Last updated: November 15, 2018
When I first published this guide more than 7 years ago – internet TV in Canada was a primitive beast...
Canadian television networks were just starting to put full episodes online and it was only for the purpose of their cable or satellite subscribers to be able to catch up on recent shows they missed. The stream quality was often poor and laggy and few people actually knew the content existed.
Those that did know usually watched hunched over their laptops – not from the comfort of their couches using a remote control.
Times have changed.
There are now almost 30 Canadian networks (listed below) streaming full episodes of their shows online using top-quality media players. Many of them even have mobile apps for viewing on your phone or tablet.
The best part is it’s all free – supported by far fewer commercials that you have the "privilege" of paying to watch with cable or satellite.
It can feel overwhelming, but we’re here to make it easy.
When you're done reading this guide, you should be ready to cut the cord yourself. You'll know exactly where to go to get full TV episodes free and legally along with all the tools and equipment you need to make your internet TV viewing experience a pleasant one.
Ready to cut the cord? Download the PDF version of this step-by-step guide.
In this guide
- Can I really get TV for free?
- Pros and cons of internet TV
- Canadian networks with full episodes online
- Watch American networks in Canada
- What you need to get started
- Useful software to give you more
Can I really get TV for free?
There must be a catch, right?
How can I get such an expensive service like TV for free without breaking the law or ripping off the content creators?
There’s no catch – watching TV on the internet is 100% free, legal, and supports content creators.
The logic behind this truth is really quite simple.
The lion's share of the revenue to the major networks and television broadcasters comes from the sale of advertisements, not from the cable or satellite providers.
The providers do often pay a licensing fee for the rights to broadcast these networks through their service, but it pales in comparison to ad revenue. It makes sense that TV networks want to broadcast their shows to as large of an audience as possible using any medium to further increase revenue.
The internet and modern high-speed connections have allowed them to break free from using other people’s infrastructure to broadcast their content.
And what better place to broadcast their own content than on their very own sites?
It really is that simple.
Pros and cons of internet TV
- It’s 100% free, legal and supports content creators.
- Watch shows on your own schedule, not the TV’s schedule.
- Pause, restart, rewind, and fast forward as you please (no PVR required).
- Whole seasons or past seasons of shows are sometimes available.
- Shorter and often less frequent commercial breaks.
- Shows are often available in 720p or 1080p HD.
- Some networks even have made-for-TV movies or other movies available.
- Getting everything set up the first time can be a hassle (but this guide makes it easy).
- Even with a proper HTPC remote and good software – controlling internet TV is a little harder.
- Streaming video can tax your internet bandwidth and breach your download cap (solution).
- Rarely, videos may skip, freeze, or be grainy – this is the exception, not the rule.
- You can’t really "channel surf" with internet TV – but it's a time waster so no big loss.
- Content is more spread out so it can be harder to find (see full episode guide below).
- Some content, like live sports, is rarely available online (improving all the time).
Canadian networks with full episodes online
Almost 30 Canadian networks stream full episodes online – that's a pretty staggering number. I never would have guessed there would be so many if I didn't go looking for them all.
If this table doesn’t provide you with enough free entertainment to keep you busy...then you're probably watching too much TV!
Click the linked network names below to go directly to their full episode or video page.
|A & E||Flip This House | Hoarders | Intervention | Live PD | Storage Wars|
|APTN||A variety of kid shows and special interest programming.|
|Bet||Situationships | Hit The Floor | Vixen|
|Bloomberg News||Live streaming news! USA | Europe | Asia|
|BNN||All their business news broadcasts from every day of the week plus all of their shows as well. Very extensive library and history.|
|CBC||Dragon’s Den | Misfits | The Great Canadian Baking Show | Murdoch Mysteries | CBC Live stream|
|CityTV||The Bachelor | Modern Family | Lethal Weapon | Family Guy | Dancing With The Stars|
|CP24||News episodes and live stream|
|CPAC||Live streaming of Canadian political meetings as they happen plus related shows and news coverage.|
|CTV||Grey’s Anatomy | The Good Doctor | The Big Bang Theory | Magnum P.I.|
|Discovery Channel||Canada’s Worst Driver | Gold Rush | Heavy Rescue | Frontier | Highway Thru Hell|
|Family||Variety of kid shows.|
|Food Network||Top Chef Canada | Chopped Canada | You Gotta Eat Here | Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives | The Baker Sisters|
|Global News||National, global, and local news.|
|Global TV||Big Brother Canada | Days Of Our Lives | ET Canada | The Late Show With Stephen Colbert|
|HGTV||Home To Win | Income Property | Love It Or List It | Leave It To Brian | Property Brothers|
|History||Vikings | 100 Days To Victory | Alone | History Of|
|MTV||Are You The One? | Teen Mom | South Park | Jersey Shore|
|Much||The Daily Show | Star Trek: Discovery | Teen Mom 2 | Z Nation|
|OMNI||Blood And Water | Let's Talk English|
|Slice||Stitched | Real Housewives | Million Dollar Listing | Four Weddings Canada|
|Space||Face Off | X-Files | Dr. Who | Arrow|
|The Comedy Network||The Daily Show With Trevor Noah|
|The Shopping Channel||Live stream of their broadcast.|
|VICE||VICE News | Chef's Night Out|
|VisionTV||A User's Guide To Cheating Death | East Enders | Time To Sing|
|W Network||Tessa & Scott.|
You'll see that I've given a loose rating to each network website in 3 areas:
- Selection - do they offer a good number of shows with full episodes.
