While paying for a big package of channels from a cable or satellite provider is becoming more of a luxury item than the household essential it once was, having a good internet connection is harder to live without.
When bundled together, packages that offer internet and TV service cost more than $217 per month on average, according to U.S. News & World Report. That adds up to $2,604 every year!
We’ve become so accustomed to paying to watch TV that many people don’t even realize that free over-the-air (OTA) TV is still an option. That’s right, from “The Bachelor” and “Grey’s Anatomy” to the Oscars and the Super Bowl, OTA TV channels offer all kinds of exciting sports, live events and hit shows that don’t cost a penny.
If the channels you get with your antenna — which include all of your local ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS broadcasters, among others — aren’t enough for you, the good news is that you can supplement that with a slew of streaming video apps that don’t require a paid subscription for viewing. It’s been reported that 25% of households spend at least $75 per month on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and HBO Max, but with these free streaming services, you can watch lots of quality on-demand content with no fees. Below, we’ve created a list of free streaming options to pair with your free OTA TV — for endless entertainment options that won’t cost you a penny!
What You Need To Switch To OTA TV
All you need to start watching TV for free is an antenna. Depending on your needs and location, there are many affordable options for indoor, outdoor and attic antennas. If you aren’t sure what you need, take our short quiz to find out which antenna is best for you.
Switching to OTA doesn’t mean you have to give up features like recording or pausing live TV. Tablo offers a range of DVRs for over-the-air TV, giving you the freedom to watch your favorite shows and movies on your time.
Ready to start watching free over-the-air TV? Here are our top picks for the equipment you’ll need — an affordable one-time investment when compared to the thousands of dollars you’d potentially spend on cable and streaming over the next 10 years!
Recommended antenna if you live in an urban area or nearby suburb:
$64.99 from Amazon
This highly-rated indoor antenna is designed to receive frequencies 50+ miles away from broadcast towers. It easily grips smooth surfaces like walls or windows for optimal placement to pick up as many channels as possible.
Recommended antenna if you live in a far suburb or rural area:
$130.20 from Amazon
This powerful antenna has a range of 70+ miles and can be installed inside, outside or in the attic. It has UHF and VHF multi-directional elements designed to deliver reception in remote areas.
Pair your antenna with an OTA DVR to record your favorite shows:
Ditch the costly subscription fees, but keep the cable capabilities (record, pause, rewind and fast forward) with an OTA DVR device. Here are the products we recommend:
- Tablo DUAL 128GB Over-the-Air [OTA] DVR: Record up to 80 HD hours and stream up to two free broadcast channels from your HDTV antenna simultaneously.
- Tablo QUAD 1TB Over-the-Air [OTA] DVR: Record up to 700 hours and stream up to four free broadcast channels from their over-the-air HDTV antenna simultaneously.
If you have an external hard drive sitting at home collecting dust, consider these options as cheaper alternatives. Simply connect your antenna and portable hard drive to these Tablo DVR devices and you’re ready to go.
- Tablo DUAL Lite: Equipped with built-in Wifi, it lets you position the antenna and DVR for the best signal reception.
- Tablo QUAD: Record up to four OTA channels simultaneously. This model connects to your router rather than your TV, giving you the option to stream live TV to any device.
If you need to purchase a portable hard drive, we recommend USB-connected portable hard drives (USB 2.0 or 3.0, 1 TB to 8 TB in size). These are the ones we recommend: WD 1TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive and the WD 2TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive.
10 Free Streaming Services To Pair With OTA TV
Amazon Freevee (IMDb TV)
Since it launched in 2019, Amazon’s IMDb TV has been a popular streaming service that stays free by showing ads — which is the common thread among virtually all the free streaming services listed here. The service is going to be renamed to Freevee in late April but will otherwise remain the same. Freevee offers an extensive list of rotating popular shows and movies that change monthly, as well as original series like “Bosch: Legacy” and “Judy Justice,” which sees the legendary Judge Judy Sheindlin back in the courtroom.
CBS is one of the networks you can watch free with your OTA antenna but if you want to watch a constant stream of news, you’ll need to download the CBS News app. This gives you a free, 24/7 original news stream from one of the most trusted names in broadcast journalism.
Some free streaming apps still require you to sign up for an account to watch, even if it’s a free account, but not Crackle. This pioneering service has been around since 2004 and allows you to go right into the app and start streaming after watching some ads (although a free account is needed to save titles to a watch list). It’s offered a handful of original shows over the years but mostly traffics in popular movies and TV shows you might have missed. Crackle also has a big library of British TV shows you can stream totally free, which makes it unique on this list.
Even if you don’t use it regularly, chances are high that you already have a Facebook account. If so, you can watch the social media giant’s own streaming platform, Facebook Watch, for free. It offers a long list of original shows, with a focus on unscripted shows and docu-series, like the popular “Red Table Talk,” but you can also use it to tune into live streams from regular Facebook users, like your friends.
If you’re a movie buff, Kanopy is a must-have free service on your streaming device. Using it requires a library card or a login from a university, and its library includes a huge collection of acclaimed new and classic movies, especially foreign-language films, documentaries and those included in the Criterion Collection.
If you would prefer a free streaming app that works more like regular live TV, Local Now is a good option. This app lets you start watching right away, either by sifting through a library of older movies and TV shows that are on-demand or by using its live guide option and picking a channel from the lineup that matches your interests. Local Now asks for your zip code so it can give you free local news and weather coverage, the latter provided by its sister network, The Weather Channel.
NBC’s Peacock streaming app offers a lot of great content for people with a paid account but it also has plenty of great viewing for anyone with a free account. You’ll have to sign up to get streaming but once you do, you’ll have free access to tons of classic and current shows and movies, including NBC icons like “Saturday Night Live” and “The Office.” Pro wrestling fans will especially love Peacock, as it’s now the streaming home of WWE content.
Pluto TV is another great option for anyone who wants a free streaming app that feels like watching classic cable TV. It’s got a lineup of free channels, many based on genres like dramas, uncut stand-up, soaps, courtroom and game shows, but also has channels that just run episodes of a single beloved series 24/7, like “The Price is Right,” “Baywatch” and the many iterations of the “Star Trek” franchise. Pluto TV also offers on-demand content but its live channels have something for everyone and its interface is second to none.
If you’ve got kids or grandkids, there’s a chance they’ve spent a decent amount of time watching Twitch. This free streaming app especially caters to gamers who want to watch people play live and hear their commentary while doing so, but it’s also got a huge selection of channels that let you watch streamers play live music, cook, craft and paint, all while talking casually with the viewers and answering their questions using the app’s chat interface.
Tubi is another free streaming service that caters mostly to movie lovers. It has an interface that’s a lot like Netflix’s, letting you sort through movies based on genre and other factors, adding the ones you are interested in to a watchlist (provided you sign up for a free account). The selection on Tubi is stocked with popular movies, mostly from the 1970s through today. It’s also got a decent selection of classic TV shows and kids’ programming.