How to Watch Cheap and Free TV in Canada

One day, when I was about 12 years old, I was watching TV with my dad on a lazy Sunday afternoon. The show we were watching ended so we switched to the television guide to see what was on. At one point, we saw a good TV show on one of the channels we didn’t have, and my dad expressed how he wished he had that network. Wanting the ability to watch an ever increasing amount of cartoons, I asked why he didn’t order that channel by bumping up our package to the premium selection.

“Well”, he said, “all I want is this one channel, but to get it, I have to pay for all these other channels that I don’t want. It’s not worth the added cost just for this one channel. I wish I could order just the one, but the cable company doesn’t allow me to pick and pay for the channels I want”.
This opened my eyes to the cable scam of packaging channels together to generate additional revenue. It was frustrating to me that even if I only wanted three channels for specific shows. I had to pay for 30+ channels I did not want. This policy continued to frustrate me as I moved out and started to pay for cable on my own. There were only a few shows I wanted to watch, but I had to pay for a lot of programming I did not want. I started to explore alternate options, like purchasing DVD sets or episodes off iTunes, but I found that I wanted to watch shows as they came out.
As providers like Netflix (with DVD rentals and streaming TV shows) and Hulu (which offers free TV shows online) came out in the united states, I grew jealous of this ability to access a wide variety of quality shows. Sadly the same options were not available on Canada. We Canadians don’t even have access to a lot of streaming shows from the networks own website, which further complicates the problem. Thankfully, content providers seem to have recognized that there is a market in Canada for quality TV apart from a cable company. So here is how I get my free TV, or at least cheap TV.

First, and foremost, Netflix has come to Canada! This is a cause for celebration. Now, the biggest difference between the Canadian and American version is that there is no DVD rental in Canada. In the states you can have DVDs mailed to you, but in Canada we are limited to streaming only. That means that if you have any Netflix enabled device, (computer, iPhone, PS3, Xbox 360, etc.) that you can watch any television show or movie that they have on their service at any time for $9 a month. You are only limited by their selection, there are no limit to how much you watch. Currently, there is not a huge abundance of content on Netflix as the service just started and they have yet to finalize all their content deals. Their selection already includes great TV shows like Madmen, Monk, Heroes, The Guild and Fawlty Towers. Even six months of streaming is the same cost as buying one season of TV on DVD.

Second, if you live somewhat close to a broadcast tower, you can still get free television over the air. In fact, you can get digital television over the air. If you have a newer TV, then you don’t need to worry about getting a digital converter box either, as your TV very well may have an ASTC tuner built into it, allowing you to simply plug in your antenna and have your TV convert the digital over the air signal into free television. Depending on your location, you can even get free HDTV, like CBC-HD. If you want over the air television, did you know that you can even build your own antenna out of little more than a few clothes hangers and a stick of wood?  It doesn’t work that great for me because I live in a basement suite, but if you have a direct line of sight towards the broadcast tower, you have a good chance of watching free over the air TV!

Finally, even though we Canadians aren’t privileged enough to have streaming access to many great television provider’s websites, we still have a fair bit of access to local Canadian channels. HGTV has a wide variety of their programming available for streaming online. While we can’t watch Jon Stewart at thedailyshow.com, we can watch him and Stephen Colbert, alongside the rest of The Comedy Network‘s programming on their website.

It seems to me that between Netflix, over the air television, and more and more television channels putting their content on their websites, there’s never a better time to cut the cable cord. Now, if only we could watch live sports online…

How do you get your free TV or cheap TV?

Written by Alan Schram

Alan Schram writes about personal finance and his encounters with it in his everyday life. Alan is recently married and is looking to save money on expenses and reduce his debts.

44 Responses to How to Watch Cheap and Free TV in Canada

  1. Why pay for cable TV if you have access to the internet?

    I haven’t paid a dime on TV in the last 5 years….

