The Best Ways to Watch TV Without Satellite, Cable, or Antenna

Corbin Thompson
Corbin Thompson
Lead Technology Editor

Streaming services have revolutionized the way we watch TV. Compared to the price of cable, consumers can get instant access to television shows and movies at a fraction of the price. With the average cost of cable being around $99 a month, it's no wonder more people are finding alternative ways to watch TV without paying for cable.

There's no reason to limit yourself to basic television when there are so many fantastic options out there for streaming! From original series and films to your family's favorites, here are the best ways we have found to dive into the world of streaming entertainment.

How to Get Free TV Channels without Cable or Satellite

Cable TV is one of the most expensive ways to get local and national channels. Depending on where you live, package prices start between $60 and $75. Depending on what channels you want to watch, cable TV can go as high as $100 a month.

If you want to cut the ties with cable, there are some fabulous options on the market. Let’s explore some of the alternatives.

Get a TV Antenna

The easiest way to tune into local TV stations without a cable is to purchase a digital HDTV antenna.

Not all antennas are the same. To determine the best antenna for your needs, you will need to find out what direction the stations broadcast from. If broadcast towers are located in the same direction, you can use a directional antenna. A directional antenna focuses its power in the direction of the broadcast stations you want to access.

However, if you want to access stations broadly located in the same direction but in different locations, then we suggest a multi-directional antenna. If you buy a directional antenna with a remote, you can change the direction the antenna faces according to the broadcast tower you wish to access at any given time.

The problem arises when broadcast towers are located in multiple locations and not close to another. In this case, you will need an omnidirectional antenna. If you live more than 20 miles from a broadcast tower, you will need a more powerful antenna.

The next question is: should you get an indoor antenna or an outdoor antenna?

Indoor Antenna vs. Outdoor Antenna

Gone are the days of the old rabbit ear antennas. You can get indoor antennas that attach to a window, negating the need to climb onto the roof. If you live within 20 miles of a broadcasting tower or station, you could get away with an indoor antenna.

Those who live in an apartment, townhouse or condominium, may have restrictions on what type of antenna you can install. It’s possible to get permission to install an antenna outside on a balcony. If it’s prohibited, then you have no choice but to go with an indoor antenna.

If you live further out from a tower or want better reception, choosing an outdoor antenna will always be your best option. Keep in mind, while using an HD outdoor antenna is one solution, be aware of its positioning. It may need to be installed 30 feet or further above your house to reach the channels you want.

Our Top Pick for Indoor Antenna:

GesoByte

When it comes to getting the best indoor antenna for your needs, we can’t go past the Gesobyte Amplified HD Digital TV Antenna. Why? Primarily because of its range. It can pick up stations that are 250 miles away. You can enjoy hundreds of HDTV programming with no pixelation. You can access channels like ABC, NBC, CBS, PBS, FOX and many more.

This TV antenna has been upgraded with a new smart switch control and powerful amplifier signal booster to give you better reception. We found it picks up signals within a 200 miles range. This technology allows you to receive more channels by turning the amplifier to another angle.

What we love about this indoor antenna is the sleek, stylishly thin design. Available in classic black or trendy fashionable tones, it easily blends into your chosen decor and surroundings. Delicate and lightweight, you can hide the antenna out of sight in your desired location.

The antenna is super easy to install. Just connect it to the AN/IN ports of HDTV or a set-top box. The antenna is powered simply by plugging the USB connector into a charging port. With a 17ft digital coax cable, you have enough flexibility to place it wherever you want.

Simply sit back and enjoy your favorite channels at no cost. With the Gesobyte Amplified HD Digital TV Antenna, you can cut the cord on cable and enjoy the savings.

The Cons:

If you live in an area with large obstructions like mountains and valleys, it will reduce its range and effectiveness.

Check it out on Amazon here.

Our Top Pick for Outdoor Antenna:

Five Star Outdoor Digital Amplified HDTV Antenna

Our top pick for an outdoor antenna is the Five Star Outdoor Digital Amplified HDTV Antenna.

The 2020 release reaches up to the 200-mile range providing high-resolution HDTV 4K. This antenna allows viewers to access local news, sports programs and weather channels for free. We love this model because it supports five TVs in a household at once, along with FM radio broadcasting.

