How to Stream Live TV Online for Free!

Looking for a list of sites where you can stream TV shows and movies online for free? Then you've come to the right place!

Before I get started, let me say I know all about Netflix. πŸ˜€ But that costs money! One thing I've noticed is that many “freebie & frugal” sites all push paid options for cutting the cord and ditching cable. Sure, some are great. I split a YouTube TV account with my friends and we love it.

But shouldn't there be … you know, free methods as well? Why do all the other sites push paid-services with their affiliate links? Isn't the point of ditching a monthly cable subscription to actually save money?

Thus, I've compiled all the best ways I've found to watch live, local TV for absolutely free with no subscriptions whatsoever. I've also included a few options with extensive libraries of free TV shows and movies to watch on-demand.

Free Live OTA TV Channels

Mohu Leaf Indoor HDTV TV Antenna with 40 Mile Range

  • ABSOLUTELY FREE HD TV FOR LIFE: 40 mile range HDTV Digital Antenna to access High Definition, Over-the-Air TV channels without a cable or satellite subscription.
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  • Multi-directional and reversible digital antenna, paintable to match any decor no pointing needed.
  • 10 ft. long coaxial cable included.

OTA Antenna for Free TV

First up, an over-the-air antenna! There's are one-time investments that provide free TV for years to follow.

I'm personally a massive fan of the Mohu Leaf antenna. I have two in my own apartment! They're incredible useful, especially if you already have a TV. After less than 60 seconds setting it up, I was able to get around 50 over-the-air (OTA) channels such as CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, The CW, PBS, Univision, ION, and many more.

To see what local OTA stations you'll pick up, head to Antenna Web and plug in your address.

However, what if you live in a very rural or mountainous area with spotty coverage? Or how about if your TV breaks?

For starters, there's always SlingTV (which is 40% off your first month right now) and YouTubeTV. Both are paid services that let you stream dozens of live over-the-air (OTA) and cable stations at a lower cost than most cable plans. YouTube even lets you share your account with 2 other people, which means you could split the monthly cost 3 ways!

But what if you don't want to pay anything at all? Fear not, for I've got you covered!

Free TV & Movie Streaming Sites

This next group of sites offer a variety of streaming content that mimic traditional channels. You might recognize some channels, while others are a collections of streaming shows.

Together, they provide “channels” that replicate tradition TV through scheduled blocks of programming. However, compared to traditional TV, you typically won't find a 100% full or set weekly schedule. Instead, most channels have a shorter rotation of shows for a few hours, in addition to on-demand content.

There's a mix of classic TV shows and programming from national news outlets, along with a ton of custom, streaming content. By and large, the live channels you get are different from what you'll receive with an OTA antenna, so I suggest a combination of both if you're trying to replace as much content as possible from cable.

For live stations, the majority are news, both local and national, along with sports.

Also, all of these work perfect with a Chromecast. Simply plug this device into your TV and you'll be able to seamlessly stream any of the free TV below directly to your home TV with a simple HDMI cord.

Or, instead, you can simply load any of these on your computer, laptop, tablet, or phone and start watching TV immediately.

PLEX

With thousands of movies and TV shows for free, PLEX is one of the first sites you should sign up with. They have partnership agreements with big studios like Lionsgate, MGM, and Warner Bros. They also have gone after international licensing agreements, so they have some great foreign movies and shows to stream!

Once you click “Movies & Shows” in the sidebar, then see a ton of crazy specific categories of free streaming options. My top choice was “Cage Rage vs Willisworld” and they were all Nicholas Cage or Bruce Willace movies πŸ˜€ If you want more traditional categories, you can easily select them from the top nav bar.

What sets PLEX apart from many others on this list is that PLEX lets you watch live tv online with free streaming. All you have to do is login, then select “Live TV” from the sidebar. You'll then see a traditional TV lineup layout with hundreds of free channels. It's not hard to find a cable channel staion equivilant to stream online with PLEX!

Kanopy

Kanopy was a service I initially missed, but thankfully multiple Hiffers pointed out my massive oversight. If you have an active membership with your local library or a university login, then you can use it to stream thousands of movies to your TV, phone, tablet, or computer. You can use this link to check if your library participates or use this link to check your university.