  2. Janet Hutchins says:

    Wow. It sounds like Netflix is redefining the marketplace. Where does this leave the CRTC and its regulations of the TV and cable industries?

  3. Bill says:

    I use a anonymizer (proxy) to hide my IP address and then I can access Hulu.

    http://www.atdhe.net for sports. Saturday night I had 5 NHL games going at once.

  4. I have signed up for Netflix but I am not pleased with the selection.

    I like the fact that it works really well but poor selection and no new releases.

  5. Things are slightly different in the UK as they have something here called “Freeview” and it actually is FREE! You would need to pay for a set top box (some TVs have this integrated) for about £20 and then you get all the major networks plus some kids programming without paying a cent! Of course that’s not really 100% accurate as you do have to pay a TV license fee (£30/quarter) so I guess there is still some fee, but considering what I used to pay its really worthwhile. However as one of your other commentators mentioned … there is another option which is obviously online. A great site I use to access programming I cannot otherwise see – or even “catch up” on programming is called Alluc.org … you’ve got access here to a host of TVShows, Movies and Cartoons. If you’ve never seen it – check it out.

  6. James says:

    Any other option apart from Netflix which people would recommend???

    • Gerry says:

      1. get yourself a asus RT-N16 router
      2. upgrade the firmware to DD-WRT
      3. Sign up with Strong VPN for your American IP address
      4. Once signed up you’ll be able to watch Netflix USA for $7.99 per month.
      5. Signup with Hulu Plus for $7.95 per month (by doing the following)
      6. Use your current canadian credit card to pay with. The only thing you have to do is make sure that when you signup you use part of your postal code as your Zip code. Take your Postal code & remove all of the letters. whatever is left (first 3 numbers) is what you use as the start of your zip code. search using google for american zip codes & when you find the one that starts with your first 3 digits look for one that has the last 2 digits. Once you know where that zip code is then find the city and use that city & state when registering with Hulu Plus along with your current street number & street name. All that matters is that your postal code used on your credit card matches up with your address. The software doesn’t recognize the letters in your postal code.
      Now who needs bell or any cable provider & all for $16.00 per month

      • Gerry says:

        One thing I forgot to mention was that you’ll need a device to connect up to your tv which will allow you to watch Netflix & Hulu Plus. Apple tv is one that will do the job.

  7. larry macdonald says:

    Real estate agents were compelled to offer a la carte services recently by the Competition Bureau so why not cable cos too?

    • Tom Drake says:

      Good point Larry. Normally I’m not a huge fan of interference from the Competition Bureau, CRTC, etc… but sometimes these companies need a little shove in the right direction!

  8. Bruce says:

    If you want to get DVDs by mail, zip.ca is a great company for doing this. I’ve been using them for over a year.

  9. Mélanie S says:

    I love the CBC website. I watch all my Being Erica episodes online and there are so many other shows I love on there as well.

    CTV and Discovery Canada also have a very good lineup of shows available online.

  10. Marina says:

    I watch Global, Showcase, CityTV and Space online as well as CTV and CBC. I haven’t watch “real TV” in ages.

  11. cheapo says:

    i have cable internet so i thought one day i would hook up my incoming line to a splitter and one line out to tv and the other to computer and hey presto it worked!!

    • Osvaldo says:

      Osvaldo says:
      Internet line goes to a modem, from the moden to a computer, where did you get the second line to the TV?

  12. Jessica says:

    I think there are many cable TV providers who offers bundles in which you can have many services in one bill only. Now, it is more cheaper and will lessen your payments. Actually its a great thing to try I have tried it too.

    • 2cheep4words says:

      BUNDLES!!! Don’t get me started on these money pits! Sign up for a bundle and save on your Internet…for 6 months, then poof your bundle bill goes from $100 to $175 month!