- Usability - how easy is using the site and the video player.
- Unlocked - are full episodes available to all viewers or just those with a cable/satellite.
Each area is given one of 3 possible ratings:
- means the network does well in this area.
- means the network does so-so in this area.
- means the network does poorly in this area.
Watch American networks in Canada
You should have plenty of content to watch with all the Canadian networks listed above, but there’s a lot more content available south of the border. Just like Canada – most of the networks offer full length episodes on their own websites.
Unfortunately, these aren’t always available to Canadians – but there’s a workaround.
To access all this additional content, you simply need a good proxy or VPN service.
There are some free services out there, but they can be a bit sketchy. And when you think of all the information you send over your network, it’s best to be safe when you choose a VPN service.
That’s why I suggest...
Unlocator is the best paid service for unblocking USA content that doesn’t prevent you from accessing Canadian content or slow your connection down when active.
It works on all your devices by following simple step-by-step configuration guides that they provide.
You only need to configure your router once, then it’ll work on all devices connected to your network automatically.
It does cost about $5/mth – with cheaper annual plans – but that's a small price to pay compared to a cable subscription.
They also let you try the service free for 7 days to see if you like it before buying.
What you need to get started
To get started, all you really need is a computer with internet that’s capable of streaming video.
But, if you don’t want to be hunched over your computer every time you watch one of your favourite shows, here are some components that can really improve your experience:
#1. High-speed internet connection
This is essential for fluid playback and the possibility of playing HD content.
You’re going to want a 5Mbps connection at the minimum, but more speed is always better to reduce loading times, increase stream quality, and allow for multiple streams at the same time.
You’ll also need unlimited bandwidth (or a high bandwidth cap) to make sure you aren’t dinged with a lot of extra fees. If you have a bandwidth cap or a slow connection, you may be interested in my guide to saving money on your internet costs.
#2. HDMI cable
It used to be that HDMI cables cost $100 or more and no one was plugging their computers into their TV.
It’s much more common now – but in case you still don’t have one, you can pick up it up almost anywhere. They even sell them at Dollarama for around $3 each. Here’s a well-reviewed cable from Amazon for $5 with free shipping.
When it comes to digital cables like HDMI, you rarely need to be concerned about the quality of the cable itself. A digital signal will come through the same no matter how fancy the cable is.
The only time you might need a higher bandwidth or top-quality cable is if you want to maximize the full power of your 4K TV, or you have a very long cable run (more than 25ft).
#3. HDMI capable streaming device
Normally, I would recommend a dedicated Home Theater PC (HTPC) running Windows 10 as the ultimate device for free internet TV...
...But setting one up can be both overwhelming and expensive for people who are new to streaming.
So, I’ll give you a few options so you can choose what works for you based on your comfort level:
If you want a small, easy to use, and inexpensive device to get your feet wet streaming – I'd recommend the Fire TV Stick.
It gives you lots of streaming apps to get started with, including Netflix (but you won’t be able to stream everything from Canadian network sites like you could with an HTPC).
It only costs about $50, comes with an easy-to-use remote, and it’s basically plug-and-play.
A good compromise between a full HTPC with Windows and a limited streaming device is an Android TV box.
If you buy a higher-end box, you can do most things you can on a windows HTPC and get the benefit of the huge library of apps on the Google Play store.
