Get Local Channels on Any Smart TV: Watch OTA or Stream Free

Published on: March 1, 2024

Local channels like ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS, and FOX are accessible at no cost on nearly any Smart TV. Samsung, Hisense, Sony, LG, Roku TV, and other Smart TV brands all have built-in TV tuners that can receive free over-the-air (OTA) channels.

Smart TVs offer built-in software or channel guides for viewing local channels. This guide details all options for using a TV antenna and streaming local channels for 2024, including free apps and the ATSC 3.0 broadcast standard.

How to Get Local Channels on Smart TV

You don’t need a streaming device, streaming service subscription, or internet for local live TV channels.

But there are a few approaches you can take to get the most out of OTA TV.  By using a TV antenna, you can:

  • Directly connect a TV antenna to your TV, conduct a channel scan, and watch live TV.
  • View OTA antenna channels on any device (TV, PC, tablet, or smartphone) using your home Wi-Fi by using specific OTA DVRs such as a Tablo or HDHomeRun.
  • Try the latest broadcast standard ATSC 3.0/NextGen TV, which promises improved picture quality compared to the current digital TV standard.

In January 2024, Nielsen estimated that 18 percent of U.S. TV households — nearly 23 million — get free TV programming by using a digital antenna.

While streaming is all the rage in the era of cord-cutting, TV antennas are enjoying a growing share of the spotlight because it’s an effective way to save on costs for local channels featuring live sports, news, and favorite TV shows. 

Available local channels include ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, and sub-channels like MeTV, GRIT, Laff, and ionTV.

If you want to cut the cord from cable TV and enjoy local networks, you can also get local channels on a Smart TV without an antenna. Popular live TV streaming services such as YouTube TV, Fubo and DIRECTV STREAM provide access to local broadcast stations and cable TV networks like ESPN. 

How to get local channels on Smart TV with antenna

Figuring out how to pick the right TV antenna for your home is the most important part of the process. Don’t sweat all the different marketing terms or monikers like “digital TV antenna” or “HDTV antenna.”  

Connecting a TV antenna to a Smart TV. (photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

Before buying an antenna, determine if UHF or VHF signals are in your area. Some antennas are superior for UHF signals, while others cater to both VHF and UHF.

The Federal Communications offers the DTV Map, an online tool that helps you assess local channel bands based on your location.

Indoor antennas work in some locations, but outdoor antennas typically provide better performance. For urban dwellers near broadcast towers, Antennas Direct ClearStream FLEX or Eclipse might be suitable. The Antop AT-800SBS HD Smart Panel excels in maximizing UHF and VHF reception when stationed on a rooftop or attic.

Setting up Smart TVs for local broadcasts

After you pick the ideal spot for your antenna, setup can be broken down into three basic steps:

  1. Connect the antenna’s cord to the TV’s coax port. 
  2. Smart TVs have an option under settings designated as “channel scan,” “scanning for channels” or “TV antenna.” Channel scanning may take time. 
  3. If your initial scans miss channels, reposition the antenna and rescan. High placement of the antenna often yields the best reception.

Smart TVs use two main broadcast standards for receiving over-the-air channels. The widely used ATSC 1.0 delivers digital TV signals, supporting resolutions up to 720p and 1080i.

The latest standard, NextGen TV (ATSC 3.0) supports HDR and up to 1080p. Someday, NextGen TV is expected to air in 4K resolution. Currently, NextGen TV is accessible in about 81 U.S. markets in the U.S., including major cities like Los Angeles, Boston, New York City, and Chicago.

It’s worth noting that NextGen TV might not be the optimal choice for everyone. Some local TV stations have implemented DRM (Digital Rights Management), which may restrict access to these broadcasts for some viewers.

Stream OTA Channels on Your Smart TV Through Wi-Fi

You can maximize the benefits of free over-the-air (OTA) TV by streaming local channels across your home Wi-Fi network. Several OTA DVRs enable streaming from your TV antenna to any device at home, turning every screen into a potential TV.

HDHomeRun makes your local channels available on Smart TVs, tablets and smartphones. (photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

Notable OTA DVR models that stream channels over Wi-Fi include:

  • HDHomeRun by SiliconDust
  • Tablo by Nuvyyo
  • AirTV 2 & AirTV Anywhere (ideal for Sling TV users)

These devices integrate over-the-air channels into an app, allowing you to watch live TV on Smart TVs, smartphones, tablets, or PCs. This setup is perfect for staying updated with local news and weather, even while multitasking.

