The following listing is a collection of networks (be they
cable/satellite or over-the-air) that provide live feeds of their
programming for free over the Internet. (Note that CBS operates on
a somewhat strange model: all their feeds are separate, their
sportscasts each have their own feed for each sport, their live
news feed operates on a delay from live TV, and their other
programs are not streamed live, instead offered on demand between
1 and 7 days after airing for free before the network begins
charging for "All Access" subscriptions.)
I have excluded televangelism networks, home shopping, and
Internet-only services that do not match the schedule of a
traditionally distributed network.
NOTE: After much deliberation I have removed the Heartland
Network feed, as it apparently is only carrying the morning
show on any semblance of a regular basis (despite the site's
assertion to the contrary). The good news is that at least a few
of the programs are available on other networks on this page,
including TCN, Youtoo, AMGTV and Light TV. If Heartland resumes
full-time streaming, I'll add it back into the lineup.
I also have removed QVC. I have nothing against it, but I figured that if the only time it airs non-sales programming is one day a year, it'd be unfair for me to include it while excluding the pay-for-pray televangelists. It'd be more appropriate for me to link to QVC in the context of those special events.
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
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.
Cable networks will never offer their 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
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).
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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