How to Get Basic Cable for Free

Four ways to get great TV shows and movies at home on a budget

Easton Smith
Mobile, TV, & Moving Expert
Read More
June 27, 2022
2 min read

We’re not going to lie to you just for the clicks: you can’t really get cable TV for free. In order to get the full on cable TV experience —with premium channels like ESPN, HBO, Comedy Central, and Disney—you’ll need to sign up with a legit provider.

That said, there are plenty of ways to watch great TV shows and movies for free and to pay less for cable-only content. We’ll go over it all in this short guide, so read on.

Use an HDTV antenna to get free TV

If you’re my age or older, you might remember those old rabbit ears that sat on top of your TV. Those antennas would give you access to at least a dozen channels where you could watch infinite reruns of Cheers and Seinfeld.

Those old metal antennas went the way of VHS players, but they have been replaced with HDTV antennas. These new antennas can get you access to dozens of channels (in some places it's close to 100) for free! You just need to pay for the device upfront.

A great HDTV antenna will cost around $30. You can learn more about recommended models and how they work in our guide on local channels.

Get a Smart TV with streaming services

One way to feel like you’re getting cable TV without paying for cable TV is to cut the cord. This involves buying a smart TV and using online streaming platforms to watch TV instead of paying for a pricey cable package.

There are a bunch of ways you can arrange your cord-cutting entertainment set up. Some people just use a computer monitor or laptop for viewing, while others shell out for a huge 4K TV. Some folks subscribe to all the premium streaming services—like Netflix and Disney+—while others use the free apps included with their TV or streaming device.

The beauty of cutting the cord is that you can customize everything to fit your needs. It can be a much cheaper and more flexible way to get all the TV you want.

Watch free content on the internet

If you want to watch all eight seasons of Game of Thrones or premium movies, like Avengers: Endgame, then you’ll probably have to pay for it (or use your friend’s HBO Max password). But there is a surprising amount of TV that is totally free to watch online.

No, we’re not talking about sketchy pirating sites. We’re talking about using legit websites like YouTube to stream full episodes of shows and movies. Some networks, like NBC, allow you to stream the latest episodes of their shows on their website for free.

Sign up for a cheap cable TV package

The truth is, you’re not going to get a true cable TV experience without paying something. But that doesn’t mean you have to go broke to watch the newest season of your favorite FX show.

Here’s a look at our favorite cheap cable TV packages.

Best cheap cable TV services
TV channel count
Spectrum TVSpectrum TV® Select$49.99/mo. for 12 mos.*125+
Xfinity TV - WestPopular TV$49.99/mo.125+
Cox TVContour TV Starter$53.00/mo.75+
Sparklight TVEconomy Cable$42.00/mo.^Up to 20
Data effective 11/11/21. Offers and availability vary by location and are subject to change.
* For the first 12 months.
for the first 12 mos with 1-Year Agreement. Includes $10/mo. automatic payments and paperless billing discount.
1 Year Term Agreement
^ Up to 20 channels, including local broadcast channels in standard and high definition, cable faith and shopping channels and music channels. Equipment not included with service. A broadcast surcharge of $14.44 - $30.54 applies to all residential cable customers and a sports surcharge of $8.14 applies to Standard cable customers.

If you don’t see the perfect cable plan in that table, there are other options. Many customers save money by bundling your cable TV and home internet together.

Easton Smith
Written by
Easton Smith
Easton has worked as a freelance writer and researcher for several years, reviewing health, lifestyle, and technology products. He has probably read more Terms of Use contracts than any human alive. When he’s not sitting in front of a computer, Easton spends his time camping, climbing, and volunteering with humanitarian aid organizations.

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