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The Public Broadcasting Service, or PBS, has been an American institution for more than 50 years, as fundamental to our identity as “Baseball” (a documentary by Ken Burns) and apple pie (baked in a crust that Martha Stewart calls “pate brisee”). Where else can you see high-class dramas; award-winning children’s programs, concerts, and other cultural events; in-depth news coverage; and marathon antiques appraisals all in the same spot? PBS offers all this, as well as locally produced programming that caters specifically to your regional interests.For many, PBS represents the best television has to offer, and it’s just about the only place you can see reruns of British sitcoms in perpetuity.

Given the rich programming PBS provides, cord-cutters are eager to swoon over “Masterpiece” and experience “Nature” without spending money on cable. PBS has always been available for free over the air with a TV antenna, and many people still watch it that way today. For those who prefer to stream, however, it may be as frustrating as waiting for something pleasant to happen to Laura Carmichael’s character on “Downton Abbey” — although your patience may pay off in the end, just as Lady Edith’s did.

How to Watch PBS Online and Over the Air Without Cable

There are three ways to watch PBS shows without cable: You can subscribe to YouTube TV, the lone skinny bundle that offers PBS; use an antenna to watch it for free over-the-air; or use the PBS Video app, which is available on multiple platforms.

YouTube TV

Of all the skinny-bundle services available, YouTube TV is your one and only option for watching PBS without cable. YouTube TV apps are available on multiple platforms, and the service has a free trial if you want to give it a whirl before committing any cash.

Free Over-the-Air TV

If you’re looking to watch PBS for free, an over-the-air antenna may be your best option. If you want to receive PBS and other broadcast channels over the air, there are many TV antenna options available. You just have to consider your distance from the local PBS transmitter, the direction of the transmitter, and the obstacles that may sit between your home and the transmitter.

PBS Video

PBS has a digital streaming app called PBS Video that provides video on demand on your TV, phone, or tablet. It’ll let you stream some on-demand programming at no cost, although you can increase the amount of content you get by paying for a premium tier called PBS Passport.

Can I Watch PBS on Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, or Chromecast?

YouTube TV is the only streaming service that offers PBS as part of its lineup, which makes the following chart pretty easy to navigate. If your platform of choice supports YouTube TV, you’ll be able to watch PBS.

Roku Fire TV Apple TV Android TV Chromecast iOS Android Web browser
YouTube TV No Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes

You can also use the PBS Video app to watch some PBS programming. The app is compatible with Roku, Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast, iOS, and Android.

Watching PBS Without Cable Can Be Tricky

PBS isn’t yet available through most streaming services, but don’t lose heart. PBS has heard your pleas, and it is working to supply the demand. In the meantime, many other channels are available for streaming. If you’ve decided leaving cable behind is the right choice, we have information on how to get started.

20 thoughts on “How To Watch PBS Without Cable

  1. Ward Lindenmayer says:

    I just installed a Roku device on my kitchen TV last night and also have access to PBS Passport on my computers because I donate to my local PBS station (KQED). My question is: how can I add PBS Passport access to my Roku device so I can watch PBS on my TV rather than my computer?

    1. PBS Viewer says:

      Add the PBS APP. You’ll have to do the sign-up thing for it on the PBS site. This is what I had to do for both of my ROKU TV’s.

      1. Judy says:

        Is there. Monthly charge

  2. Anonymous says:

    I was getting all 5 PBS stations ota which is where I like to watch it on my digital tv. I lost all 5 stations on my tv this past week and don’t understand why⁉️ I don’t want to watch on my iPad but don’t know how to get it back on my tv as I refuse to pay spectrum their robbery prices for cable. That defeats it as FREE AND ON MY LARGE TV SCREEN. Needing cable and internet does not make it FREE‼️‼️‼️On my tablet is not free‼️‼️‼️‼️PBS says it’s so more people can see it-well you just kicked a whole neighborhood off as we can no longer see it on our tv for free as we have for the last 55yrs‼️‼️‼️‼️So how does this make it viewable to more people for free⁉️⁉️⁉️⁉️Us seniors have help make you relevant so why are you now making us pay and figure out how to get your programs back on our TVs for FREE⁉️⁉️⁉️⁉️This is absolutely wrong but shoving us aside is going to cost you or delete you and we funded you for so many years‼️‼️‼️‼️‼️NOW you’re asking us to spend more money on top of our support and pay someone to get it set up as we weren’t brought up with this knowledge. This will prove t be your downfall. WAIT AND SEE! Those young kid ss aren’t going to keep you going‼️Your funds will dry up. This is what you do to those that support you⁉️⁉️⁉️⁉️

    1. G says:

      Did you rescan to see if PBS changed their broadcast signal location?

