The Cord-Cutter's Guide to Free Live Television

A Service of Fullervision Enterprises

National networks

The following listing is a collection of networks (be they cable/satellite or over-the-air) that, legally, provide live feeds of their programming for free over the Internet. I have excluded televangelism networks with no secular programs, home shopping, foreign propaganda, and Internet-only services that do not match the schedule of a traditionally distributed network.

Weather and Science
WeatherNation TV
NASA TV U.S. space program and educational science programming

News and business
Congressional sessions: All programming is available on the C-SPAN mobile app, audio only
News, conservative talk, documentaries
Newsy Rolling news coverage
Rolling news coverage
Bloomberg Business news
💻 CBS News Select news programs from CBS
💻 NBC News
Select news programs from NBC
💻🔊 Fox News
Select prime-time news programs (8 p.m. onward, audio only)
Business/pop culture news: ⏱️Cheddar Business is metered
Court TV
Legal/courtroom news

CBS Sports
🏀NCAA basketball (March Madness⏱️), 🏈SEC college football, ⛳PGA golf (The Masters)
⏱️ NBC Sports NFL football, Notre Dame football, NHL hockey
Fox Sports
NFL Thursday Night Football, 💻talk shows from FS1
📱 Yahoo!
NFL local Sunday games and most prime time contests (app req'd, mobile only)
Stadium Sports talk, live alternative and mid-level college sports
11 Sports
Eleven Sports Network - College, semi-pro and international sports (alternate feed)
Audio-only: Buffalo Sabres hockey and sports talk
Vegas Stats Information Network - gambling

TCN The Country Network - Country music videos
Country music and classic country-themed reruns
Country music/classic hits/oldies (from UK)
Blues TV
Blues Television Network
Smooth jazz
Classic Arts Showcase

Charge! Action films and shows
Comet Science fiction films and shows
Gaming and millennial-oriented programming
Buzzr Classic game shows
📵 Pursuit
Outdoors programming (via affiliate KPBN-DT2)
Automotive programming
Right Now TV
Men's interest programming
General entertainment (alternate feed via KJEO-DT3)
Youtoo Youtoo America - Entertainment (via affiliate WVVH) (alternate: WOIL, WZRA)
📵 This TV
Movies (via affiliate KCTU) (alternate feed via WIVM, KCKS-DT11)
Syndicated programming
Syndicated programming (DT2)

Children's, Family and Faith
Jewish Life Television - Variety/comedy, Jewish-themed programming
World Harvest Television - Westerns
CTN Lifestyle
Christian/family entertainment
TCT Family
Day - Children's programs; night: public domain sitcoms and films
BYUTV Family entertainment, LDS-themed programming, college sports
Light TV Family entertainment
PBS Kids Educational children's programs

Canadian networks (all available only in Canada, IP geolocated)
CHCH Canadian news and classic reruns
CBC Canadian programming, NHL hockey
Radio-Canada (French-language Canadian programming)
French-language programming
French-language dubbing of American programming

💻Free versions of cable channels (does not match over-the-air/cable/satellite feed)
Children's programming (NickRewind archival shows)
Nick Jr.
Preschool programming
Reality television
Comedy Central
Comedy programming
TV Land Sitcoms
🔞[adult swim]
Totally bizarre (ADULTS ONLY)
Classic Hanna-Barbera, Warner Bros. and MGM cartoons (preview clip feed)

Update November 2019:
The Local AccuWeather Channel has been officially removed. What I think is the last affiliate to have carried the network, WFAA, has dropped it in favor of a radar loop of north Texas. It had been in phaseout for a number of years as AccuWeather shifted focus to a full-time cable network, AccuWeather Network, which is not available free online.

Update October 2019:
With disappointment, I have had to remove the links to Antenna TV and retroTV, as the source for those channels—iGoCast/KCKS—has begun using geolocation services and is now restricted to the Kansas City area. (I thought I had also listed The Action Channel and Untamed Sports TV on here, but apparently I didn't. I would've had to remove them as well.) The good news is that Heartland appears to have gone to a full-time feed again as part of a change in their digital media director... not-so-good news is that none of the long-form programming appears to be carried on the feed.
Apparently the “Weather4U” feed from MyTVtoGo has changed channels again (originally AccuWeather, it was then WeatherNation, and now has flipped to the national feed of The Weather Channel). Since I'm not 100% certain that it is officially authorized, I've decided to remove it.

NOTE ON YOUTOO: WVVH, the Youtoo affiliate streaming the network's programming, relies on an outdated Silverlight plug-in that I think only works with Internet Explorer (blech). The iPhone/iPad link seems to only work on mobile devices.

TV Listings for the above channels

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.

If size doesn't matter, and getting the most free TV is your primary goal, buy a portable TV and head for the hills

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 suffice.

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.

Check out a free over-the-top service

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 shows.
Pluto TV, for example, includes the program library from the late Anthony Bourdain, the talk shows of MSNBC and Fox Sports 1, some of the channels listed on this page, and a surprisingly wide array of reruns, including the Nosey channel, which carries daytime talk shows.
Xumo TV has a somewhat more limited selection, including some of the same channels Pluto carries, and is only available in the United States. Both services have a large number of “web-exclusive” services that collect short-form video content and airs it on a linear channel.
MyTVtoGo has a collection of largely lower-end channels (many of which originate from this service and have the name “4U” in them), which I've found a few TV stations carry over-the-air.
Stirr is a new one from Sinclair Broadcast Group; it has its own channels and substantial amounts of local news.

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 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...

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. 2019