Free TV Secret To Cut The Cord

These days, it seems that there is a secret to getting free TV. The multi-billion dollar cable and satellite industries don’t want you to know how easy it is to get TV for free.

The free TV secret has been hidden from view, however I will shine the line upon it…

Looking for how to get free TV? Looking to cut the cord to your cable provider or satellite TV provider? Looking to save the exorbitant fees that they charge? Well there are a number of ways to replace their channel lineup with your own free TV entertainment choices, and I will let you know about one of them…

You techies already know this, but for the rest, it’s fairly simple… You can simply utilize an antenna to receive many, most, or all of your local TV networks broadcast in HDTV over the air! That’s right, you can get HDTV for free ‘over the air’.

I have done this for years in the various locations where I have lived. Although I still paid for some cable and/or satellite at times, the ‘techie’ in me enjoyed the benefits of ‘over-the-air’ free HDTV. That’s right, there’s a benefit to receiving the signal through an antenna versus the signal on cable or satellite… The picture is technically better. Here’s why…

The reason is because the High Definition signals that are broadcast over the air are mandated to be ‘full bandwidth data rate’ (more data, the better the picture). Cable and Satellite providers will ‘squish’ or compress the signals in order to squeeze more channels within their ‘pipes’. While it is arguable that in some cases it may be difficult to discern some of these differences, I have witnessed some pretty significant improvements by watching ‘over-the-air’ signals.


What Free TV Channels Can I Get Where I Live?

The following tool is pretty cool! It’s from and by entering your address or zip-code it will calculate the strength of each TV station that may be received at your location and determine the antenna type that you will need to receive it.

To discover how many local channels you could receive with an antenna,
Go to the Address Entry page.


Which TV Antenna Do I Need?

Today there is a color-coded labeling standard that classifies antennas. While the features, designs and prices of antennas may vary greatly between models and manufacturers, the color-coded labeling standard ensures that all models within a given type will have similar TV reception qualities.

Antenna color chart from the ‘Consumer Technology Association’,

A Small Multi-Directional Antenna when generally 10 to 15 miles from the TV station transmitter.

A Medium Multi-Directional Antenna when generally up to 30 miles from the TV station transmitter.

Lt Green:
A Large Multi-Directional or Small Directional Antenna when generally up to 30 miles from the TV station transmitter.

A Medium Directional Antenna when generally 30 to 45 miles from the TV station transmitter.

A Medium Directional Antenna with an Antenna Preamplifier or a Large Directional Antenna when generally 45 to 60 miles from the TV station transmitter.

A Large Directional Antenna with an Antenna Preamplifier when generally up to 60 miles or more from the TV station transmitter.

Note: Geographical terrain barriers (do you live in the mountains?) between you and the transmitter tower may reduce or eliminate your success.

Note: Just because an antenna may be marketed for ‘x’ miles of reception, chances are your real-life results will be less. So unless you live very close to the transmitter or within an unobstructed line-of-sight, it may be a good idea to upgrade to the next level (or more).

Note: You may need an antenna rotor if you are far away and wish to receive TV signals that are transmitted from different directions.

Note: You may be surprised though by how many TV stations that you can receive with a relatively simple antenna, and even an indoor antenna if you live within or near a city region.


HDTV Antennas

Small Indoor HDTV Antenna for fairly close proximity,
Winegard Amplified Digital Indoor HD TV Antenna

A Medium Range outdoor antenna,
Winegard High Definition VHF/UHF Antenna

A Long Range ‘Channel Master’ antenna,
Channel Master VHF, UHF, HDTV Antenna

Antenna Amplifier,
Channel Master Medium-Gain Mast Mounted Preamplifier

Antenna Mast,
Channel Master Steel Antenna Mast, 5′

Note: I have owned Winegard antennas in the past, and they have performed well for me. Channel Master is another well known name…


Where Do I Plug In The TV Antenna?

Most HDTV’s have a built-in tuner and you can simply attach the antenna’s cable directly to the TV. However not all have built-in tuners, so check behind your TV for a ‘Antenna Input’ or ‘RF In’ (which will look the same as an ordinary cable-TV input).

If your HDTV does not have a built-in tuner (most do), you can get an external tuner which itself will connect with your antenna and then plug in to your Monitor via HDMI cable.

TiVo over-the-air HDTV tuner and DVR (no monthly service fees)
TiVo Roamio OTA 1 TB DVR

Or a HDTV tuner/converter box that is far less expensive but gets the job done…
Digital Converter Box DVR, 1080P HDTV, HDMI Output

Additional sources of interest:

More and more people are ‘cutting the cord’ and going with over-the-air Free TV. There are other ways to get free TV (Internet) however I hope this has helped some of you…

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  1. Good info on ” free” T V . We are in a canyon so I would probably need a 200′ antenna to get any reception at all. We pulled the plug on our tv cable company 8 years ago and have not missed it since . We enjoy the $avings and don’t miss the drivel that was broadcast . We also have a lot more time on our hands.

