Can I Get Free Satellite TV?

Category: Television

A thrifty AskBob reader says: “Can I really get satellite TV for free? I've heard about free satellite TV channels one can receive with a free-to-air satellite receiver and dish. Is this true? If so, what satellite channels can I get, what equipment do I need, and is it legal?” The short answer is 'YES, NO, and MAYBE,' depending on your expectations. Read on to learn about free satellite TV options...

Satellite TV For FREE - Free-to-Air Satellite

Can you really get free satellite TV? Yes! If you're paying for satellite TV service, it may surprise you to learn that there's a free version, too. "Free to air" (FTA) satellite TV delivers thousands of channels of broadcast content via satellite to consumers all over the world. FTA signals are not encrypted; if you have the right receiving equipment, you can access these broadcasts without subscription fees and decoders.

And yes, it's perfectly legal. The producers of FTA free satellite TV content distribute their programming via satellite because it's the most efficient way to reach their audiences. It's quite similar to the free over-the-air television broadcasts that you can receive with a TV antenna - just a different means of transmission.

Free Satellite TV

Many FTA broadcasters are government-sponsored public TV services, like PBS in the United States. They don't air commercials or charge subscription fees. But you can also find a wide variety of channels, including news, sports, religious and ethnic programming.

Of course, you won't get CNN, FOX, MTV, ESPN, HBO, or any of the paid premium channels that are delivered only via encrypted satellite or cable TV signals. But there are plenty of broadcasts that you can get free of charge, from many sources that deliver FTA broadcasts via satellite. FTA satellite TV is a favorite among expatriates, who want to stay tuned to the channels of their home nations but don't want to pay for it.

Are you looking for free access to popular TV shows or movies? A variety of online services and clever gadgets can bring news and entertainment to your home via the Internet, for free, or a lot less than a monthly satellite or cable TV subscription. See Tired of Paying for TV? Try These Free TV Options for details.

FTA Satellite Equipment - Getting Started

What you need to receive FTA satellite TV content is pretty basic: a satellite dish, an FTA receiver box, and some coaxial cable running between dish, box, and your TV set. (Your dish will be much smaller than the giant one shown in the cartoon image above.) The dish needs to be compatible with the satellite at which you're going to point it; however, most satellites transmitting FTA signals are compatible with the basic DTV dishes available online, or at many electronics stores. Popular makers of FTA satellite TV gear include Pansat, Coolsat, and Conaxsat.

The receiver box will cost a couple of hundred dollars and up. Prices vary depending on the signal formats supported and various bells and whistles (Ethernet jack, wireless in-home signal transmission, etc.) You can also buy FTA satellite TV kits which include dish, mounting hardware, coaxial cable or wireless transceivers - everything you need to get hooked up.

Pointing a dish at the correct satellite is simple, in theory. But many people prefer to hire a contractor who specializes in satellite TV installations. A pro can put the dish on your roof safely and securely; orient the dish correctly to get the optimal signal reception; and run cables into and around your home neatly. See "satellite television installation" in your local phone book.

What can you watch on free satellite TV? There are literally thousands of channels, and many Web sites devoted to keeping you informed of what's available. is just one such resource. Keep in mind that you'll be looking at channels from all over the world; many will be in Arabic, Japanese, and even more exotic languages. But the video portion of the broadcasts may be most important to you.

FTA satellite TV is not for major league sports fanatics, people looking for the latest movies, or for anyone else who likes to follow the crowd. But if you want free satellite TV on a particular topic, or from a specific country, then you are in luck. For more helpful information, check out the FTA links and forums at the Satellite Guys website.

Free Satellite TV Scams

You might have come here looking for information on how to get free satellite TV programming - the kind that usually requires a subscription from DirectTV, Dish Network or some other commercial satellite TV provider. I've written about the "Satellite TV on PC" scam -- software that promises to give you access to thousands of premium satellite TV stations on your PC for a one-time cost of $49. Don't fall for it. These "free satellite tv downloads" will NOT get you free MTV, VH1, or any other paid subscription satellite channels. Read my related article Free Satellite TV on PC for the whole story. There are similar scams advertising gadgets that promise to give free access to cable TV shows.

You've also may have heard there are special satellite receivers you can use, along with 'FTA keys' that are downloaded from various (and nefarious) sources on the Internet, and that this will enable you to decode and view those encrypted premium channels.

That might be true. I don't have that kind of information, but even if I did, I'm not here to explain how to illegally pirate a satellite or cable television signal. The little bit I've read on that topic leads me to believe that it's rather geeky, and requires a constant effort to stay one step ahead of both the satellite providers and law enforcement. I'd much rather pay for my subscription, sleep well at night, and not have to bother with loading a string of hexadecimal digits into my set top box before every show.

Do you have something to say about free satellite TV? Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "Can I Get Free Satellite TV?"

Posted by:

18 Mar 2024

We are lucky that we get about 16 or so channels over the air (OTA) with a small indoor wall mounted antenna.

Try that option first, no expensive box or dish installation needed.

We chose the best antenna for our area by asking at the store which antenna gets returned the least often, figuring that one likely works best.

We actually get a better picture than via the cable company, and as they are now charging $28 for the local channels we we can receive free OTA, we are ready to drop them.

Two inexpensive streaming services add enough shows that we ever need to keep us occupied.

Posted by:

Renaud Olgiati
18 Mar 2024

When the Germanies were reunified in 1990, faced with having to add umpteen new regional channels in all the TV relays of both Western and Eastern Germany, the government decided to put all the regional channels on the Sky TV satellite broadcasting them uncoded.
As I already had a Sky TV box and dish, this gave me a gaggle more channels for free, interesting because many of the films and programs were in English.

Posted by:

18 Mar 2024

" See 'satellite television installation' in your local phone book."

"Local phone book"? There is a local phone book? As far as I know, local phone companies in my area are either out of business or going out of business and are no longer publishing a "phone book" and, I assume, that is the case in most areas in the US. Even the private "yellow pages" publishers no longer publish their editions, probably because cell phones have replaced wired phones and to get phone numbers and addresses would require the cooperation of many, many cell phone companies, and I doubt that most would be cooperative.

Posted by:

18 Mar 2024

Another great missive.

Posted by:

Wilfred Comeau
19 Mar 2024

Hi Bob,
As always, I enjoy your articles every week. I have
set up a FTA system, it's not hard. Set your dish in a good location, bring your Receiver and a small TV
out to the dish, hook all 3 to power, then move your dish around until you receive picture. Basically that is it. Bob, there are so much free tv to download now from the Internet, Why is anyone paying
for it. We have Pluto, Tubi, Britbox, You Tube, and others as cheap as $5.00 a Month. They offer everything from Movies, Toons, Weekly Shows and Sports. I quit paying the high monthly Charges for
Satellite months ago.

Posted by:

21 Mar 2024

I just signed up at the local JC for classes in Japanese, Arabic, Mandarin, Russian, Pakastani, Hindi and 23 other foreign languages.

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