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How to stream local channels without a cable subscription in 2024

Cutting the cord doesn't have to mean losing access to local programming.

Published onApril 16, 2024

You can find just about anything on streaming services these days. Your favorite sitcoms, “reality” TV, prestige dramas, live sports—you name it. But what about local channels? National and international news can be enlightening, but can’t you learn about what’s happening closer to home without a cable subscription? Yes, actually! Local channels may seem like a relic of cable TV, but they’re still around for cord-cutters. Read on for a breakdown of how to stream local channels.


Your best bet for consistent access to local channels without a cable subscription is to sign up for a live TV streaming service like Hulu Plus Live TV or YouTube TV. If those are too expensive or not available where you live, there are alternatives.


Stream local channels via dedicated channel apps

Fox Sports

A lot of cable channels actually have their own apps. In the US, that includes majors like ABC, CBS, The CW, Fox, and NBC.

With those apps, you can typically stream a local affiliate station in real-time. While you may sometimes be able to watch for free, in other situations, you’ll need to authenticate using cable, satellite, or other credentials, defeating our purpose here.

Sign up for a live TV streaming service

FuboTV stock photo 1

Your best option for accessing multiple local channels without a cable subscription is to sign up for a live TV streaming service.

These are services that, unlike Netflix or Max, bridge the gap between cable TV and streaming. You still get the same channels as you would with a cable subscription, but with the convenience of watching them anywhere you can get an internet connection. That includes phones, tablets, and computers, not just smart TVs.

They can vary wildly in price, but expect most of them to cost more than on-demand services. Some of the best US options are DirecTV Stream, Fubo TV, Hulu Plus Live TV, Sling TV, and YouTube TV. You can catch local news for free with options like Pluto TV or Samsung TV Plus.

We lean towards Sling and YouTube TV, but your answer should depend on the channels you want to watch, the devices you use, and any services you already subscribe to. If you’re already paying for Hulu’s on-demand library, for example, it might make sense to use Hulu Plus Live TV to keep everything in one app.

Watch CBS and NBC on Paramount Plus and Peacock

Peacock stock photo 1

Because of shared ownership, some live channels (including local affiliates) are available on streaming services not generally associated with live TV. For specific examples, Paramount Plus and Peacock offer access to CBS and NBC, respectively.

You’ll need to be a paying subscriber to the relevant service(s) to take advantage of this option. The streamers will then offer access based on your location.

Digital antennas and other ways to watch local channels without cable

Really, the only other viable option is a digital TV antenna. Over-the-air TV signals still exist, and the only thing you’ll pay for is the hardware. Some smart TVs may have an antenna built in.

There are, of course, some drawbacks. You won’t have access to as many channels as you’d get with a cable or streaming subscription, and a lot of them won’t be available in 1080p or 4K resolution. On top of that, antennas are inherently vulnerable to obstacles and bad weather. If there’s a serious thunderstorm or your antenna doesn’t have a clear line to the outside world, you’ll probably run into signal issues.


No. Local channels are available over-the-air with digital TV antennas, as well as on the internet using live streaming services like Sling TV and YouTube TV. Some individual channels may have their own apps but won’t necessarily let you watch without a subscription elsewhere.

Most do, using your location data to identify who your affiliates are. A service does, however, need a deal with a broadcaster to offer up a channel.

In a sense, but not really. You can access local news in some cities, but don’t expect to watch any entertainment programming.

YouTube TV offers access to local channels based on your location. It requires a paid subscription, though, unlike the regular version of YouTube.

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