What do you need to get local TV channels: How to watch local channels without cable

How To Watch Local Channels Without Cable

More and more people are ditching their overpriced cable or satellite TV services for OTT (over-the-top) media services that are streamed over the internet—a thing now popularized as “cord-cutting”—.

However, finding local channels on these streaming services used to be quite difficult, and until the last year or so, local channels used to be the missing piece to the cord-cutting experience. This is no longer the case today, as there are more options to watch local channels without cable than ever before.

In this guide, we’ll discuss how to watch local channels without cable, and by the end, you’ll have everything you’ll need to choose between all the different options.

How To Watch Local Channels Without Cable: Overview

Local channels are called “local” because they only offer local affiliate networks all over the country instead of a single nationwide network like with FX.

As a result of this locality, local channels will vary based on your location. If, for instance, you live in a big city, then you’ll have access to more local channels. On the other hand, if you live in the countryside, you’ll generally have fewer options.

It’s important to note that there is a plethora of local channel options that are totally FREE over-the-air (OTA). Meaning, if you have an OTA antenna that offers sufficient range to cover the distance to your television broadcast tower, you can watch these local channels for free. So, there are generally two main options to watch local channels without cable:

  1. Free with an antenna (OTA). You can watch local channels that aren’t served to your area with a long-range antenna, but it’s still going to be limited
  2. Via online streaming services (OTT). Most major OTT streaming services nowadays offer local channels, but will still depend on your area. Some locations will have some local channels and others simply won’t.

In general, when we refer to “local channels”, we are referring to the big six local channels, namely:

  • CBS: with shows like The Big Bang Theory, Young Sheldon, CBS Sports, 60 Minutes, and more.
  • ABC: with shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Modern Family, The Good Doctor, ABC Sports, and more.
  • FOX: with shows like Fox Sports, Empire, 9-1-1, and more
  • NBC: with shows like NFL Sunday Night Football, The Voice, This is Us, and more
  • PBS: with shows like PBS News Hour, Arthur, Wild Kratts, and more
  • The CW: with shows like Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl, and more

Also important, it’s quite possible that local channels aren’t necessarily what you want, but the shows and events that are broadcast on these channels are.

With that said, keep in mind that there are some local channel shows that are available on other streaming services even when the streaming service doesn’t stream the whole channel (for example, we can stream Riverdale on Netflix).

So, just know that choosing a streaming service that features just the show/event you want is also an option.

Watch Local Channels Without Cable: Streaming Service

Since most households nowadays have access to decent broadband internet, the simplest way to watch local channels without cable is to use an online TV streaming service. Most of the popular streaming services offer local channels in their plans.

In this guide, we will discuss some of the best streaming options available today.

  • Sling TV is one of the most popular TV streaming services and offers local channels in many different locations in the U.S. We can stream FOX and NBC channels from if we subscribe to Sling TV’s Blue plan. You can stream Sling TV from Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Oculus Go, Roku, select LG and Samsung Smart TVs.
  • fuboTV is another favorite option for many people, and you can stream CBS, FOX, and NBC from its most affordable plan. You can stream fuboTV from Amazon Fire, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku, select Sony, and Samsung Smart TVs.
  • Hulu with Live TV is another great way to stream local channels, and you can stream FOX, the CW, CBS, ABC, and NBC. You can stream Hulu With Live TV on Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Amazon Echo Show, Android, Apple TV, Chromecast, Computers, iOS, LG Smart TVs, Nintendo Switch, Roku, Xbox One, Xbox 360.
  • YouTube TV is a fairly new player in the live TV streaming service, but as we all know, YouTube (and Google as the owner) is obviously one of the biggest brands in the tech industry. YouTube TV offers more than 70 channels and ALL local channels, depending on your location. You can stream YouTube TV from Android, Apple TV, Chromecast & Chromecast-enabled TVs, Computers, iOS, Roku, Xbox One, Smart TVs.

Advantages of Streaming Services

Above, we have mentioned that there are three main ways to watch local channels today: via a cable or satellite TV subscription (not ideal), with an Over-the-Air (OTA) antenna, or via an online streaming service.

A online streaming service offers some unique features and benefits that are not offered by the other two options listed. Let’s explore what some of those benefits are:

Lower Prices Than Cable 

Arguably the biggest reason to use a streaming service is to avoid the expensive cost of cable or satellite TV subscriptions (cord-cutting). The average cost of basic cable TV per month is $64 but can top out at more than $100 for most of us.

With online streaming services, the average is around $50-$55 per month and in some packages, you’ll also get access to exclusive shows and events (like Hulu original content, HBO with AT&T TV, and so on). Also, there are more affordable packages as low as $20/month.

Mobile Streaming: Watch from Any Devices 

With cable TV, you are mostly restricted to your TV, and one cable box that will work at one TV. So, if you have more than one TV in your home, you’ll need more boxes at an additional costs. Most streaming services, on the other hand, offers iOS and Android apps so you can stream the shows, movies, and events on your mobile devices even when you are away from home.

