is that portable TVs usually don't
carry HD displays and, naturally, are very small.
There are a few free over-the-top content providers. Most of them don't
provide cable-quality programming, but a few of them have some notable
Pluto TV (owned by CBS)
Xumo TV and Peacock Channels (owned by NBC)
Tubi (owned by Fox)
Local Now (owned by Byron Allen)
Stirr (owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group)
The Roku Channel
Cable networks will never offer their most popular programs for free.
It's not part of their business model. There are a large number of
subscription “over-the-top” services out there, some run by the
individual channels and others run by middleman companies bundling
channels together. We're in the late 2010s now, so some over-the-top
services are producing their own original programs that aren't available
anywhere else. Keep all this in mind when assessing which services you
want to buy, and note that if you buy all the channels available on a
cable or satellite provider, it will likely cost more than a
subscription, so if you want a huge selection, paying for cable or
satellite may still be your best bargain.
Local sports, in particular, will likely pose your biggest obstacle.
National sports networks can be found on most over-the-top providers,
but the local ones that carry a majority of your local major league
teams' games are difficult to find, and what ones that are carrying them
tend to be very expensive. If you're thinking of buying an out-of-market
package and hoping to get your local teams, think again—your local teams
will almost certainly be blacked out. So, with that in mind...
If keeping up with live sporting events without paying for an expensive
channel is what you seek, tune in a radio. At night, a large number of
clear-channel stations audible over diameters of over a thousand miles
still carry a number of different sporting events, depending on the
station and market. Your local teams will almost certainly be within
range. For certain sports, the games are also streamed on the Internet
(although with the major leagues, many of the same issues that make it
difficult to find TV broadcasts also restrict online radio broadcast
availability—you might find it, but expect to pay). Don’t ask me why
they’ll make a radio broadcast available for a 750-mile radius and
beyond on clear channel AM radio but will make people pay money if they
want to hear it on the Internet.
WebSDR.org is a collection of
Internet-connected software-defined radios that work, essentially, by
hooking an antenna up to a computer so that anyone on the Internet can
tune it in.
RX.linkfanel.net is an even larger collection of radios that work in the same manner.
If you're cutting the cord, you're trying to avoid the cable company
that has a vested interest in you not cutting the cord. Research what
your local phone company offiers, see if there is WiMax or other similar
service available in your area, and if all else fails, satellite
Internet is available nationwide from HughesNet or Viasat (although
HughesNet has common ownership with a satellite TV provider, the
companies and accounts are separate). Try to avoid metered connections
if you can.
All video streams are freely provided by the actual channels. No
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