There are many ways to get all of your favorite programming without paying for cable. This article is specifically about how to get Network TV for free and possibly opening up the option of canceling your Cable service.

Receiving Basic TV

Many people aren’t aware that all of the major networks including NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox are all OTA channels. OTA stands for Over-the-Air and means that these channels are broadcast for free and can be received with an antenna. The FCC also now requires that all TV channels be broadcast digitally, so not only are these free but they are in HD!

I personally cancelled my cable TV service and installed an HD television antenna on my roof and couldn’t be happier. All of the major networks are received with an even better picture quality because cable signals are compressed and OTA channels are not. If you use an antenna you are getting the broadcast straight from the source and not through hundreds of miles of wires owned by your Cable provider. For me locally, all of these networks broadcast from the northern hills in Burbank, CA. which is very close to my home and so a roof top antenna works beautifully. Many stations, however, can be picked up with a regular indoor or window antenna.

Roof Mounted HD TV Antenna
Roof Mounted HD TV Antenna

1. First make sure you can receive broadcast channels in your area and check their signal strength. The FCC has a very handy tool that lets you check what channels you can receive and how strong each of their signals are based on your zip code.

2. You’ll also want to check how far that signal is coming from. TVFool.com will not only also show you what channels you can receive, but how far away they are in miles. That can help you decide what antenna you want to use. Obviously, the farther away they are the bigger antenna you’ll need. My location shows most of these channels could be received with a much smaller indoor antenna, but I wanted the best reception I could possibly get. A quality outdoor antenna can be purchased for $50-$150 depending on its size.

TV Fool
TV Fool
Signal Strength
Signal Strength

You can check your location here: http://tvfool.com/index.php?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29

If you get a lot of “green” signals then you don’t have to put an antenna on your roof. TV “rabbit ears” are actually more sophisticated today and if you’re getting a nice strong signal you should have no trouble at all using them. There are many inexpensive options on Amazon that are all highly rated. You can see them here: TV Antennas

3. Make sure your television has a TV tuner built into it. You will be running the antenna straight to your TV’s coaxial connection. You can find out in your TV’s user manual, the manufacturer’s website or just do a web search for “does my Samsung N5000 have a built in TV tuner”.

4. If your TV doesn’t have a built in tuner, you’ll need one and they are very similar to a cable box. The signal will travel from the antenna to the tuner box and then to the TV. The tuner will also usually come with a remote so you can still control the programs that way. You can pick one up on Amazon or eBay for $50-$75. Make sure it is a digital tuner so you can get HD channels.

So all you need is an antenna and a tuner to pick up NBC, ABC, CBS, Fox (and all of your local networks) which includes all of their major network shows, sports including NBA and NFL (yes, FREE NFL football on Sundays) and even your favorite infomercials! After I first installed my antenna my tuner did its initial channel search and found over 140 channels. A BUNCH of them were in foreign languages to me but my tuner allowed me to delete any channels I didn’t want and so I no longer see them in my channel line-up. I ended up keeping about 30 quality channels and I am thrilled with the results.

Keep in mind, you can always buy a cheap ($10) antenna and test it all out before cutting your cable cord. If you get good results with an inexpensive antenna then I would highly recommend investing in a larger indoor or outdoor one. You’ll get great reception and a big smile on your face when you call to cancel your cable service.

For a complete list of OTA channels visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_over-the-air_television_networks

Have you ditched cable?

2 Comments

  1. Daisy @ Prairie Eco Thrifter Reply

    I don’t pay for cable but I’m fortunate enough to have basic cable for free. Anything that I want to watch I stream off of my laptop. It works for me and it keeps me productive, because with more elaborate cable I’d lose a lot of time in front of the TV.

    • @Daisy – I agree, too many channels can offer too much wasted time! I’m lucky that I don’t get sucked into TV anyway (movies are more my speed), but now I can watch football on Sundays for FREE!

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