The downside here is some Canadian network sites block Android devices from accessing their streaming videos through a mobile web browser.
But the good news is that several bigger ones like CTV, City, Bravo, Space, and The Comedy Network all have apps that work just fine. Simply search the Google Play store for the Canadian networks listed above and you could find even more.
I use a dedicated Home Theater PC running Windows 10 plugged directly into my TV to get my free internet TV. The reasons for that are plenty...
Not only can you use a simple web browser to access Canadian network sites, but you can also easily install dedicated TV streaming software like Kodi and Plex to make navigating content easier and stream your own home videos and music (more on that here).
Then, you can run streaming services like Netflix and YouTube either through the dedicated apps or right through your web browser. If you hook up a microphone, you can even use Cortana to control many aspects of your TV with your voice.
The problem is that almost no one sells a Windows device out-of-the-box that’s perfect for this. Usually you need to start with a bare-bones system (no hard drive or memory installed), buy and install those components (very easy), and then install Windows yourself (also easy). Here are the components I recommend:
- HTPC Bare-Bones System (small and power efficient)
- HTPC Compatible Memory
- HTPC Compatible Solid State Hard Drive (very fast)
- Windows 10
Installing the components usually just amounts to opening up the case with a screwdriver, popping the component into place like Lego, and closing it back up again. Watching a YouTube video is more than enough to be able to do it yourself with no issues.
If you’re not ready to buy a dedicated device just yet – then most laptops, many tablets (i.e. Microsoft Surface), some phones, and modern video game consoles are capable of hooking up to your TV and streaming video.
Do a little research into your current device and see what it’s capable of.
If you’re planning to use an existing computer, tablet, or phone – then getting a Google Chromecast to wirelessly stream video from your existing device to your TV is a super convenient way to go.
Don’t make this mistake
The biggest mistake you can make when buying a streaming device is to cheap out and buy a lower-end model.
I’ve recommended devices above that have enough horsepower to handle most things you throw at it while not breaking the bank.
Don’t go any cheaper, or you’ll most likely regret it.
#4. A good remote
To get the full experience, you want to be able to control your TV with a remote – not a keyboard and a mouse. Sitting on your couch with those clunky tools just isn’t appealing.
Fortunately, there have been many technological advancements in this area and there are a lot of HTPC remotes to choose from.
Designing a remote to control a computer isn’t an easy task. As a result, what’s available functions quite differently.
After trying several remote styles myself, I personally have settled on a basic air remote with normal controls on the top and a mini keyboard on the bottom. You simply wave your hand at the screen (kind of like a Wii Remote) to control the mouse cursor – it’s pretty easy and intuitive after a little time playing with it.
Note: Both the Fire TV Stick and Android TV box recommended above come with remotes, so you won’t need to purchase one separately.
Useful software to give you more
With a little patience, using a web browser to view internet TV does work, but it definitely isn’t ideal.
Fortunately, new software is continually being developed to create a better user experience. Support for Canadian content can be spotty – but it does exist.
Plex is a free media server that allows you to stream all your media files from a single computer or NAS (Network Attached Storage) on your home network to any device connected to your internet.
It works on Fire Stick, Android TV boxes, and Windows, making it a great way to power up those devices.
There are add-ons for Plex that allow you to stream some content from the Canadian networks. These add-ons usually aren't officially supported by the networks themselves so sometimes they shut them down to encourage people to use their own apps and websites.
Kodi is a TV-friendly user interface that can be used to access both media content on your local network as well as various internet streams through their add-ons.
It can be installed directly on most operating systems including Windows, iOS, Linux, and Android.
It’s open-source software, so there are tons of community maintained add-ons available for it. The problem is that managing add-ons and keeping them up-to-date can be time consuming and takes a little technical know-how.
There were a couple of great add-ons for Canadian content – Canada On Demand and CanTVLive. The bad news is that Canada On Demand is no longer being supported and CanTVLive stops working from time to time.
A word of caution
You’ll need a little patience and some technical knowledge to get started and through the next few months as you get used to it.
Be honest with yourself about whether this is something that you’re willing to learn. If you think that the cons above seem like a huge mountain...then it might not be worth it.
Other things you can do to lower your cable costs:
- Negotiate with retentions
Want to pay less for cable? Get this PDF and learn the 5 steps to negotiating a better deal on cable.
- Switch providers and take advantage of their new customer sign-up bonuses
- Bundle your services for a discount
- Check out even more ideas here: How To Save Money on TV