Local channels are free over-the-air channels that anyone can access whether they have cable or not. These channels are called local channels because instead of offering one nationwide network like you see with FX or TNT, local channels include a main network that offers affiliate networks all over the country. This gives you a way to get local and regional content, news, and watch sports without cable based on your area. Generally, during the day you’ll see news and local content but the primetime schedule for each channel will be the same across the country. This guide will tell you more about how to watch local channels without cable.
Before we explain more about streaming options, you should know that you can use a digital antenna to get local channels, which is what many cord cutters choose to do. This gives you access to the local channels in your area for free, after purchasing a digital antenna. You can even hook a DVR to your antenna and record your favorite shows. That said, if you want to watch local channels online, you’ll need a streaming service.
How to Watch Local Channels Without Cable: At a Glance
Local channels will vary based on area. If you live in a city, you’ll have access to a wide variety of channels, but in more rural areas, fewer options may be available. While you can get an antenna that offers a longer search range, if you want to watch local channels online, you’re at the mercy of the service you choose. Local channels are available through most services, but none of them offer nationwide access. Instead, some areas will have some channels and others may not. Luckily, all services inform you of what’s available based on your area, so there’s no chance of you misunderstanding your channel lineup.
Local channels include:
It’s worth noting that PBS is the trickiest channel to get. Currently, no streaming service offers PBS at this time. That said, the other channels are all available, so it will just depend on where you live if they are available or not.
Antenna Options to Watch Local Channels for Free
Choosing an antenna to watch local channels without cable is a good choice. This allows you the freedom to choose a streaming service based on the rest of the package as opposed to having to focus on available local content. It also gives you a chance to spend some money on a digital antenna that will then give you free access to whatever local channels are in your area. If you’re new to digital antennas, here are a couple of recommendations.
For indoor antennas, we recommend the Mohu Leaf 30. It offers:
- A search radius of up to 40-miles
- Small – fits perfect in an apartment or smaller space
- A top seller with many great reviews
For outdoor antennas, we suggest the Winegard Elite 7550. This antenna offers:
- A search radius of 70-miles
- A great choice for rural areas that need a longer search distance
- Well-made and reliable
- A digital amplifier is included to improve the signals
- On the smaller end for an outdoor antenna
- Amazing reviews
While there are other options, these two antennas offer some of the greatest value for your money. How well these work for you will ultimately depend on your location, but they should be solid choices for most people.
Watch Local Channels without Cable Using a Streaming Service
If you don’t want to use a digital antenna, your other option to watch local channels without cable is to use a streaming service. While getting local channels online can be difficult, with the exception of PBS, it is getting easier. Here are a couple of options and if you keep reading, you’ll find the full list of ways to watch local channels without cable.
Hulu with Live TV (free trial) is the best way to get local channels online. They offer over 60 channels and local channels are available in more locations than with any other streaming service. Available local options include ABC, NBC, CBS, CW, and FOX. Hulu Live also includes Hulu on-demand, which provides a 24/7 way to watch all of your favorite local and cable content. Packages start at $45 a month after a free weeklong trial. You can stream on most devices including Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, mobile devices, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and more.
YouTube TV offers one package and they are second in line when it comes to offering local channels to more areas than other streaming services. Over 70 channels are included for $50 per month. YouTube TV also offers a free one-week trial and you’re free to cancel anytime. An on-demand library is included, as well as a cloud-DVR with unlimited space. You can even use local and network TV Everywhere apps for more content. You can stream local channels on YouTube TV with Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, mobile devices, and more.
Using Streaming Services to Watch Local Channels Without Cable
It’s possible to watch most local channels without cable using a streaming service. A streaming service functions similarly to cable, but with some key differences. This section is here to shed some light on what streaming services can offer you.
Lower Prices – This is one of the best parts of streaming and it’s one that’s talked about the most, too. Cable packages top out around $100 or more a month for most people. Streaming services offer a wide range of price points, but the average you’ll spend is around $45 per month. That’s a big savings. It gets even bigger when you realize some packages start as low as $20 per month.
No-Risk Trial Offers – Cable usually requires a contract, but streaming is different. Not only are there no contracts, they offer free trials to make their services even better. This is great because it gives you a chance to make sure you’re happy with a service before you pay for it. Trials tend to last anywhere from 5-days to one-week, though some services offer longer options. If you want to cancel during the free trial, you won’t pay anything. These trials give you a chance to sample all of the features that a service has to offer, so you know that you’re happy with what is available. If not, just click a few buttons to cancel and you’re free to try another service.
Watch from Anywhere – With cable you were hooked in to your TV. One box worked with one TV and if you wanted more TVs hooked up, you needed more boxes. Streaming services work with streaming devices. You sign in to your streaming service using the device of your choice. That said, no one streaming device is hooked to one TV. You can hook and unhook it to whatever compatible TV you want, whether that means switching from one TV to another in your home or you are taking it on vacation and hooking it up at your hotel. You can also connect through mobile devices, which means you can watch from pretty much anywhere as long you have a suitable Internet connection.