Given that library membership is free across the country, I'd say Kanopy is one of the best options when looking to stream free entertainment.

Pluto TV

Pluto TV is an interesting mashup of channels. Owned by Viacom, Pluto is essentially a free, ad-supported VOD (video on demand) service with occasional, outside licensing for their more than 250+ channels.

There are a chunk of stations that are dedicated to specific shows (how about the Adams Family station?), but the majority of stations are more classic versions, like CNN or Comedy Central. Since Viacom owns them, you'll get a lot of Viacom channels. Other streaming options include shows from AMC, Discovery Channel, and WE tv.

They also have an eclectic collection of older movies on demand, like all of the classic James Bond films, along with a few award winners and some other random titles. All told, they claim to have “1000s of movies.” They have tons of newer movies to stream for free as well, like 2016's Arrival.

Crackle

Crackle is a joint venture partially backed by Sony Pictures that consists of both original television shows as well as older favorites, such as Roseanne, Charlie's Angels, 3rd Rock From the Sun, and The Facts of Life.

They also boast a large collection of movies and original docu-series.

One really nice perk with Crackle is you don't have to create or login to an account in order to start watching free tv online!

IMDb TV

They're still fleshing out their streaming database, but IMDb TV already has a few great shows, like Fringe, LOST, Schitt$ Creek, and Psych. They have a lot of movies from the past 5-10 years as well, like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Ender's Game. Every time I checked their site, they had new offerings to stream, so they're clearly adding to this free list of entertainment.

If you're familiar with surfing for stuff to watch on Netflix, then you might enjoy how IMDB tv is categorized. They copy Netflix by having traditional categories, like Comedies and Action. But they also have drilled down, niche categories. When I log in, I'm shown “Hidden Gems,” “Date Night Picks,” and “Move for the Whole Family”. It should make picking out what to watch next much easier!

You can easily browse their content to see what's streaming, but you'll need to make a free acount to watch it.

Netflix

Yup, you read that correctly – Netflix now allows limited streaming for free! It's a great first stop when you're trying to find something to watch on a budget. They mainly offer movies and shows they've created, but their rotation seems to change every few months.

PopcornFlix

If old-school cartoons are more your style, then definitely check out PopcornFlix. Their Family and Kids TV lets your stream older cartoons that even I haven't heard of. I honestly can't tell if these were after or before my time as an 80s kid πŸ˜€

Redbox

Yep, Redbox isn't just for movies outside of Walgreens at 9pm. They've got free TV streaming online as well!

Their offering is a bit sparse since they're much newer to TV streaming. However, you can immediately start channel hopping without logging in. This makes it nice to pop in and quickly find something to watch for a short break.

They seem to have a few cool personaliy channels, like the Bob Ross channel and the Johnny Carson channel.

Reelgood

Reelgood is a cool streaming service that's designed to track over 60 popular streaming services. You can login to all your premium services, like Netflix and Hulu, in order to have a central site to track available shows and movies.

However, you don't need to pay anything! Simply signup with Reelgood, then filter only free streaming options. It'll then sort free content that you can stream.

STIRR

STIRR is owned by Sinclair, which is already one giant strike against them (*NSFW WARNING!*) in my book.

STIRR's free streaming TV system is the same as Pluto's. So if you're familiar with one, the other will be just like home!

The one solid point in STIRR's favor is you can watch local stations without being located in the actual area. Just click on “City Select” and you can choose from hundreds of local areas around the country. This is a cool option to keep watching local news and TV while you're traveling elsewhere.

The Roku Channel

The Roku Channel works on any Roku device or computer and, like Vudu, it's all on-demand based on the show. There aren't any channels, per say.

On top of their regular lineip, every weekend they unlock a select group of paid movies and make them free to stream.

Tubi

Tubi is a Fox Entertainment endeavor, so they have a ton of Fox movies. They also have a dedicated Tubi Kids section filled with child-friendly free streaming options.

