How I Get Free Cable Television (Without Equipment Or Hacks)

This post may have affiliate links. Please read the Disclosure Policy for complete details.

I’m not a fan of the current state of cable television.

It’s not because I’m some anti-television nut, not at all.

It’s not because I read a money-saving tip telling people to do so.

It’s not because I cut out all spending as a method of building wealth.

It’s actually a much simpler answer:

I don’t care for the programming.

Too many “reality” and competition shows.

Too many shows with the same premise.

And then the remakes–talk about unoriginal!

Most of it’s fake or interchangeable in my mind.

That’s why I cut the cord on cable many years ago.

And I’m not alone!

With cable and satellite television programming costing more than some car payments these days, people are looking for ways to watch their favorite shows without blowing a majority of their discretionary funds.

I can completely understand.

I laugh when I hear what some people pay for something I, for the most part, find absolutely dreadful.

Heck, I hear what my parents say they pay and even then they occasionally complain about “nothing be on”.

But I’m going to let you in on a little secret:

My Recommendation
Hulu streaming tv

Stream Live TV With Hulu

Hulu lets you watch live TV and sports, as well as older series/movies and original content. You can even try 1 month for FREE!

You *MAY* Get Free Cable Television

Couple watching cable television on a high-definition TV with surround sound speakers, cuddling on a white leather couch.
If you enjoy watching cable television you will definitely enjoy not having to pay for it if you can!

Yes, I said it.

It’s completely possible to get free cable television.

I know this because I am able to.

It’s not guaranteed to work in all cases, but this is what worked (and still does) for me.

That’s why I starred AND underlined the word “may” in the heading!

There are no strings attached.

You don’t need to buy one of those black box cable television descramblers or whatever they may be called these days (if those are still a thing–I’m probably dating myself a bit here too).

You don’t need to buy any equipment to connect to your computer.

You don’t need to tap into your neighbor’s cable television service (which is illegal by the way and I would never suggest you do that).

You don’t even have to go to any of those life hacking or cheap living sites to learn how to build your own antenna.

You have all you need right at home already–assuming you have a fairly modern television.

I will warn you that you do need a little free time and some patience, but that’s all.

Sometimes it takes up to an hour to process, but in the end, it could be worth it!

Advertisement Article Continues Below

How *I* Get Free Cable Television

Again, this isn’t a trick.

I’m not using a black box cable television descrambler.

There’s no hacking or illegal tech either.

All I have is my television which had a built-in HD tuner and a cable connected to the wall jack:

Free cable television setup: smart television, Apple TV 4k, and sound bar.
I get cable television using no provider equipment: just my tv plugged into the wall jack.

This is the best part!

I’m using nothing at all.

As you can see above, there isn’t a cable box.

And I swear that I didn’t conveniently remove or photoshop an HD antenna or anything just for this article.

So how did I get this to work?

Oh, you’re going to love this:

It’s so simple it’s disgusting.

I scanned for it!

Yes, that’s all I did to get cable television beyond what my Limited Basic plan calls for.

All I had to do was go to my television’s setup, and tell it to scan for available stations.

When it finished after an hour, it had found all of the standard stations which are included with the Limited Basic cable package my HOA dues cover, plus about 32 or so “digital stations”.

The best part was the tv’s built-in tuner also pulled in the in-between HD versions!

After the scanning was done, all I had to do was go through the channels one at a time and when I came across one that was in standard definition, I simply removed it from my available channels.

Now, I know what you are thinking…this must be some sort of fluke, like when you were a kid and set the tv to channel 2 and the cable box to the porn channel and you could see it semi-clearly.

I’ll be honest, I was skeptical too.

So I went to my parents’ house and conducted a little experiment.

You see, they have a completely different cable television provider than I have, and they have newer tv sets.

The results were the same as mine, except better.

On their television, the digital music stations came in with the sound and picture, where I didn’t get anything.

So that told me all I needed to know–this wasn’t something relegated to only my television or my cable television provider.

