How to Buy a Satellite TV Without the Service

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When you subscribe to the services of satellite providers like Dish or DirecTV, you’re paying for content just like cable subscribers.
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When you subscribe to the services of satellite providers like Dish or DirecTV, you're paying for content just like cable subscribers. Did you know that there's also a legal way to watch free satellite TV? Free to Air (FTA) satellite television broadcasts thousands of channels from around the world at no cost. All you need is a satellite dish, a television set and the proper receiving equipment.


How to Get Free Satellite TV

Free to Air (FTA) satellite receivers are designed for signals sent as FTA transmissions. Since the signals are unencrypted, they can be viewed by anyone with an FTA receiver without having to subscribe to a satellite television service. The dish serves as an antenna that can receive communication from a satellite. Depending on the satellite you want to receive transmissions from, you may be able to buy a satellite dish and receiver at any well-stocked electronics store. Another alternative is to shop online for a receiver and satellite dish for sale as a kit from a specialty retailer.


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In addition to a television, FTA receiver and satellite dish, you'll need coaxial cable to connect the dish to the receiver and the receiver to the television. Some people hire a professional to install the satellite dish on the roof of their home, point it to the correct satellite and connect the cable. The final step in connecting a satellite TV for free programming is updating the satellite setting in the receiver to receive signals from the same satellite as the dish is pointed at.

Location is Critical

To receive satellite signals with a dish and FTA receiver, your home needs to be in an area with a clear sightline to satellites. This may not be possible in areas where mountains, forests or tall buildings obstruct signals. The more satellites you plan on receiving signals from, the more difficult it can be to find a location to install a dish with unobstructed views of all satellites.


Recording from an FTA Receiver

Most cable providers offer Digital Video Recorder (DVR) services to subscribers to allow them to automatically record programs for future viewing. If you want this capability with an FTA satellite system, look for an FTA receiver with a built-in recorder, also referred to as an integrated Personal Video Recorder (PVR). A hard drive must be included with the receiver or added to the system in order to store recorded shows.

What to Watch on Free Satellite TV

If you want to cut the cable cord and are mostly interested in basic television programming, switching to an FTA system could be a solution. The satellite channels you can watch with an FTA receiver include news, networks, sports and general interest programming as well as foreign language shows. The drawback is that you won't be able to receive shows that are transmitted digitally or in a scrambled form that requires a subscription to unscramble. This includes many broadcast channels and premium cable channels. Examples of channels you can watch with an FTA satellite system in 2019 include PBS, Reuters News and QVC.