How To Watch Local Channels Without Cable

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If you’re thinking about cutting the cord from traditional cable or satellite TV, you may be wondering how you can still watch your local channels in 2024.

Thankfully, paying lots of money for a cable subscription is not the only way to access your local ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX and PBS affiliates.

In this article, I’ll explore some cost-effective solutions for getting the local news, sports and network TV shows that you enjoy on your local channels:

This article was updated in May 2024 and I review it every 12 months. Detailed notes on all updates can be found here.


Option 1: Buy an Antenna

If you live in an urban or suburban setting, the simplest method for maintaining access to your local channels may be the one-time purchase of an indoor antenna.

Antennas are relatively cost-effective and provide free access to local channels broadcasting in your area.

But the quality of access to these channels is directly correlated to the power of your antenna and your distance from the towers of your local TV stations.

If you live near the stations you’re trying to get, you may need an antenna that reaches only 30-50 miles.

Mohu Leaf, which is one of the top-rated antenna brands for cord-cutters, offers an indoor antenna for less than $30 through Amazon. It has a 30-mile, multi-directional range.

If you live in a more rural setting (at least 100 miles from the towers for your local channels), you’ll probably need a long-range antenna.

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Amazon offers an antenna from XFTREE touting a 200-mile reach for less than $30. With more than 1,600 reviews, it had a four-star rating in May 2024.

Aside from the cost, your main concern in a rural area is the quality of your reception.

You’ll have to worry about potential interruptions in your signal that could come from both the surrounding terrain and interfering signals from other towers.

If you need help picking out an indoor antenna, money expert Clark Howard has you covered with this instructional video.


Option 2: Subscribe to a Live TV Streaming Service

If you’re cutting the cord from traditional cable but still want to watch most of your favorite TV channels, you’re likely considering a live TV streaming service.

Many — but not all — of these services offer at least some of your local channels with your subscription.

YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV both tout access to some local channels included with their subscriptions, but the cost may be prohibitive for some. YouTube TV starts at $73 per month and Hulu + Live TV is now $77 per month.

This isn’t the cheapest solution, but it may end up being the most effective for you.

I searched my ZIP code on YouTube TV’s site and found that it carries my local ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC and PBS channels and more.

YouTube TV local channels
YouTube TV: Nashville Local Channels

But not all live TV streaming services will be this thorough.

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Sling TV, which is a popular live TV streaming choice because of its $40 monthly fee, offers access only to NBC and FOX affiliates in select markets.

And value service Philo, which offers more than 60 channels for just $25, does not carry local channels at all.


Option 3: Get What You Need From Video Streaming Services

This is a growing option for accessing content from local channels.

If you’re not keen on buying an antenna or paying for one of the live TV streaming services, you may be able to get what you need from a video streaming service.

Paramount+ (starting at $5.99 per month) and NBC’s Peacock Premium (soon-to-be $7.99 per month) are two options to consider. They both offer local channel content at a fraction of the cost of a live streaming subscription.

Paramount+ includes a live stream of your local CBS affiliate with its Premium subscription package ($11.99 per month). But you can get on-demand streams of CBS content with the Essential package ($5.99). For many shows, such as 60 Minutes or NCIS, new content is often available for streaming within 24 hours of its live TV airing.

Peacock Premium offers on-demand streaming of NBC shows shortly after they air, but you’ll have to pay for Peacock Premium Plus ($11.99 per month) to get a live stream of your local NBC affiliate included.

Hulu’s on-demand service ($7.99 per month) also makes network TV content available for on-demand consumption shortly after broadcast airing. However, there is no livestream of a local channel.


Option 4: Try Freebie Services Such as Amazon News and NewsON

If it’s local news you’re after, you may be able to get by with some of the programming from emerging free streaming services.

For example, Amazon News offers free news updates from local channels in many of the top U.S. markets.

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To access this feature, you’ll need the Amazon News app that is located on Fire TV streaming devices.

Once you’re on the app, you’ll be able to choose from a menu of local channel newsfeeds. Typically, you’re offered the channels that are closest to your location.

In my case, I was able to get news and weather from my local CBS affiliate for free.

Amazon News provides streams from different television markets.

Keep in mind that this is not actually a live stream of the channel’s over-the-air broadcasts. Instead, it’s highlights and clips from newscasts and other local programming.

If you’re unable to access Amazon News on your device, there are a couple of similarly interesting options.

One is called Local Now. To utilize this one, you simply download the app and enter your desired ZIP code. It will populate local content from participating local affiliates in your area.

For example, since I live near Nashville, Tenn., I received a Local Now feed that prominently featured content from Nashville.

This included a “Local Now Nashville” channel that featured news blurbs, weather updates and traffic alerts for my area. It also included livestream content from my CBS affiliate (News Channel 5) and my local public television (Npt).

Local Now streaming menu
Illustration via Local Now app

It’s worth noting that the content I received from my CBS affiliate was not actually the live broadcast you’d find on cable or via an antenna. Instead, it was segments, highlights and clips of content produced by the local affiliate itself.

The other is called NewsON that touts access to more than 200 local news sources across the country.

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NewsON screenshot
Illustration via NewsON

Option 5: Access Content via Individual Network Apps and Websites

My final suggestion for accessing local channel content without cable is to simply go straight to the source on the internet.

Here’s a quick list of links for the network-level apps for your local channels:

Many times you can watch free (but ad-supported) on-demand replays of your favorite shows from the networks.

And your local network affiliates may have their own apps or websites that offer clips, streams, articles and highlights from locally-produced programming.

So, in tandem with the national apps, you may be able to create a workable free content mix from your local channel without paying for anything.


Final Thoughts

Many potential cord cutters worry about losing access to local channels when they ditch cable or satellite. The good news is that there are several viable alternatives.

For many people, the only way to fully recreate the local channel experience that you get from cable is to sign up for a live TV streaming service.

However, the most cost-effective way to get this done is with an antenna.

If it’s just the content that you’re after and you don’t care when or how you come by it, you may be able to save some money and stress by sticking to the free content offered on apps.


How do you watch local channels for free? Let us know in our Clark.com Community!

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Article Updates
  • May 2024: Refreshed this article to include current information on pricing and services that offer local channels. Adjustments included price changes for Paramount+, Sling TV, Peacock, YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV. Also added Local Now as a free app option.
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