By Jim Kimble / Updated June 1, 2022
Most people don’t need a streaming service to watch local broadcast networks such as ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS and dozens of sub-channels.
You can watch the most popular TV shows on local broadcast channels for free using a TV antenna.
It’s surprising how few people are aware that the coax port in the back of TVs isn’t just for a cable box. It doubles as the port for a TV antenna.
This article explains how to watch local broadcast channels without a cable TV or satellite service.
Table of Contents
- TV Antenna: Free local channels without cable
- Free local channels without a TV antenna
- Streaming Local Channels: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC
- Haystack News: Local news, weather channels
- TV shows from NBC on Peacock
- TV shows from CBS on Paramount+
- TV shows from FOX and NBC through Hulu
- PBS Video app
- Local News Channels on NewsOn
- Watching Local Channels on Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku
- Guidance for Specific Networks
TV Antenna: Free local channels without cable
The easiest way to get free local channels without a cable subscription with a TV antenna.
Checking to see if you’re close to broadcast towers is easy. Head over to the Antennas Direct Transmitter Locator tool. Punch in your zip code or address and push the “View Channels” button.
You’ll get a channel listing and even some suggestions for TV antennas based on your zip code.
Connecting a TV antenna to a television is pretty simple, especially if you’re using an indoor TV antenna. Just plug one into the coax port on the back of your TV. Under settings, you will need to look for an “Air TV” or “Over-the-air” option and scan for channels.
Using a TV antenna isn’t that complex. But choosing a well-made one that will maximize your channel lineup can be challenging because of companies that over-promise what they can do.
It’s important that you invest in a quality TV antenna. No matter what, avoid the cheaply made models that claim outlandish ranges “(100+ miles)”. An indoor or outdoor TV antenna claiming to have a range over 50+ miles is impossible due to physics.
The Federal Trade Commission recently cracked down on a company that sold TV antennas while making false and misleading claims. But there are many other companies making outlandish claims that have gone unchecked.
Here are a number of resources that I have assembled over the years based on my own hands-on testing.
- How to Choose the Best TV Antenna and OTA DVR
- How to Connect Multiple TVs to One Antenna
- Review: The Best Indoor TV Antennas
- Review: The Best Outdoor TV Antennas
Free local channels without a TV antenna
A number of local ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC stations have their own apps available on Smart TVs and streaming devices.
You can find these apps by doing a broad search for a station (e.g. NBC), or by searching for a station using its call sign. For example, the local NBC station in Boston is NBC10 Boston. Most of these apps have local newscasts, weather reports and sports coverage.
The Local Now app also carries several state and regional news stations.
Streaming Local Channels: ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC
There are a number of ways you can replace a cable TV or pricey satellite TV service with a streaming service. All you need is an Internet subscription, and a streaming device or Smart TV.
Local Channels on fuboTV
fuboTV streams local ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX as part of a 120+ channel bundle. These are the same local networks that you would get by using a TV antenna or cable provider. You can look over the local channel lineup in your area when you visit the fubo website.
Fubo has a free 7-day trial, and works on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV and Apple TV streaming devices. A subscription costs $69.99 per month. There is no contract. Customers can subscribe on a month-to-month basis.
Local channels on Hulu + Live TV
Hulu + Live TV has ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX as part of a 75+ channel bundle. This live TV service also has cable-TV staples such as A&E, ESPN and TNT.
Subscribers get 50 hours of Cloud DVR, and unlimited access to the on-demand library that people pay $5.99 per month for. That includes Hulu Originals such as The Handmaid’s Tale. Hulu also lets you see what local channels are available in your area.
A subscription costs $69.99 per month, and includes ESPN+ and Disney+. There is no contract. Customers can subscribe on a month-to-month basis.
Local Channels on Sling TV
Sling TV has limited NBC and FOX coverage in the Blue channel bundle.
Sling TV has two main channel bundles to choose from. The Orange plan has about 34 channels. But only the Blue plan carries local NBC and FOX in a small number of markets. Use the map below to see what local stations are available in your area.
A subscription costs $35 per month for one of the main channel bundles. Sling is offering $10 off the first month for new and returning subscribers. There is no contract. Customers can subscribe on a month-to-month basis.
Local Channels on Vidgo
Vidgo has local ABC and FOX stations around much of the U.S., but does not have CBS or NBC. This live TV service carries 95+ channels total, including ESPN, NFL RedZone, FS1, A&E and Hallmark Channel. Subscribers can stream on three screens at once. New subscribers get their first month for $10. There is no obligation to keep your subscription.
A subscription costs $55 per month. There is no contract. Customers can subscribe on a month-to-month basis.