You can try it for yourself one evening or weekend when you have a little spare time.

Who knows, maybe you will even have better results.

Advertisement Article Continues Below

The TV Channels I Get

Ok, so we talked about the equipment I use to get my cable television programming.

We talked about the process, too.

Now, let’s talk about the TV channels I get using this little trick.

My Recommendation
Sling TV

Watch Live TV w/Sling

Replace your traditional money-sink cable service with a cheaper streaming option like Sling. You don’t need a contract to save, either!

Local TV Stations

With my Limited Basic cable television subscription I get the normal local tv stations:

  • PBS
  • CBS
  • Univision
  • NBC
  • FOX
  • CW
  • Something Called My33
  • ABC

Using my TV’s scanning feature, I also get the same ones, but the HD versions on the in-between identifiers.

For example, if PBS in SD is channel 2, I get the PBSHD designation on channel 2-2 as well.

The same goes for each of the other local TV stations, all on the “-2” channel numbers.

Cable Channels

Similarly to the local TV stations, my specific plan comes with a few SD cable channels:

  • QVC
  • Mundo Fox
  • Ion
  • WGN Chicago
  • PBS/WXEL
  • PBS/WLRN
  • C-SPAN
  • Beacon
  • City Info
  • Jewelry TV
  • Telemundo
  • Univision
  • Weather Channel
  • Coral Springs TV
  • Mega TV
  • HSN
  • Cozi TV
  • METV
  • Justice Network
  • TeleXitos TV
  • Qubo
  • ION Life
  • Antenna TV
  • ThisTV
  • H&I (Heroes/Icons)
  • Bounce
  • get TV
  • Grit
  • Escape
  • Decades

That’s it, that’s the extent of the cable channels I am supposed to get with my Limited Basic plan.

Just like the local tv stations above, I also get the first column of these cable channels in HD on the “-2” intervals, too!

Plus, living in South Florida, it’s good to get The Weather Channel during hurricane season, even with the local tv stations since it gives wider coverage.

When I used the scanner on the TV, I started getting the following cable channels:

  • FXM (Fox Movie Network)
  • BET
  • USA
  • TBS
  • TNT
  • FX
  • HGTV
  • Comedy Central
  • ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN U
  • And a ton more of the “real” cable channels

I’m pretty sure I get at least 75% of the most popular stations out there.

It’s probably mostly all of the sub-100 numbered stations which are all of the most common ones.

Not Cooking, any of the FoxSports college stations, regionals like MSG or YES, HBO, Starz, etc. mind you.

There are some other obscure Spanish, shopping & local stations too but those are pretty irrelevant to me.

What If You Get No Cable TV

Blonde man wearing powder blue polo shirt getting no cable TV
Not everyone will be able to get free cable television direct from the wall jack. In that case, you should look into HD TV antennas.

The great thing about technology is that we do have so many options available to us besides traditional cable television subscriptions.

One of the things that I hear people doing is using an HD tv antenna.

Sure, it sounds old-school, but there is a big benefit to it:

All over-the-air television signals are uncompressed and therefore are true high-definition signals.

That means even if you can’t get free cable television the way I am able to, you may be able to at least get the next best option.

There are a few caveats, however:

  • The further you are from a tower, the weaker the signal will be and the fewer channels you will receive
  • The makeup of your home will also impede the signal
  • Line-of-sight to a tower is important in terms of trees, mountains, hills, other buildings, and structures
  • Naturally, the weather will also play a part

The FCC even has a DTV Coverage Map showing you which DTV signals you should be able to access and how strong of a signal you should get.

It’s not exact, but can be used as a reasonable guide.

But, if you get lucky and buy an HD tv antenna like one of the ones below, you may be able to keep your entertainment budget lower than if you paid for cable television.

Wrapping Up

I get it, this trick won’t work for everyone or you may want/need more variety than what you can get.

If you prefer something else, there are plenty of streaming options.

Some offer you original content, while others just curate content the way your cable service would.

Which one(s) should you use?

