When I first published this guide more than 5 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 more than 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 is all free - supported by far fewer commercials that you have the "privilege" of paying to watch with cable or satellite.
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?
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 finally break free from using other people’s infrastructure to broadcast their content.
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 is 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.
- Get 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
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 | Jacked: Auto Theft Task Force | Storage Wars|
|APTN||A variety of kids and special interest programming.|
|Bet||It's A Mann's World | Lift Every Voice | Zoe Ever After | Criminals At Work|
|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.|
|Bravo||Suits | Blue Bloods | Bones | Project Runway | 19-2|
|CBC||The National | 22 Minutes | Dragon’s Den | Heartland | Schitt's Creek | The Rick Mercer Report|
|CityTV||The Bachelor | Modern Family | New Girl | The Mindy Project | General Hospital | The Chew|
|CMT||Baggage Battles | Chrisley Knows Best | Ice Racer Showdown|
|CPAC||Live streaming of Canadian political meetings as they happen plus related shows and news coverage.|
|CTV||The Big Bang Theory | How To Get Away With Murder | The X-Files | The Voice | The Ellen DeGeneres Show | The Amazing Race | The Social|
|Discovery Channel||Canada’s Worst Driver | Daily Planet | Gold Rush | How It’s Made | Junk Raiders | Myth Busters|
|Family||The Xtra Factor | The Next Step | Gaming Show (In My Parents Garage) | Lost & Found Music Videos|
|Fashion Television||Live stream only.|
|Food Network||Top Chef | Chopped Canada | You Gotta Eat Here | Cutthroat Kitchen | The Pioneer Woman|
|Global News||National, global, and local news.|
|Global TV||The Good Wife | Big Brother | Chicago Fire | Madam Secretary | Survivor | NCIS | Shades of Blue|
|HGTV||Ellen's Design Challenge | Fixer Upper | House Hunters | Caribbean Life | Beachfront Bargain Hunt|
|History||Yukon Gold | Billion Dollar Wreck | American Restoration | Swamp People | Join or Die with Craig Ferguson|
|MTV||Degrassi | Faking It | Awkward | Todrick | Are You The One? | Teen Wolf|
|Much||Conan | Workaholics | Idiotsitter | Not Safe with Nikki Glasser | Broad City|
|OMNI||The Bachelor | Blood And Water | Let's Talk English | Raccontami|
|Outdoor Life Network||Storage Wars Canada | Get Stuffed | Mantracker | Survivorman | Polar Bear Town|
|ShowCase||Continuum | Lost Girl | The Magicians | The Path | Outlander | Haven|
|Slice||Money Moron | The Real Housewives of New York | The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills | Newlyweds: The First Year|
|Space||Face Off | Dark Matter | Dr. Who|
|Teletoon||Alvin And The Chipmunks | Inspector Gadget | Get Ace | Pokemon|
|The Comedy Network||Just for Laughs | The Daily Show With Trevor Noah | The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore|
|The Shopping Channel||Live stream of their broadcast.|
|Treehouse||A variety of kids programming.|
|VICE||Biographies | Picture Perfect | Noisey | Flophouse|
|W Network||Quite a few shows but a terrible player and horrendous navigation.|
|YTV||SpongeBob | The Lil' Sam & Cat Show | Pet Peeves | Every Witch Way|
You'll see that I've given 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 via all the Canadian networks listed above, but there is a lot more content available south of the border that isn't always available to Canadians. Just like Canada - most of the networks offer full length episodes on their own websites.
I’m not going to list them all here, but I will talk about one big advantage they have over us: Hulu.
Hulu is a user-friendly website that streams full length episodes from 20+ American networks. Their selection is better than any other site and their video player and stream quality is unmatched. The player uses advanced compression and buffering technology which produces much less stuttering and freezing, better picture quality, uses less bandwidth, and offers more useful features.
Recently, Hulu has been pushing their paid subscription service that costs $7.99 USD per month that gives you access to more shows and entire seasons instead of just the most recent episodes. If you want to keep it free, make sure you look for the small checkboxes marked "free" when you are browsing their content. This will make sure you are only shown shows and videos that you can stream for free - of which there is plenty.
To access all this additional content, you simply need a good proxy or VPN service. Unlocator is the best paid service for unblocking USA content that when active does not prevent you from accessing Canadian content or slow your connection down. It works on all your devices by following simple step by step configuration guides that they provide. You can even configure your router one time and then it will work on all devices connected to your home 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 for reliable service. They also let you try the service free 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 is capable of streaming video.
But, if you don’t want to be hunched over your computer every time you want to watch one of your favourite shows, here are the components you will need to make that happen:
#1. High Speed Internet Connection
This is essential to ensure fluid playback and the possibility of playing HD content.
You’re going to want a minimum 5Mbps connection but more speed is always better to reduce loading times, increase stream quality, and allow for multiple concurrent streams.
You will 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 an HDMI cable 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 newer 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. However, setting up such a device can be both challenging and expensive for people who are new to streaming.
So, I’ll give you a few options from Easy to Advanced that you can choose from depending on your comfort level.
If you want a small, easy to use, and inexpensive device to get your feet wet streaming - then I would recommend the Roku 3. 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 $100, comes with an easy to use remote, and is basically plug and play.
If you want to improve your Roku experience substantially, then I would consider installing Plex on one of your home computers to work in conjunction with your Roku - more on that later.
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 most Canadian network sites block Android devices from accessing their streaming videos through a mobile web browser. The good news is that several bigger ones like CTV, Global, City, Bravo, Space, Food Network, 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 30+ Canadian network sites to stream the latest shows, but you can also easily install dedicated TV streaming software like Kodi (formerly XBMC) and Plex to make navigating content easier and for streaming your own home videos and music.
Then, you can run streaming services like Netflix and YouTube either through dedicated Windows 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 is 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 (not that bad). 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 is capable of.
If you’re planning to use an existing computer, tablet, or phone - then getting a Google Chromecast so you can 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 I promise that you’ll 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 that 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 is not an easy task and there is a wide selection of devices out there that all function quite differently. After trying several remote styles myself, I personally have settled on a basic air remote with basic 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.
Here is a model that works on Android TV boxes, Windows PCs, and several other devices. Keep in mind, both the Roku 3 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 on your home network to any of your internet connected devices from anywhere. It works on Roku, 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 (formerly XBMC)
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 is 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 has streams stop working from time to time.
A Word of Caution
You’ll need a little patience and some technical savvy to get started and over 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 - download my short 5-step guide below:
Want to pay less for cable? Get this PDF and learn the 5 Steps to Negotiate 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