  13. Jenn walters says:

    Storm is a the best choice if u wanna cut down your cable cost and get all the channels u want. This is new, they also have a Canada-wide digital TV service for only $4.99 a month! Talk about cheap. And theres no actication fee or anything. Its called Storm Digital TV. You can get it anywhere in Canada if you have high speed internet. Its honestly amazing. I’ve been using it for a month now.:) It runs directly inside a web browser, so nothing to download or install I LOVE IT!!!
    Storm’s website: storm.ashiqur.com

  14. Aaron says:

    Want free? Legal? No Downloading? No Bill and a clean site?

    Check out http://www.ketchuptv.org

    ALl Canadian and Always adding New Shows and Episodes Daily!

  15. mark says:

    How to Get Thousands of TV Channels on Your PC… And Never Pay Another Monthly Bill Again

    In today’s rocky economic climate, most households are cutting back wherever they can. And with cable and satellite television costing anywhere from $65- $150 a month (more if you count premium movie channels) many people are making their television sets the first part of their homes to get the axe. But what if there was a way to enjoy thousands of television channels, including hard to find international shows and sports programming, and never pay another monthly cable bill again?

    Welcome to Satellite Direct- the future of television.

    With no subscription services or monthly bills, no hardware to install, and 24/7 unlimited access, is it any wonder that Internet Media Magazine hailed Satellite Direct as “unequivocally the best TV to PC software on the net”? Don’t be fooled by other so called “Great Deals” on satellite television service for your PC that give you only limited access to channels, or have dozens of hidden fees that end up costing you more than your current cable service.

    For less than the price of one month’s subscription cable or satellite service, you can enjoy a lifetime of television- over 3,500 channels!- from the convenience of your laptop or desktop. And forget the hassles of waiting for installation, or hours on hold with the cable company. Installing Satellite Direct is as easy as 1, 2, 3.

    1. Register – Answer a few simple questions, and our easy registration system will process your ONE TIME payment. That’s right, no monthly bills- ever.

    2. Download – Follow the easy, on screen instructions to download our software. No hardware to install, no equipment to buy.

    3. Watch and Enjoy – Sit back and enjoy thousands of television channels, from soaps and sports to movies and dramas, any time, day or night.

    With crystal clear picture and sound quality, exceptional customer service, and a lifetime of television for less than you’d pay for just one month of cable service, Satellite Direct is the best way to get the most for your TV dollar.

    To learn more, go to:

    http://www.tvchannelsonpc.altervista.org/index.html

    Thank you for your interest

  16. Chris says:

    I think all the legal online TV in Canada is listed at http://www.webtvguide.ca my kids use it all the time. No signup, fee or installations.

  17. Ron says:

    Please BEWARE of this fraud and scammer – Free TV Canada. Avoid at all costs. Read my experience here
    http://nothankstofree-tvcanada.blogspot.com/

  18. heather says:

    when was this published?

  19. Paul says:

    There are a few web sites catering to Canadians looking for free online TV content: sites that do all of the legwork for you and find links to streams of American and Canadian television shows. I’ll plug our own site: http://watchfreetvcanada.com/ as an example. We (and a few others) make our money from advertisements posted on the site. We don’t care for your personal information or try to install malware on your PC…

  20. John says:

    vubalu.com is by far the best site I have found for online television. They have lots of American shows viewable in Canada.

  21. CndKlassic says:

    In canada, we seem to always get the short end of stick.
    Online television, is fine but you really need to jerry-rig a hybrid system to get all the content you would with regular cable subscriptions.

    Finally on my own, cable’s not an option. I tried a DIY antenna but only got a few channels. Next step – I’m gonna pickup a NorthVu HD Antenna, http://www.northvu.com Canadian hi-tech company out of Ottawa, I’ve heard good things

  22. J Hindle says:

    It’s the Canadian government that bothers me when it comes to what media content we have as Canadians. Why not get after the government to stop being over supportive of the protectionist policies of Canadian media providers. Whether it’s books, movies, tv shows or even sports, Canadian corporate providers of those programs and services dictate whether direct provision of those products infringes on their right to make a profit off the Canadian public. So, in the interest of Canadian protectionism, we pay. And we pay. And we pay. Or we don’t receive the product, even though the American company would gladly ship it to us. Sometimes through local providers, sometimes direct.
    I think Canadian business should be a little more inventive than hiding under the umbrella of government. Like most business’s, if they can’t compete directly, either find a new niche, a new approach, a new product, or a new business. Times change, call it progress or whatever, but don’t hold the Canadian public at ransom so private corporations and the like can make a profit.

