If you’re a true political junkie, you don’t want to just read about the latest political proceedings in the newspaper or online, or get your news exclusively from cable channels like CNN and Fox News. You want to watch C-SPAN without cable and get the latest congressional proceedings, testimonies, lawmaking sessions and more, live and unfiltered.
But since C-SPAN is a cable-only channel, you may be wondering if it’s possible to watch this channel without a cable or satellite pay-TV subscription. Well, we’ve got good news – the answer is “yes!” Ready to cut the cord on cable, but still want to watch C-SPAN? Read on.
This is a little bit disappointing, as we’d like to be able to recommend more than a single service to you.
But, as it stands, DirecTV Now is your only option for how to watch C-SPAN without cable, so let’s get into the details, and talk about what this service has to offer you.
Plans, Deals and Pricing
You’ll be able to choose from a wide variety of different plans with DirecTV Now. There are a total of four different primary plans to choose from:
- Live A Little – 65+ channels, $40/month
- Just Right – 85+ channels, $55/month
- Go Big – 105+ channels, $65/month
- Gotta Have It – 125+ channels, $75/month
To get C-SPAN, you’ll only need to get the cheapest, $40/month “Live A Little” package. Not only do you get C-SPAN, but you’ll also get C-SPAN 2. Other news and politics channels included in “Live A Little” are BBC America, Bloomberg, HLN, Fox Business and Fox News, and CNBC and MSNBC, as well as local NBC/ABC/CBS/Fox network affiliate channels, where available.
If you’d like more news channels, you can upgrade to the $55/month “Just Right” package. You’ll get CNBC World and a few Spanish-language news channels. The $65 “Go Big” package includes even more channels, like BBC World News. The $75/month “Gotta Have It” package includes all of those channels, plus premium networks like Starz.
Overall, though, your best value is definitely going to be the “Live A Little” package. You’ll get C-SPAN and C-SPAN 2, as well as most major news channels, sports coverage, and entertainment/lifestyle channels.
One of the reasons that it’s a bit disappointing that DirecTV Now is the only way to watch C-SPAN without cable is because its features are a bit lacking, compared to other streaming services like fuboTV, Sling TV, and Philo.
Let’s take the DVR, for example. Until the middle of 2018, DirecTV Now didn’t offer any kind of DVR service at all. If you missed a show, too bad – you’d better find a place to watch in on-demand.
Things have improved since then, but not by much. DirecTV Now offers a free cloud DVR for all subscribers, but it comes with only 20 hours of storage, and your recordings are deleted after 30 days.
What makes this even more mind-boggling is that, when DirecTV Now began offering cloud DVR for Beta users in 2017, they got 100 hours of storage. There’s no way to upgrade it either, though DirecTV Now has previously said they would be offering more storage capacity in the future.
As a comparison, fuboTV lets you record 30 hours with no recording expiration dates. Sling TV’s DVR costs $5 extra per month but comes with a generous 50 hours of storage, and Philo lets you store unlimited shows for up to 30 days. DirecTV Now’s DVR is at the bottom of the heap when it comes to storage.
Simultaneous streaming is a little better, though. You can stream on up to 2 devices at once, which is industry standard, and upgrade to 3 devices for an extra $5 per month.
On a brighter note, DirecTV Now has support for pretty much any device that you’d like to use to watch C-Span. You can watch it on your web browser, on iOS and Android tablets and smartphones, and on Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, Roku, and Apple TV, so you’ll have plenty of options when you watch C-SPAN without cable.
Overall, though, DirecTV Now has a good number of top channels, which makes its lack of advanced features easier to take. It’s also your only option for watching C-SPAN without cable through an internet TV “skinny bundle” service, and the “Live A Little” package is reasonably priced.
Since it’s the only option, we recommend it, but hopefully, DirecTV Now can step up its game a bit and add better features like an upgradeable cloud DVR. For now, this service has really fallen behind.
If you’re not willing to shell out $40/month just to watch C-SPAN without cable, you do have a few other options. The official C-SPAN website, for example, may be a good option for you to watch C-SPAN for free.
Your DirecTV Now login won’t work on C-SPAN
You’re probably familiar with the process of logging into a cable channel’s website by using your cable credentials. Just pick your TV provider, enter your info, and you can watch live and archived streams for free.
Unfortunately, while internet TV services like DirecTV Now can be used to do this with many other channels, like CNN and Fox News, C-SPAN does not yet recognize DirecTV Now as a legitimate TV provider, so you won’t be able to log into the C-SPAN website and watch live content for free. However, this is only a small drawback, and it may change in the future.
And, even if you can’t log in with your DirecTV Now subscription, there are a few ways you can watch C-SPAN without cable for free on their website.
Watch live “Federal government events” for free
While you won’t be able to watch all C-SPAN events for free, the channel is a public channel funded by the cable industry, so it’s required to abide by some federal guidelines for making programming available to the public.
