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There has been a lot of attention lately on cord-cutters because of how nervous they have television companies such as ESPN. They are making investors queasy because ratings are dropping.

Much of the focus has been on the pay alternatives for cord-cutters, such as Hulu, Netflix and HBO Now, as well as sports services such as and There’s a good reason for that: All offer quality programming that doesn’t require you to subscribe to cable, DirecTV, Dish Network or other providers … for the most part. More on that later.

Some cord-cutters are Sling TV subscribers. The service of Dish Network offers several channels, including ESPN, TBS and TNT, for $20 a month.

I’m unlikely to cut the cord anytime soon because of the loss of DVR capabilities and a way to watch Carolina Hurricanes games, to mention only two factors. But when my Dish Network box stopped working a few weeks ago, I was forced to be a cord-cutter for three days as I waited for the new box to arrive.

With my subscription, I watched my Chicago Cubs as I normally would (using Chromecast to watch on TV), and got plenty of football choices from ESPN3 and the over-the-air networks by using a digital antenna. I purchased that antenna fairly cheaply when Dish Network had a dispute that kept WRAL off of its menu for a few weeks a couple of years ago. WRAL offered a code to get the antenna at a discount.

Obviously, the main over-the-air channels also have plenty of programming.

But I also found that there are lots of free options from local stations’ secondary channels, some that aren’t offered through cable or satellite providers. There are other over-the-air channels you may not even know about.

If most of the cord-cutters are younger viewers, though, many of those secondary offerings aren’t likely to appeal to them. If you gravitate toward TV Land programming and you are a fan of old movies, however, you’ll love many of the options on the secondary channels of the major network affiliates:

  • WUNC, the PBS affiliate, has PBS Kids on channel 4.2 for children’s programming. On 4.3, The Explorer Channel has travel, culture, science, nature, history and outdoor-adventure shows.
  • WRAL, the CBS affiliate, has WRAL2 (over-the-air 5.2), which offers the Heroes and Icons Network. H&I airs “the best of action TV of the ‘70s and ‘80s,” including shows such as “Kung Fu,” “The Pretender,” “Rat Patrol,” “The Saint,” “Mannix” and “NYPD Blue.” Each morning from 6–8 a.m., WRAL2 simulcasts the first half of WDNC’s (Buzz Sports Radio’s) “The Morning Show with Mike, Lauren and Demetri.” It also occasionally airs sports when CBS and the ACC Network both have games at the same time or news when a game on WRAL extends into when a newscast usually airs. Weeknights, it airs a repeat of the 6 p.m. WRAL News
    at 7 p.m.
  • WTVD, the ABC affiliate, has the Live Well Network on 11.2, a home, health and lifestyle channel, and Laff on 11.3, a comedy-centered network with featured films and sitcoms such as “The Bernie Mac Show,” “The Drew Carey Show,” “Empty Nest,” “Ellen” and “Spin City.” On 11.2, there also is a good bit of paid programming, and the “Heart of Carolina Perspectives” also re-airs on that channel.
  • WNCN, the NBC affiliate, airs Antenna TV, on 17.2. It shows classic programs owned by Sony Pictures Entertainment, such as “All In the Family,” “Barney Miller,” “Bewitched,” “Good Times,” “Green Acres,” “Hazel,” “Leave It to Beaver” and “I Dream of Jeannie.”
  • WRAZ, the Fox affiliate, airs MeTV on 50.2. MeTV has shows owned by CBS Television Distribution and 20th Television, which include “Batman,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” “The Big Valley,” “The Brady Bunch” and “CHiPs.” During Durham Bulls season, it airs the majority of their home games through the Explorer Post 50 production for simulcasts of the Bulls’ radio broadcast.

There are four over-the-air channels available on channel 26:

  • On 26.1 is UniMás, a Spanish-language network operated by Univision Communications that has a variety of programming including sports (mainly soccer.)
  • On 26.2 (also on channel 40) is the Univision Deportes Network, another Univision Communications channel that offers lots of soccer programming as well as Formula One racing.
  • On 26.3 is Bounce TV, which features original and acquired programming geared toward black viewers. Shows include “The Bernie Mac Show,” “A Different World” and “The Hughleys.” In addition, it airs a Premier Boxing Champions series.
  • On 26.4 (also 40.4) is getTV, which airs films owned by the Columbia TriStar Motion Picture Group, mostly old classic movies.

The downside to receiving these secondary channels over the air is that they all are in standard definition. That, of course, doesn’t matter with many of the classic TV shows that were produced long before high-definition programming started.

The best part of those free local offerings is that there never will be a contract dispute with a cable or satellite provider that will prevent you from watching.

As I found out, though, an subscription doesn’t get cord-cutters MLB playoff games. I subscribed for the 2015 season, and that guaranteed me access to every regular-season game.

Once the playoffs started, though, that streaming access would have ended if I didn’t have a Dish Network subscription. Additionally, you had issues depending on your pay-TV provider. For example, I could not watch streams of Fox Sports 1 baseball playoff broadcasts because Fox didn’t have a deal with Dish. Games on TBS, MLB Network or ESPN streamed fine.

Even if you aren’t a cord-cutter, you should check out what’s available on the secondary channels. You’re bound to find one of your favorite old shows.

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