Saturday, September 18, 2021
Saturday, September 18, 2021

Ways for RVers to stream free (or almost free) TV

By Gail Marsh
Who doesn’t like a cable or satellite television bill? Me! How about you? It’s aggravating to pay for 200+ channels and still find absolutely nothing you want to watch. I remember the good ol’ days when my dad would go outside to our TV antenna. Did you have one? The TV antenna was a long pole that reached from the ground to above our roofline. Sitting at the top of the pole was a huge antenna featuring a spidery mass of metal that magically allowed my family to watch TV. Dad would run outside (even in the freezing Iowa winter weather) to give the pole a quick twist. The next several minutes would go something like this as we communicated (shouted) through the permanently stuck-shut storm window:

Dad: How’s that?
Me: Still “snowy.”
Dad (after another quick twist): How about now?
Me: Better, but now it’s flipping.
Dad (twisting again): Any better?
Me: Turn it back just a little. That’s it! Right there!
Dad (re-entering the house): Oh, good! Perry Mason!

Ah … the good ol’ days. Right? I loved that we could literally take matters into our own hands and usually get at least one of the four available channels to “come in.” Now it’s a completely different story. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve called our television service provider with a question about billing, an interruption in service, or non-working provider equipment.

You can imagine my excitement when I discovered that it is possible to take matters into my own hands again, just like those old days. Did you know that it’s possible to get free or almost-free TV? What’s more, you can actually find shows you want to watch. Check out some of the following options to see what might work best for you. And then, call your TV provider one last time – to cancel!

Free (and legal) TV services

Tubi: This free television service allows you to watch TV series, movies, and TV channels. You just download an app and follow the prompts.

Pluto TV: With this free provider you can enjoy TV Land’s sitcoms like Moesha. Want a movie instead? Agent 007’s “A View to a Kill” is available (along with too many other movies to count). Interested in the news? Pluto TV will let you watch that too!

YouTube: Yes, YouTube offers paid subscription TV packages, but you can also get a lot of free content here. What’s more, by searching YouTube you can watch content that supports your interests (e.g., beekeeping, sports bloopers, travel). Just enter your interest into the search bar. There is something for everyone – for free!

Crackle: This is another free TV service owned by Sony Pictures. You’ll get a lot of Sony movies along with TV shows and original Sony productions that change on a monthly basis.

Popcornflix: It contains advertisements, but offers a variety of television series along with movies.

Low-cost streaming services

Netflix: On Netflix you can enjoy a great variety of television for as low as $8.99 per month.

Hulu: A subscription at Hulu will get you popular movies, TV series, and Hulu originals. Starting at just $5.99 per month, it’s a bargain.

Acorn TV: At just under $6 per month you can watch all the great shows from Britain, Australia, Ireland, and Canada. Some of the detective shows are my favorites!

Curiosity Stream: This TV service is available for only $2.99 a month and is ad-free. With Curiosity Stream you’ll get documentaries and TV shows about history, nature, psychology, and more.

discovery+: Watch your favorite shows for just $4.99 a month with discovery+. The platform hosts HGTV, Food Network, TLC, Animal Planet, Discovery, A&E, History, Travel Channel, Lifetime, Magnolia and more!

Watch TV your way

These are just a few television options. Note that some services will contain advertisements. Personally, I don’t mind the ads. The providers have to make money, right? Besides, those three or four minutes allow me to pop some popcorn, grab a soda, and coax my hubby to watch TV with me!

How do you watch TV?


Use phone’s unlimited data plan to stream movies on TV



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Jerry Murri
4 months ago

I use a service called PlayOn. I can download movies and Shows on my PC and then view them when I travel. They can access most streaming services that you have an account. I can put them on a USB drive or HDD. My tv is a older Jensen (no USB video). I use a USB to HDMI device called Micca Digital Media Player.

Al Buckner
4 months ago

Excellent Point Terry. I really get annoyed when I am just trying to download my email, after a long day’s drive, and can’t get connected to the campground WiFi… usually because someone is gaming online or watching streaming videos.
Some campgrounds now have software to monitor the WiFi networks and automatically shut down any connection that is using an excessive amount of bandwidth or connected for an extremely long time.

Bill N Stacey
5 months ago

We cut the cable completely 2 years ago. Netflix and Hulu were our sources for streaming however BOTH these services are now TOO “Progressive”.. Its just plain SAD what is being produced today… These companies won’t get a penny from us! Classic DVD,s is all we watch now…

Thomas D
5 months ago

You still need a internet connection somehow. Be it wired or wi fi correct. We use Verizon mifi for computer but locally wont work for streaming tv. Too slow or busy. When some one comes up with a wireless service that works and truly free, then you’ll have something to talk about. Cutting cable to most seems tv shows. I ‘m interested in truly “cut the cable”. $70 a month is a lot of money for internet at home and no tv.