Most notably, C-SPAN is required to broadcast “Live coverage of all Federal government events. While this is subject to interpretation, in practice it means that you can usually watch the following types of coverage and events on C-span.org for free:
- House and Senate debates
- Committee Hearings (such as the recent Brett Kavanaugh confirmation hearings)
- Executive Branch events (such as Presidential gathering and other special events)
In addition, it’s expected that some coverage of the 2020 Presidential Campaigns will be provided for free by C-SPAN. C-SPAN’s exclusive morning interview program, Washington Journal, can also be viewed for free.
You won’t be able to catch all of the latest action on the Senate or House floor for free. But if you only watch C-SPAN for larger political events like presidential speeches, or coverage of major bills, you may be able to get the coverage you need – for free – on C-span.org.
View archived and recorded videos
Not all of the latest political events are available for live viewing on C-span.org. However, if you can wait until after the latest vote or hearing has concluded, you will be able to watch it in full on the C-span website – on-demand – for free.
According to the C-Span website, they currently offer more than 247,156 hours of video content. By simply searching for the video you’d like to watch, you’ll be able to find a full, archived video stream.
We tried “Google” to bring up the latest Google Data Collection hearing testimonies with CEO Sundar Pichai, and it worked perfectly. Many of these videos are also available with text-based transcripts, which makes it easier to digest the content.
Between the availability of live-streamed “Federal government events” and other archived videos, you’ll have pretty much everything you need to watch C-SPAN without cable, though you will miss out on other occasional live broadcasts that are exclusive to the cable channel.
YouTube (But Not YouTube TV)
If you’re looking for a simple way to watch the latest, most important videos from C-SPAN, you can turn to YouTube. Note that we are discussing YouTube proper, here, not the new YouTube TV live-streaming internet TV services. While YouTube TV is a great service, it does not yet carry C-SPAN.
However, C-SPAN has quite a robust YouTube presence. On their YouTube page, you’ll be able to stream some events live from YouTube, and watch archived streams and uploaded videos afterward. On average, there are about two dozen videos uploaded every week, covering the latest major political news stories.
It’s not a perfect lineup of content, but it is completely free, and you can bet that the biggest news stories of the week will always make it onto the C-SPAN YouTube page.
If you’re not totally tied to the idea of watching C-SPAN without cable, and you’re willing to listen to C-SPAN without cable instead, C-SPAN Radio may be the best choice for you. This radio station, which is based in Washington DC and broadcasts 24/7, always has coverage of the latest political news and events.
Naturally, you can only get the radio station in the DC area. However, C-SPAN also offers a live, online simulcast stream, which you can access here, at this link. If you listen online or download the C-SPAN mobile app for iOS and Android devices, you can listen to HD streams of C-Span, C-SPAN 2, and C-SPAN 3.
Listening on the radio is a slightly different experience than watching C-Span without cable. But, given the mostly audio-heavy nature of C-SPAN’s programming, you can get used to it fairly quickly. If you’re not willing to drop $40/month on a subscription to DirecTV Now, this is definitely a viable alternative.
What’s on C-SPAN?
Mostly, C-SPAN broadcasts and televises U.S. political events. “Gavel-to-gavel” sessions of Congress are common. However, political coverage is not only restricted to the United States. Occasionally, the proceedings of Australian, British, and Canadian Parliaments may be covered, should they be interesting and politically-relevant to United States viewers.
Uniquely, C-SPAN does not edit any of its political coverage. It is broadcasted unfiltered and live. This type of coverage consists of the majority of C-SPAN’s programming. Beyond this, though, there are a few daily and weekly televisions programs that are unique to this network, including:
- Washington Journal – Airing from 7-10am Eastern, this is a live call-in program, featuring elected officials, political analysts, journalists, and more as guests. Viewers and listeners can also call-in to make their opinions heard.
- Washington Today – This show airs from 5-7pm and is re-broadcast from 9-11pm Eastern time. It’s a comprehensive overview of all of the top political stories that have taken place during the day, complete with interviews and perspectives with journalists, administration officials, and policymakers.
- C-SPAN’s The Weekly – Uniquely, this show is not broadcast on C-SPAN. Instead, it takes the form of an audio podcast. Typically ranging from 23-30 minutes in length, this show takes a deep look at a particular story from the most recent news cycle.
Recent stories discussed include the selection of Amazon’s HQ2 cities and the political ramifications of this decision, an in-depth look at the history of Veteran’s Day, and a discussion about Saudi-US affairs, as they relate to the death of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Overall, C-SPAN is a great resource for political junkies and news enthusiasts who prefer to watch the news as it happens, rather than hear about it from other, third-party news sources. With its unique, unfiltered perspective and broad range of programming, watching or listening to C-SPAN is sure to help you become more informed about the political situation in our country.