Best Fire Stick apps for live TV
Watching live TV on an Amazon Fire TV Stick or Fire TV Cube is getting a lot easier these days, even if you’re looking for local channels that you used to watch on cable.
But the competition among streaming services is getting fierce. So how do you find the free, good stuff that you hoped for when you bought an Amazon Fire Stick or Fire TV Cube?
If you’re cutting the cord from cable TV, here are some of the best options that I used for watching live TV and local channels on a Fire Stick or Fire TV Cube.
All of these tips are completely legal. There’s no complicated downloading, jailbreaking or rooting process. You can start using most of them right away on your Fire Stick or Fire TV Cube. I’m sticking to free or lower-cost options for free live TV in this guide.
I have always advocated for sticking with legal ways to stream movies, TV shows and news. For anyone who claims that “nothing can happen to me” if I stream or download copyrighted materials, I say good luck with that.
The truth is your Internet service provider can easily detect when you’re using a site to illegally download or watch material.
Just as I was getting ready to publish, four people were arrested in connection with selling so-called “jailbroken fire sticks“, a term sometimes associated with tapping into illegal streaming. You don’t need to do jailbreak anything to get the most out of your Fire TV Stick.
There’s actually plenty to watch on free apps, over-the-air TV and inexpensive streaming options. You just need to assess your needs and keep your budget in check.
One of the best apps to watch a local newscast is the NEWSON app.
NewsON has access to 275 local TV stations in more than 165 markets. It formed in 2015 and it’s made up of all the companies that own the actual TV stations.
NewsOn is a great resource, and you’re not restricted to just watching local newscasts; so for example, I can check out my local TV stations in Boston, but if I was curious about what was happening in upstate New York or Maine, I could switch over to those local nightly newscasts as well. That’s something you definitely can’t do with cable TV.
CBS Live Stream
CBS ALL Access is currently the cheapest way to live stream your local CBS station on a Fire Stick or Fire TV Cube. A subscription costs $5.99 per month.
So if you’re into CBS’s police dramas such as Blue Bloods, you’re going to have every episode, both new and old. You can get your Donnie Wahlberg fix in the privacy of your own home, and nobody will be the wiser.
It’s also a great way to keep up with current shows because you don’t have to worry about setting your DVR to record new episodes.
You’ll want to pay attention to CBS All Access because the service isn’t just about CBS programming anymore.
In 2021, CBS All Access is going to be rebranded into Paramount Plus and based on the variety of new programming that’s already on the service, it’s going to have this mini-bundle of on-demand shows from BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Smithsonian Channel.
A lot of original series are already on the service, including a remake of The Stand, based on Stephen King’s famous novel which happens following a pandemic — if you can imagine that.
The movie section isn’t very strong, but I think the growing library of originals is really where the rubber meets the road on this service. And once Paramount Plus becomes official, the programming is just going to get better.
Tubi: now streaming live news
tubi is a free app known for its library of ad-supported movies and TV shows.
But now it’s expanding into offering live and local news. Tubi is owned by FOX Corporation, so it’s using its news stations to cover 24 of the top 25 markets. You’re getting both live and pre-recorded shows. There’s NBC News Now, CBC for breaking news out of Canada and Euronews World.
- New York (WNYW-TV)
- Los Angeles (KTTV-TV)
- Chicago (WFLD-TV)
- Philadelphia (WTXF-TV)
- Dallas (KDFW-TV)
- San Francisco (KTVU-TV)
- Washington DC (WTTG-TV)
- Houston (KRIV-TV)
- Atlanta (WAGA-TV)
- Phoenix (KSAZ-TV)
- Tampa (WTVT-TV)
- Seattle (KCPQ-TV)
- Detroit (WJBK-TV)
- Minneapolis (KMSP-TV)
- Orlando (WOFL-TV)
- Milwaukee (WITI-TV)
- Austin (KTBC-TV)
There are more than just Fox-owned channels. NBC News NOW, the 24/7 streaming service from NBCNews is included in tubi’s roster of news channels. And WeatherNation, which to me, has a very similar vibe to the Weather Channel back in its early days.
With Haystack News, you customize what you want in your newsfeed with your zip code and what kind of sources you want to draw from.
Haystack has more than 300 local, national and international news streams, and it’s all free.
To get the most out of Haystack, you should sign-in either with a Facebook or Google profile. Make sure you pick your local town or city you live in, and what local stations you want to see in your live stream.
XUMO has a couple of killer music channels. I love the Stingray Quello channel because it has a lot of great concerts from acts that you’ve actually heard of. These are musicians you would gladly pay to go see in person.
Austin Music Live is like stepping into a small club.
So you’re going to see new, smaller acts that are trying to blow up. XUMO has lots of other live TV channels and on-demand movies. But just these two music channels alone make XUMO an app that you definitely want to add to your Fire Stick or Fire TV Cube.