That’s totally up to you and you should always take advantage of free trials to see if you will get the most out of a paid subscription.

My Recommendation
Amazon Prime Video

Amazon Prime Video For Variety

Amazon Prime Video gives you access to hundreds of movies and tv shows as well as live sports and a bunch of Amazon Originals!

Your Turn

Have you tried this simple technique? What have been your results? Let us know and please include your city/state too. Even though this will vary based on televisions and cable television providers, maybe someone from your area can get it to work narrowing the problem down to your TV or provider!

.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

80 Comments

  1. Sweet hack. I hadn’t heard about this. I’m still learning something new about technology every day. I know how you feel about TV. The future will be a la carte channel pricing, but that will be a complex endeavor.

    1. I’m already on 10 days without it and I’m not missing a thing, other than being able to watch movies. I’m trying to go the rest of the month to see what effect it has on my electric bill, since no tv means no stereo or dvd player sucking power either.

    2. Really? You don’t listen to music? I turn on my tv maybe once a week, so I could definitely live without it but I absolutely need to use my stereo set-up for music. So that would still be a receiver, sub, and speakers sucking up power.

    3. I’ve honestly been using itunes on my desktop to listen these past few weeks. I don’t listen to the radio, and all of my CDs were digitally converted to mp3. Plus, the streaming capabilities of my set-up suck so it’s just easier to listen on the desktop

  2. Very interesting, but how do you test it when you are currently paying for cable? Like how do I know which ones showing up are what I’m already paying for?

    1. Just disconnect the cable box from the wall jack and plug it straight to the tv. Then, when you scan through the channels, you’ll see odd ones that come through with decimal points, and those will be the ones that are free extras. The ones from the cable company are standard, using whole numbers.

    2. You know that works because you’re already paying for cable service. Stop paying and plugging the COAX won’t do anything if you scan. And don’t say “YES IT WILL” because it won’t.

    3. Yes, I do pay for cable…but basic meaning a very limit number of stations and only in digital, not HD. Basically I get all of the local stations and the educational ones along with the Weather Channel and some random other religious and foreign language ones.

      What I get is the in-between stations in full high def. And it goes beyond those, I get the other stations I listed but not on the “regular” numbers.

      Thanks for the input though!

    4. “TOTALLY FREE HD TV” is not a proper title. You are *PAYING* for Cable TV… you just are showing what you get with a QAM tuner builtin to your Television when connected to a cable provider without using a cablebox. In your TV’s menu settings, I’m sure its using “cable” (ie. QAM tuner) instead of OTA (ie. antenna/ATSC tuner) to scan and receive those channels.

    5. Appreciate the response Paul.

      Again, I’m not saying that I get cable for free, just that if you have a more modern TV you may be able to pull in stations that aren’t included in the plan you are paying for without having to buy any “black boxes” or additional equipment.

    6. I have a cable card how would I go about doing what you described the card is in my tivo dvr

    7. Hello Dright.

      I would assume that the software you are using would have a tuner/scanner built-in so I would try running that.

    8. I have actually done this. It really DOES work. I can’t believe it. But the FCC actually requires the offering of over the air channels to be made available. I am getting 19 channels in total myself. But am getting CBS, NBC, PBS, ABC, FX, CW, MeTV and a few other oddball stations.

    9. FCC requires it to made available from the cable provider IF you subscribe and pay that cable provider.

    10. I havent paid for cable in 15 years. Neither have my parents on a different carrier and we get these chsnnels as well in upstate new york

    11. When it finished after an hour, it had found all of the standard stations which are included with the basic cable package my HOA dues cover, plus about 32 or so “digital stations”.

    12. Don’t you mean “disconnect the” coaxial cable from the cable box “and plug it straight to the tv”?

      Removing the coax from the wall input would render this whole workaround mute, as the TV is not feeding off the coax “circuit” and thus gets no “antenna” pickup without the coax to house conduction’s natural OTA intake ( of course, I’m assuming the way your free TV trick works is that the TVs built in tuner combined with the “residual reception” a disused coax system gets by turning that and the building its part of into a sort of “passive antenna” allows you to get some degree of said signals without a traditional antenna involved ).

