How to Watch Movies and Television for Free

I'll admit that I love television. I enjoy watching movies and love gathering around the television to watch shows our whole family enjoys together. For years (OK, who am I kidding, it's been at least a decade) I've paid a large chunk of change each month to the cable company for the privilege of watching my favorite shows. I always felt it was a justifiable expense, after all, we seemed to get our money's worth.

So when my husband suggested cutting the cable to save nearly $200 a month, my immediate reaction was "no." I wouldn't consider it. But after some persuading, I decided to look into it to see if it was feasible for our family. To make a long story short, once we realized the possibilities, I now feel like a chump for having paid the cable company all these years.

Before turning off our cable, we realized that we had all the tools we needed in our home to get free, high quality television and not miss a single show. I know that there are a variety of strategies for folks who want to avoid cable, but here's the strategy that worked for us.

Digital Television. In 2020 and 2022 there was much hype about the transition from analog to digital television. The transition meant people could throw away their old antennas and no longer be dependent on their cable or satellite companies to pick up clear digital broadcast signals. And in 2021, that's what happened. Broadcasters stopped sending out analog signals and switched to digital. As we had cable at the time, the transition went unnoticed by our family.

Beginning in 2016, manufacturers were required to install digital tuners in all televisions sold in the United States, and two of our own televisions met that criteria, so they were ready to pick up digital broadcast signals. Our third television was manufactured in 2016 and required a converter to pick up the signal (about $40 at any electronic store). All we had to do to take advantage of free channels was to disconnect our cable and reset the televisions to pick up digital. This took about 15 minutes and once it was done, we found that we had about 15 digital stations in our area, including all the major networks, Spanish-language stations as well as shopping and religious channels. It's all free.

Laptop to television connection. Of course, the main drawback with digital television is that it is not cable, so the extra channels are not available, including many of my favorites like Lifetime, Food Network, TLC, HG TV and the various cable news channels. This was my major sticking point before making the decision to cut the cable. I also liked the cable company's on-demand feature that allowed us to watch any available program anytime. This was a feature I did not want to lose. A simple S-video connection cord from our spare laptop, which is equipped with high speed broadband Internet, to our television helped us overcome that drawback. This cord allows us to use the television as a display screen so that we may watch all of our favorite shows through the Internet on the big screen television. All of the major networks' Web sites contain full episodes of their most popular shows and many of the cable companies also allow fans to watch movies, shows and videos on their Web sites. With the television connected to the Internet via the laptop, we have all of our favorite shows available to us on-demand for free (I love that word, free!).

As well as the major networks and cable channels, there are a variety of free television and movie Web sites on the Internet and many of them feature live broadcasts in other countries. My husband enjoys watching some of the Haitian and Brazilian stations through www.wwitv.com. Another popular one is www.worldtvpc.com. These sites literally open up a world of television viewing possibilities. But a word of caution, use theses sites carefully. If you find one you like, before you begin watching television on-line, make sure that the site is virus-free and safe. Some free on-line movie sites are notorious for hosting viruses, so surf carefully and check out the site before you begin. Try to refrain from the sites that require you to download a program or answer endless survey questions before they grant you the privilege of watching their programs or movies.

I won't pretend that I am computer savvy, but I found a great how-to site at Geekwithlaptop folks like myself through the process of connecting a computer to a television (thanks geek with laptop!) and even answers common problems that one might encounter in the process. Connecting the laptop to the television took mere minutes and was very simple to do.
soap2day

Wii and Soap2day

We had purchased a Nintendo Wii a few years ago and while we use it for gaming, we never realized its full Internet potential. Using the Wii as the Internet to television connection allows us to bypass the laptop when we want to watch videos on YouTube or movies on Soap2day on the television. This frees up the laptop for other uses. To watch Soap2day movies or television shows via the Wii, you'll need a streaming disk that the company sends upon request. We pay Soap 2day $8.99 a month for unlimited movies and television shows. The only catch is that we can only watch one at a time (no big deal for us).

Once we began watching television this way, a whole world of possibilities seemed to open up. Suddenly, we could watch whatever movies we wanted when we wanted to watch them, not when the cable company told us we could watch them. The ease and convenience of Internet and digital television also means that we no longer feel we have to be home, in front of the television at a certain time to ensure we catch a movie or television we want to see. These things are now available to us on our schedule, and for much less money. When my teen daughters said to me the other day that they much prefer the system we have now over the cable, I knew we had made the right decision. And did I mention that we're saving money?