Local Channels on YouTube TV
YouTube TV has PBS, ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX as part of an 85+ channel bundle. It’s the only live TV streaming service that carries PBS as a local channel. ESPN, A&E, CNN and TNT are among its popular cable channels. Subscribers get unlimited Cloud DVR and can steam on
A subscription costs $64.99 per month. There is no contract. Customers can subscribe on a month-to-month basis.
Local Channels on DIRECTV STREAM
DIRECTV STREAM has local ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX as part of its Entertainment channel bundle. ESPN, HGTV, Nickelodeon and TNT are among the popular channels in the Entertainment package.
Subscribers get unlimited Cloud DVR, and 40,000 on-demand shows and movies. You can look over the Entertainment bundle and other channel lineups for DIRECTV STREAM.
A subscription costs $69.99 per month. There is no contract, but customers must choose the “no contract” option. Customers can subscribe on a month-to-month basis. DIRECTV STREAM offers a 5-day free trial.
Haystack News: Local news, weather channels
Haystack News is a really elegant way to get news feeds from local ABC and CBS channels along with international news feeds. It’s a quick way to look at the local weather in your area, and find out what’s happening across the world.
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.
Haystack has more than 300 local, national and international news streams, and it’s all free.
TV shows from NBC on Peacock
Peacock, the new streaming service from NBCUniversal, has a free tier that carries current seasons of NBC shows, news and sports. You won’t find your local news station, but the NBC programming is free.
Under the free plan, current NBC shows will air new episodes one week after they air on cable and live TV services.
The free plan on Peacock may not have your local NBC station, but you will get highlights from “NBC Nightly News”, NBC Sports, “Meet the Press”, CNBC, E! News and “Noticias Telemundo”.
Peacock also has two other plans. Peacock Premium ($4.99 per month) has more movies and TV shows. New episodes of NBC shows air one day after they appear on cable. Most shows from MSNBC are now available to Premium subscribers a few hours after airing on cable.
Peacock Premium Plus ($9.99 per month) has all the same shows and movies, but removes most advertising except for a select few.
TV shows from CBS on Paramount+
Paramount+ streams a live local CBS channel in most markets across the U.S. First launched as CBS All Access, this streaming service now has a growing library of movies, and shows from CBS, BET, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon and Smithsonian Channel.
A subscription costs $4.99 per month, and you can look over shows and movies now on the service. Subscribers to the Premium Plan get a local CBS station and 4K HDR streaming for $9.99 per month. Paramount Plus has a free 7-day trial.
TV shows from FOX and NBC through Hulu
If you just want local channels to watch a favorite show on FOX or NBC, Hulu on-demand is a cheap alternative to a TV antenna. At $6.99 per month, you get some coverage of the latest comedies, dramas and reality TV shows.
Hulu is also an inexpensive way to catch up on past seasons from cable channels such as A&E, History and Science Channel.
PBS Video app
The PBS app has a robust lineup of news and shows, and you can get access to local programming through the app. No cable sign-in is needed. There is a simple sign-up process that you can complete on a smartphone, tablet or PC.
Once the app knows your nearby PBS station, you will get access to whatever programming appears on the local PBS channel.
For access to the full library of shows on PBS, then you’ll need to subscribe to PBS Passport. But if you’re watching shows a day or two after airing, then the free content is as just as good as having a local channel without paying for a cable TV subscription.
Local News Channels on NewsOn
The NewsOn app is the best resource for people who ditched cable TV, but still want local newscasts. It doesn’t matter if you live in Houston, Texas or Bangor, Maine. You can find your local newscasts just like you still had cable, but without footing the bill.
Pretty impressive. NewsOn is available on most streaming devices such as Roku, Amazon Fire TV and Apple TV.
Watching Local Channels on Amazon Fire TV Stick or Roku
If you are using a Roku or Amazon Fire TV, there are a few different ways you can watch free local channels using a TV antenna.
With a Roku TV, you can simply plug your TV antenna into the coaxial port in the back of the television and scan for channels. Roku TVs have a built in channel guide that services free over-the-air channels and free streaming channels offered by Roku.
Otherwise, you can use a HDHomeRun DVR or a Tablo to stream free over-the-air channels through their respective apps on Roku and Fire TV.
- Review: The Best OTA DVRs
- Review: HDHomeRun DVR tuners
- Review: AirTV 2: OTA and Streaming
- Review: Tablo Dual Lite
Guidance for Specific Networks
If you’re looking for a specific channel such as NBC, then read over these channel specific guides.
- How to Watch NBC Without Cable
- How to Watch ABC Without Cable
- How to Watch CBS Without Cable
- How to Watch FOX Without Cable
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