David Hagen
5 months ago

You should have mentioned that most RV parks have terrible Wi-Fi service and most don’t want you to stream. how about an article on the ‘best’ internet service for RV’ers.

Terry Taylor
5 months ago

As an IT Professional, I have to point out that “streaming” video over a shared internet connection is rude in the EXTREME! Video takes an INCREDIBLE amount of bandwidth, making it difficult for other folks to do simple things like check their email and browse the web. In most RV parks, they do NOT invest in robust high speed internet services and when a few people just HAVE to stream their favorite shows in HD, it severely impacts other users.

Please be considerate of the other folks in the RV park and watch a DVD or off the air TV instead of being a WiFi road hog.

5 months ago
Reply to  Terry Taylor

I did not know that. Thanks for letting me know.

5 months ago

What’s needed is a list of services and how-to’s on how to download content at home (or at a library, etc) to a computer or tablet and then play it on the RV TV at a campground.

John T
5 months ago
Reply to  Irv

You can download all the movies and documentaries on Amazon prime video, up to a max of 25 videos at one time. You set your desired quality for the downloads – HD, SD or low resolution – according to how much data you want to use. They expire after a month if you have not already watched and deleted them. I download at places where I have a good cell signal, and I can watch in places with poor or zero signal.

Lorraine A Gehring
5 months ago

We use an antenna and Tablo ($6) for OTA channels. With a Tablo device and subscription, you can record your favorite shows just like with cable services. We also subscribe to Netflix and a few others (BritBox, etc.)

Sandy Bee
5 months ago

Join a local library and borrow and stream movies and TV shows with the help of the OverDrive, Hoopla, and Kanopy apps.

5 months ago

FYI Roku sticks and TV’s now offer channels similar to Pluto without adding an app.

Neal Davis
5 months ago

Thank you for this comprehensive (or nearly so) list! The “problem” with the streaming is the data that you burn through when watching video content. However, all these are great choices for us when at home with essentially unlimited access provided by our internet provider.

Terry Treman
5 months ago

Broadcast TV was not mentioned as a possibility. At home we watch much of our TV free using an antenna. No charge, except ads. Sure, many camping areas are too remote, but not all. Most RVs have a TV antenna connect, and some even have the antenna. An inexpensive pair of rabbit ears could mean free TV in some locations.

Bob Weinfurt
5 months ago
Reply to  Terry Treman

Most people think that with the switchover to the new digital format, getting broadcast TV through an antenna was a thing of the past. In actuality, even if you were only able to get a few channels before, you are likely to be able to receive many more programs over the air now. The best part, like you stated, it’s totally free.
I use the original antenna on my 44 year old motorhome and can usually pull in several stations. You have to have a flatscreen TV for this to work as the old style TV won’t. You can even find ones that run on 12 Volts.

Wayne Caldwell
5 months ago

We got tired of the insanely high cable tv bills with channels we didn’t watch, so-called ‘news’ (discussions, views, narratives), and other useless (to us, anyway) that we cancelled cable, bought a pole-mount digital over-the-air antenna at Wal-Mart.

John T
5 months ago
Reply to  Wayne Caldwell

There is no such things as a digital antenna. It’s nothing more than a sales ploy. An antenna knows nothing about the format of the signal. To the antenna, it’s just a radio wave like any other.

5 months ago
Reply to  John T

Perhaps true but not helpful

5 months ago
Reply to  Bill

I may disagree as paying to buy an expensive “digital” antenna is a waste of money. A directional antenna like the good ol’ batwing on most rv’s does a decent job in many areas. All flat screens are digital so OTA ( over the air) works well. Depends on location. As a supplement we have the pay as you go Dish plan. $40/month for 150 stations. You have to get equipment but a good option and you can turn service on and off monthly

4 months ago
Reply to  John T

Technically you are right, but an antenna has to be matched to the frequency wanting to be captured for optimum performance. The old VHF is lower in frequency than the later UHF, then came the DTV (digital) signal, and yes, you can get away with the UHF antenna, almost the same frequency as digital.

5 months ago

Tv streaming isn’t actually free unless you have good quality free WiFi system and high speed too.

5 months ago
Reply to  Kevin

It only takes 10 mbps to stream most anything

5 months ago

Glad you mentioned Acorn. They have some really great shows.

Bob P
5 months ago

The type of programming Netflix has gone to we wouldn’t watch their channel if they paid us.

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