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Also, online streaming services work with streaming devices (like Chromecast, Roku, Apple TV, and so on), and these streaming devices aren’t permanently hooked up to one TV. You can switch the device to any compatible TV according to your needs. For example, you can bring your streaming device on vacation.

No-Contract and Free-Trial Offers 

A cable or satellite TV subscription usually means a rigid contract, but not with online TV streaming services. Not only is there usually no contract involved (that is, you can cancel anytime). Also, most of the major services offer free-trial periods, so you can be sure that you are happy with a certain service before you actually pay for it. If you cancel during this free-trial period, you won’t pay anything at all.

For example, you can try Sling TVs free-trial offer to check whether your favorite local channels are available on the service. It also gives you an overall feel for the content available, the streaming quality, and other important factors that must be considered.

Extra Features 

Online streaming services offer a variety of features beyond local channels and live TV, including:

  1. The versatility to add specific channels to your package (i.e. you can add movie channels).
  2. You can create different user profiles for different users if you are sharing your account.
  3. Depending on your streaming service, an on-demand library might be included (Hulu Originals, YouTube originals, etc.).
  4. You can stream on multiple devices simultaneously (share your account).
  5. Cloud-based DVR service, some with unlimited storage space.

And these are just some of the benefits you’ll get from online streaming services. Below, we will discuss the what we think are the best online streaming services to watch local channels without cable.

#1. Watch Local Channels Without Cable – Sling TV

The biggest highlight of Sling TV is its affordability, with the most affordable package starts from only $30/month.

Sling TV offers three different plans:

  • Sling Orange ($30/month): 33 channels (Including ESPN and Disney) but no NBC and Fox channels. Only one device at a time.
  • Sling Blue ($30/month): this is the plan to get if you are looking for local channels. 48 channels including local channels from NBC and FOX. It can stream from three different devices simultaneously.
  • Sling Orange+Blue ($45/month): includes all channels from both plans (total of 51 channels). One stream at a time for Orange channels, four simultaneous streams for Blue channels.

For more details regarding the available plans, check out our full review for Sling TV.

As you can see, however, Sling TV features very few local channels. You only get Fox and NBC local channels (and regional-based sports channels) with the Sling Blue or Orange+Blue plans, and that’s still depending on your location. However, even if your area doesn’t get FOX and NBC live channels from Sling you’ll still get access to NBC and FOX shows and events on-demand.

Another thing you may consider is cloud DVR storage, which is now the standard of any online streaming service. With that being said, Sling TV offers 10 hours worth of cloud DVR storage for free, and you can upgrade the plan for another $5/month (on top of your existing plan) to get 50 hours worth of cloud DVR storage.

Pros and Cons of Sling TV

Pros:

  • Affordability, it’s much cheaper than cable TV and also more affordable compared to other options in this list.
  • Access to regional sports channels as an added value.
  • On-demand shows and events with the Orange or Orange+Blue plan.
  • Not locked to any contract and you can cancel anytime.

Cons:

  • Very limited local channels (only FOX and NBC channels).
  • Only one screen can stream Orange channels at any time.
  • You are still “locked” between Orange and Blue plans and can’t choose individual channels.

#2. Watch Local Channels Without Cable – Hulu + Live TV

Hulu was originally an on-demand streaming service, a close competitor to Netflix. However, to adapt to the evolving market and its growing number of subscribers, Hulu now added Live TV and especially local channels as parts of its subscription. Hulu is obviously one of the most popular streaming services available today, easily top 3.

One of the unique advantages of Hulu with Live TV over other streaming services in this list is its on-demand service and massive content library, especially Hulu Originals with popular series like The Handmaid’s Tale and Castle Rock included in it.

For Live TV, the Hulu subscription comes with more than 60 channels including local channels like FOX, the CW, CBS, ABC, and NBC. However, the local stations will vary depending on your locations.

Hulu offers a rather complex pricing scheme, and you can first check the table below to get a better picture of the offered packages:

Hulu - How to watch local channels without cable

Also, Hulu offers some premium add-ons you can pay on top of your existing package:

  • Enhanced Cloud DVR for $4.99 a month (basic is 50 hours, increased to 100 hours of cloud DVR with this add on)
  • Unlimited Screens for $4.99 a month
  • Entertainment add-on for $7.99 a month (LMN, FYI, DIY Network, Cooking Channel and CNBC World)
  • Spanish-language add-on for $4.99 a month ( including ESPN Deportes, NBC Universo, CNN En Español and History Channel En Español)
  • HBO for $14.99 a month
  • Showtime for $10.99 a month
  • Cinemax for $9.99 a month
  • STARZ for $8.99 a month

If you are looking to watch local channels, however, obviously your choice is between the Hulu Basic+Live TV ($54.99/month) and Hulu Premium+Live TV ($60.99/month). You might want to check out our full review of Hulu Live TV.

Pros and Cons of Hulu with Live TV 

Pros: 

  • Hulu has a massive on-demand content library.
  • Up to 50 hours of cloud DVR storage (extend to 100 hours with the add on).
  • Compatible with a lot of streaming devices (as mentioned further above).
  • Good mix of live TV channels, 60+ channels of news, sports, entertainment, and local channels.

