The Key to Watching Popular TV Series for Free

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What do 18 of the 20 most-watched TV series have in common?

They don’t require a subscription to cable or satellite TV — or even to an internet-based streaming service like Hulu, Netflix or Sling TV.

That’s right: You can enjoy 18 of the 20 most popular TV series for free. All you need is a good ole’ TV antenna.

That’s because these 18 shows air on broadcast TV stations. As we explain in “How to Choose the Right Cord-Cutting TV Service“:

You can watch HDTV with an antenna. The picture from on-air TV stations is perfectly clear, thanks to the switch to digital TV completed in 2009. You’ll either see a crisp, beautiful image or no image at all. (Static is a thing of the past.)

Still sound too good to be true? Take a look at the list yourself.

According to a recent analysis by TV and film news site IndieWire, the 20 most popular series of the 2015-2016 TV season were:

  • “NFL Sunday Night Football” — NBC
  • “The Big Bang Theory” — CBS
  • “NCIS” — CBS
  • “The Walking Dead” — AMC
  • “NFL Thursday Night Football” — CBS/NFL Network
  • “Empire” — Fox
  • “NCIS: New Orleans” — CBS
  • “Blue Bloods” — CBS
  • “Dancing With the Stars” — ABC
  • “The X-Files” — Fox
  • “The Voice” (Monday) — NBC
  • “Scorpion” — CBS
  • “The Voice” (Tuesday) — NBC
  • “Little Big Shots” — NBC
  • “NFL Monday Night Football” — ESPN
  • “Criminal Minds” — CBS
  • “Madam Secretary” — CBS
  • “60 Minutes” — CBS
  • “Modern Family” — ABC (tie)
  • “NCIS: Los Angeles” — CBS (tie)

Using Nielsen data, IndieWire compiled this list based on total viewers for broadcast TV series and cable TV series over a seven-day period.

The only two cable series to make the top 20 were “The Walking Dead” on AMC and “NFL Monday Night Football” on ESPN.

To learn more about how to access broadcast TV stations without a TV or streaming subscription, visit the Federal Communications Commission’s “Antennas and Digital Television” page.

How do you watch broadcast TV? Let us know below or over on our Facebook page.

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