    For someone trying to eliminate monthly cable payments this would be a good way to go .

    1. We pulled the plug on our satellite back in 2008 as well. DON’T miss it at all….nothing local, so no sense bothering to try for free tv.

      1. ….nothing local, so no sense bothering to try for free tv.

        Exactly, so the antennae is in a yard sale box. Being rural, we couldn’t get any stations and tried several times before storing it in a closet.
        I am spoiled and don’t do commercials anyhow.

        Roku keeps me entertained.

    2. I had Direct TV which was wired to all the rooms with a TV. I researched which external HD antenna would work for my area, all areas are different. I researched the price on Amazon but purchased local, they price matched. In my case the dish and antenna were on the same side of the house to get great reception for both. I mounted my new HD antenna to the existing dish mount and unplugged the dishes coax cable. I plugged it in to my antenna to the coax and I had better HD in all my rooms with out the need to run new cable or amplify the signal. It’s been two years without cable. My average cable bill was over $100 per month of most channels I didn’t want or watch. Now my bill is $0. If you have broadband you can still get sling or Netflix, combined about $30. I’ll never go back!!!

  2. Great idea but when I went to the site to see what channels I could get it said nothing would come in for my area. Guess I stick to the satellite.

    1. I’m pretty much SOL too, due to the mountains all around me…
      I’m on the fringe of possibly being able to pick up a few, but only with a super-duper high-gain antenna (and probably a little luck).

      1. Well living in the mountains has its downsides but they are very few and the upsides IMHO are huge so I will just keep paying that bill. To be truthful I could really care less about TV though I do watch it I keep it for the wife who is disabled and doesn’t leave the house much. she hates computers so has to have something to occupy her time aside from talking to the dog and cat while I am at work.

    2. Sadly for us, only 2 channels. We are somewhat in the boonies with a hill about 100′ above the height of our roof to our West. That happens to be the direction most of the stations are located.

  3. I gave up TV almost 8 years ago, finally figured how much of my life I wasted watching “crapo” on TV, talk about absolutely brain dead TV, OMG. I get all my news by reading or the Net. Other than that just reading a good book is very satisfying. Even better, a nice Mint Julip sitting on the porch watching the wildlife in the valley and listening to Maw-Nature

    I did spend a little time last weekend at a friend’s house watching a Game and the Ball drop, the commercials and per-view of shows actually made me sick…. And we wonder that’s wrong with the US and the people????

    Thanks Ken for the Info, but this old fart is going to pass and go climb a mountain or two this summer.
    NOW if you have any good suggestions on a couple of GREAT books…….


    1. I hear you NRP. I had given up on tv many years ago. Finally came back to it when I discovered the Discovery channel, National Geographic channel, the Learning Channel and a couple of others I don’t recall off hand. I love all the science and nature programming. I avoid the mainstream channels like the plague, outside of the weather channel.

      1. @ Peanut Gallery

        Unfortunately ya have to also pay for all the junk along with the “good channels”

        I tend to agree with Ision, ya can find almost anything on the Net, check out Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon Prime…
        Plus you can watch them when you want to, not when they “happen” to be on….
        But I will agree I do like the Science stuff….. toooooo much


        Still waiting on Ken to start putting stuff out on YouTube……..

    2. Yeah, we dumped our cable back in 05 and haven’t missed it. Any tv we watch is streaming off the internet. I figure if it’s not something I can pause to go to the bathroom, it’s not worth it anyway.

          1. Thanks. I have Verizon. 3 phones/2 tablets, only 6 GB data. $155 bucks.
            I have the amazon prime free streaming movies and TV etc. but never have used it.
            Maybe I should switch carriers? Any suggestions?

          2. @ Livin’ in the Woods


            Yeah, get rid of the tablets, go to Wally World and get theirs for 49.95 (each) a month with unlimited Voice, Data, Text….

            Ya might also check out AT&T


            PS; NOT a sales person or a fan of WW but sometime ya gata go with the cheapest.

          3. You may want to check with Verizon, they’ve done a lot of changing to their plans in the last year or so.

            I have 3 devices (phone, homeconnect, Mifi) and just recently upgraded to 24 Gb data, with rollover data, for $160.

          4. I’m with TWC. Bundle of tv-350 channels including music channels,
            internet, supposed to be fast but not, & phone Unlimited for $136.75
            went up from $109.00 including taxes.
            thought about switching to ATT cause you get DVR with bundle.
            people have told me I can watch certain tv shows on the net, but
            I can’t find them.
            thanks for this article.
            very very informative

    3. Going through my Mom’s stuff I found a magazine article from the early sixties that showed a plane being flown by remote control…And people think we’ve advanced so much!