With the advanced VHF UHF six reflector reception elements, this improves the image quality up to 25% better than with just four elements. These larger elements also stabilize the signal. We also found the V-Band improves VHF HDTV quality by up to 50%.

The Package Includes the five-star antenna, installation kit with a 40ft coax cable, along with a 4-way splitter to watch four TVs. We found it easy to assemble, easy to install and great value for money.

The Cons:

With any outdoor antenna, you need to make sure it won’t suffer from wind damage.

Check it out on Amazon here.

Free Channels Without an Antenna

If you don’t want to mess with antennas or TV tuners to get local television stations, then sign up for an internet-based live TV service. If you want to watch local channels, streaming is the way to go.

As technology advances, with the help of the internet, it’s easy to watch your favorite channels without an antenna or cable. If you have a high-speed internet connection, it’s time to give live streaming a go. All you need is a smart or digital TV that’s compatible with an internet connection. TV stations like ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX now deliver their programs via live streaming.

Since 2006, most TVs have a built-in smart feature that enables you to accept digital signals via the internet. Even with the cost of internet plans, it’s still cheaper than a cable subscription. If you have an internet connection to your TV, all you need is a smart device like an Amazon Fire Stick or Roku, and plug it into the back of your TV.

How to Watch TV Networks for Free

Whether you’re on the train or a treadmill, downloading apps of your preferred stations means you can watch your favorites anywhere, anytime. You can stream TV shows for free on your tablet or phone, and stream episodes of your must-watch series to your TV with a Chromecast.

ABC App

You can watch all the latest episodes of your favorite ABC shows with “watch on-the-go.” Download the ABC app and stream your favorite programs live.

All you need to do is set up a free account, the rest is easy. Save your favorites, continue watching where you left off and even sync your preferences across multiple devices. If you have younger children, you will love the range of ABC Kids apps available.

NBC App

You can watch TV and stream episodes of current NBC TV shows and classic hits by downloading the app for TV or mobile devices. The app allows you to live stream national and local news -- anywhere, anytime! Enjoy your favorite series from more networks, including Bravo, E!, Oxygen, SYFY, USA, Telemundo and others. With the NBC app, you can also stream episodes of classic series and hit shows from beginning to end.

Fox App

The FOX app has everything you love from FOX and FOX Premium. Watch everything from TV shows and movies, to documentaries and live sports. If you already have FOX on your TV, you can also enjoy shows, movies, and sports on your tablet or smartphone by downloading the app.

If you are a sports fanatic, you can watch live sports on FOX Sports, including NFL, basketball, MLB, soccer and many more.

The CW

The CW App is the only way to stream the latest episodes of shows for free. There is no subscription or password needed. Just install the app and stream the hit series you like. You can set reminders for when your favorite shows air and when they’re available to watch in the app.

Keep in mind that their coverage is limited to certain parts of the country. This app also features Nielsen’s measurement software to contribute to market research, like Nielsen’s TV Ratings.

CBS App

When you download the CBS app, you get CBS All Access. The app gives you access to live TV channels, on-demand TV shows, movies and CBS original content. You will also be able to watch your local CBS station, CBSN, CBS Sports HQ and ET Live 24/7. Keep in mind CBS All Access Live TV is only available in 206 markets, so just make sure you’re in one of those markets to enjoy your local news channel and CBS evening news.

PBS

PBS Video features thousands of full-length episodes of shows plus live TV from your local PBS station. Enjoy award-winning documentaries and iconic series from PBS and member stations. With the PBS app, you can stream popular shows anytime, anywhere, and create a custom watchlist for easy viewing later.

How to Get Local Channels Without an Antenna

If you want the experience of having a cable subscription without paying high cable prices, then opt for an online live TV subscription. While a cable or satellite TV package can be expensive, there are dozens of local TV channels you can access for free in your area.

Here are some of the best ways to get local channels without an antenna.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV is one of the better subscriptions to get the same live TV experience you would get with cable. You can watch all of the live TV stations you love but don't want to pay as much for, including ABC, CBS and NBC. You find you can also access Discovery, Disney, FX, HGTV and other favorite channels, -- all for the subscription price.

The subscription fee is almost half the cost of cable. However, you can access YouTube TV from anywhere. You can stream YouTube TV on your computer, mobile device or from any streaming device that includes access to YouTube TV.

