Free and Cheap TV: So Many Options to Choose From

Photo (cc) by MattHurst

Want “Charles in Charge” of your days and your nights but don’t want to spring for cable? Don’t want to feel left out during the water-cooler discussion of the last castoff from “The Voice” while at the same time avoiding a hefty satellite bill?

Many options are out there for you to see your favorite shows from the past and present for free or a small fee. New ones seem to be popping up each day as well.

Netflix and Hulu are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cheap television viewing on your television, iPad or computer. Here are the possibilities:

Network websites (free)

All major networks offer full episodes of many shows. If your laptop screen isn’t cutting it, you can always connect your computer directly to your TV.

Among its many selections, NBC has your “Charles in Charge” fix, boasting 21 episodes of the Scott Baio classic. Other nostalgic treats available include 94 “A-Team” adventures. See CBS for the latest developments for hits such as “How I Met Your Mother” and “Big Bang Theory.”

  • Drawback: The sites don’t offer every show aired and are ad-supported, but the interruptions are generally minimal.

HDTV over the air (free)

Gone are the days of foil-adorned rabbit ears. If you bought an HDTV in about the last decade, the set should have a built-in tuner for receiving digital over-the-air broadcasts.

Most major networks along with an array of public television stations are available with a small antenna, which you can purchase for anywhere between $13 and $100 depending on the features you want.

Although the widest selection of digital TV broadcasts is found in big cities, more than 99 percent of U.S. TV households have access to at least one local digital station; 89 percent can get five or more stations, according to Crutchfield.

This option offers local programming that isn’t always available via satellite TV, with awesome HD picture quality.

  • Drawback: This option does not include cable-only channels.

Crackle (free)

This Sony-owned site has syndicated classics like “Seinfeld” and “Married with Children” and newer content such as “Rescue Me.” In addition, it offers original series — “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” for example.

Crackle also exhibits one of the snazzier layouts.

  • Drawback: Once again, the content is limited and scattered with commercials.

TVPC (free)

“TVPC is hands down my favorite of the bunch. It has just about every TV channel you can think of, both from here and abroad. Want to watch Danish news? Check. Puerto Rican telenovelas? Check,” says ZeroPaid.

Add to that list German sports and a Jamaican music channel, alongside Cartoon Network, HBO and History Channel shows.

  • Drawback: This site streams live television, so you have to time your watching accordingly. It’s also another site that is saturated with advertisements.

WiziWig (free)

If live sporting events are more your bag, this is the site for you. NFL games are available as well as tennis, NASCAR, soccer and horse racing.

  • Drawback: Like the other live programming, you have to catch it while it’s streaming.

HitBliss (free)

With this site, you can purchase shows with credit earned by watching commercials. For two minutes of subjecting yourself to ads, you can earn about enough to pay for an episode.

Once you view your commercials, you can continue “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” or catch up on the newest psychosis on “Bates Motel.”

  • Drawback: It might be because it’s new, but it offers very few television shows.

Hulu (free)

How much do we really need to say about Hulu? It offers programming like “The Voice” and “Family Guy.”

  • Drawback: Only available on the computer and you must sit through ads, but at least it’ll give you a choice of one of two ads to view.

This brings us to the pay options:

Hulu Plus ($7.99 per month)

If you’re a fan of the free Hulu site but want more shows, such as anything starring Gordon Ramsay, this may be for you.

Hulu Plus offers the latest episodes alongside impressive catalogs of previous seasons.

With payment, your viewing options expand to connected televisions and Blu-ray players, gaming consoles and mobile phones.

New episodes are available soon after airing.

  • Drawback: Like regular Hulu, it still contains ads.

Netflix ($7.99 per month)

New “Arrested Development” episodes. Need I say more?

With a subscription, you can watch ad-free shows through your computer, TV, gaming consoles or phone. A quick download of the free iPad app will add your tablet to the list.

While the list of available movies and television shows in the instant streaming library isn’t as deep as the DVD selection, it’s growing, says PCMag.

  • Drawback: Netflix does not carry episode-by-episode releases of television shows. It typically releases an entire season of something at once, often following the competition.