  3. OMG really?!?! I have a Samsung Plasma. Do you think it will work? We have basic cable… I wonder if it will work. I’m getting excited now. It better work, or else I’m coming back to tell everyone it didn’t work. 😛

    1. If your tv has a built-in HD decoder, it should work quite well. Of course, your cable company may be ahead of the curve and cut it off before anyone realized what they could do.

    2. Does this mean I do not need an antennae? I had purchased one at Walmart for anout $10, but really one channel came up. Then my son started to use the Samsung TV keyboard and all kinds of channels came up using the Walmart antenna.

    3. It all depends Marilyn.

      An antenna will receive uncompressed signals which are always of the highest quality—but many times you need to position it near a window or else the interior structure of the home may interfere with the signal.

      Personally, I just plug my TV directly into the cable jack on the wall without an antenna and then go to the settings on the tv and do a complete scan.

      It doesn’t always work all of the time, but if even if you only paid $10 for an antenna, that’s a huge savings as well!

    4. Does anyone realize your carrier is ripping you off if they render this pickup method moot with some kind of signal kill tech? As others have implied, carriers are legally required to render their paying customers the same OTA channels their STBs bring in regardless of HOW those particular stations come to the television ( i.e. if you’re paying for cable, satellite or even newer prototype “wirekess streaming carriers” like Sling, part of your bill is the reception license fee that covers OTA channels and thus “carrier mandated” STBs are basically a semi-illegal scam )

  4. Hmmm. Admittedly, I’m a little skeptical. However, I don’t have an HD tuner so the attempt is pointless anyway.

    1. Yeah, pretty much a moot point, huh? But, at least if you buy a new tv with one built in you can try it!

    2. So how do you this i have anttena but only get 8 channels i live in a apartment on lower level i hsve the anttena in the window but the channels are not coming through like they should any suggestions

    3. Hi Felicia!

      There’s no exact science to it, you just need to use a little trial and error. Various factors can impact your ability to pick up stations including line of sight–so even if the antenna is in a window, there might be trees or poles or even other houses blocking the signal. The distance from the signal tower is also a big factor as is the materials your home is built with (metal is not good for any kind of signals such as over-the-air tv or even cell phone).

      You can try positioning it in a different part of the window or even try not putting it the window but on the opposite side. Playing around with the location of the antenna won’t guarantee better results, but it just might!

  5. We did without pay TV for 38 years – just got it 2 years ago and are supremely disappointed at paying to see sports (which we don’t watch), porn (which we won’t watch) and infomercials (who pays to watch commercials!!).

    Local channel programming sucks too!

    1. It’s definitely not for everyone. I’ve done fine without it since mine died. Granted, it has only been two weeks but it’s not like I was watching much even before it went.

  6. So….we have been back n fourth with cable and antenna. ….only with an antenna pointing the exact position can we ever get ANY channels. If we undo the antenna. …..nothing.
    I don’t understand what you are saying to do exactly. Again no antenna. …nodda. Antenna pointing exactly in the correct spot….the free over the air local channels. That’s all. Can you put your instructions in very layman terms….girly layman easy to follow term s maybe. ..:)
    Thanks!!

    1. Hi Donna!

      Basically all I do is attach my television directly to the wall with an F-type cable. That’s the one with the screw end and the single firm wire sticking out. I don’t use a box of any kind as an intermediary, just tv to wall.

    2. What Eric means is to use the lines provided the cable companies.
      In your case antenna or satellite lines won’t work.

  7. I have been using this method for years. I have internet only through cable line and they had an analog filter in line to fuzz out the basic cable but my tuner was still picking up HD channels. I was getting mad channels for a bit because they implemented the new digital box for TV and removed my analog filter for a couple months. Then when they cut out analog and new system was activated it cut me out almost entirely. I can now get a couple stations but they come and go. Lol, good thing there’s plenty of other options.

