The Cord Cutter’s Guide to Watching Broadcast TV for Free

NCIS CBS Mark Harmon
Sonja Flemming/CBS

Streaming services aren’t the only television costing us money. Most of us pay between $50 and $75 a month for cable or satellite. Cutting the cord is an option, but if we want to watch broadcast TV, that could be a costly add-on to some basic streaming packages. And we still watch more broadcast and network TV than streaming!

According to Nielsen, only 25 percent of our time in front of a screen is spent on streaming. So it’s worth figuring out how we can still watch our favorite shows without paying an arm and a leg.

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Watch Online

Every network — CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, The CW and PBS — has a website where you can watch their latest episodes for no charge. The real price, though, is that you have to sit through commercials and you usually can’t watch it live. You have to wait a day or so after the live broadcast to catch up on the shows.

Download the Network Apps

If you have a smart TV, you can download all the network apps and watch for free. You still have the same restrictions as above, with commercials and the inability to watch most shows live, but you can now watch on your decent-size TV instead of your (probably) smaller computer screen.

(Credit: ABC)

Sign up for Locast

If watching live network TV is important to you, no problem. You can sign up for Locast on your computer or via the app on your smart TV. This is a nonprofit service that provides live TV for your local stations! The catch? It’s not everywhere, but it is available in most major cities that cover half the country. Go to locast.org to see if it’s available in your area.

Update Your Antenna

If you got your TV in 2007 or later, it’s already set up to receive the digital signals that the broadcast nets have been sending out since 2009. So you don’t have to watch on a computer or buy a new smart TV, but you do need a digital or HD antenna. You can get them at places like Amazon and Walmart, and decent ones can cost from $10 to $40. Yes, there is an investment up front, but then it’s TV like it used to be: free.

How to…Create Your Own Netflix Watch List

(Credit: Netflix)

Scrolling through Netflix can be overwhelming, so keep track of the shows that you think you’re going to come back to, like Bridgerton. Every time you hover over a show title on the computer or click on a title on your TV, there is a “+” sign in a circle. Click on that, and you will create a list of shows that you can access anytime under “My List.” It’s a simple but effective way to make your next search much easier.