HOWTO: Get Free Satellite TV

Category: Television

A reader asks: 'I have heard about free satellite TV channels you can receive if you have 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?' 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 forget about subscription fees and decoders.

And yes, it's 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

Typically, 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 MTV, ESPN, HBO, or any of the high-priced 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 Free TV With Hulu and Can Roku Replace Cable TV Service? 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. 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 dish 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 FTA 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 subscription satellite channels. Read my related article Free Satellite TV on PC for the whole story.

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. But even if I had that kind of information, I'm not here to explain how to illegally pirate a satellite 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 my $30/month, 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 "HOWTO: Get Free Satellite TV"

(See all 28 comments for this article.)

Posted by:

Digital Artist
09 Oct 2013

For R Jay: Put your mouse pointer in the blank line directly below here. Hold the left mouse button

while you move the mouse pointer into the blank line directly above this sentence. When you see the cryptic computer gobbledegook light up BLUE, press the "C" key while holding the "Ctrl" key. Now go to your email and prepare a new message to send to your friend. After you address the message and enter a subject line, put your mouse cursor in the message area of the new message and click the left button. Then press the "V" key while holding down the "Ctrl" key. If you want to include a message along with this magic "code", do it before you do the "Ctrl" + "V" trick, or you may have trouble. Sorry I assumed you didn't know anything, but I hope I covered everything. Best of luck and enjoy computing!

Posted by:

27 Feb 2014

Im from Ghana and have heard about FTA and im doin more research abt it but i have also heard that, you can get free internet access through your FTA and want to know if its right. If it is how does it work and how can i configure that maself. Please i will be glad if you can help me?

EDITOR'S NOTE: I've not heard about free internet access via FTA, sorry.

Posted by:

27 Mar 2014

Who is responsible for scrambling all our TV signals in the first place making people have to pay for expensive descramblers and pay pricey monthly subscription fees to receive any channels whatsoever? I used to deliver hundreds of the C-band satellite dishes in 48 ft. trailers and all satellite channels were totally free! Why would our Gov't allow the gigantic satellite/cable TV companies to perpetrate/perpetuate such a heinous scam onto the consumer? Esp. senior citizens on Social Security this is very expensive for them. Can recall elections be held to give these elected politicians the boot and/or file class action lawsuits against them? Dish satellite network cut my KNBC, KCBS, FOX west L. A., KPIX San Francisco, KOMO Seattle/Tacoma, Denver 5 Superstations, Network One, The Water Channel over 12 years ago and never gave me a refund or price adjustment whatsoever. So what is next on the Gov'ts agenda, scramble our short wave radio signals so people can not tune into foreign countries? If America got trillions to spend on foreign aide we should be able to have free TV signals............

Posted by:

Mary Wilcox
30 Nov 2014

How do I apply for free programming .Please let me know.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not sure what you mean... what sort of free programming are you thinking of?

Posted by:

Darlene Arcadi
30 Dec 2014

Will this method of "free" satellite TV work in RVs?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Sure, the satellite dish can't tell if you mount it on a house or an RV.

Posted by:

05 May 2015

My Verizon bill for 5 TV's hit $207 a month including internet and phone which I don't need.. Dropped the whole thing and got Cox internet for $39 a month and bought 5 $17 TV antennas.... I get dozens of channels here in Los Angeles, all of the major networks plus some good movie channels. The only thing I miss is the Golf Channel... for over $160 a month I can live without it. Not sure I'd get much more over free satellite... If I want to see a game or something not broadcast over the air, I just go to a bar or the golf course.

Posted by:

mike allman
30 May 2015

I live in a travel trailer, with a winegarde 1000 automatic sat dish. its set up as a dish network dish. I have cancelled Dish networks. what do I need to do to the sat dish. and where do I get a good receiver, or perhaps a DVR?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Not sure what you mean. If the dish is owned by Dish, I assume they'll want it back.

Posted by:

Flo in Texas
23 Jun 2015

labillyboy - what kind of antennas for $17. and what do you use them for? When I had my own house I had the largest antenna that Radio Shack has and put it in the attic (no antenna were allowed in that sub division) and got great programs - ABC - CBS etc and others..

Posted by:

01 Oct 2015

my question is this if anyone of you have knowlegde please tell me that i want to see all indian channels free is there any receiver made for it

Posted by:

O. Lam
31 Dec 2015

I remember the early 90's with a directable 10 foot dish that picked up hundreds of channels on C-band. If you liked a channel, you could subscribe to JUST THAT CHANNEL (or any other you liked) for from $1 to $3 a YEAR and it was perfect reception and just what I thought subscription/pay TV should be... yes, pay for just the channels I want to watch instead of a "package". Since then I have never had cable but with my outdoor antenna here in Costa Rica, I get 35 local channels which is enough for me.

Posted by:

James Kalfas
01 Jan 2016

Where can I buy the satellite and all the stuff to get free satellite tv

Posted by:

Tracy Howard
13 Jan 2016

Do you have to have a receiver for fta satellite?

EDITOR'S NOTE: How else would you receive the signal?

Posted by:

15 Apr 2016

Does it matter what type of tv? Analogue or digital?

Posted by:

28 Apr 2016

Thanks for this Bob. Like another poster it's easy to forget OTA satellite reception. Back in the 1980s i built a 15' tower for my $1000 free OTA system. Much to my chagrin the tower didn't help alot. Then came the channel encryption. Bye, bye. And thanks to the poster (Jack Agnew) recommending UStvnow. I'll be investigating that service.

Posted by:

mike williams
09 May 2016

what box do I need to get free dircetv I have my own dish please let me now

Posted by:

25 May 2016

I just got at&t bundle pkg. What do recommend I buy to get fta tv ?

Posted by:

Tracy Paul
25 Jun 2016

I have a Direct TV dish with nothing connected to it, is there a "box" I can buy to get cable channels (not just the local channels)?

Posted by:

tom b
15 Jan 2017

i have a direct tv dish. they don want it back so it is hanging on the side of house. can i use that dish to go fta satilite or will i have to change sonething on the dish.
thanks TOM

Posted by:

Dale W Clark
02 Mar 2017

I have an old 10' dish mounted in by back yard that I would like to use again. My electronics and hardware have long since been obsolete and do not work. It has a motorized crank to move it across the Clark belt of satellites but I have no idea of what I would need today. I sold and installed these large dishes in the late 80's but have not kept up with times. Any ideas would be helpful. Need everything except the dish and mount. Thanks for any help you can give me. Dale

Posted by:

Tawfiq Ansari
04 Sep 2017

My receiving box # 7000 for sky Cruiser satellite channel is not working . Do you have a replacement? and some one to install it in Durham, NC?

EDITOR'S NOTE: Do I? Nope. The company from which you purchased it would be a good place to start.

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Article information: AskBobRankin -- HOWTO: Get Free Satellite TV (Posted: 7 Oct 2013)
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