If you’ve cut the cord or are thinking about it to save money during the coronavirus pandemic, you may be wondering how you’ll be able to watch your local channels without cable.
In this article, I’ll share the best free and cheap ways that cord-cutters can watch broadcast TV.
Do you live in a city or the suburbs? If so, you may be able to purchase an inexpensive indoor TV antenna to pick up over-the-air channels from ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS and other independent networks.
Pictured below is the Mohu Leaf antenna that I use. It costs about $40 and is attached to the wall behind my TV set.
If you can’t get all of the channels with the antenna hidden behind your TV, Mohu recommends that you move it closer to a window or place it higher up on the wall.
You can use this tool on Mohu’s website to find the right antenna for where you live.
For rural households that are far away from broadcast towers, an indoor antenna may not work. If that’s the case, an outdoor antenna will be more suitable for you. These are still affordable, but expect to pay closer to $100.
To identify the best antenna for your needs, enter your ZIP code at AntennaWeb.org. It’s a website we’ve recommended for years!
2. Live TV Streaming
If you don’t want to go the antenna route, there are several live TV streaming services that offer local channels. These cable TV replacements start at around $50 to $60 per month:
Local stations vary by location. That’s why you need to go to each streaming provider’s website and enter your ZIP code to see which broadcast networks are available.
Sling TV is the cheapest option on this list, but it only offers NBC and FOX in select markets.
On the other hand, YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV and AT&T TV Now provide all four of the major broadcast networks in many parts of the country, including your local news.
As of this writing, YouTube TV is the only live TV streaming service to carry PBS.
Aside from those four streaming TV services, there’s CBS All Access. Its $5.99 monthly plan with advertisements combines CBS live TV and on-demand programming, including local news in many cities.
Locast.org is a not-for-profit service that streams broadcast TV over the internet for free, but donations are accepted. The catch is that it’s only available to viewers in about 20 cities across the country.
You can read our full Locast review to see a list of cities where the service is currently available.
For those who are able to use Locast, you can stream it to your TV set using a compatible device like Roku, Amazon Fire TV or Apple TV. It can also be streamed using the Locast smartphone app or on a computer at Locast.org.
4. Hulu On Demand
If you watch broadcast TV for your favorite drama or comedy series and nothing else, Hulu’s on-demand service may have you covered.
The service makes episodes of many network TV shows available the day after they air.
Hulu’s base plan is only $5.99 per month, but it doesn’t give you access to live TV. For that, you need Hulu Live or one of the other options we’ve covered.
If you like to watch shows as they premiere, Hulu’s on-demand plan isn’t for you.
On the other hand, if you don’t mind waiting until the next day, check Hulu’s streaming library to see if it carries new episodes of your favorite shows.
You may even find past seasons of TV shows that are worth binge-watching.
5. Network Apps
ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS have their own free apps that allow you to watch select on-demand programming, but live streaming may be limited without a pay TV subscription.
Depending on the app, you may still be able to watch full episodes of your favorite shows the next day.
If local news is what you’re seeking, many local stations offer live streams of their newscasts for free online. Some also have apps that you can access through streaming devices like Roku.
To learn more, see our guide on How to Cut the Cord And Never Pay for Cable TV Again.