A bonus is that one subscription allows accounts for up to six people in your household.

We love this option because it includes a "cloud DVR" recording service that allows you to record and store any show for up to 9 months.

Hulu + Live TV

You will find that Hulu + Live TV is slightly less expensive than a YouTube TV subscription. However, while it includes many of the same live TV networks, it lacks a few like PBS, Comedy Central and MTV.

With Hulu TV, it enables each household member to personalize their profile with their favorite TV stations. You can record up to 50 hours for TV shows you want to watch later. In addition, you also get access to exclusive Hulu content you can’t get elsewhere.

Locast

While Locast is a cost-effective option for viewing local channels, it’s not available everywhere. This is a nonprofit operation that takes the broadcast signals of local channels and streams them over the internet for free. It’s only available in 32 television markets -- only about 51% of the population can access Locast for free.

While Locast is free, you will have to put up with frequent interruptions requesting donations.

FuboTV

Fubo is a TV streaming service you can access without paying any high monthly cable fees. They primarily offer you stations like CBS, NBC and Fox for the local market. You can access more channels like FS1, FS2, beIN Sports, NBCSN and BTN under their TV streaming service. Check out their offerings before you buy.

Sling TV

Sling TV is one of the least expensive internet-based cable TV services. At about half the cost of YouTube TV and Hulu, you still get access to popular channels like the History Channel, A&E, CN, Comedy Central, AMC and HGTV.

Cheaper doesn’t necessarily mean limited. With Sling TV, you'll get access to live news, live sports and plenty of content you would normally expect from a basic cable TV subscription. If TV without cable is what you want, this is one of the more affordable options.

Paramount+

Paramount+ is one of the newest significant networks to enter the streaming fray. Remember CBS All Access? Paramount+ is CBS All Access, except with a new name. Paramount+ folded all of CBS All Access content into this new service. What earned its "plus rating" was adding more shows and movies, as well as live sports and news.

Vidgo

Vidgo is another simple, affordable and portable way to watch TV. Vidgo is a TV app designed by US-based engineers who love to watch TV efficiently on the go and in high resolution. We define VIDGO as an over-the-top streaming TV service that offers a better, more convenient way to watch your favorite shows and movies. The app works on internet-connected devices, such as the Amazon Fire Stick, Roku, iOS, Android, tablets, Apple TV and game consoles.

The great benefit of Vidgo is being able to record your favorite shows on a cloud-DVR. With an extensive on-demand catalog, you can also access the app from multiple devices simultaneously.

Choosing a Streaming Device

Why would you pay $90 for cable TV? Hey, but you are getting over 500 channels, they say!

On the surface, this sounds like a good deal. But how many channels do you watch? It’s far cheaper to pay $30 for channels you want to watch and enjoy. You can start with a streaming device.

It’s time to cut the cord by investing in a suitable media streaming device. With these “plug-in” devices, you can go cable-free and cancel those expensive satellite subscriptions. Even better, you can also get free TV channels without an antenna if you want to keep up with local news and weather.

Let’s check out our favorite streaming devices.

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

Amazon Fire TV Stick 4K

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is one of the most popular streaming devices on the market. You can watch all your favorite shows from Netflix, Prime Video, Apple TV, HBO Max, YouTube, Disney+ and much more. You can also stream Pluto TV, IMDb TV and more for free. So there is something here for everyone.

Just plug and play -- the Amazon Fire Stick is out of the way. This compact device simply plugs into an HDMI port tucked neatly behind your TV. Enjoy over 500,000 movies and TV episodes to choose from. Your TV will explode with brilliant picture quality with access to 4K Ultra HD, HDR, HDR10+ and Dolby Vision.

If you are a device enthusiast and have Alexa, launch and control content with the built-in voice remote on your Amazon Fire Stick.

If you are into music, ask the TV to play your favorite tunes by choosing out of millions of songs. You will need a service like Amazon Music, Apple Music, Spotify, Pandora or iHeartRadio. Subscription fees may apply.

The Cons:

There is no Vudu or Google Play app. You need to have a good broadband connection.

Check it out on Amazon here.

Roku

Roku

If you’re looking for a streaming device that rivals the Amazon Fire TV stick, then the Roku Ultra Streaming Media Player plus might be the answer. This 4K/HDR/HD streaming player with four times the wireless range from previous versions has a voice remote along with TV power and volume controls. With built-in connectivity technology, it works off your Wi-Fi. Just plug it into the back of your TV HDMI outlet and you’re ready to go.