You can check out our guide to streaming devices to learn about your best device options.
More than Live TV – Streaming services offer a variety of features beyond just live TV. Some popular features include:
- The chance to make user profiles if you’re sharing your account
- You can add movie channels or modify your package with more channels
- An on-demand library is included
- You can use TV Everywhere apps based on your channel lineup
- Most services offer a cloud-based DVR, some with upgradeable or unlimited space
- The chance to stream on multiple devices simultaneously
As you can see, streaming services have a lot to offer. Now it’s time to determine which services are your best ways to watch local channels without cable.
Watch Local Channels without Cable using Hulu with Live TV
Hulu with Live TV has over 60 available channels and the ability to add movie channels for an added fee. The main subscription is $45 a month. You even get Hulu’s on-demand service with this package, making it a great option for current Hulu subscribers. As far as local channels, depending on your area, you could have ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and even CW. Whether you have all or some of these channels depends on your location, but Hulu Live offers local channels to more markets than any other service, so you can bet that most people have at least a few local options with Hulu Live. Here are some more highlights:
- Over 60 channels
- Cable channels including ESPN, TNT, USA, Disney, FX, and others
- Hulu Live offers local channels to the most markets of any streaming service
- Depending on your area, you could end up with the top five local networks
- $45 per month
- Cancel whenever you want
- A free Hulu Live trial lasts for a full week
- Watch Hulu Live on Chromecast, computers, Apple TV, Roku, iOS and Android mobile devices, Amazon Fire TV devices, and more
- Hulu on-demand is included
- The cloud-DVR features 50-hours of space or you can upgrade for more
If local channels are at the top of your importance list, Hulu with Live TV is probably the service for you. Not only are all the main local channels available with exception to PBS, they are also available in the most areas. When you visit the Hulu Live website you can enter your zip code to find out live options. Nationwide on-demand content is available courtesy of the Hulu on-demand service. So, even if you do not get one of the local channels, you may receive the content on-demand. You can also use TV Everywhere apps for many channels. Streaming is possible on most devices. Make sure to check what local channels are available in your area. Once you’re ready, there’s a free weeklong Hulu Live trial available that’s worth checking out.
Our Hulu with Live TV review is available with more details.
Watch Local Channels Streaming Live on YouTube TV
YouTube TV may be a newer streaming service, but they have had a commitment to offering local channels in as many areas as possible. In fact, this service is second only to Hulu Live when it comes to offering local channel content. Most areas have three or four local channels available to them. Along with local channels, you’ll have 70+ other channels including popular options like AMC, FX, USA, TNT, and ESPN. This package is available for $50 after a one-week trial. Here are some added details about YouTube TV:
- Watch 70+ channels with local coverage in most areas
- Channels include FX, BET, USA, MSNBC, Food Network, TNT, ESPN, Freeform, and more
- $50 per month
- YouTube TV is a contract-free service
- Watch TV on many devices including Apple TV, computers, Chromecast, Roku, and mobile devices
- Unlimited space is included in the cloud-DVR
YouTube TV offers local channels in most areas. A nationwide on-demand library is included to offer locals and some cable content on-demand. You’ll also have an unlimited cloud-based DVR. All recordings are kept for nine months, so this is a nice feature if you’re a binge-watcher. You can stream with most devices including an award-winning mobile app. Don’t forget, YouTube TV is contract-free and it starts with a free one-week trial!
Our YouTube TV review has more details.
Local Channels without Cable are Available on PlayStation Vue
PlayStation Vue includes local channels in each of the four packages that they offer. Plans start from $45 with around 50 channels. While local channels are available in many areas, it depends on where you live if you’ll have them or not. Other included channels range from AMC and ESPN to Syfy and USA, with many options in between. There’s also nationwide on-demand access and access to TV Everywhere apps. Details for PS Vue include:
- Choose from four plans starting at $45 per month
- No contracts or commitments
- Watch AMC, ESPN, FX, TNT, USA, TBS, Freeform, Syfy, and more
- Area local channels are available in many areas
- On-demand access to local channels and other networks is included
- Create user profiles for the family
- 28-day storage comes with the cloud-DVR
- Simultaneous streaming is available on 5 devices at once
- Watch on PS3/PS4, Fire TV, Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, iOS/Android, and more
PlayStation Vue makes a great choice for families and people that share their account. You’ll be able to make numerous user profiles so that everyone sharing your account has their own access. You’ll also be able to stream on multiple devices at once. You can watch PS Vue on PS3, PS4, and most other streaming devices. Add-on channels are available ranging from movie channels to other options. There’s even a PS Vue 5-day trial available for new subscribers.
Check out our PlayStation Vue review for more info.
Watch Your Local CBS Live Stream Free on CBS All Access
CBS All Access offers a direct line to CBS content. While you won’t get all of the local channels here, if you’re in need of a CBS live stream, this is a good way to get it. CBS All Access offers CBS live to about 90% of the country. No matter where you live, you also get the CBS on-demand library which includes CBS All Access original content, everything that airs on CBS, movies, and even full older CBS shows. Over 10,000 episodes are available on-demand!
