Get Local Channels Free in 2024: Stream or Watch Without Cable

Published on: February 29, 2024

Learning how to get local channels without a cable subscription is simple and straightforward.

However, you do have more than one way to access local channels without a cable or satellite plan. 

Major networks such as NBCABCCBS, and FOX offer their content for free with the use of a TV antenna, alongside independent stations and popular sub-channels like MeTV and GRIT.

Whether you’re in a remote cabin or a bustling city looking to watch an NFL game, TV antennas present an affordable way for cord-cutters to watch local TV, news, and more without the cost of cable. This guide outlines more than a dozen effective methods, including TV antennas and free streaming services, for viewing local channels.

Throughout the year, I regularly test out TV antennas and streaming services, including extensive tests in Massachusetts, Maine, and Southern California.

No matter your location, accessing local channels is possible through a TV antenna, specific apps, or cost-effective streaming options.

Get Local Channels With TV Antennas

Using a TV antenna is the best method for maximizing free local channel access. Numerous online resources can assist you in identifying which local channels are available over-the-air in your area. These resources leverage your exact location to outline potential TV signals you can receive.

An Antop 800SBS outdoor TV antenna that I tested on my roof. (Photo credit: Jim Kimble / The Cord Cutting Report)

Connecting a TV antenna to your Smart TV is simple. An indoor TV antenna, for example, plugs directly into your TV’s coax port. Navigate to the settings menu, select “Air TV” or “Over-the-air,” and perform a channel scan.

Understanding the nuances of TV antenna use is crucial, especially when seeking a high-quality antenna that delivers a broad range of channels. Several factors influence this process:

  • Technical Limits: The curvature of the Earth limits the line-of-sight between your antenna and broadcast towers, typically capping signal reception at 70-80 miles. (Note: The farthest signal I’ve received with an outdoor antenna is 55 miles.)
  • Environmental Factors: Terrain, buildings, and weather can all impact the effectiveness of your antenna, potentially reducing signal strength.
  • Marketing Claims: Be wary of exaggerated range claims, which often overlook practical reception limitations.
  • Designated Market Areas (DMAs): Your antenna will generally receive signals from within your local DMA, ensuring access to intended local broadcasts.
  • In-Market Signals: Antennas pick up transmissions from local broadcast towers, adhering to regional broadcasting rights.

A significant benefit of using a TV antenna is the ability to watch live TV without an internet connection, and even record over-the-air (OTA) channels.

Streaming local TV without a subscription

For those unable to use a TV antenna, alternative methods exist for watching local channels without cable:

  • Local stations from networks like ABC, CBS, and FOX have apps on Smart TVs and streaming devices, offering a way to stream local channels for free.
  • Local Now and Puffer are among services providing free access to local content, including news and weather updates.
  • YouTubeNewsONTubi, and Haystack News extend a variety of local and national news feeds, accessible without a cable subscription.

These platforms offer a blend of live and recorded newscasts, making it easier to stay informed about local events and global news without the cost of cable.

Stream Local Channels for Free: ABC, CBS, FOX, CW, NBC

When a TV antenna isn’t suitable, various alternatives enable you to bypass expensive cable or satellite subscriptions for live TV streaming. 

You’ll need a stable internet connection or a data plan for these services. Wondering if apps can unlock local over-the-air channels? Some channel apps, like those for NBC and CBS, offer local station access. Additionally, the PBS app provides complimentary live streaming.

Paramount+, coupled with Showtime, acts as the central hub for local CBS stations, available at $11.99 per month, often accompanied by week-long free trials. 

Peacock’s Premium Plus plan streams local NBC channels across the U.S. for the same monthly fee, noting Peacock’s shift away from free plans. 

PBS makes live streams available in most markets without needing subscriptions, donations, or PBS Passport. While Hulu showcases the latest ABC series, it stops short of offering live local streams. Activation of the ABC app typically requires a pay-tv provider, but Hulu extends a 30-day free trial.

Get Local Channels with Live TV Streaming Services

I regularly evaluate streaming services across devices like Smart TVs, Roku, and iPhones. These platforms provide both local channels and cable networks, including ESPN and CNN. Here’s a brief overview of services offering local channels.

Fubo: Local Sports and Channels

Fubo streams local ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX channels in every package, starting at $79.99 per month for the Pro bundle, which includes 189 channels. You can verify the local channels available in your region via the Fubo site. The service offers a free trial period and supports a wide array of devices, with no long-term contracts.

Hulu Live TV: Coverage Across Local and National Networks

Hulu Live TV bundles local ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX channels with over 90 others, including ESPN and TNT, for $76.99 per month. This package also gives you ESPN+ and Disney+, unlimited Cloud DVR, and access to Hulu’s on-demand library. Hulu Live TV’s blend of local, national, and additional subscriptions caters to a broad audience. A subscription is flexible, with no fixed contracts.

Sling TV: Cost-effective Local Channel Streaming

Sling TV offers local channel coverage in select markets through its Blue bundle. With packages starting at $40 per month, it’s a more affordable entry into local and cable TV. Local ABC, NBC, and FOX channels are included in select areas. Sling TV’s service is available without a long-term commitment.

YouTube TV: Comprehensive Local Channel Access

YouTube TV includes a wide range of channels, such as PBS, ABC, CBS, and NBC, within its 128-channel lineup for $72.99 per month. It offers unlimited Cloud DVR and multi-device streaming. No contractual obligations are required.

DIRECTV STREAM: Premier Local Channel Selection

DIRECTV STREAM offers local channels as part of its Entertainment package, priced at $79.99 per month, similar to its competitors. The service includes unlimited Cloud DVR and a vast on-demand library. A 5-day free trial is available, with flexible subscription options.

Get Local TV Channels Without Cable

Maintaining access to local TV channels and favorite networks is feasible without cable. 

A TV antenna is a cost-effective solution, providing a broad selection of local channels for free. For continuous TV access without a cable bill, explore free streaming options. Visit my guides for detailed advice on free streaming services and setting up TV antennas.


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.