It took me a while to find Tubi's full streaming database, but my biggest tip is to hover your mouse over “Browse” in the header. This will cast the widest net possible and let you zero in on what to watch!

XUMO

XUMO was started in 2011 in part by the parent company of Myspace, so we're already off to a roaring start here.

It currently offers 160+ channels covering news, comedy, kids, sports, and much more.

They also have a collection of on demand streaming options.

Vudu

I've previously written about Vudu and how you can watch free TV shows and movies in exchange for viewing a few ads.

There's no live TV though, it's all on-demand shows and movies.

How to Watch Live TV Online Free

Free Streaming Live TV

So what about simple, local TV online, streaming online without paying a penny?

Watch Your Local TV Channels with Locast

After all the major networks sued Aereo into bankruptcy, the best option for streaming live, local television is Locast. But don't worry – The Big Four is suing Locast too! πŸ™„

Locast is designed to stream your local TV channels. That means NY folks get their own channels and shows stations while San Francisco users gets only bay area stations. How is this legal?

Locast is a not-for-profit service offering users access to broadcast television stations over the internet. We stream the signal over the Internet to select US cities. We are trying to help broadcasters reach people just like you over the internet.

Currently, Locast is only in 17 28 cities. However, that's 36% 53% of the US market and reaches over 174 million homes! They're also expanding rapidly, so I'd keep looking if your home market isn't listed.

When I started writing this post last August, Locast was only in 13 cities and reaching 33 million homes, so they're expanding fairly rapidly.

Stream Basic Live TV Channels with Puffer

Next, there's Puffer. This is a free test program run by Stanford University. It seems like they're testing a new encoding or streaming software, but what it means for you and me is we get free TV!

Puffer provides free streams for the most basic channels: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, PBS, and Univision. Sound too good to be true? It's not!

Stream live TV in your browser. There's no charge. You can watch U.S. TV stations affiliated with the NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, FOX, and Univision networks.

Puffer works well in the Chrome, Firefox, and Edge browsers, on a computer or an Android phone or tablet. Puffer does not work on iPhones or iPads or in the Safari browser.

Puffer is a research project in the computer-science department at Stanford University. Please see our FAQ for more information.

I personally like the very clean, simplistic layout. The channels also change faster than any other streaming service I've ever used. I think that's part of the new software Stanford is testing!

Puffer Stream TV Free

One thing to note is that the service is currently capped at 500 users at a time. However, this is a freebie I've yet to see advertised on any other freebie or cord cutting site, so I'm almost certain it'll be 500 Hiffers using this πŸ™‚

The channels are also California channels, since this is broadcast from Stanford.

LocalBTV in Select Regions

LocalBTV is another option if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, San Diego, Philadelphia or Phoenix areas.

As I find more totally free options, I'll keep adding to this list! I'd also love to hear from Hiffers in the comments – have you cut cable recently? How do you best watch TV now? Any sites I overlooked?

Watch Live Cable TV Online

If you're looking for to to watch live cable tv online for free, then I've got some great news: It's easy and possible.

But real quick, you're going to be using some … sketchy sites, to put it nicely. You're going to want to have two key items to protect yourself:

  1. Safe Browser, like Brave or Firefox.
  2. A VPN to protect your privacy, such as

Please do not skip these important items! This is how you stay safe while also getting free streaming options, okay? Good!

Now, onto the free cable tv online. Start by launching your VPN and setting your location to someplace outside of the US, like Canada. Next, search for this: site:reddit.com free tv streaming sites to find a list of Reddit threads of people sharing sites they've found streaming live cable tv stations.

One site I found this way and have been using for the past few months is watchnewslive DOT tv. In just a few seconds I was streaming ESPN! They currently offer streaming 48 cable channels, all the way from A&E to USA Network. It's literally the normal lineup you'd get from turning on your cable TV.

If you're having trouble with the Reddit method, then another way to find these sites is by Googling the specific channels, like watch live AMC online and look not just on the first page of results, but also the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. A lot of times these free streaming tv sites are “hidden” by Google on pages that most people neglect to look!

I'll let you handle the ethical dilemma yourself. I'm just here to show you how millions others are watching free tv online πŸ™‚