How to Get TV Reception Without Cable or an Antenna

Simple alternatives to get free or low-cost TV

What to Know

  • You can watch cable content through a live TV streaming service like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, or Sling TV. No cable subscription required.
  • To watch on a TV, instead of a computer or smartphone, you need a Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, or a smart TV.
  • The only other requirement is a high-speed internet connection.

This article covers the options you have for watching cable content with a cable subscription or a TV antenna.

Sign Up For a Live TV Streaming Service

If you want the experience of a cable subscription without having to pay the high prices cable companies charge, then an online live TV subscription could be your perfect solution. You can use each of these on a computer or smartphone; if you want to use your TV, head down to the next section.

YOUTUBE TV

YouTube TV is one of the best subscriptions you can purchase to get the same live TV experience you get with cable. Watch all of the live TV stations you love to watch but don't want to pay so much for, including ABC, CBS, NBC, Discovery, Disney, FX, HGTV, and much more. It includes a useful "cloud DVR" service that lets you record and store any show you miss for up to 9 months.

The subscription is almost half the cost of cable, but you can access it from anywhere. Stream YouTube TV on your computer, your mobile device, or from any streaming device that includes YouTube TV access. One subscription includes accounts for up to 6 people in your household.

HULU + LIVE TV

Hulu + Live TV is slightly less expensive than YouTube TV. It includes many of the same live TV networks but lacks a few like PBS, Comedy Central, and MTV.

Hulu TV lets each member of the family personalize their profile with their favorite TV stations and 50 hours of storage for TV shows you want to record. In addition, you also get access to exclusive content frequently created by the folks at Hulu.

SLING TV

Sling TV is the least expensive internet-based cable TV service. At about half the cost of YouTube TV and Hulu, you still get access to the most popular channels. These include the History Channel, A&E, CN, Comedy Central, AMC, HGTV, and many more.

Don't think cheaper means too limited. You'll get access to live news, live sports, and plenty of content you'd expect from a basic cable TV subscription, at a fraction of the cost. If you want to get TV reception without cable, it's the most affordable option to try first.

Get a Streaming Device

To watch cable programming on your TV, you need an online streaming device. Most of these devices give you access to free TV shows and movies.

All TV streaming devices that offer access to premium TV channels require an additional subscription to those channels. Some even include a cable subscription, so make sure to do your homework on the device you decide to buy to determine what extra subscription fees are required.

ROKU

The Roku streaming media device is one of the most affordable media players on the market. Just plug the streaming device into the HDMI port on your TV or monitor and you can choose from hundreds of channels with content.

TV shows and movies you can stream include Disney +, Apple TV, Disney+, HBO, Showtime, live news, sports, and much more. You can also use the device to access all of your online streaming subscriptions like Amazon Prime, Hulu, or Netflix.

AMAZON FIRE TV STICK

The Amazon Fire TV Stick is one of the most popular streaming devices. It's only slightly more expensive than the Roku, but it also includes Alexa voice remote control built-in. The stick includes an HDMI plug that goes directly into your TV's HDMI port.

AMAZON FIRE TV

Amazon Fire TV gives you access to popular TV networks like AMC, ABC, CBS, Showtime, HBO, and even Comedy Central. Some stations like Fox Now and A&E are free. Also access free channels like A&E, Pluto TV, CBS Sports, CBS News, Fox News, and more. You can also stream your services like Netflix, YouTube, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video.

Of all listed devices, Amazon Fire TV stick offers the best voice control experience thanks to its integration with the Amazon Alexa service.

GOOGLE CHROMECAST

The Google Chromecast is a unique streaming device because the streaming services aren't embedded on the device. Instead, you access those services using your computer or mobile device, and then use the cast icon to cast that content to your Chromecast.

This may seem like a limitation, but dozens of services are Chromecast enabled. These include Netflix, Hulu, Disney +, Sling TV, and Google Play. Owning a Chromecast device also lets you display your Chrome browser tab on your TV screen. Watch TV broadcasts on your Chromecast by casting from DirectTV Now, Playstation Vue, or YouTube TV.

APPLE TV

Apple TV is the most expensive TV streaming device on the list. However, it's also the most flexible. Combine Apple TV with an Apple TV + subscription and access exclusive movies and shows produced by Apple TV. With the service, you can also subscribe to premium TV channels like Showtime, Starz, or CBS All Access.

Unlike a cable subscription, with Apple TV you can customize the specific TV channels you want to subscribe to and watch them all via the internet without cable or an antenna required.

Consider Upgrading to a Smart TV

If you're looking to buy a new TV, you may want to consider a Smart TV. These are TVs that come with embedded software and the ability to connect to your home's Wi-Fi network. They let you access most, if not all, of the same streaming services and channels that all of the streaming devices listed above do.