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How to Watch Television for Free (or Nearly Free)

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Cable television can cost $50 or $60 for a basic list of channels up to $150 to $175 a month for a deluxe package with many of the premier movie channels. You can’t even watch the free broadcast channels without a basic cable subscription unless you have purchased a digital converter box or have a newer television. However, there are many ways you can watch television for free, without having to spend $600 to $2,100 a year to do so.

Use a digital converter box

If your television viewing wants and needs are simpler, consider getting a digital converter box if your t.v. is an older model. (Newer models already have the converter built in.) These devices run about $50 and allow you to get all of the network stations as well as their substations.

Wait to watch your favorite shows until they come out on DVD

If you don’t have an urgent need to see your favorite show during the broadcast season, you can simply wait to watch the entire season when it comes out on DVD.  If you are very patient, you can rent these for free at the local library. Otherwise, consider a Netflix subscription. Netflix charges $7.99 a month to stream to your computer (or your networked media device, if you have one), and then you can choose to add on a one DVD out at a time subscription for an additional $7.99.

Watch your favorite shows on the Internet

Many television shows are shown in their entirety on the Internet.

  • Use a service like Hulu.com to see many of your shows for free over the Internet. (Hulu.com usually offers the most recent 5 episodes of a show for free.)
  • Some shows such as Star Trek have also made their content available in its entirety for free on YouTube.
  • Go to your favorite channel’s website to see if they show your favorite program in its entirety. Fans of Jon Stewart’s The Daily Show can go to thedailyshow.com to see episodes of his show in their entirety.

Stream your favorite shows to your own T.V.

Do you want to have the full television viewing experience and watch your favorite shows on your television? You can with a networked media device and a basic subscription to a viewing service.

  • There are many networked media devices you can choose from: Xbox 360, Playstation 3 and the Nintendo Wii, to name just a few.
  • There are even more streaming services to choose from including Hulu.com (the premier version that allows you to see more than the most recent 5 episodes in a current season is $7.99 a month), Netflix and Amazon.com Instant, to name a few.

Although subscription prices to streaming services vary, once you have the networked media device, you should start to recoup your investment quickly because cable television is so expensive.

There are many options available now to watch your favorite television shows. You can find the majority of your shows through one of the options listed above; the only caveat is that you may not be able to watch your favorite sports programming. However, there is always a sports bar or your friend’s couch, right?

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16 Responses to “How to Watch Television for Free (or Nearly Free)”

  1. Matt M says:

    God advice but no one has a solution for sports fans.

    • I know!!! I would cut my cable asap but I have to watch football and basketball live or at least record it

      • Shirley says:

        The same goes for us. Life without live baseball? No way!

        • Scott says:

          Hopefully someday we’ll see a rebel cable company start offering a la carte pricing…

          • Wilson says:

            We can only hope.

            However, I would imagine that such pricing would result in you getting 20-25 channels of sports and movies for roughly the same price point. In that case, we pay the same or a small amount less and the cable/satellite companies still make the same or more since they won’t have to maintain TV contracts. If anything, it will make the top channels at a premium and what’s to say that they require $5 per sports channel? In that case, sports fans lose out because they’ll pay more…

  2. Exactly, there’s no way I can watch Formula One races without getting Speed Channel.

  3. There’s a free 2 month trial of hulu plus right now. I just posted the link on my twitter!

  4. Shorebreak says:

    All those channels and nothing on. Pathetic! I like viewing old shows from the 50′s and 60′s on YouTube. You can’t beat Jackie Gleason.

  5. Prasath says:

    Roku is the best (Streams Crackle, Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, CNN International live, BBC Live, etc).

    Also had HDTV (RCA ANT1650R Flat Digital) antenna connected to HDTV. Able to watch NBC, ABC, FOX without paying single penny.

  6. Joe says:

    I’ve never paid for cable. For the little amount of TV that I watch, my antenna works fine. For the few shows that I thoroughly enjoy, I can afford to pay $0.99 an episode and plug my computer, by HDMI, into my big screen. For the rarity of a UFC event WORTH watching (it’s gotta have a championship at the top of the card, and needs to be AT MINIMUM welterweight), I go to a sports bar for a date night with my partner and watch it there. I don’t drink when I’m out, so it’s usually a cheap night.

  7. Scott says:

    We have antenna TV and a refurbished DVR hooked up to it (a Motorola HDD/DVD recorder/player) that we got for ~$165. We’ll never go back to cable. Only time I miss it is during the college football BCS. But watching those 5 games at home on TV is not worth $1000 a year.

  8. bill says:

    ALL: XBOX 360 (with hard drive recommended), Internet connection to XBOX, and the XBOBX LIVE annual fee of $59 gives everything you need. ESPN.com, ESPN 3 for college games, SYFY, HBO GO, Youtube, HULU, Netflix, Crackle, iHeartRadio, TMZ, UFC LIVE (pay per view), BRAVO, VEVO, EPIX, Verizon, FiOS, and more. PLUS you could add the HD antenna to your T for local stuff, AND Stream ALL your PICs, MP3, etc from your home computer to the XBOX and watch it without dragging your computer to the TV or messing with cables. Check it out, its VERY compelling. Figure on $500 for the unit, $60 for XBOX live Gold subscription, plus your internet cost. plus netflix subscprition etc. its NOT free but MUCH cheaper than cable. you could leach your internet from your Cell phone with a tethering plan and use wireless on the xbox. Plus you have a kick ass gaming system. Add a kinect sensor and you browse the web and control everything with voice.

  9. zapeta says:

    The wife won’t let me cancel cable, but we do so much streaming that I’d drop the television portion in a heartbeat if I could.

  10. Harold says:

    Netflix + My Wii = Huge Savings!

    I happen to be a huge videogame fanatic, and my partner’s Netflix account allows me to watch movies and many awesome shows. Sure, I may not be able to catch all the specific shows I might want… but I have access to many great ones for a low price. Our Mac also has an HDMI cable, allowing us to show the computer screen on the television.

    Try to find a friend that has HBOGo pass to watch free HBO shows online like True Blood!!! AHHHH IT’S ON TOMORROW!!!!!

    – Harold


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