  23. satdirect says:

    If it’s free – it’s limited… but very interesting answers here!

    This is not free – but cheap – a one time – low-cost satellite subscription with over 3500 channels… and YES u can connect it to your tv!

    http://tinyurl.com/onlinetvsat

  24. satdirect says:

    Ops – forgot to mention… no hardware needed :)

    • The Satellite Doctor says:

      You also forgot to mention that you are a SCAMMER AND A SPAMMER!

      • The Satellite Doctor says:

        Oh and it appears that your payment processor disabled your account as I get the following message when I try to pay:

        “This site is no longer in service or has been disabled due to a terms of service violation.”

        Guess they caught on to your Satellite Direct SCAM!

  25. Eric says:

    One of the best place to view free tv serie in Canada , got o http://www.tvzone.ca.

    It’s free and Legal for all Canadians.

    Ps: movies coming soon too.

  26. D says:

    The article said there was no mailing video rental in cAnada which is not true there is a company called
    Zip.ca

  27. This is very interesting, You are a very professional blogger.
    I’ve joined your rss feed and look forward to in search of extra of your magnificent post. Also, I have shared your web site in my social networks

  28. Eric says:

    Another free way to see your tv show is http://www.tvzone.ca

    It’s free and Legal.

  29. Osvaldo says:

    Internet line goes to a modem, from the moden to a computer, where did you get the second line to the TV?

  30. The Satellite Doctor says:

    You forgot to list free legal satellite TV as an option. With a 36 inch dish and an HD FTA satellite receiver, you can receive about 85 English channels with over 10 of those in HD on Ku Band FTA satellite. If you have room for a bigger dish to receive C band FTA satellite, you can get even more with over 200 additional English channels and over 50 of them in HD. All currently available FTA satellite channels are listed at http://fta.channels.drsat.ca.

    In addition to these full time channels, you may also receive temporary “wild feed” channels which don’t appear on the above list but carry many sporting & special events along with breaking news coverage. You may find these channels yourself by rescanning certain satellites on your receiver or by following a few feed hunting groups such as the Dr. Sat SatHunters Club at http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?t=170234.

    These channels are unencrypted so they are legally available for free with no monthly subscription and complement nicely the channels you may already receive using an OTA antenna. However unlike OTA, FTA satellite offers near-nationwide coverage which is great for people who have a limited amount of OTA channels available in their area.

  31. The Satellite Doctor says:

    You forgot to list free legal satellite TV as an option. With a 36 inch dish and an HD FTA satellite receiver, you can receive about 85 English channels with over 10 of those in HD on Ku Band FTA satellite. If you have room for a bigger dish to receive C band FTA satellite, you can get even more with over 200 additional English channels and over 50 of them in HD. All currently available FTA satellite channels are listed at http://fta.channels.drsat.ca

    In addition to these full time channels, you may also receive temporary “wild feed” channels which don’t appear on the above list but carry many sporting & special events along with breaking news coverage. You may find these channels yourself by rescanning certain satellites on your receiver or by following a few feed hunting groups such as the Dr. Sat SatHunters Club.

    These channels are unencrypted so they are legally available for free with no monthly subscription and complement nicely the channels you may already receive using an OTA antenna. However unlike OTA, FTA satellite offers near-nationwide coverage which is great for people who have a limited amount of OTA channels available in their area.

  32. The Satellite Doctor says:

    That site is now dead.

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