The Cord-Cutter's Guide to Free Live Television (that's legal)

A Service of Fullervision Enterprises

National networks

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.

Additional tips

Get an outdoor antenna

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.

With some programs, you're just going to have to pay for them, so decide what ones you want

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 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...

Use a radio

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 at all possible, get an ISP not tied to your local cable company

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 ownership implied.

Fullervision Enterprises, Unltd. 2018