  8. I’m in Ballston Lake ny I tried this method and doesn’t work any additional info would be great thanks

    1. Hey there Patrick!

      There really isn’t much additional info, really. This whole process is based on equipment and I’d assume luck as well.

      If your TV is older it might now have the decoding capability. Your cable provider also has a lot do with your success. It’s not guaranteed to work for everyone every time.

      You may want to check out the options I mentioned in the yellow box at the end of the article. Or, you can order an over-the-air HD antenna and try to pick up the uncompressed signals that way (just click on the red link and you’ll get taken to a section of Amazon just for that).

  9. If you plug into the wall you could get OTA (over the air) channels (ATSC encoded the funny channels with decimal points)… usually best reception is with a good digital antenna. Unless your TV comes with a HD CableCard I doubt you’re getting digital HD cable channels… it’s a different encoding and that’s what the cable boxes do for us when paying for HD cable. If you’re getting cable channels, they’re probably SD without a cable box and you are connected to the cable company in their patch box. This can be a simple mistake on their part — or I have also known cable companies to not filter it out if you have internet service from them; it will be basic cable. I would think by now there would be no SD over cable anymore… but maybe they’re still doing doing it because some customers like one or two HD cable boxes… and have 5 TVs in the entire house and don’t mind basic cable on the remaining 3 TVs. Because cable companies are generally horrible… they charge $5 per month per HD receiver rental and I have also seen $5 HD upcharges per month for “HD Programming”. Sadly, I have both internet and “flex” TV (broadband streaming TV) from the cable company… but when they hike up my current rate next year I will probably get rid of TV and maybe downgrade the internet speed. I usually watch movies… so I am an avid Roku user. Sadly I’m still behind on the times and run at 720p… but now with a really good laptop I can put 1080i on the TV… it’s an older TV.

  10. Hi!
    I’m guessing this won’t work for Directv customers, only cable right? Would I get similar results with a digital antenna and the scanning procedure?
    Thanks!

    1. Hey John!

      Since DirecTV uses a satellite signal to feed to the tuner and then to the TV itself, it won’t work.

      However, you can always try plugging your TV directly into your cable jack and run the scan to see if anything comes through. If not, you can try to use an HD antenna but that’s not guaranteed either because of the line of sight issues and signal blockage due to building materials. The good thing is that you can always exchange the antenna and keep trying different options until you either find one that works to your liking or you just give up 🙂

      If you go to the yellow box toward the top of the article, and use the link I have in there it will take you right to a page on Amazon that is all antennas and nothing else–I like to make it easy hahaha.

    2. Thanks Eric, and so fast! I’m still checking out the stuff on your website. I wish I had an Aldi nearby! Thanks so much for the info, and keep it coming dude- you have a cool way about you!
      John

    3. Actually, the trick should still work as long as the wall coaxial(s) meet the dish on the other end. Its not really so different from having the in-walled coax system running beyween coax wall inputs and an outside feeder to the cable lines. The only difference is the house coax feeds to a private dish and not a bunch of fiber or standard overhead lines ( so its technically less convoluted : the dish receives satellite fequencies and then feeds those to sat carrier decoder STBs in your home. But only the privatised channels would be outscrubbed from TV tuner pickup. The law in, say, the US requires OTA not to be so tampered with

    1. Well, then you must have not read the headline since its explicitly states “…No Hacks”

      Oh well, BOO to you for not reading ?

  11. This is interesting… How much did you pay for your Apple TV? But I don’t pay for cable, and I have a limited to no time to watch tv. If I am interested in watching some series or news, I will find it online. Like the Netflix or something similar. Work and rest is more essential 😉 Cheers!

  12. Eric – this works for me, and has been for a while. My question is whether there is a way to DVR this content, ideally with a program guide?

  13. The heading in this needs to change. It’s not mentioned in the article that you’re paying for basic cable. So it’s not HD for free. Basic channels such as ABC CBS FOX PBS CW all transmit in HD in addition to SD. A person just needs a TV with an HD tuner. You’re still paying on a monthly basis unless a person gets an OTA antenna.