Cons: 

  • Must pay to remove ads, relatively expensive.
  • Only 2 screens simultaneous streaming (need to pay for add-ons).
  • Relatively expensive with all the add-ons.

#3. Watch Local Channels Without Cable – Fubo TV

fuboTV used to focus on sports channels, but they have since expanded into a full-fledged live TV service. It is still a sports-first streaming service, however, but now you also get 65+ channels in total including news, entertainment, local channels, and sports channels.

fuboTV offers relatively versatile package plans:

fubo Standard – $54.99/month

The Standard plan is $54.99 month that includes a whopping 71 channels including local channels from FOX, CBS, and NBC. Also, there are 130+ events and some of them are streamed in 4K. 30 hours worth of cloud DVR.

Some of the most popular channels in this plan are Fox Sports, CBS Sports, BeIN Sports, Bravo, USA, Bravo, A&E, E!, National Geographic, Lifetime, FX, FXX, FXM, Oxygen, Fuse, Lifetime, Sprout, History Channel, and HGTV.

fubo Family – $59.99/month

Includes every feature in the standard package but increased the number of simultaneous screens from 2 to 3 and offers 500 hours worth of cloud DVR space.

fubo Ultra – $74.99/month

This package mainly adds 24 extra sports channels, 36 entertainment channels, and 9 showtime channels. Includes all extra features in the Family plan. Visit their website for a  complete listing of all channels and packages available.

Pros and Cons of Fubo TV

Pros:

  • Excellent all-around channel lineup
  • Exceptional user experience
  • No long-term contract
  • Excellent for sports fans and international sports
  • Great for fans of international sports
  • Cancel anytime, no contract

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive
  • Can’t stream from game consoles
  • Missing ABC and ESPN

You may want to check out our full article for a comprehensive review of fuboTV.

#4. Watch Local Channels Without Cable – AT&T TV

A relatively new player in the world of live TV streaming, but obviously we all know how big AT&T is as a brand.

When AT&T TV was first launched, many people complained that it was expensive with unreliable service (back then, the basic plan is $65). However, AT&T has since then lowered its price, and now the basic Plus plan is only $50/month.

A unique benefit of the AT&T TV is that it includes HBO in all plans (even the most affordable one), and also includes ALL popular local channels excepting PBS, although it might depend on your location.

AT&T TV Now - How to watch local channels without cable

You might want to check our full review for AT&T to learn more about the available channels, bundles, and add-ons.

Pros and Cons of AT&T TV Now 

Pros:

  • Includes HBO in every plan
  • After the price decrease, relatively affordable
  • Has all local channels except PBS
  • 500 hours of DVR storage
  • Three devices can stream simultaneously

Cons:

  • One of the worst channel lineups if you don’t consider HBO and the local channels
  • Poor choice for sports fans
  • Doesn’t work with Roku

#5. Honorable Mention: YouTube TV

YouTube TV starts at $49.99 and offers four of the most popular local channels: ABC, FOX, NBC, and CBS channels. Also, YouTube TV is the only streaming service that offers PBS channels today, and it has recently added the CW to its lineup.

YouTube TV only offers one package, but offers various add-on packages and additional channels:

  • AMC Premiere for $5/month
  • CuriosityStream for $3/month
  • Fox Soccer Plus for $15/month
  • NBA League Pass for $40/month
  • EPIX for $6/month
  • SHOWTIME for $11/month
  • Shudder for $5/month
  • Starz for $9/month
  • Sundance Now for $7/month

At first glance, YouTube TV seems like the best streaming service to enjoy local channels, so what’s the catch? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons below.

Pros and Cons of YouTube TV

Pros: 

  • YouTube Red Originals content.
  • Unlimited cloud DVR storage, available for up to nine months.
  • Up to six user profiles.
  • Three simultaneous screens.
  • Great smartphone/tablet app.

Cons:

  • Relatively lacking in overall channel selections.
  • No channels from Viacom and Time Warner, and no MLB games.
  • Poor integration with YouTube videos.

Watch Local Channels Without Cable – OTA Antennas

As we have mentioned above, another viable way to watch local channels without cable TV is to use an antenna to catch OTA signals. We’ve done many articles here on the site that will get your started into the world of Over-the-Air (OTA) antennas. Here are a few to get you started once you’re done here:

…and there are many more!

The biggest advantage of using an antenna is that, besides your initial investment for the antenna, watching local channels will be 100% free forever. Making an OTA antenna the most cost effective option to watch local channels without cable.

If you’re not sure what stations are available to you in your area, then you’ll want to check this out! We’ve developed a full page here on the site dedicated to finding TV Antenna Station in Your Area. Simply follow the link and read the instructions on how to use the tool.

Final Words

A digital antenna can be your most cost-efficient solution to watch local channels in your area without any cable TV subscription. However, subscribing to an online streaming service generally provides a better all-around experience.

The tricky part, however, is that different streaming services offer different local channels and overall benefits, so you’ll have to choose one according to your preferences. In our opinion, any of the streaming options listed here will serve you well.

Couple one of these online streaming services with an OTA antenna and you will get the very best overall TV experience to watch local channels without cable.