    4. Back in the early 90’s I was working as a travel nurse doing 3 months contracts. One night one of the nurses I was working with asked me If I had watched a program earlier in the week. I replied “No I don’t have a TV”. (Since I moved every 3 months I traveled light). I looked at her and said “I used to have a TV but I got rid of it as I kept getting messages from it.” Her eyes got big! (Schizophrenics frequently get messages from the TV or radio) I said it kept telling me to buy this and buy that, I got tired of the damn thing and started reading again. Alas I’m now hooked to a cable again and my wife’s home decorating shows keep giving her honey-do messages!

  4. While I’m still hooked up on satellite TV (wife insists don’t you know), my son who lives in a cabin next to our remote home gets great broadcast TV reception. We live over 100 miles from any of the broadcast towers, but at the highest elevation, line of sight, from numerous distant transmitters. His reception is crystal clear using a fairly cheap “as seen on TV” butterfly antenna bought at Wally World.

    As a side note, after the change over to digital, all the old TV stations started transmitting numerous sub-channels, so instead of the old 5 channels in our state, we now have over 40.

  5. If you know how to use the Internet, you can get any movie, and any TV show, mankind has ever made, in any language, in any definition. In fact, you can see entire seasons of any show, which has ever been broadcast, from the beginning of TV. You can also obtain shows YET to be broadcast, and movies, yet to be released, in the United States. Free. Same goes for just about any music ever recorded. I get everything for nothing, and I use an antenna to obtain 58 different channels on my TV, both in standard and HD. It is all there.

    So, if you want to watch a TV series from first broadcast in 1962, and see every episode of it, at your convenience, you can. You can even copy all of the above to DVD and keep it forever.

    However, you still need to be able to get onto the Internet.

  6. I am fortunate, I get over 50 channels from Sac. to S.F. I had to place my antenna about 150 feet from the house using a booster and a 40Ft. poll to get over the hill. My line of sight is great from there. It was well worth the investment. Although some of the channels don’t speak English.

    1. I live up the hill from you Left Coast. hope you are out of the way of the flooding that is coming to the valley this weekend. damn we need the rain but not all in one week LOL

  7. We have satellite service and also antenna TV. It seems like when the weather gets bad, we lose the satellite signal, but not the antenna.

    One of the things I like about the antenna TV, is that you can watch a lot of the old TV shows that we grew up watching. Sometimes it makes you think that life was better in black and white. Although watching Ginger and Mary Ann from Gilligan’s Island in color ain’t too bad either!!LOL ??

  8. A couple of years ago we cut the TV out of our lives. Never liked commercials and loving to read made it easy. Now the difference between cutting off the world and cutting off TV is night and day. I do save some money but I pay for high speed internet so it’s a wash. I want to get all my information from the web and not a talking head on TV. I get better intel this way. I also get better entertainment. I get any movie and any show off the internet at my convenience and not the networks.

    This has been a way of life with us and when I sit at a bar with TV’s, I watch the mindless garbage that causes the dumming down of America and just want to put a ice pick in my eye. I acquired a long range TV antennae for TV reception in the beginning of cutting the cable but changed my mind about installing it. Just more talking heads and commercials (just local). Anyone want it?

  9. Like many others, any TV I watch is streamed over the net. Out of curiosity, I did put in my zip code, 0 channels from 0 stations. So many of us seem to live in rural areas. That’s a good thing.

  10. I cut the cable and land line just before Christmas. I like things off of animal planet, TLC, Discovery etc and can watch most all of it on you tube. Doing a free trial of Netflix and am going ho hum. I’ll give Hulu a trial next month.

  11. Unfortunately I live down in the holler but my brother’s house is up on top of the hill so I occasionally go up there to watch a few shows. I use the TV guide app on my phone to find when the shows worth watching are on in my area on OTA (over the air) TV. You can view a listing of all the channels or do as I do and select a few favorite channels so you don’t have to scroll all day. Closer to the city they have more channels available but even out where we are we still pick up about 50, of which I only like about 10.

  12. Try Kodi TV. Just hook up a PC to your TV and get all the same old crap you can stomach for free.

  13. Gave up cable a few years ago. When the cable guy came around to disconnect he seemed quite taken aback that we really didn’t want their bundled crap anymore. The company tried to keep us on by offering more channels for the same price, kind of like offering to put in bigger pipes when told you are tired of so much sewage being pumped into your life. Now when I tell most people we don’t watch T.V. they look at me like I’m the crazy one! A few remarked how liberating it must be, which is true. I find that now I go nuts if I’m subjected to more than a few minutes of mainstream garbage in the dentist’s waiting room. With the internet I can select or ignore anything without having to watch repetitious advertisements either.

