If you and your family have shows that you all like to watch together each week, you might be surprised to know you probably don’t need a subscription or even a premium streaming service to stay entertained together.
Many of the best family-friendly shows air on networks that you can watch free with an over-the-air antenna. These include ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, NBC and PBS. Between those channels, the extra digital channels you get for free with a good antenna and the streaming services that don’t require a paid subscription, there are plenty of great shows you can sit down and enjoy together without any monthly fees.
What You Need For OTA TV
Ready to start watching free over-the-air TV? First, take this short quiz to find out which antenna is best for you. To make it easy to get started, we’ve put together two bundles of recommended equipment for watching free TV, including OTA DVRs that let you record and pause live TV.
If you live in an urban area or nearby suburb:
This highly-rated indoor antenna is designed to receive frequencies 50+ miles away from broadcast towers. It easily grips smooth surfaces like walls or windows for optimal placement to pick up as many channels as possible.
Recommended antenna if you live in a far suburb or rural area:
$118.72 from Amazon
This powerful antenna has a range of 70+ miles and can be installed inside, outside or in the attic. It has UHF and VHF multi-directional elements designed to deliver reception in remote areas.
Pair your antenna with an OTA DVR to record your favorite shows:
Here are the products we recommend:
- Tablo DUAL 128GB Over-the-Air [OTA] DVR: Record up to 80 HD hours and stream up to two free broadcast channels from your HDTV antenna simultaneously.
- Tablo QUAD 1TB Over-the-Air [OTA] DVR: Record up to 700 hours and stream up to four free broadcast channels from their over-the-air HDTV antenna simultaneously.
If you have an external hard drive sitting at home collecting dust, consider these options as cheaper alternatives. Simply connect your antenna and portable hard drive to these Tablo DVR devices and you’re ready to go.
- Tablo DUAL Lite: Equipped with built-in Wifi, it lets you position the antenna and DVR for the best signal reception.
- Tablo QUAD: Record up to four OTA channels simultaneously. This model connects to your router rather than your TV, giving you the option to stream live TV to any device.
If you need to purchase a portable hard drive, we recommend USB-connected portable hard drives (USB 2.0 or 3.0, 1 TB to 8 TB in size). These are the ones we recommend: WD 1TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive and the WD 2TB Elements Portable External Hard Drive.
Family-Friendly Shows You Can Watch For Free
Here are some of the best family shows you can watch without spending a dime.
‘Lego Masters’ (Fox)
If your kids have ever shown an interest in engineering — or if they just think Legos are cool — Fox’s “Lego Masters” is a great option for your family to check out. The reality series sees gifted Lego builders compete in weekly challenges to build elaborate creations using a virtually limitless supply of the bricks. The show is all about unbridled creativity and the competition is pretty intense, making it a family show that will hook you for the whole season. Catch it on your local Fox station with your OTA antenna.
‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ (ABC)
It’s tough to find a better crowd-pleasing family show than “AFV.” The iconic series has been on the air for more than 30 years and has only gotten better because of the ubiquity of phone cameras. If you just want a show you can sit around and laugh at together without the pressure of keeping up with recurring storylines, this is the one for you. New episodes air Sunday nights on your local ABC station.
‘Young Rock’ (NBC, Peacock)
Who doesn’t love The Rock? The unique childhood of the beloved pro-wrestler-turned-actor is recounted in this NBC sitcom. Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that reviews popular movies and TV shows from the viewpoint of parents, calls the show “positive” and “absorbing” and says it’s appropriate for anyone ages 10 and up, making it a great scripted family show you can watch for free. Past episodes are available to stream for free on Peacock.
‘All Creatures Great and Small’ (PBS, PBS App)
PBS is a treasure trove of quality family-friendly shows and this recently rebooted series is one of the best scripted options out there. “All Creatures Great and Small” is set in scenic 1930s England and follows a veterinary surgeon and his family. The charming show is great for animal lovers and parents who want to watch acclaimed TV with their kids, as it has stellar marks from critics on Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch new episodes on PBS with your OTA antenna and find past ones for free on-demand on the PBS app.
‘Nature’ (PBS, PBS App)
If your kids love animals, they will look forward to every episode of “Nature.” This iconic PBS documentary series has been on for 40 years and continues to reveal the secrets of the animal kingdom an hour at a time. Each episode typically focuses on a different species, teaching you and your kids a ton of cool facts while giving you remarkable shots of the animals in their natural habitats. New episodes air on PBS and certain past episodes can be watched free on the PBS app.
Guest Blog by TheFreeTVProject.org:
TheFreeTVProject.org is a consumer education website that provides information about programming available on free over-the-air TV, antenna recommendations and installation tips, and troubleshooting advice. The site was launched in 2022 by The E.W. Scripps Company, Cincinnati-based owner of 61 TV stations in 41 markets.