Free or Low Cost TV Options: Network TV

Want to cut the cable?

A lot of people are cutting the cable or abandoning satellite TV service because they're darn tired of paying more than $100 a month to watch TV. Most of the viewers doing this complain that there's never anything on anyway!

We cut the satellite cable last year when we moved. Now we mostly watch local network stations, Netflix (9.95 a month to new subscribers) and Amazon Prime Streaming (99.00 a year which is about 8.40 a month, but I was an Amazon Prime member long before they offered video streaming just for the free shipping for that fee. I order enough books, business materials, etc. from Amazon every year that the membership fee more than pays for itself.).

Let me tell you in today's post and future ones how to make this happen so you too can cut the cable if you're so inclined.

Viable Alternatives

There really are viable alternatives to paying big bucks for TV. If you have a Smart TV, it's very easy to watch your favorite programs without having cable or satellite. If you have an older TV, you may have to do a bit of tweaking to find the best way, but it's not especially difficult.

How To Pay Little or Nothing To Watch Network TV

CBS, NBC, and ABC are the big 3 when it comes to network TV. Those broadcasts are easy to obtain. If you're accustomed to viewing network TV on cable or satellite, here are 3 ways to do it for free or less bucks.

1. HD Antenna

Get an HD antenna, and you can get all your local TV stations free. True, you have to buy one for each TV you want to view, but after the initial cost of the antenna, there's zero dollars out of your pocket. Anything broadcast by the networks is now yours for viewing for free.

The thing to know about HD antennas is that they don't look like the old rabbit ear antennas your grandparents might have had. Today the usual indoor HD Antenna is a small, sleek black box or a paper-thin adhesive square that can hang on your wall and even be painted your wall color to "disappear."

If you're into DIY, you can even get a large indoor antenna, mount it in your attic, and connect cabling from all your TVs to it--just like the cable or satellite installer does. These cost about $50-100. depending on which model you buy, and they are the Cadillac of indoor antennas.

What To Know About HD Antennas

How well an antenna works depends on the location of the TV, the TV's proximity to the television station's broadcast antenna, and the obstacles in that path. If you aren't in an area with hills or mountains, you shouldn't have a problem. If you're in the country, you may have to pay a bit more for an antenna with a long range.

If you live in the country and are not bound by deed restrictions, you have the option of getting an exterior HD Antenna. Again, not like the old outdoor antennas on a 30' pole, but a roof mounted antenna that catches a signal much as the small dishes do that are offered by the satellite TV companies.

If you want to know more, educate yourself about HD Antenna Choices. Just put what to know about hd antenna in your favorite search engine, and you'll find a wealth of information.

There are many HD antennas available. For one that picks up a signal for a distance of about 50 miles, the antenna costs about $30-50.

I recently bought an RCA ANT1450BF Multi-Directional Amplified Digital Flat Antenna (Black)for the big TV in our media room. You can lay it flat in front of the TV, hang it on the wall next to the TV, or use the small metal bracket that comes with it to stand it up.

Since I'm in Houston, there are a lot of skyscrapers between my media room and the broadcast antennas, but I get 2 CBS stations (Houston and College Station), 2 ABC stations (the regular one and the LivWell Network which is like HGTV), NBC, 3 PBS stations, CW, whatever they're calling 20Vision now, Fox, ION, and 2 old movie channels plus a number of Spanish and Vietnamese stations.

(I'm a big documentary fan so I don't have Discovery, ID, and the cable channels I used to watch, but, guess what? Most of those documentaries are on Netflix and Amazon Prime Streaming. Next time I'll talk about those when I discuss Video Streaming options.)

2. Network TV Via The Network Website

You don't have to have an HD Antenna to watch current popular TV shows from the networks if you have a computer. ABC, NBC, Fox, and CW usually show the latest episode the day after it airs on television. In some cases, the episode is shown from 1 to 7 days after airing. Just get to know the network TV websites and when they show the full episode of your favorite shows on their website.

You can watch on your computer, but you don't have to. Buy a cable and connect your computer to your TV. See your TV manual for the right cable. For newer TV's that's usually an HDMI cable which means your computer must have an HDMI port as well. You can get an adapter if the line from your computer isn't HDMI. Search online for the right cable.

Of course, connecting a TV works better if you have a laptop or tablet. A lot of people I know have a dedicated computer connected to their TV and watch everything this way.

3. Network TV Via Hulu etc.

Several websites like Hulu offer your favorite network and cable TV shows. The free version of Hulu and other sites have limited episodes or you can sign up for Hulu Plus, the paid version of Hulu, and a show's full season.

I'll talk more about video streaming via websites like Hulu next time.

How To Get Started

1. Go to each network's website and take a quick look around to see if they have content that interests you. Also look for a page that shows what supported devices can be used for the content. If you like what you see, take the next step which is to sign up for a free account.

2. On the signup page, you should be able to click to read the Terms of Service. Do this so you know how they will use the information you register. In most cases, they will embed a cookie of course, use your information to make sure you don't get content that may be denied by your country of residence, send you notices of new content, and use your info however they can to monetize their site. That's pretty standard, but read the TofS to make sure you're not allowing them something else. Also, in the TofS, the way to opt-out of targeted ads is usually spelled out. If you're okay with their TofS, then proceed.

3. Register your free account. Make a note of your registration details so you'll remember them. (Have you read my post: Everyone Needs a Password Record?)

4. If you need to download any app for a mobile device or register your Smart TV, go back to the supported devices page and follow the instructions.

That's usually all there is to it. Now, you're ready to watch network TV.

Next time I'll offer some Streaming Video Options.

Takeaway Truth

Want to save some money? Invest about $50.00 and tell the cable company: "Hasta la vista, baby."


  1. I am sure glad you are recuperating. This is great info! People don't realize there are alternatives. Most are just too busy. I so appreciate this info. As you know, I am cable-less. Haven't missed it a minute.

  2. Hey, Robin! Thanks for commenting. Yes, people here that you can watch TV for free or low cost, but no one ever tells them exactly how to do it.