You might find more apps available on Roku, but we think that’s because Amazon wants you to buy their related products. Roku doesn’t care, so if you want Hulu and YouTube to appear first, it’s your choice.

We love this device because you can drop your cable equipment back on your ISP’s doorstep and cut the cord with your best wirecutters. You can tap into streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon PrimeVideo and YoutubeTV. You can't play YouTubeTV on FireTV, and you can't play Amazon PrimeVideo on Chromecast, so that leaves Roku. This mix of services is what can sway you towards Roku.

You can install major apps like HBO Go, FX Now, NBC Sports Gold. If you like movies that are so bad they’re good, you can tune into some wild Roku exclusives like B-Movie; this is an excellent channel for horror and sleaze fans.

Buyer beware: there are scammers out there trying to get you to pay a setup fee. There are no setup fees or fees for customer support.

The Cons:

We recommend not buying a reconditioned Roku; they tend to break down quickly.

Check it out on Amazon here.

Apple TV

Apple TV

Apple TV is the most expensive TV streaming device we reviewed, but we also found it is the most flexible. When you combine Apple TV with an Apple TV+ subscription, you can access exclusive movies and shows produced by Apple TV along with Showtime or Starz.

Unlike with a cable subscription, with Apple TV, you can customize your viewing preferences. Choose the specific TV channels you want to subscribe to, and you can watch them via the internet without cable or an antenna.

All Apple TVs come with the Siri Remote. Just use the touch trackpad to navigate through menus and the control playback. The Siri feature puts you in complete control, and the touch surface allows you to interact with your Apple TV seamlessly. With wireless Bluetooth 4.0 technology, you can use Siri to watch whatever you want using just your voice.

We feel the Logitech Harmony 950 is a better Apple TV remote. The voice controls are super responsive, letting you easily switch back and forth between apps and channels. You can use it with your Apple TV, cable box and other entertainment devices -- including the smart TV itself.

The Apple TV is for those who are committed to the Apple platform. If you get your music and movies from Apple, then stick with Apple.

The Cons:

The scroll touch is ridiculously sensitive, making it easy to lose your place or lose the video stream completely. You are better off loading the Apple TV Remote App onto your iPhone to use, with better results.

Check it out on Amazon here.

Chromecast TV

Chromecast

Chromecast with Google TV is an affordable way to get almost every streaming service you could ever want. It’s capable of 4K streaming and includes access to Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, Disney+, Sling TV and even Hulu. In February 2021, Google added support for Apple TV+.

The Chromecast with Google TV is not just a Chromecast. It's an Android TV streamer with a Google Assistant-powered voice remote. Chromecast technology also comes built-in with select TVs, so you don’t need a separate streaming device.

Enjoy high-quality video streaming by Google without having to plug in an external device. Chromecast-enabled TVs have built-in streaming, as it uses the cloud to stream content directly to your TV. Instantly get HD video and HD video using select devices and apps onto your TV with high-quality sound. What we love about Google’s Chromecast TV is that it learns what you like and recommends content.

Use your mobile phone as a simple, powerful remote. All you need to do is open the mobile apps you already know you want to access your favorite TV shows and playlist quickly. You don’t need log-ins or downloads to play your favorite shows and movies.

With over 1,000 plus Chromecast-enabled apps and 200,000 plus TV shows and movies, you are spoilt for choice. That’s not to mention a selection of over 30 million songs. All your favorites apps are enabled with select TVs.

Because Google Assistant powers Google TV, it means you can integrate all of Google’s other smart home services.

The Cons:

You can only have one user profile per Chromecast, and the volume input controls don’t work on all TVs.

Check it out on Amazon here.

Conclusion

Rather than messing around with antennas or cable, we recommend you upgrade to a smart TV. Smart TVs come with embedded software and the ability to connect to your home's Wi-Fi network. That way, you can access all of the streaming services and channels we reviewed.

About the author
Corbin Thompson
Corbin Thompson
Corbin Thompson is a writer, author, and occasional composer. With over fifteen years of writing experience, his main interests are health, education, and technology. He currently resides in San Francisco with his two sons and golden retriever.