What Chicago TV stations can I get with my TV antenna?

By Jim Kimble / Published March 3, 2023

You can use a TV antenna in the Chicago market to get the big four broadcast networks, (ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC) along with PBS and local TV stations.

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TV viewers and prospective cord-cutters in Chicago can get a lot of free television stations without internet or cable TV service. There are dozens of sub-channels such as MeTV, Laff, True Crime Network, and ion TV. 

Telemundo, Univision and UniMás are among the Spanish-language channels available as free over-the-air (OTA) TV channels. 

Broadcasters in Chicago are transmitting on the UHF and VHF band, so it’s important to use an TV antenna that has elements for both bands. 

Ion Mystery, Retro TV, Heartland, and Decades are among sub-channels that are over-the-air in the Chicago market. 

Broadcast towers in Chicago are located in Earlville, Il, Berrien Springs, Michigan, and a number of towns in Indiana. They include Portage, Valparaiso, Gary and Wolcott. 

TV Stations in Chicago

You don’t need an internet connection, streaming devices or any additional hardware beyond a TV antenna and some coaxial cable.

As long as you live within the range of broadcast towers powered by your local television stations, you can watch whatever free channels are available. Reception will vary based on your location and the type of TV antenna you are using. 

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How many TV channels can I get with a TV antenna in Chicago?

The number of channels you get boils down to how well you can optimize your antenna reception.

But a variety of factors come into play. Hills, skyscrapers, tall buildings, high-electrical wires and building materials can all impact reception of over-the-air TV signals. 

Elevating your TV antenna on a roof or mounting it in an attic can get you optimal reception. You can’t control the signal strength coming from a broadcast tower. But you can try out different locations to mount your antenna to optimize reception.

Is Nextgen TV available in Chicago?

Deployment of NextGen TV (the new broadcast standard ATSC 3.0) is underway in Chicago. 

According to nextgentv.com, plans are underway to begin transmitting ATSC 3.0 in Chicago. But no specific station information is available at this time.

Most TV stations are transmitting digital TV signals known as ATSC 1.0. It was adopted more than a decade ago replacing the old analog signals.

TV stations broadcasting with NextGen TV are still transmitting digital High Definition or HD signals known as ATSC 1.0. 

Local TV stations are expected to carry a simulcast in digital for the next five years once they switch to NextGen TV.

So you don’t need any special equipment beyond a quality-made TV antenna with UHF and VHF elements to get your local TV stations. 

NextGen TV has the capability to deliver Ultra High Definition (UHD) 4K picture resolution, High Dynamic Range (HDR) and Dolby audio. Many stations are currently offering 1080p picture resolution instead of 1080i resolution that is available through digital signals. 

You need either a new TV that specifically supports NextGen TV, or a TV tuner that supports ATSC 3.0. SiliconDust currently makes an HDHomeRun NextGen TV tuner that is essentially an OTA DVR. 

What type of TV antenna should I use in Chicago?

The Chicago market has local broadcasters transmitting on the UHF and VHF bands. 

An outdoor TV antenna that has elements that can receive both UHF and VHF signals is the best TV antenna you can use. 

It gives you the best chance of maximizing your channel lineup. But you can likely get some local stations by using an indoor TV antenna if broadcast towers are 30 miles or closer to your home. You look at some of the best TV antennas that I have tested over the span of many months. 

  1. How to Choose the Best TV Antenna
  2. How to Connect Multiple TVs to One Antenna
  3. Review: The Best Indoor TV Antennas
  4. Review: The Best Outdoor TV Antennas

Chicago sports on a TV antenna

Major broadcast networks such as NBC, CBS, ABC and FOX carry a variety of live sports from college football to national broadcasts of MLB games. 

With a TV antenna, you can watch: 

  • NBA and NHL games are on ABC 
  • College basketball is on FOX, and CBS 
  • MLB games are on FOX
  • Premier League soccer is on NBC 
  • Champions League and Europa League are on CBS
  • MLS Soccer is on FOX
  • PGA Tour is on CBS
  • The Daytona 500 is on FOX

Streaming services with local channels

You need to use a live TV streaming service to watch in-market sports. Home games for the Chicago Cubs are on Marquee Sports Network.

The Chicago White Sox, the NBA’s Chicago Bulls and NHL’s Chicago Blackhawks are on NBC Sports Chicago.  

National broadcasts are on ESPN, TNT and NBA League Pass

You can look over channel lineups for DIRECTV STREAM, fubotv, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV and YouTube TV to stream both local broadcast channels, regional sports networks and cable TV networks. 

Paramount+ carries local CBS stations in its premium-level subscription. Peacock does the same by carrying local NBC stations in every market. 

For more detailed information on specific channels, you can read: 

For more news on streaming, how-to guides and reviews, head over to the main page of The Cord Cutting Report or follow the CCR on Google News.

Jim Kimble is a seasoned industry expert with over two decades of journalism experience. He has been at the forefront of the cord-cutting movement since 2016, testing and writing about TV-related products and services. He founded The Cord Cutting Report in 2016, and serves as the editor.

Major publications, including MarketWatch, Forbes, and South Florida Sun Sentinel, have interviewed Kimble for his years of expertise. He gives advice on the complexities consumers are navigating with streaming options, and over-the-air TV. Kimble has been a staff writer or correspondent for several award-winning, daily newspapers, including The Boston Globe.