    1. Hello Charlie

      I know of no cable company that provides HD stations in their basic subscription package. The HD stations are in higher-tier combo packages or a separate package altogether just for HD.

      And while you are partially correct that all local stations broadcast in HD, that signal is only freely available over-the-air with an HD antenna and with some luck depending on where you can place it or what your home structure is made of.

      The HD stations that come through on my specific television are on -2 channels such as 2-2, 4-2, etc. and the SD are on 133, 151, 154 etc. None of which are part of the cable company’s listing structure.

  14. None of the junk works well. No matter who says what. I got a Leaf antennae from Fryes it works so-so. THEN I purchase a Hotcat (which is SWORN to work up to 130 miles) from Amazon. What a damn nightmare and a rip-off! It works worse than the Leaf. Paid, $31.95 for Hotcat, (that was also, BROKEN upon receiving.) Amazon only offered PART of my money back. Screw all that FAKE junk, that’s SWORN TO WORK BUT DOESN’T.

    1. Hi Carolyn.

      I’m sorry you haven’t been able to find a solution that works for you. You do have to remember that just because you don’t see positive results that doesn’t mean no one will.

      There are so many variables when it comes to over-the-air television including line-of-sight, distance to towers, weather conditions, etc. Trust me, I have also tried several different options that didn’t work as well. It just means that I probably don’t live in a location that is optimal.

    2. I tried your suggestion with a bit of a workaround. I had satellite TV and pulled the plug because I didn’t want to pay. First I tried going through the receiver (satellite cable into receiver and then a cable from the receiver box to the TV) but that didn’t work, so I pluged my Satellite cable directly into the tuner on my TV. I scanned and my TV says right now I have 13 digital channels, however some of them only play music without a picture as you’d mentioned. I also can’t get any of the networks such as ABC CBS or NBC. Any suggestion on how to get those channels? The scan function on my TV worked quickly, what took the most time was figuring out where the cables go.

    3. Hello Alex!

      I’d imagine the issue you are having is due to it being a satellite. At least with the cable, there is a signal going through since I’m on the most basic of packages. With satellite, you have zero access at all without paying, my guess is that your dish is actually acting like an antenna of sorts.

    4. Eric, Thanks for the reply. I probably shouldn’t have used the word “satellite.” What I meant was I connected the coaxal cable from the “dish” I no longer pay for directly into my TV and get 13 channels, but none of those channels are ABC,CBS,NBC. A lot of articles say I need to hook up an antenna to the dish to be able to get several of the free TV stations I want.

    5. I live 70 miles away from Orlando and NO antenna works for me on a brand new roku tv. All I want is regular channels which should be free everywhere anyways: CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX ect. Please help if you can!

    6. Hello Sam.

      I’m not a technician, just someone who figured a way to do something who wanted to share it with others. Have you tried changing the position of the antennas? I know putting them in a window gets a clearer signal since there isn’t the walls to pass through. I know sometimes the positioning is something we have to live with.

      If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to cable, have you considered trying Hulu or Sling? Some areas just aren’t made for cord-cutting.

  15. I’m not sure this would work on my TV as I don’t have a remote and there’s no known way to rescan it.

    I have been watching antenna for a couple months and finally got used to the lineup as I only get three channel so can’t even watch the shows I wanted to.
    One big downside to antenna is it get rid of shows without any warning used to come home to plug in my TV watch (yes I unplug because I have a cat likes to playing with cords on occasion).

    And no more Mama’s Family or Jeffersons which was’t a huge loss but I really was getting into the Early Edition show which I wake up early to watch not a lot earlier than my normal wake up time but still wake up this morning after missing most of the shows yesterday it is not anymore.

