Is watching TV for free on the Internet legal?

Updated: 01/24/2018 by Computer Hope

Free TVYes and no. Depending on how you are watching TV on the Internet determines if it is legal or not. Often (but not always), the easiest method of determining if the content is legal or not is if the content you are viewing contains advertisements or a sponsor. The producers of the content cannot afford to release their content without some type of sponsorship. If you are downloading or watching TV without commercials or sponsorship, it may be illegal.

Note: If you are downloading or viewing illegal content, it can be a security risk since many of the sites hosting the content are supported by malware.

Where are places on the Internet that I can watch TV for free and legally?

The websites listed below allow users to watch TV shows through their site, by way of streaming video. Some of these sites provide the streaming TV at no cost, but available content may be limited. Other sites require a small subscription fee to watch all available TV shows or a subscription to a cable or satellite service. You may need to login with your cable or satellite service account to verify your eligibility to watch TV shows through the site, but no additional costs are required.

  • Hulu - The number one location for finding full and legal TV shows, trailers, and some movies for US visitors. Hulu is a joint venture between NBC, Fox, and many more.
  • Joost - A great collection of content from a wide arrange of sources and includes some of the old cartoon classics such as GI Joe, Transformers, Popeye, He-Man, Fat Albert, and much more.
  • Emol - Another great collection of free public domain movies, videos, music videos, and TV shows.
  • A&E - The A&E TV site features such popular shows as Dog the Bounty Hunter, Intervention, Obsessed, and The Cleaner.
  • ABC - The ABC page has many of its popular shows such as Dancing with the stars, Desperate Housewives, Extreme Makeover, Grey's Anatomy, Lost, and Scrubs.
  • CBS - The CBS page has full shows from such shows as 60 Minutes, CSI, The Amazing Race, and more.
  • Comedy Central - The Comedy Central site features shows such as The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, South Park, and more.
  • Discovery Channel - The Discovery Channel page features such shows as Man vs. Wild, The Colony, Verminators, and more.
  • Fox - The Fox Broadcasting site features such popular shows as 24, American Idol, Cops, Family Guy, Hell's Kitchen, The Simpsons, and much more.
  • FX - The FX page features such shows as 30 Days, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Rescue Me, and more.
  • History Channel - Expedition Africa Ice Road Truckers, Pawn Stars, and more.
  • Lifetime - The Lifetime network features such shows as Army Wives, How I met your Mother, and How to look good naked.
  • MTV - The MTV page features such shows as America's Best Dance Crew, The Hills, Punk'd, and more.
  • NBC - The NBC page has many of its popular shows such as America's got talent, ER, Heroes, Law and Order, The Office, Saturday Night Live, as well as many of their old classic shows.
  • SpikeTV - The Spike TV's page features such shows as Jesse James is a Dead Man, Manswers, Pros vs. Joes, and TNA iMPACT.
  • TBS - The TBS page features shows such as 10 Items or less, Family Guy, My Boys, and Seinfeld.
  • TheCW - The CW also features many of its shows such as 90210, America's Top Model, Gossip Girl, and Melrose Place.
  • TheWB - The WB site has a collection of their new and old shows online such as Angel, Babylon 5, Buffy, Smallville, Firefly, Friends, Gilmore Girls, and The Lake.
  • TLC - The TLC page features such shows as Cake Boss, Flip That House, Miami Ink, and Say Yes to the Dress.
  • TNT - The TNT site features popular shows online such as Bones, ER, Law and Order, Saving Grace, and The Closer.
  • USA - The USA network features such shows as Burn Notice, Monk, Psych, and Royal Pains.
  • VH1 - The VH1 site features shows such as Brooke Knows Best, Sober House, and the T.O show.

Popular illegal methods of watching TV shows

  • Bittorrents - Downloading a TV show through a bittorrent is often illegal. These shows have been put up and are being shared by people who do not have the rights to the Copyright.
  • TV streaming sites - Many TV sites have been setup to link to other places on the Internet that stream or allow you to download full TV shows from external sources. These sites may have disclaimers citing they are not responsible for the content that is linked on the site, and have links to report broken video links. While the link sites themselves are not illegal, the content that is being linked to is often considered illegal. We also highly recommend avoiding these sites since many of them or the pages they are linking to are riddled with intrusive advertisement, spyware, porn, and other malware.

Caution: Downloading a Copyrighted TV show or movie that you have not paid for or received permission to download is considered Copyright infringement and illegal.

Other non-free solutions

  • NetflixNetflix - Netflix requires a monthly membership fee, however, they have one of the largest selections of TV shows that can either be rented on DVD or Bluray with no late fees or viewed by streaming to your computer or TV.
  • Amazon Prime - Amazon Prime is a yearly fee service from that lets you have free two day shipping on all purchases and access to their online streaming service that has thousands of TV shows and movies including older HBO shows.
  • Hulu Plus - Hulu Plus is the paid version of the free Hulu service and requires a monthly membership fee. There are many more TV shows available to stream to your computer or TV than are available with the free Hulu service.
  • HBO Go - HBO Go is a service included with your HBO subscription that gives you access to all of HBO's content.

Hardware devices that support Internet TV programs

Hardware devices, such as the Roku, Tivo, PS3, Wii, and XBox, also support the ability to watch many online programs, as well as support Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime programs. Two popular devices that support many of these online programs are the Roku and the XBox.

There are also TVs that support an Internet connection, called Smart TVs, and include some of these online programs. Hulu and Netflix are two common programs included on Smart TVs.