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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.

6 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?

  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???

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