Amazon Prime ($79 per year)

This gives you access to Amazon’s full catalog for viewing on tablets and via gaming consoles, among other options. Programs include “Downton Abbey” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

After subscribing, you also get free shipping from Amazon.

  • Drawback: While the episodes are ever expanding, the offerings have been called limited.

Aereo ($8 a month)

Live television via an antenna that can fit on the tip of your finger — that’s the promise of this new technology. The live and recorded shows are then ready for viewing on any compatible TV, computer or mobile device. Currently only available in New York and Boston, this option is set to expand in the East and South.

Disclosure: The information you read here is always objective. However, we sometimes receive compensation when you click links within our stories.

Read Next
5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement
5 Simple Steps to an Awesome Retirement

The path to your dream retirement begins with these five steps. How many have you already taken?

How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month
How Baby Boomers Are Earning an Extra $573 a Month

In the gig economy, baby boomers are out-hustling their younger competition. You can cash in, too.

7 Things That Prove Cheaper Isn’t Always Better
7 Things That Prove Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

These purchases can end up costing you more if you try to go the cheap route.

7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze
7 Kitchen Gadgets That Make Healthy Cooking a Breeze

These small appliances and cooking aids make healthy eating easy — and they’re all available on Amazon.

10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself
10 Food Staples That Are Easy and Cheap to Make Yourself

Making any of these key foods yourself will improve meals — and your budget.

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Most Popular
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy
10 Things Frugal People Never Buy

If you’re a true tightwad, the mere thought of spending money on these items gives you the willies.

10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making
10 Useless Purchases You Need to Stop Making

You might as well flush your money down the loo if you spend it on these things.

7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now
7 Social Security Rules Everyone Should Know by Now

Confusion over Social Security is a shame, considering how many of us will need this money badly.

9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco
9 Shopping Mistakes to Avoid at Costco

Are you missing out on serious savings at your favorite warehouse club?

Why Your Next Stimulus Check Might Be Bigger Than You Expect
Why Your Next Stimulus Check Might Be Bigger Than You Expect

Your third coronavirus payment will be the biggest yet — and possibly even bigger than you realize.

If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It
If You Find This Thrift Shopping, Buy It

They don’t make coffee makers like this anymore.

13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now
13 Amazon Purchases We Are Loving Right Now

These practical products make everyday life a little easier.

3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free
3 Ways to Get Microsoft Office for Free

With a little ingenuity, you can cut Office costs to zero.

14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021
14 Things You Should Stop Buying in 2021

These convenient household products come with hidden costs that you might not have considered.

Is Writing a Check Still Safe?
Is Writing a Check Still Safe?

Every time you pay by check, you hand your bank account numbers to a stranger.

6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers
6 Ways to Protect Your Retirement Accounts From Hackers

Imagine having $245,000 stolen from your retirement account — and not being reimbursed.

8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today
8 Things You Should Replace to Improve Your Life Today

Being frugal isn’t smart if you put off replacing these items.

This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.
This Is the Most Dependable Car Brand in the U.S.

This brand’s vehicles are least likely to give drivers repair headaches, according to J.D. Power.

7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking
7 Social Security Benefits You May Be Overlooking

There’s more to Social Security than retirement benefits.

The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners
The 6 Best Investing Apps for Beginners

If you’re looking to ease into investing in the coronavirus economy with just a little money, check out these easy-to-use tools.

7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know
7 Hidden Sections of Amazon Every Shopper Should Know

These little-known departments of Amazon are gold mines for deal-seekers and impulse shoppers alike.

7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook
7 Income Tax Breaks That Retirees Often Overlook

Did you realize all these tax credits and deductions exist — or that they apply to retirees?

7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco
7 Kirkland Signature Items to Avoid at Costco

Even if it seems you save a bundle buying Costco’s Kirkland Signature brand products, they may not be the bargain they appear to be.

The 10 Worst States for Retirees in 2021
The 10 Worst States for Retirees in 2021

Based on factors like affordability, quality of life and health care, these are not ideal places to spend retirement.

View More Articles

View this page without ads

Help us produce more money-saving articles and videos by subscribing to a membership.

Get Started

Add a Comment

Our Policy: We welcome relevant and respectful comments in order to foster healthy and informative discussions. All other comments may be removed. Comments with links are automatically held for moderation.