When was the last time you added up how much you’re paying to watch TV? If it’s been a while, the answer may surprise you.
Cable, for example, remains a staple in 73 million households as of the end of 2021, although its subscriber numbers continue to dwindle. Cable may allow viewers to get the traditional live sports events and basic channels they’re used to, but as of 2020, DecisionData found that the average cable package cost $217.42 a month — which is $2,604 every year! And cable isn’t even sufficient these days for most viewers.
That’s because streaming services continue to multiply and add content at a dizzying rate. There are more than 200 streaming networks available in the U.S. now streamed by 36% more American consumers than before COVID-19. Watching Netflix’s “Bridgerton” and also getting in on Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” Peacock’s “Bel-Air” and Apple TV+’s “Ted Lasso” requires separate, additional subscriptions. And while most services cost between $5 and $18 per month, data from the company TiVo data shows that, by mid-2021, consumers were each subscribed to an average of 8.8 streaming services each. That means an average household could spend $1,728 a year on streaming subscriptions!
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.
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.
How To Start Watching TV For Free
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 over $40,000 you’d potentially spend on cable and streaming over the next 10 years!
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 to 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 forA 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.
OTA Is The Answer To ‘Subscription Fatigue’
With services decentralized the way they are, some viewers are actually expressing a desire for media monopolies, so they don’t have to keep track of so many subscriptions to so many different networks: Media sources, including MediaPlayNews, report a phenomenon called “subscription fatigue.”
A recent report by consulting firm West Monroe found that for all subscriptions, from home Wi-Fi and cloud storage to meal services and TV streaming, people were paying an average of $273 per month — and underestimating how much that number really was. In fact, 89% undercounted the gross total by $100-$300. FinanceBuzz reported that one in 10 people have no idea how much they spend on streaming services. But, in pre-pandemic numbers provided by Deloitte, 40% of Millennials, 30% of Gen X and 30% of Gen Z subscribers already felt “overwhelmed” by how many subscriptions they manage.
Imagine how much worse the numbers must be now.
The costs can get higher over time, too. Look at Netflix, which started out offering its standard tier of content at $7.99 in 2010 and now charges $15.49 for that level. While services tend to notify consumers about price hikes and Netflix increases do get a lot of press, that doesn’t always mean we’re paying attention. On top of that, unsubscribing can be a pain, requiring one extra thing for people to think about.
Plus, if services are bundled with another, it’s an extra step to figure out how to untangle yourself from one without unloading the other. If you’re not paying attention, you might even find you’re paying for two separate subscriptions to the same service — as a member of our staff recently discovered they were!
Free over-the-air TV can help you simplify your life and save money. You’ll probably still want a few subscriptions to some streaming services now and then. But without 11.3 of them, you’ll still have access to a surprising amount of entertainment for way less moolah than before. You’ll also have far less trouble keeping track of things — and more time for entertainment.