Whether as a TV junkie who must keep up on the latest shows or a casual viewer who watches just to pass the time and relax, the reality is that television is most likely part of your entertainment experience. And whether you’re a passionate or passive viewer, it’s equally likely you pay for a cable subscription.
This is because, in the past, to be able to watch more than just the garbage you find on basic TV, you needed to pay for a cable subscription. However, with the cost of cable getting so extreme, more and more people are “cutting the cord” and saying goodbye to cable for good.
This is possible due to a large number of alternatives available, mainly streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, YouTube TV, etc.
But while these services offer many more choices for watching TV, they still cost money. And if you subscribe to multiple services, the cost, combined with that of your internet connection, can actually come close to that of a cable TV subscription.
For budget-conscious people, this is bad news. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There are alternatives.
In fact, in response to the rising demand for cheaper TV services, there are quite a few ways for you to enjoy television without paying a dime. Additionally, there are quite a few tricks you can use to save some money and still access all the video content you want.
The Rising Cost of Cable in 2019
The main reason people are cutting the cord and looking for alternatives to paid cable is the fact that the price of cable TV over the years has skyrocketed to levels your average consumer really can’t afford.
To give you an idea of how bad things have gotten, here are some stats about the cable industry in 2019:
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A Small Catch
While the methods of watching TV we’re going to discuss are free in their own right, most of us are aware that there really is no such thing as 100 percent free.
In the case of TV, most of these tricks require an internet or mobile data connection to work, which obviously costs money. But since most of us have these things anyway and we use them for a variety of reasons, the methods of watching TV for free mentioned here aren’t going to cost you anything extra.
So, although they aren’t completely and entirely free, they still provide you with a pretty decent saving on your entertainment budget, and no one can really complain about that.
How to Watch TV for Free
If you’re intrigued by the idea of watching TV for free, here are 11 ways you can do it that you can put into action as soon as you’re done reading this:
#1 Buy a TV Antenna
Okay…the word “buy” is in the title is probably making you question the whole “free” thing. But just like streaming services allow you to watch lots of stuff for “free” but with an internet connection, buying a TV antenna will give you access to tons of channels without costing you a penny.
Of course, the channels available to you will depend on the area in which you live as well as the type and quality of the antenna you buy. But if you live in a populated area, a small antenna that costs no more than $50 can provide you with access to all your local channels as well as many more for nothing.
To find out if this is a good option for you, check out this resource that will tell you which channels are available for you in your area.
#2 Sign up for Free Trials
Next to a TV antenna, streaming services are the best way to watch TV. But most charge a monthly fee, and while subscriptions are cheap, signing up for more than one can cause costs to add up quickly.
However, there are ways for you to get access to these services for free, and one of the best is to sign up for free trials.
Usually, to get you hooked, streaming services will give you the first month free. To start this trial period, though, you need to enter your email and credit card information so that they can charge you after the first month.
But if you want to ride things out for longer, you can always cancel your subscription before the month is over and sign up again using a different email address and credit card. Doing this might not give you consistent access to the streaming services you want as companies don’t always offer free trials, and also because they might catch onto what you’re doing.
This is a great idea for those who want access to a service to watch something specific, such as a new TV show everyone is talking about. You can sign up for a free trial, binge the show, and cancel your subscription when you’re done. Then, when something new comes out you want to watch, you can repeat this process and stay up to date on all the latest TV shows.
#3 Take Advantage of Bundle Deals
Another good option is to look for ways to get access to streaming services as part of another service you already pay for. For example, in a ploy to get you to switch internet or cell phone providers, companies might throw in a free subscription to Netflix or some other streaming service.
To take advantage of these deals, however, you may need to switch your phone provider, which likely comes with some extra costs. But who knows? This might also lead to savings in your phone or internet bills, which will reduce the total amount of money you need to spend on TV entertainment.
Again, these deals might not last forever. For example, your free subscription might only last for six months or a year, or it might expire with your phone contract. But still, signing up in this way gets you a solid period of free TV for doing nothing more than paying for something you need anyway.
#4 Use a Friend or Relative Accounts
Probably the best way to get free access to streaming services is to simply jump onto a friend’s or relative’s account. Most if not all streaming services allow for multiple users and multiple devices, which means you can watch your own shows without worrying about being bumped off by the person who is actually paying for the account.
This approach, while effective, is a bit cheeky since you’re essentially mooching off someone else who is spending their hard-earned money on a streaming service. But perhaps they won’t care, or if they do, maybe you can find another way to pay them that works for both and that prevents you from having to pay for TV.