    1. The other problem is if you need to have internet in order to do this and this pointless for me because the reason I got the antenna was so I didn’t have time either cuz they were charging way too much for Internet only. And I didn’t need cable with just the internet but I thought the antenna would have been much better yeah apparently we’re not allowed to get anything worth anything for any amount of time. And all I wanted was CBS can’t even get that so I settled for what was there and then they take my only so I enjoy away

    2. Becky,
      We plugged our tv into the wall (the regular electric plug (you use to power the tv)) and then plugged the Mohu Leaf Antenna into the back of the tv and placed the leaf onto our wall holding/moving it around, until the best reception (depending on your house, etc a window would work as well) and then went into the tuner and had it do a “channel search”. This takes time (be patient, it will tell you when its done) as its basically locating the TV Stations. We did this a few times getting more stations added each time. This isnt hard, you can pick one up on Amazon, The Mohu Leaf 30 Television Antenna, Indoor, 30 Mile Range, Original Paper-thin for $22 or the Mohu Leaf 50 Indoor HDTV Antenna, Amplified, 60 Mile Range for $42.
      We have been doing this for the past 12 years… : )

  16. So back in the day (pre digital) this was a legitimate thing.
    If you subscribed to the internet package you could simply place a splitter on your coax and hook up the tv and get the complete basic package (you had to subscribe to the internet package for this to work) I tried it a few months ago on a older tv and it no longer worked. Just tried it on a modern tv (Samsung ru7300 series) and same result.
    If your cable provider has gone digital this life hack will no longer work.

    1. All cable is digital by law these days, and I’m still getting everything plus more vs when I first tried it.

      As I said it is obviously going to vary by provider and location but there are certainly people who it works for.

  17. I’m so confused. I have zero cable, never have had cable in this house. Just bought a new TV, did the autoscan and I have all the local channels. How is this possible with no cable, no antenna. The only thing plugged in is my TV power cord to the wall. I have 3,6,7,15,42,etc. What am I missing? I thought I’d need an antenna or cable cord or something, no?

    1. That’s great Melissa!

      I don’t know the details, but I’m sure there’s some technical explanation for it. Just enjoy it while you can 🙂

  18. I had done this when we first got our smart Tv…….worked well, then cable company (Suddenlink) made some sort if change that required every one to have updated cable boxes, thats when my ability to watch box free disappeared.

  19. I don’t have cable at all or internet. I have a rocky television. I bought an antenna from Walmart nothing. I cannot believe I have to pay just to be able to get basic channels like abc, cbs and nbc it’s absurd. What can I do to get some kind of channels without paying for it. Struggling mother just needs to be able to watch the news and weather at least.

    1. Hi Tamala.

      Unfortunately, not everyone will be in a location that gets good reception using an antenna. have you tried moving it to a different place, like in a window? A clear line of sight to the outside makes for the best reception.

      Also, the quality of the antenna will make a difference, If you buy a $5 tv antenna, it will almost certainly not perform as well as a $35 HD TV antenna.

    2. Most of the HD TV antennas are directional so they need to be pointed in the direction of the towers. There is a website that you put in your ZIP code and it will tell you what direction to point the antenna and how far away the towers are. It will also tell you what channels you should get. I pick up about 80 channels here in AZ

    3. Hey Tamala,

      You could try a digital converter box. I don’t have any cable at all or internet, and I have an old tv and with my converter box I get about 19 channels including abc,nbc,fox etc.

      You would connect the wire from your antenna to the “in connection” of the converter box and then run wire from the “out connection” of converter box to your tv. Then use remote that comes with converter box to scan for channels.

      I use the Tivax Digital TV Converter STB-T8 and my brother uses a magnavox and they are both good models.

      Hope this helps!

    1. I tore down my dish from the side of my house and made a planter out of it. Then unplugged everything from my older flat screen TV. Put a paperclip in the whole where you would normally screw the Cable TV cable into on the back of my TV, Went to menu/ Then clicked on Air or antenna then Scan. took about a minute to scan and when done I had 36 over the air channels. Been two years without cable of any kind. Occasionally move antenna and rescan. Must say however I did eventually invest in one of those 30 dollar flat antennas you put in the window to get better reception and I got it. 200.00 more a month for me. Woopee. Also the bonus is no more arguments that take hours trying to get back stolen money from the cable companies and if it doesn’t work because of weather interference which is rare, or the picture goes a little fuzzy you could care less because you are paying nothing for it.

