Ready to “cut the cord” from cable but afraid of losing your local channels? At first glance, it can seem more difficult than it really is to access them. Don't fret! Here I've compiled a simple list of 3 options you'll have so you no longer have to wonder how to watch local channels without cable.
We'll also tackle how to record local channels with a DVR so you won't ever miss your favorite shows and sports!
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Option 1: Get Local Channels FREE With an Antenna
Ever considered buying the “cheap” cable option that just gives you local channels? DON'T. It is a major waste of money for something that you can get for free. Ever since 2009 (or 2011 in Canada) we've had access to the digital broadcast signal to our local TV channels. You just need to make sure you've got the right equipment.
If your TV was made in 2007 or later, all you will need is a digital antenna. If you have an older TV from before 2007, TV, though you will also need a digital converter box. These start around $15-$30. You can check out a whole bunch that are available on Amazon here.
When it comes to antennas, there's a number of options. You have indoor and outdoor antennas. Antennas for one TV or multiple TVs. You'll want to consider how close your local broadcast stations are and also what the climate is like in your area as these can both affect your signal.
Once you've got your antenna set-up, you'll be able to access local channels like NBC, ABC, FOX, CBS, and PBS. Plus, you get access to a surprisingly large amount of digital sub channels (usually listed like 4.2, 4.3, 4.4, etc.) that show additional local programming and reruns of old sitcoms. In my region I can get 20-30 free channels total and many are not available with a cable subscription.
If you need any assistance shopping for an antenna, I highly recommend Antennas Direct. They’ve helped millions of customers since 2003 and are the best in the business. Their “Connection Crew” is available seven days a week to help you find the right antenna, including a free home signal analysis. Once you find the right antenna, they offer free same-day shipping on orders over $50 within the contiguous United States.
You can find out more by clicking on the button below!
How to Record Local Channels with a DVR
Just because you cut the cord from a traditional cable service, doesn't mean you have to give up recording your favorite shows. With a DVR you can still record whatever you want from a regular broadcast.
The prices for DVRs vary wildly from $30-$50 on the low end to $200+ for the better DVRs. Consider that with a regular cable service you normally pay at least $15/month to rent their equipment, if not much more, and you are still saving money from a cable company.
You can see the full range of DVRs on Amazon here.
Option 2: Free or Low-Cost Options to Stream Local Channels
You may have heard of a service called Locast that was created to stream local channels for free. This lasted for a while but unfortunately was shut down in September 2021 after being sued by the major broadcasting networks. There isn’t an option that is quite the same as Locast, unfortunately, but there are some services with similar elements. I’ve listed few here:
LocalBTV: This is a free streaming service with a mobile app that lets you watch local channels either on your mobile device or by casting it to your TV. While LocalBTV features channels from 21 different markets across the U.S., they unfortunately do not have any of the major broadcasters (Fox, NBC, CBS, or ABC). What you’ll get instead are mostly digital “sub-channels” like COZI TV, Antenna TV, or BUZZR.
PBS: One local stations that is a little less stingy with streaming is America’s favorite public broadcaster, PBS. Most local PBS affiliates can be watched live either through the PBS website or the PBS app. You can also watch most of the their content, including local shows, on-demand. Certain shows like Downton Abbey or past seasons of Great Performances are only available to watch on-demand by supporting your local PBS station with a monthly donation in a program they call “PBS Passport.”
Local News: If you want to stream local news, there are different ways to do it without either cable or an antenna. Many local news stations have started streaming their broadcasts through dedicated apps. Look up your local stations on the app store of your streaming device to see if they offer their own app. You can also stream certain news broadcasts live on social networks like Facebook. Be sure to “like” you local news station’s pages and see if their live broadcast shows up on your feed. You can also typically watch live news broadcasts on the dedicated websites for your local news stations.
- Stream You Local CBS Station: You can stream you local CBS affiliate with a Paramount+ Premium Plan for $9.99/mo after a week-long free trial. Not only will you have access to all of the on-demand content that Paramount+ offers, but you’ll receive a live broadcast of your CBS station so you can watch live news, sports, and other local programming. To try out Paramount+ free, click the button below.
Option 3: Stream Local Channels with a Live TV Streaming Service
Now that we've covered options that give you JUST the local channels and require extra equipment, let's explore paid streaming services that have live TV. These services provide a cable-like experience but at a lower cost (compared to cable) and in one tidy package that doesn't require a DVR or antenna.
These might not be the cheapest of the three options, but they are certainly the most simple and convenient. All three services here don't require a contract and have no hidden fees so you can cancel at any time.
Hulu + Live TV offers a regular Hulu account with all the on-demand content you'd expect from the streaming service plus 85+ live channels including the local networks NBC, ABC, Fox, and CBS. You get unlimited cloud DVR as well as ESPN+ and Disney+ for $69.99/mo. You can find out more about Hulu + Live TV or sign up by clicking the button below.
YouTube TV gives you 85+ live channels, the ability to stream from 3 devices at once, and unlimited cloud DVR storage. You'll get all of the main broadcast networks plus PBS. They offer a free trial. After that it is also $64.99/mo. You can find out more about by clicking the button below.
fuboTV gives you 100+ channels, the ability to stream on 3 devices at once, and 250 hours of cloud DVR storage. You'll get local channels, cable networks like The Hallmark Channel, and various sports networks. They offer 4k streaming which gives you fantastic image quality. fuboTV also offers a seven day free trial and normally costs $64.99/mo. but as an exclusive offer to Shall I Stream It? readers you can get your first month for 15% off when you follow this link.
DIRECTV Stream is the new way to stream live channels from AT&T. You’ll get unlimited DVR recordings and 65+ channels (including local channels), and on-demand content for $69.99 after a free trial. You can try out DIRECTV Stream for free by clicking on the button below.
Sling TV is among the lowest-cost live TV streaming apps, with plans starting at $40/mo. They offer a mixture of channels including AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, Disney Channel, ESPN, Fox News, HGTV, TBS, and TNT, depending on your plan. In certain markets they offer local Fox and NBC affiliates– make sure to check your channel lineup before signing up. For more info on Sling TV, check out our article here!
How to Watch Local Channels Without Cable Wrap-Up
As you can see, there are a number of options out there when it comes to accessing your local channels. Have you tried any of these options? What has your experience been like? Leave a comment down below and let me know your thoughts!