  14. Haven’t had satellite since the divorce a few years go…don’t miss it a bit. Put up a local antenna last month to see what I could get here in Las Vegas. Looks like about 35 channels…and I still don’t watch it much. Of course, a lot are infomercial and Spanish channels. Agree with many of you here about getting out and living life! Now if I could only find a willing lady to join me… :-)

  15. How come no ones mentioned Pirate’s Bay on this thread?
    Yes I am a pirate but only when Hulu, Netflix, Amazon and Red Box does not have what I’m looking for. Nine times out of ten I have to get my movie free from them but I always try to purchase/rent it first.

      1. Pirates’s Bay is a file sharing site (free) where people upload movies, music, pics and porn. (Not for the easily offended person or children). They have a lot of porn advertising to keep the sites going. You just need a torrent to download.(also free). You have to watch where you step because you can get a lot of spam or even viruses so it’s good to have someone show you around first. But it is free and you can get movies still at the box office. I wait until I see them at Red Box and I know I can get them at PB.

        It is getting more complicated watching downloaded media because your internet provider is watching everything you do. So a lot of these files report to your provider that you watched a un-purchased copyrighted movie. Then they send you a email telling you your a bad boy. I am now using a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A must to keep big brother or any entity from observing your usage.

  16. To me:

    I work in psych at present time. I talk to inanimate objects in my off time. So far, none of my appliances are talking back to me. In Organic Chemistry class, this was considered a danger sign and you needed to open a window to vent the room. At my age, it may be a sign that dementia is creeping in.

    My wife also likes to watch HGTV and in particular she always watches the Property Brothers so I have begun referring to HGTV as : “Home Improvement Porn”.

    1. I have to admit that I keep the TV on property brothers when my wife goes shopping. White noise kind of thing in the background. I get a lot more done than if it is on Vikings.

      1. Meant to add, I joined the army for the rape, pillage and plunder! Dang, didn’t get to do any of that stuff. Should have been born a Viking.

        On the more serious note my stepdaughter is making noises about moving back to LA. It would be nice to have our house back but I would sort of miss the grand kids, not the bickering though. But my concern is that if the Golden Horde ever goes on the march the most successful of the group would be the gangs. The rape, pillage and plunder would commence. Arm yourselves accordingly.

  17. I haven’t watched regular television for years. There are free streaming sites on the internet for movies and tv shows that you dont’t want to miss. No commercials or anything, just make sure you have good popup blockers and anti malware software which is also free to those who know where to go. If not google it. It’s not illegal to stream these things, it is illegal for those supplying the content but not the watchers. This is also the reason why the sites drop and change their IP addresses. Cops raid their server farm so they move to a new location.

  18. Anyone know of the “best” antenna? We have been using a remote turnable antenna for 2 years… The digital change was horrible as the screen and audio goes black when the trees move around here. Snow on the old rabbit ears was fine because at least you could still hear the weather guy getting it wrong. We started with a home built digital antenna off you tube, then upgraded to our current one. But reception is spotty in storms, and I just want a solid system that works. Any help appreciated.

    It takes a month to get off the cable, but in the end it is worth it. If nothing else make it up in bandwidth for your internet.

  19. I put in a zip code in my area and one 20 miles closer to the transmitter than mine and both came up with zero channels although I am receiving 50 channels over the air with an outdoor antenna 20 feet above the ground. My guess is the site does not take multiple factors into account when calculating wave propagation so if you are within 100 miles of a transmitter it might get it wrong. There are many things that effect a transmission besides line of sight. Signal in the VHF & UHF range will bend some under certain sets of conditions. Sometimes it worth just trying.

    1. @rick, I agree. I have encountered situations where I was quite surprised to receive a signal (via my 5th-wheel while on the road ‘camping’). There is a certain amount of ‘bend’, depending on frequency and conditions – and other mysterious factors at work ;)

  20. Haven’t had “TV” since 2011. Even before that, I never watched it much. I am one that HATES commercials. – the “you need this” and “you are sick, so take that” & Ambulance chaser commercials and the like… nah… I’ll stick to the web. I watch a lot of “how to’s” on youtube… commercial free…. (I dont get the ads)
    I think if I had an antenna – I would get one channel. PBS. Nothing wrong with that, but, as my friend says “You can only ‘create’ so much.”
    I’d rather get outside and “Create” than sit in the house and watch someone else create.
    Besides, I have tomatoes to grow, and a garden to plan. Bees that need slight tending to, my workshop to keep me busy all along side a full time low paying job that keeps the internet flowing.

    I think TV is a big waste of time unless you are laid up or something.

    Most of my life I worked 2nd (or swing for some people) shift.
    “Prime time” tv hours.
    Countless people would mention shows from the prime time hours… I would just look at them… “I worked that night” I’d say.

    I had no idea what an Urkle was until I saw him on a magazine cover at the store on the rack. LOL!!!

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