I don’t know about you, but in my resolve to “cut the cable” and ditch my Dish Network subscription (it’s been since last July since we last had satellite service) I’ve been missing the ability to watch live local channels. I don’t actually miss the local news and weather, I get that on my phone or online. What I do miss is things like the Super Bowl, or watching hit shows as they air.
If you’re trying to do the same thing, you probably already know about Hulu (and Hulu+), Netflix, and then some shadier sites like TVShack or Project Free TV (not linked for their safety). That’ll get you archival episodes (ones that have already aired), and sometimes you can get them as soon as the day after they’ve aired, depending on content licensing negotiation. I’ve been watching Spartacus: Gods of the Arena on Netflix – the episodes have appeared shortly after they aired on Showtime. Even if you decide to pirate your TV shows through peer-to-peer or other techniques, you’re looking at a few hours while they edit out commercials, do any encoding that might be necessary, and then upload it to the internet.
But if you’re craving live television, you will need to find a streaming source. If you just google “live streaming television” you will find a plethora of alleged solutions offering “thousands of television channels,” but to be frank you’re likely going to find thousands of foreign channels, internet-only channels, and independent channels with content you don’t necessarily care for that much. At any rate, certainly don’t pay for such services without thoroughly trying them out first. Also beware of the high chances of getting infected with viruses and spyware.
I’ve tried a few of the free options, and one pay option that worked well for a while, but the most reliable AND free one I’ve found so far is called US TV Now. This service provides free local channels CBS, PBS, NBC, FOX, and the CW if you sign up for a free account. They even have a channel on the Roku and support streaming to Android and other mobile devices that support flash. The only catch is, you have to liveÂ outside the US to use it. It’s supposed to be directed at Americans living overseas that miss American TV. Houston, we have a solution.
For accessing this website as though we were in another country, we need to fool it by temporarily routing all of our web browsing traffic through what’s called a proxy server that is physically outside the U.S. borders. In Firefox, you can do this with a plugin called FoxyProxy – that will let you switch easily to your proxy server or back to a normal connection. In Chrome, I recommend something like Proxy Switchy. For either of these, you’ll need to get an address for a proxy server outside the U.S. to use. I can almost always find one to use temporarily here. Any non-US proxy should work for our purposes.
Supply the plugin for your browser with the address to your browser’s proxy plugin. Then go to the USTVNow website, and sign up for a free account. If you can wait for about an hour and do it again using your personal referral link and a different email address, USTNow runs specials from time to time for a free 4-hour “DVR” that lets you record shows to watch later when you “refer a friend.” At this point you can uninstall your proxy plugin, you don’t have to be on the proxy server to use the service; you only need it for the sign-up process.