    2. Your comment reminded me that years ago, I bought a set of vintage copper VHS/UHF rabbit ears for $5.00. Never used it because we had cable. Just moved and cable is too expensive, so I thought about the paperclip and then remembered I had the rabbit ears. The U-shaped clips had been stripped off, so I was able to twist the exposed wires to create a single input wire and stick it into the cable hole of our flat-screen kitchen TV. After scanning I picked up 50 digital stations, some that aren’t even available on our local cable company. SWEET! I’m going to mess with this concept some more and see what else I can do on our other currently unused sets. Thank you, Beth!

  20. I just tried this hack on my TV and it picked up over 40 channels but there is no picture or sound. I get a square box in the middle of the TV that says Audio Only on some channels. I have re-scanned for channels several times but get the same result. The only channel that has any picture and audio is the cable’s promo channel.

    I also tried hooking the tv up to an antenna but all I got was no-signal. I have the right antenna, researched where the broadcast tower is and best antenna for my location but no -signal. I have moved the antenna and tv to other locations in the house but still no signal. I even tried the antenna with a different tv but still got no signal. What is frustrating about this is I live in an area that is slight hilly. I live across from two neighbors who use antenna’s on their tvs and they have no problem. I am at a higher elevation than these two neighbors and I get no signal. I can’t understand why I get no signal and neighbors below me are using antennas without issues.

    My cable bill just went up 28.00 and they eliminated my favorite channel from my package and it will cost me 9.99 to add the channel back! There has to be a way cut the cable cord once and for all.

    PS – I don’t have a smart tv but it is only a few years old. I don’t understand why this great hack does not work on my tv and why I can’t get a signal from an antenna.

    Any ideas???

    1. It’s like anything Sandra, not everything works in all situations.

      There might not be one specific answer like “get a “smart” tv”. It could be a combination of things like the TV, the direction you face, the distance from the towers, the makeup of your home which blocks the signal, etc.

      You may want to try one of the streaming services I mentioned if you can’t the free option to work.

  21. I guess I’m not a tech nerd. I have read the article on how to get free T.V. by going to my T.V. settings but I can’t seem to get it to work. and I can’t find the place where you tell the T.V. scan for available stations. Can you help me to get this going. I would love to stick it to the cable companies who like to charge an arm and leg for there so called service.

    1. Hello Michael.

      I’m sorry, but all TVs have different ways of getting to the settings. The best way would be to do a search for your TV model number and add manual at the end. So something like “Samsung xht3965734 manual”.

      Other than that, you can look for a menu button on your remote and look for the cable/antenna settings which is where the scan function should be.

  22. All fine and dandy until the cable company does a tap audit and decides to come after you for cable theft. I hate to say it folks, as time goes on signal encryption will be more common and the adoption of “addressable equipment” will seriously shut you out if you don’t get caught. And yes, it is illegal (aka cable theft) to not report active service in your home that you don’t pay for. I get it cable is expensive, but so is the infrastructure that delivers the service. And leeching on the infrastructure can actually degrade the quality of service for paying subscribers. So if you get caught stealing cable you can face prison, a huge fine, and/or a civil lawsuit from the provider. Not worth it folks. Trust me.

    1. Hey there Adam.

      I don’t know if you read the article but I’m not tapping into anyone else’s cable. This is in my own home that I do technically pay for, although my television decodes additional channels in-between the normal stations. I’m not getting packages that I don’t pay for like HBO or movie stations for instance.

    2. I’m sorry Sherry, but I cannot do that.

      Every television unit is going to be different so there isn’t a universal process to share.

      You need to find the manual for your particular television and look up how to manually scan for channels using the cable not the antenna option.