    2. Anonymous says:


    3. tnt says:

      PBS took Canadian subscribers and our money for years, robbing the Canadian cable services of subscribers. Once PBS was successful at our expense they dropped us Canadians, until now with this suspect offer. Sure PBS. We love the programming but your business ethics? Not so much.

    4. Mary Lou Yount says:

      The letter above is spot on. I am 85 years old and ever since I re-scanned my T.V. { I have an antenna} half the channels are gone or they are so messed up they can’t be watched. I’m mad as hell!!!!!

    5. Anonymous says:

      I totally agree with you! I’m having a hell of a time.

  3. Elveta says:

    We don’t get PBS with an antenna because we live in the woods. We had to pay for dish satellite TV to get any television until recently when we switched to a broadband option, and now we want to stream PBS and cut the cord. We have a Roku TV and we do have the PBS app on that TV, but very little of their programming is available for us. Now what???

    1. moxie1956 says:

      I echo the immediately above post on12/21/21, except now it’s /5/01/22 & I’m in NC. A few years back, I enjoyed subscribing to PBS Passport, but when my income became fixed, I had to stop the nominal cost of Passport. No longer having Passport access, I uninstalled the PBS app from my ROKU TV because what was available was so uninteresting. Now, a few years later, I am trying again & the disappointment is no less the reaction. PBS, an institutional channel available for free once upon a time has learned there is money to be gained by those who stream. I cannot even choose the PBS station of my choice, I am stuck with what PBS determines. So far, it’s cooking shows ad nauseum. Here I go again with the uninstallment of the ROKU TV PBS app.

  4. Dana says:

    Is there a charge ? I have. Passport number but don’t remember it and just installed the app on my TV

  5. Danno says:

    We got the pbs passport to watch on roku but the concerts are only the trailers. We can’t find the full length concerts anywhere!

  6. Pat mach says:

    A couple of days ago ch 08.1 and 8.2 quit showing on my tv.
    I am on antenna.
    My zip code is 77437 el campo.
    I bought an antenna and had it installed on my roof , better antenna so I could get ch 08 and it disappeared.
    Did the thunderstorms mess up your broadcast?

  7. Cindy Edge says:

    I have also lost my local station this past week.

    I have called called and called leaving messages and requests – nothing!!!!

    Tried all the on line web sites lengthy instructions I could possibly follow-nothing.

    This is basically all I watch and have for years.
    What happened to OETA that just in the wink of an eye it is not available and I can’t get help to
    Solve this problem.

    Frustration is really getting up there!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  8. C Kennedy says:

    Why did I just lose all my PBS stations? (channel 18)

  9. Ann Anemas says:

    With a Roku TV, you can use the PBS Video app to watch a lot of recent PBS shows for free. If you want access to their complete archive you can pay $5 a month or $60 a year for a membership from your local PBS TV station.

    Sign up for a membership on your local PBS station’s web site, then create an online username and password that you will need for full access in the streaming app.

    I did this for the first year I switched to streaming with YouTube TV. I stopped paying for the membership and full access when YouTube TV added PBS stations to its local channels lineup. I still have the PBS app on my Roku TVs and just used it a couple days ago to watch a recent episode of Frontline.

  10. Ned Kennington says:

    Why does the screen freeze when I back up while watching a PBS video via Passport? How can I prevent this from happening? It seems to happen when I back up several times for a short time.

  11. laura browning says:

    I don’t understand why it is only possible to watch the main PBS NC station online. I also watch the PBS Explorer Channel here in NC, but it isn’t available online. Why is that ? How can they claim ownership of FOUR channels, but only allow the viewer to watch ONE???
    The only way I can watch it is to either continue to pay Spectrum an exorbitant amount of money per month or pay an equally high amount to a streaming service. I live in the mountains, so an antenna is not going to cut it.
    That doesn’t make sense, for one thing. For another, it just doesn’t seem right.
    For those of us who contribute financially to the programming that appears on ALL of those channels, it feels a bit like a slap in the face.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I totally agree with you! I’m having a hell of a time.

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