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 as 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. Don’t have time to read the guide? Check out our quick pick below.
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, only YouTube TV offers PBS at this time in about 100 markets. That said, the other channels are all available, so it will just depend on where you live if they are available or not.
Watch Local Channels Without Cable Using a Streaming Service
Quick Pick: fuboTV
fuboTV is our top pick for watching local channels online without cable TV. The service offers CBS, NBC, and FOX locals in many locations across the country. It recently added ABC, and has already doubled coverage in the short time it’s been live on the service. You can also receive CW in select locations, as well as Telemundo, Univision, and UniMas.
The simplest way 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.
fuboTV (free trial) is one of the best services that offers local channels in many locations. Most people can use fuboTV to stream ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS. That makes it great for watching your local NFL team online.You can stream fuboTV on most major devices including Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, etc.
Hulu with Live TV is another great 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 $55 a month after a free week-long trial. You can stream on most devices including Apple TV, Roku, Chromecast, mobile devices, smart TVs, gaming consoles, and more.
Vidgo (free trial) is the newest live streaming service on the market. It’s also one of the cheapest, starting at $30 a month. Currently, Vidgo offers live streams of FOX and ABC in select markets, making it a good way to watch sports without cable. It also offers popular national channels like ESPN, FOX News, Nat Geo, and more. You can view more channel info here.
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 $65 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 $55 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, but they also 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 into 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 as you have a suitable Internet connection.
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.
Stream Local Channels on fuboTV
fuboTV also offers the chance to stream local channels without cable. Here you have the chance to watch NBC, FOX, and CBS in most areas. This channel lineup offers over 100 channels. Sports fans will be able to watch 30+ different sports channels.
Plans start at $59.99 per month, with the most popular plan being $64.99. All plans feature an on-demand library with a 3-day replay and a cloud-DVR with upgradeable space.
Check out more on fuboTV:
- $64.99 a month
- 100+ fuboTV channels are available in one package
- ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX are available in many cities
- Spanish locals like Telemundo and Univision included
- 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
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.
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 $55 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 many other services, 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 on Hulu Live include 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
- $55 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 one of the best services for you. However, if you’re looking for Spanish locals, you can’t get Univision with Hulu. 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 Channel Live Streams on Vidgo
Vidgo doesn’t offer access to every local channel, but you might receive ABC or FOX, depending on where you live. You’ll also have around 60 other channels. Vidgo costs just $40 per month for the Core Package, making it one of the cheapest live streaming packages available. You’ll be able to stream all kinds of content on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, mobile devices, and more.
- $40/month for 60 channels – current deal allows for $10 off!
- No contracts or commitments!
- Vidgo specializes in social TV streaming
- No added features like a cloud-based DVR
- Watch ABC, FOX, HGTV, Paramount, Hallmark, Lifetime, and much more
- Good way to watch college football online
- Watch on computers, mobile devices, Amazon Fire TV, and Roku
- Stream on up to three devices simultaneously
- Try Vidgo for free with the Vidgo 7-day trial
Vidgo is a newer service, so it’s possible that they will add an on-demand library or access to TV Everywhere apps in the future. You can try Vidgo risk-free during the free 7-day trial. You’ll have the chance to learn more in our Vidgo review.
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 like Star Trek: Picard, 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.
Watch Local Channels Streaming Live on YouTube TV
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 $65 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
- $65 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.
Antenna Options to Watch Local Channels for Free
Another way to watch local channels that works for many people is by using an antenna. 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. Note, whether you need an indoor or outdoor antenna depends on your location.
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 perfectly 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.
What about Locast?
Locast is the newest way to watch local channels without cable. What is Locast? It’s a non-profit that offers online streaming of local networks for free, though a donation is suggested. Sound too good to be true? It’s not.
However, it’s currently only available in 17 cities, or 36% of the US market. It’s also currently under contention from the networks themselves, who claim that what Locast is doing is against the law. But rest assured, as of the time of this writing, Locast is legal to use! So check it out to see if you can stream local channels free in your area.
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 fuboTV and Hulu Live are the top recommendations because they offer your best chance of 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.