How to Get Local Channels on VIZIO Smart TVs

By Jim Kimble / Published October 6, 2023

Vizio Smart TVs have a unique way of showing you local channels from a TV antenna, and free streaming channels in a single menu called WatchFree+.

Even if you own the budget-friendly Vizio V-Series, which I reviewed last year, you still have the benefit of getting live TV from free streaming services and over-the-air TV. 

If you are thinking of cutting the cord from cable, Vizio Smart TVs are affordable. And the new Quantum 4K QLED Smart TVs are adding higher brightness and Dolby Vision. 

Table of Contents

Local channels to a VIZIO Smart TV gives you access to local weather, news and even sports highlights. You may love using Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and Hulu instead of a pricey cable subscription, but none of those services can tell you if it’s going to rain tomorrow. 

Getting Local OTA Channels on VIZIO Smart TVs

Connecting a TV antenna on a VIZIO Smart TV is fairly straightforward. The process is similar to hooking up other Smart TVs to an antenna. But here is a more detailed breakdown of each step from the owner of a VIZIO V-Series Smart TV.

local channels vizio smart tv
The TV antenna port is on the back of the VIZIO V-Series Smart TV. (Photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

Step 1: Connect the Antenna

Begin by connecting a TV antenna to your VIZIO Smart TV. Ensure it is securely plugged into the appropriate coaxial port on the back of the TV panel.

Step 2: Access the Settings Menu

Navigate to your TV’s settings menu using the remote control. Under the “All Settings” tab, choose “TV Channels”. Select “Find Channels” to start a channel scan.

local channels vizio smart tv
Use the remote control to find your OTA settings. (Photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

Step 3: Channel Scan

Your VIZIO Smart TV automatically detects and stores the available over-the-air channels in your area. Sometimes this process can take up to 10 or 15 minutes. So be patient, and let the scan run through the entire process. 

Step 4: Enjoy Live TV

Once the scanning process is complete, you’re all set. You can now access and enjoy local channels with the click of a button on your VIZIO Smart TV remote. 

More OTA Tips for Smart TVs

OTA channels appearing within the WatchFree+ menu. (Photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

Antenna placement always plays a factor when it comes to maximizing your lineup of local channels, even when you are adding OTA channels on a Smart TV. Make sure your antenna is facing the direction of local broadcast towers so that you can get the best signal.

TV antennas come in various designs and sizes, each with its own realistic range for receiving over-the-air TV signals. Outdoor TV antennas will always outperform an indoor antenna. You can expect a range of up to 50 miles with an outdoor antenna. 

An exceptionally good range for an indoor antenna is about 30 miles.

Tall buildings, power lines, hills and mountains can hinder signal reception. But the primary factor with getting decent reception is your distance from broadcast towers.

Be sure to check out my picks of the best TV antennas, the best indoor antenna and my recommendations for ways to improve antenna reception

What is WatchFree+?

VIZIO Smart TVs go beyond traditional over-the-air channels by seamlessly integrating free streaming channels on WatchFree+ along with over-the-air (OTA) TV channels.  The streaming channels are from free ad-supported streaming services (FAST Channels) like Pluto TV, and similar services.

No Subscription Required

The beauty of this integration lies in its accessibility. You can just press the WatchFree+ button on your remote to open the OTA/streaming menu.

No streaming device or subscription to a streaming service is necessary to access local, live TV channels. This feature caters to both budget-conscious consumers and cord-cutters who are looking to break free from expensive cable subscriptions.

WatchFree+ Programming Guide

You can find quite a few popular Classic TV shows and movies from a number of genres within the WatchFree+ menu. But the bigger news for VIZIO owners back in July was the addition of local news channels that are free to stream. 

This includes popular FOX channels such as FOX 5 in Atlanta and FOX 2 in San Francisco, as well as Gray Television channels like CBS 5 in Phoenix and CBS 3 in Charlotte.

Here is the full list:

Local FOX Channels

WAGA (FOX 5 – Atlanta) – Ch. 945

WTTG (FOX 5 – Washington DC) – Ch. 946

WJBK (FOX 2 – Detroit) – Ch. 947

KDFW (FOX 4 – Dallas) – Ch. 948

WTVT (FOX 13 – Tampa Bay) – Ch. 949

KTVU (FOX 2 – San Francisco) – Ch. 950

WTXF (FOX 29 – Philadelphia) – Ch. 951

WOFL (FOX 35 Orlando) – Ch. 952

KCPQ (FOX 13 Seattle) – Ch. 953

KTTV (FOX 11 – Los Angeles) – Ch. 955

Local Gray Television Channels

WANF Atlanta News First (Independent – Atlanta) – Ch. 961

KTVK/KPHO Arizona’s Family (CBS 5 – Phoenix) – Ch. 962

WOIO Cleveland 19 News (CBS 19 – Cleveland/Akron) – Ch. 963

WBTV News (CBS 3 – Charlotte) – Ch. 964

KPTV (FOX 12 – Portland) – Ch. 965

KMOV4 News (CBS 4 – St. Louis) – Ch. 966

WSMV4 News (CBS 4 – Nashville) – Ch. 967

KCTV5 News (CBS 5 – Kansas City) – Ch. 968

WFSB Eyewitness News 3 (CBS 3 – Hartford/New Haven) – Ch. 969

WXIX-TV (FOX19 Now – Cincinnati) – Ch. 970

Other Local Channels

CBS News Los Angeles – Ch. 160

CBS News New York – Ch. 161

News 12 New York – Ch. 162

Other streaming options

Under the Apps tab on the main menu, you can look under the Free Movies and TV section that add to your roster of free local channels. Pluto and tubi both have dedicated buttons on your VIZIO remote control. But you may discover more free gems with free streaming options such as LocalBTV.

Local Channels on Vizio Smart TVs FAQs

Is Vizio WatchFree+ really free?

Yes. There is no cost or subscription fee associated with WatchFree+. The only cost to you may be your time because all of the free streaming channels are supported by commercials.

Does VIZIO Smart TV have local channels?

Yes, VIZIO Smart TVs are equipped to access local channels through over-the-air TV channels and through free streaming channels available on WatchFree+.

How do I watch antenna channels on my VIZIO Smart TV?

To watch antenna channels on your VIZIO Smart TV, simply connect a TV antenna, access the settings menu, select the channel scan option. Once the channel scan is complete, you can start watching live TV.

How do I watch local TV on my VIZIO smart TV?

You can watch local TV on your VIZIO Smart TV by using an antenna, or streaming local channels through live TV streaming services such as DIRECTV STREAM, YouTube TV, Hulu Live TV or Sling TV.

Why can’t I access TV channels on my VIZIO TV?

If you are having trouble with watching TV channels on your VIZIO TV, make sure that you have correctly connected an OTA antenna to the coaxial port. You may need to move your TV antenna, or elevate it to improve the chances of getting a solid signal. 

For streaming, go to settings and check whether the TV is connected to your home network or Wi-Fi.

How can I get free local channels on my VIZIO TV?

To get free local channels on your TV, you can use an OTA antenna for over-the-air channels or explore free streaming services like Pluto TV, which may be integrated into the WatchFree+ menu.

Further Reading & Resources

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.