A unique feature of these DVRs is their multiple ATSC tuners. For instance, a dual-tuner DVR lets you watch one live program while another family member watches a different one. A quad-tuner model doubles this capability, offering unparalleled flexibility in live TV and recording options.

For models like HDHomeRun and AirTV 2, an external hard drive is necessary for storing recordings. The Tablo OTA DVR, however, offers built-in storage for recordings along with additional FAST channels (Free, Ad-Supported Streaming TV.)

If your Smart TV lacks direct support for HDHomeRun or Tablo apps, connect a streaming device such as Roku, Chromecast, or Apple TV through the HDMI port. It is a simple workaround. These streaming devices can become the central hub for accessing live, local channels. These apps are also supported on gaming consoles like Xbox and PlayStation.

Stream Local Channels Free with Apps on Your Smart TV

You can access certain programs from local TV stations for free using dedicated apps on your Smart TV. These apps offer news, weather updates, and some local programming without the need for a live TV channel.

For instance, in Boston, you might want to try the NBC10 Boston app. The app is available for download on many Smart TVs. Similarly, NewsOn stands out as a very handy app for accessing local weather and news reports city by city and in smaller towns. 

Local Now offers complimentary news coverage tailored to specific U.S. regions directly from The Weather Channel.

While apps from ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX provide select episodes of popular TV shows for free viewing, accessing full seasons may require verification of a cable or TV provider subscription.

Haystack News and the PBS app aggregate local news and provide free live streams. The CW app streams its shows, including new series, at no cost and without needing a subscription. 

The ABC app now has over two dozen free ad-supported TV channels, featuring local news in major cities.

Smart TVs by Sony, Hisense, Philips, and TCL using Android TV or Google TV support these apps through the Google Play store. 

Roku and Amazon Fire TV-powered Smart TVs, as well as Vizio’s SmartCast and Samsung’s TV Plus service, also support a variety of apps for streaming local channels free of charge.

How to get local channels without antenna on Smart TV

Many streaming services offer local broadcast networks, presenting an alternative to watch the latest seasons of favorite TV shows. Here are some budget-friendly choices:

  • ABC: Hulu provides new ABC TV shows on-demand. New users can explore with a 30-day free trial. Subscriptions start at $7.99 per month.
  • CBS: Paramount Plus features live local CBS stations, on-demand CBS shows, and CBS sports. The Paramount+ and Showtime bundle is available at $11.99 per month, including a free trial.
  • NBC: Access live local NBC stations through NBCUniversal’s Peacock. This service offers local news, TV shows, and sports from NBC at an affordable rate costing $11.99 per month.

Smart TVs support several live TV streaming services:

  • Services like YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV, DIRECTV STREAM, Fubo, and Sling TV include local channels in their live TV packages.
  • Prices range from $40 to $90 per month, covering major cable networks such as CNN, HGTV, ESPN, and more. Features like Cloud DVR enable recording without additional hardware.

FAQs on Getting Local Channels on Smart TVs

These are common questions that readers ask when researching ways to watch or stream local channels. This section covers questions about local channels with and without a TV antenna.

How can I get local channels without an antenna on a Smart TV?

If you’re beyond local broadcast tower range, consider live TV streaming services like DIRECTV STREAM, Sling TV, Fubo, Hulu Live TV, or YouTube TV for local channels, including NBC, ABC, FOX and CBS. Pricing and exact channel lineups vary with each online service.

Can I get local channels on my Samsung Smart TV?

Connect a TV antenna to the “ANT IN” port. Switch the TV source to “TV”, then navigate to “Broadcasting” and select “Auto Program” > “Start” > “Air” to receive over-the-air channels.

How do I start streaming local channels on my Smart TV?

Streaming local channels on Smart TVs is possible without an antenna. Subscribing to services like DIRECTV STREAM, Fubo, Hulu Live TV, Sling TV, and YouTube TV provides access to a wide array of local channels. You can try a number of free streaming services for local channels before going for a subscription.


I spend hundreds of hours throughout the year conducting hands-on testing of streaming services, including Peacock, DIRECTV STREAM, Fubo, Sling TV, YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV. I do the same rigorous testing for TV antennas and TV-related hardware. Check out the review policy to see how I compare products and services.

The Cord Cutting Report is a reader-supported publication, and may earn affiliate commissions when you pick a streaming service through a recommendation. Read our affiliate policy for more information.

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.