In general, though, finding someone who will share their streaming subscription with you shouldn’t be too difficult because these services, Netflix in particular, are extremely popular. Here are some stats to show you just how popular Netflix is:
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#5 Find Open Source Materials
Another way to get free TV is to look for movies and programs that have been made available to the public. For this to happen, the production company needs to have relinquished the copyright on their content.
Indeed, there’s not much out there that is available for free, public consumption. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing. Yet most of the stuff you will find will probably be old and pretty out of date.
You can also find lots of documentaries and other programs designed with public education in mind because the creators of this content often want people to be able to access it without having to overcome too many barriers.
There are also ways to access television shows and movies that are protected by copyright without having to pay for them, but these are typically against the law. We would never condone this, but if you were interested, try typing “watch ____‘title’____ online” for free. But if the sites you find look suspicious or illegal, then don’t risk it. If nothing else, this approach will help you figure out what’s out there for you to watch for free.
#6 Go to the Library
The library? What’s that?!
Unfortunately, our high-tech world has made it so easy for us to access all the multimedia we might want that many of us have forgotten about old-fashioned libraries. Yet while they aren’t as popular as they once were, libraries are still a great resource, and many keep extensive DVD libraries that include new and old movies as well as TV shows.
Of course, if you rent from a library you will only have access to whatever titles you take for a short period of time, and you will also need to dig out your old DVD player. But if you’re willing to do this, you can access hundreds of titles for absolutely nothing (assuming you return things on time!)
#7 Use Hoopla
If you have a library card but your local library doesn’t have the titles you want, or if you just prefer streaming, Hoopla is a great option for you.
Hoopla is a web and mobile library that holds millions of eBooks, comics, movies, TV shows, etc., and if your library participates, which most do, you can log on and “rent” things for a short period of time. You don’t have to pay anything, and when you rent something, you can download it straight to your phone or computer.
However, the files come formatted to stop working after a set time period, usually 72 hours. So, if you don’t watch or finish whatever it is you rented in that period, you will have to go through the process again. But since it’s for free, who can complain about that?
#8 Use Free Streaming Apps
Everyone knows about the streaming apps you need to pay for (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime, etc.), but there are quite a few out there that are completely free. Of course, because they are free, the selections are not as exciting as what you might find on paid sites. For example, there’s no original content, and most of the TV shows and movies are either old or D-rated titles.
However, if you’re committed to living the “free TV” life, you can dig through the countless titles available on these sites and find some real gems.
The best site for this is Sony Crackle, but Tubi, Pluto, and Vudu are also worth investigating.
#9 Free Samples
Other places to look for free content are Google Play Store and iTunes. Not only do both have some free content for you to watch that’s available at all times, but they also run promotions from time to time, especially around the release of something new, that offer you the chance to watch first-run content for free.
Usually, these come in the form of short-term rentals, and you can’t always tell when something will be offered for free. But if you’re sitting around and are in the mood for watching something, and you don’t know where to look, spend a few minutes poking around these two digital stores to see if there’s anything exciting you can access for free.
Although not considered traditional TV, YouTube is in many ways what we’ve always wanted from TV: content curated directly to our interests.
The reason YouTube can be like this is that the content is user-generated, meaning it’s made by people just like us. This also means there is a near-infinite diversity of content available to watch.
Of course, the production quality isn’t going to be as great as it would with more professionally-made content, but you’d be surprised at what you can get from YouTube.
This is also a great option because it gives you the chance to tailor your TV experience by subscribing to specific channels, and the recommendations provided by YouTube’s algorithms allow you to explore new stuff and find even more great content for free.
At the moment, however, to enjoy YouTube for free, you’ll need to sit through some ads. But this isn’t the end of the world, especially when you consider these ads are what pay the people making the content and make it possible for you to enjoy what you want to watch when you want to.
To give you an idea of how popular YouTube is, here are some stats to consider:
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#11 Network Websites
The last place you can look for free TV is the websites of the networks that produce the content you want to watch, such as NBC, ABC, or FOX. Because these channels are available for “free” over the air, there are also ways to watch them online for free, although you will likely also need to watch advertisements to be able to access the content.
Also, networks don’t always put everything on their websites, so this might not be the best way to catch up on past seasons of a show you like or to watch the latest episode of a popular program. But you can still find lots of great stuff on there that will allow you to watch TV for free.
As you can see, there are lots of ways for you to watch TV for free. However, if you plan to pay $0, know you may need to make some sacrifices in terms of the content you can watch. But this isn’t always the case if you are savvy and also a bit patient. So, if you’re looking to save a few bucks by not paying for TV, give one or all of these methods a try and see what life is like not paying to watch television.