Adding ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX to Fire Stick
But here’s the really cool part: you can also add free streaming services such as Pluto TV or Red Bull TV into the same channel guide.
And if you pay for Sling TV for ESPN, or you use Philo for Hallmark and HGTV, then you can also add those to your channel guide as well. If you pay for HBO or Showtime through Amazon Channels, those live channels will appear in your guide as well.
So now you’re getting a combination of free live TV channels from your antenna, and from streaming into a single menu. And after you pay for your equipment, that’s going to cost you a lot less than the $150 to $200 bucks that you’ve been handing over to the cable company every month.
Remember, the Recast is an over-the-air DVR so that means if your TV antenna gets NBC, CBS or ABC, then you can record whatever you want from those stations.
With the Recast, you can watch live TV from your television, smartphone or tablet. So you can watch live TV or recordings from the Recast at home or outside your home. If you’re watching TV outside your home on a cell phone, just watch out for how much data your cell phone plan is using.
There’s no monthly fee with the Recast and you don’t even need to be an Amazon Prime member to use it.
Setting up the Fire TV Recast
The Recast is easy to set up.
Add the Fire TV app to your smartphone; and that will tell you what direction to place your antenna. The TV antenna is connected to the back of Fire TV Recast.
Using the app, the Recast scans for channels.
Once that’s done, you’ll be able to watch live TV channels like NBC, FOX, PBS and CBS into your main menu of any Fire TV device.
Before you go down this road, it’s a good idea to see what kind of local channels are available in your area.
AntennasDirect has a free tool you can use to figure out where broadcast towers are located in your area, and what kind of TV antenna you need.
Just type in your zip code. You’ll see what direction broadcast towers are in your area. Hit the View Channels button for a list of channels that you should be able to get.
You can use other OTA DVRs such as a Tablo or HDHomeRun, which cost a little less. Check out my video on the best OTA DVRs at the end of this video.
Locast: Free local channels from a nonprofit
TV antennas don’t work for everyone. Head over to Locast.org and see if they offer its donation-based service in your area. Locast is a non-profit that live streams local ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS to computers and most major streaming devices.
So if you are in Locast’s coverage area, it’s a quick way to add local, live TV on your Fire TV Stick or Cube.
You can easily add two to three dozen channels to your TV depending on where you live.
Locast requires you to create a profile to use its service. It’s free. But expect to get hit up for a donation while watching.
Sling TV and Philo are cheap cable replacements
There are about a half dozen live TV streaming services that offer huge channel lineups to replace your cable TV subscription.
Sling TV is one of the cheapest options around for live streaming television channels at $30 per month.
There are two core bundles you can choose from. Sling Orange has a little over 30 channels such as ESPN, AMC and A&E for $30 per month.
The other core bundle is Sling Blue, which has about 47 channels and costs $30 per month.
Sling Blue has FX, FS1, FS2, both National Geographic channels and regional NBC Sports networks. The Blue bundle also offers local NBC and FOX in some markets.
Sling TV recommends using their service in addition to a TV antenna.
One thing to be aware of is that ESPN is only on Sling Orange. Sling TV now gives you 10 hours of Cloud DVR on the house. That can get you by for a few TV shows. Or you can get 50 hours of DVR space for an extra $5 per month.
Sling TV is built on the premise of offering smaller bundles, so budget-minded people have more control over cost and what channels are added to their subscription.
Philo: Live TV, sans sports
If you don’t care about live sports, but need channels such as Hallmark or HGTV, Philo has 60 channels live TV — and it’s 20 dollars per month.
There is unlimited Cloud DVR and a huge-on demand library of movies and shows.
It’s the cheapest way to watch The Curse of Oak Island on the History Channel or Live Rescue on A&E.
Activating TV apps on Fire Stick
Here’s a neat hack for activating TV apps on a Fire Stick.
If you’re paying for a live TV streaming service such as Philo or Sling TV, you can use your subscription to sign in to a lot of apps that you see on your streaming device.
Each streaming service has a help page listing the TV Everywhere apps that it supports.
So if you want to sign in to A&E, and you are subscribed to Philo, just choose Philo as your TV provider instead of Comcast, DIRECTV or whatever.
Sometimes these apps are worth signing in to — not so much for on-demand content — but because they carry extra live streams of their channels that you won’t get within your live TV subscription.
So now that I’ve shared with you a few ways to watch live TV and free local channels on a Fire Stick or Fire TV Cube, what options are you going to try out? Let me know in the comments below.
Founder and Editor of The Cord Cutting Report. Before launching the site in 2016, he worked for more than two decades as a staff writer or correspondent for a number of daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe. His enthusiasm for tech began with the Atari 2600. Follow @james_kimble