Here are the highlights:
- The CBS live stream is available in 90% of the country
- More than 10,000 episodes of new and older CBS shows, movies, sports and more in the on-demand library
- Stream on computers, Apple TV, Roku, Fire TV, mobile devices, Chromecast, and more
- $5.99 per month
- A free one-week trial is available
CBS All Access only offers CBS, but if you’re looking for a way to watch CBS online, this could be what you’re looking for. CBS is not as widely available with many of the streaming services listed, so this gives you a low-cost way to get the content you want. Remember, you’ll be able to find out if CBS is available live in your area before signing up for CBS All Access. If it is, you can start your membership with a free one-week trial!
You can learn more in our CBS All Access review.
Stream Local Channels without Cable in Limited Areas on Sling TV
Sling TV is the cheapest multi-channel service that offers local channels. That said, only NBC and FOX are available here and they are in an extremely limited area. You’ll need Sling Blue to get any available locals. This package is $25 per month and includes around 40 channels. You can stream on many devices. Dozens of add-on bundle packages are available to give you more channels for a small extra fee. Here is more on Sling TV:
- Sling Blue is available for $25 a month
- 40 channels are available, or you can add-on more
- Watch AMC, FX, TNT, NBC, FOX, USA, and more
- Stream Sling TV free for a week
- An on-demand library is included with local content nationwide
- TV Everywhere apps are included
- Stream on iOS/Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, Apple TV, and more
If you’re on a budget, Sling TV can be great. That said, not all local channels are available and the ones that are available, aren’t in a lot of cities. Cities like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago should be covered, but smaller cities likely will not receive access to locals with Sling TV. An on-demand library is included. If you want a cloud-based DVR, it will cost you $5 per month. There aren’t any contracts to sign and you’re free to cancel at any time. You can even sign up for the Sling TV free trial to try things out for yourself.
You can learn more in our Sling TV review.
Stream Local Channels on fuboTV
fuboTV also offers the chance to stream some local channels without cable. Here you have the chance to watch NBC, FOX, and CBS in some areas. Access is limited, but it is available in many cities. This channel lineup offers over 80 channels. Sports fans will be able to watch 30+ different sports channels. Plans start at $55 per month, but the first month is available for just $45. All plans feature an on-demand library with 3-day replay and a cloud-DVR with upgradeable space.
Check out more on fuboTV:
- $55 a month per month after the first month with $45
- 80+ channels are available in one package
- Some local channels are available in select cities
- 3-Day Replay allows you to watch shows in the on-demand library for up to 3-days, if not longer
- Stream on iOS/Android, Chromecast, Apple TV, computers, Fire TV, and other devices
- A cloud-DVR features limited space with an optional upgrade
fuboTV is a great choice for sports fans, but if you want a full range of local channels this may not be your best option. For starters, ABC isn’t available here. Other local channels are available, but access is limited compared to other services. Each plan includes nationwide on-demand content for most networks, so even if you don’t get available local channels live, on-demand content will be available to you. fuboTV is available without a contract. You can try it out on your own risk-free, during the fuboTV 7-day free trial.
Our fuboTV review is filled with more details.
Get Local Channels without Cable on DIRECTV NOW
DIRECTV NOW offers multiple packages. Local channels are available in many areas, but it will depend on your location which ones you have live. Each plan also includes an on-demand library and a cloud-DVR with a limited amount of space. You can even use TV Everywhere apps. Plans start at $50, but this package only comes with 40+ channels. Larger packages cost more. You can stream on a wide variety of streaming and mobile devices. Here’s more on DIRECTV NOW:
- DIRECTV NOW offers multiple package options from $50
- 40+ channels are included
- HBO is included in some packages
- Local channels are available in all packages, but are only available in some cities
- The cloud-based DVR features a small amount of space
- Watch on Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku, computers, iOS/Android apps, and more
DIRECTV NOW is one of the more expensive starting packages and they don’t offer as many channels as some of the cheaper package options out there. On the plus side for some, this starting package does include HBO, which isn’t the case with other plans of this size. Still, if you want a lot of channels here, you’re going to pay almost as much as you would with cable. Standard features are all the same from the use of TV Everywhere apps to the cloud-DVR. If you want to try DIRECTV NOW, there’s a free weeklong trial available.
You can find added details in our DIRECTV NOW review.
A digital antenna will be your best bet for watching the most local channels in your area. That said, there are ways to watch local channels online without cable. The tricky part may be finding one service that offers them all. How easy that will be will depend on your location and the service you choose. This is why Hulu Live and YouTube TV are the top recommendations because they offer your best chance for watching local channels without cable.
Our list of cable TV alternatives can tell you more about ways to stream TV without cable. If you still have questions on how to watch local channels without cable, feel free to let us know.