How to watch the Times Square ball drop for free—and without cable: New Year’s Eve 2021

December 31, 2021, 6:12 PM UTC

After the ball dropped with barely a soul around in 2020, Times Square was hoping to welcome back crowds this year. Then the Omicron variant showed up.

The party’s still taking place, but it’s different than people were hoping for. Right before Christmas, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city was scaling back its plans. People who do attend will need a photo ID, proof of full vaccination, and will be required to wear a mask. Social distancing will also be enforced, meaning fewer people will be allowed into the area. That’s vastly different than in years past, when anyone could hop a subway or wander into the revelry—but even a reduced celebration is a welcome one for many people.

The Waterford crystal–encrusted ball will drop and mark the beginning of 2022 at midnight. But even with the safety measures, it’s going to be too uncomfortable (or too distant) for some people to attend.

Opting for a smaller gathering? There are a myriad of ways to watch the ball drop—even if you’re far away from a television screen.

Looking for a way to watch remotely? Here’s how to watch or livestream the 2021 New Year’s Eve countdown and ball drop for free.

What TV channels will air the ball drop in Times Square on New Year’s Eve?

It’s actually easy to watch the ball drop on your living room TV even if you don’t have a cable or satellite subscription. Just get a good HD antenna. Local and regional broadcasts by CBS, NBC, and Fox mean you’ve got a good chance of capturing the festivities over the air, which costs nothing beyond the equipment prices. Be sure to test your HD antenna in multiple locations in your home to find the most reliable signal.

Here are some of the shows that will be ringing in 2022.

Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve with Ryan Seacrest (ABC)

The most well-known of the New Year’s Eve broadcasts starts at 8 p.m. ET, giving viewers a look at celebrations around the world. Also, for the first time, it will feature a Spanish-language countdown live from Puerto Rico. This will be broadcast over the air, but if you’re not near a TV, you can watch the coverage on the network’s website, ABC.go.com. You will, however, need a cable subscription to watch on that platform.

Miley’s New Year’s Eve Party Hosted by Miley Cyrus and Pete Davidson (NBC)

Executive-produced by Lorne Michaels and hosted (as hinted in the title) by Miley Cyrus and SNL’s Pete Davidson, this unusual entry begins airing at 10:30 p.m. ET with an array of musical and other guests. You can watch either over the air or, if you have a cable/satellite subscription, on NBC’s website, NBC.com/live.

New Year’s Eve Live: Nashville’s Big Bash (CBS)

Airing at 8 p.m. ET, this countrified celebration will originate out of Nashville, with performances by artists including Jason Aldean, Jimmie Allen, Kelsea Ballerini, Dierks Bentley, Brooks & Dunn, Luke Bryan, Miranda Lambert, Darius Rucker, Blake Shelton, Cole Swindell, and the Zac Brown Band. Free options to view it include the CBS website and Paramount+.

New Year’s Eve with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen (CNN)

The cable network pairs its best-known anchor with the Bravo host for the fifth year running starting at 8 p.m. ET. A livestream will be available on CNN.com’s home page and on mobile devices via CNN’s iOS and Android apps. It can also be viewed on CNNgo and the CNNgo apps for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, Chromecast, and Android TV. The show will broadcast from Times Square.

Where can I stream the ball drop online for free—even without a cable subscription?

Peacock

NBC’s streaming service will give you access to Sunday night games and others aired on that network. You can get a seven-day free trial, followed by a $5 or $10 monthly charge. (The free version of Peacock does not include live sports.)

Paramount+

CBS’s streaming service will give you access to games aired on that network. You can get a one-month free trial, followed by a $6 monthly charge.

Hulu with Live TV

You can try the service free for a week. Once that’s up, you’ll pay $65 per month.

YouTube TV

After a two-week trial, you can expect monthly charges of $65.

Sling TV

Dish Network’s lower-tiered “Orange” Sling plan will run you $35 per month. Adding the more comprehensive “Blue” plan bumps the cost to $50 per month. You’ll have a seven-day free trial first—and right now, the cord-cutting service is dropping the first month’s bill to $10.

AT&T TV

Formerly known as DirecTV Now and AT&T TVNow, AT&T’s streaming service will run you $70 per month and up. There is no longer a free trial option.

Are there any webcams where I can watch the ball drop online for free?

Times Square wants to have as many people watching its most iconic event as possible, especially after the past two years. So they offer a few live webcasts for people to enjoy without the sometimes hard to handle hosts.

TimesSquareNYC.org

NewYearseve.nyc

TimesSquareBall.net

Livestream

You can also watch via social media on the Times Square Facebook and Twitter pages.

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