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So, you’ve cut the cord and dumped cable TV. However, you still want to be able to watch local TV channels. Don’t worry, there are several ways to stream local TV channels without cable. And in this article we’ll talk you through your options.
These options include tuning into over-the-air (OTA) local channels using an antenna, using a streaming service to watch local channels, and watching local channels on the web. So, if you want to watch local TV channels without cable, keep reading…
How to Watch Local TV Channels Using a Streaming Service
Customers have a dizzying array of live TV streaming services to choose from. The wide variety of apps makes it very difficult to choose the best streaming service for your needs, especially because they all have different channel line-ups. You also need to consider the costs. Some services are free, while others require a monthly subscription.
One area where live TV services vary considerably is in the availability of local channels.
Which Streaming Services Let You Watch Local Channels?
Most of the premium live TV apps let you watch local channels on their streaming services. Here’s a rundown of which local TV stations are available on which providers:
- Hulu: ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, The CW, MyNetworkTV, and Telemundo.
- YouTube TV: ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, The CW, MyNetworkTV, and Telemundo.
- FuboTV: NBC, CBS, FOX, The CW, MyNetworkTV, Telemundo, and Univision.
- AT&T TV Now (formerly DirecTV Now): ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC.
- Sling Blue: FOX and NBC.
All five of the companies above include the listed local TV channels in their base packages; you do not need to pay for extras or add-ons.
And remember, all of the services provide apps for streaming boxes and sticks. Ergo, they let you watch local channels on Roku, watch local channels on Fire TV Stick, and watch local channels on Android TV. Indeed, they are the best option if you want to watch local channels without a cable or satellite TV plan.
Note: All live TV streaming companies need to negotiate broadcast rights for local TV channels on a city-by-city basis. So not all markets are covered. Check directly with the provider before you sign up.
Which Streaming Services Do Not Offer Local TV Stations?
The only mainstream live TV app that does not let you watch local TV channels on its service is Philo. Because local TV rights can be expensive to negotiate and Philo is a budget live TV service, the company has decided the trade-off is not worth it.
If you have a Philo subscription and want to watch local TV, you will have to use some of the other methods outlined below.
How to Watch Local TV Without Cable, Satellite, or a Streaming Plan
If you don’t want to sign up for a streaming plan or cable TV service but still want to watch local channels, your best bet is to turn to a trusty old OTA TV antenna.
The number of local channels you can receive with a TV aerial depends on a few factors:
- Aerial Quality: We’ve all seen those cheap $5 aerials in Walmart. You should avoid them. They are poor quality and cannot pick up the same amount of content, especially if you live in a more rural area where the signal strength is not as strong.
- Aerial Location: The higher you can place your aerial, the better. For the best performance, you need to buy an external TV antenna and mount it on your roof.
- Market: Some markets have far more local channels than others. If you live in a large metro area, it’s not uncommon to be able to get more than 30 OTA channels. People who live in the countryside might be restricted to one or two local stations.
Another benefit of using an antenna to access local channels (rather than relying on a streaming service) is the availability of smaller independent channels that aren’t produced by one of the big networks.
If your favorite local TV station isn’t an affiliate of ABC, NBC, et al., you won’t find it on services like Hulu and YouTube TV. To see which OTA local channels are available in your area, head to AntennaWeb and enter your ZIP code.
We’ve written about what you can watch using an OTA TV antenna if you’d like to learn more.
What Hardware Do You Need to Watch Local Channels?
If you’re looking for an indoor aerial, the Mohu Leaf is widely considered to be the best on the market. You can buy one on Amazon.
Sling subscribers can get a free OTA TV antenna as part of their plan.
For the ultimate experience, you should pair your antenna with an HDHomeRun Connect Duo and Plex. The HDHomeRun can grab the signal from your aerial and make it available throughout your home via the Plex app. You can even record content to watch later and watch two local TV channels at the same time on different screens.
If you’d like to learn more about how the device can help you watch local channels without cable, check out our review of the HDHomeRun Connect Duo.
How to Watch Local TV Channels on the Web
Depending on where you live, you might be able to watch some free local TV on the web.
For example, you could check out Locast. It broadcasts local TV from 15 major US cities for free via its website.
You will also find that some local TV stations offer legal around-the-clock live streams on YouTube.
Sadly, there’s no easy way to see whether your local channels are included. For example, some ABC locals are on YouTube; others aren’t. As such, establishing the availability of local channels on YouTube is a case of trial and error. You’ll have to conduct a few searches and see what pops up.
Other Ways to Watch TV Without Cable
The solutions we have discussed in this article will all help you to watch local channels on your various devices. The slickest solution is to sign up for a paid live TV streaming app, but the antenna and/or web approach will suit occasional viewers who don’t want to pay for the privilege.
To learn more about how to watch TV without cable or satellite, check out our article listing the best live TV streaming services.