When it comes to watching TV, most TV shows people watch are on broadcast TV networks like CBS, ABC, FOX, NBC, etc. TV shows on those networks are consistently in the Nielsen ratings top 10. In this article, we explain in detail how to watch your local broadcast networks by streaming them live online or watching them live over the air with a TV antenna.
- Free Local TV
- Streaming Local Channels
- Watch Local Channels on Roku and Amazon Fire TV
- Watch Prime Time Network TV Online
- Looking For a Specific Local Network
Free Local TV
There are two ways to watch your local network TV channels for free.
Use a TV Antenna
Cable TV doesn’t want you to know this, but local broadcast TV networks are available over the air simply using a TV antenna. In fact, today’s antenna TV has a better picture than cable. These days, TV signals are digital, so you need a TV made after 2007 with a digital tuner.
Every TV I encounter can make use of a TV antenna. To make sure yours does, look for a coaxial port on the back or side of the television. If your TV is digital, then there will be a label with the letters “HD,” “ATSC,” “HDTV,” or other words indicating the TV has a digital tuner. If your TV is not digital, you can convert it using a digital converter box.
Once you have a “digital ready” TV, all you need to do is install a TV antenna. Antenna companies use the term “digital antenna,” but that is just a marketing term. Any antenna can pick up the signal. It’s the turner inside the TV’s ability to read that digital signal that matters. You could use an antenna from the 1950s, and if the TV is digital (which mostly all made after 2007 are), you can use it.
While there are many types of antennas, and finding the perfect one requires some research, generally, if you live in a city or the suburbs, you can grab a $25 Flat TV antenna. The free return policy makes it no risk. If it doesn’t get the channels you want, you can return it for your money back. If the flat antenna doesn’t perform to your expectations, then check out the following instructional guides for more details on over the air TV.
- Learn How to Choose a TV Antenna
- Learn How to Use One Antenna for Multiple TVs
- Learn How to Ground a TV Antenna
- Learn how to Improve Antenna TV Reception
- Record from your Antenna with an Over the Air DVR
Free Channels Without an Antenna
You no longer need a cable or satellite TV subscription to watch your local TV channels. You can now stream local networks online using a live streaming service. You can even get a device like a Roku and watch them on your TV set. Some are even free, like Locast!
Locast provides local ABC, FOX, NBC, CBS, and more 100% free. You can even watch Locast using a streaming device. Locast supports Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV, and Android TV.
While Locast is technically free, the service does interrupt its broadcast every 15 minutes or so to ask for a donation of $5. If you decide to donate, then the message is removed, and you can watch without solicitation from Locast for donations. Please, note that the service also subject to a pending lawsuit from the major broadcast networks, so while the service is currently legal, it is unknown how long that status will last.
Locast is available in the following 31 TV markets:
- Atlanta, GA
- Baltimore, MD
- Boston, MA
- Charlotte, NC
- Cleveland, OH
- Chicago, IL
- Dallas, TX
- Denver, CO
- Detroit, MI
- Houston, TX
- Indianapolis, IN
- Los Angeles, CA
- Madison, WI
- Miami, FL
- Minneapolis, MN
- New York, NY
- Orlando, FL
- Philadelphia, PA
- Phoenix, AZ
- Portland, OR
- Puerto Rico
- Rapid City, SD
- Sacramento, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- Scranton, PA
- Seattle, WA
- Sioux City, IA
- Sioux Falls, SD
- Tampa Bay, FL
- Washington, D.C
- West Palm Beach, FL
You can read more in our review of Locast.
Streaming Local Channels
If you don’t want to use an antenna, there are several ways to stream your local network channels. Locast is free, so it’s the best option if the service is available in your area. The next best way to stream local ABC, NBC, Fox, and CBS are Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV. They both offer a way to live stream major broadcast networks in nearly every market in the US. Other options to watch local channels are AT&T TV and FuboTV. However, they don’t cover as many markets. Lastly, Paramount+, Sling TV, and Vidgo stream some but not all of the big 4 local broadcast networks in some parts of the country.
We break down the local channel offers of each of these services in the sections below.
Local Channels on Hulu Live TV
Did you know Hulu streams Live TV? Hulu’s Live service currently streams live ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, in nearly every TV market, along with the CW in quite a few markets as well. You can check your zip code with Hulu to see which local channels are available in your area. It will also tell you which cable channels are available! You can get live FOX, CBS, ABC, and NBC in most U.S. These are the same local affiliate networks you see over the air and on cable TV.
They also stream just about every channel you can find on pay TV. There is no contract so that you can cancel at any time. Hulu’s Live TV service is much cheaper than cable, starting at just $64.99 per month. That also includes Hulu’s massive on-demand streaming library.
Hulu+live TV is supported on Roku, Fire TV Devices, Apple TV, Chromecast, Xbox One, iOS, Android, and more. You can find more information on the service in our Hulu review, along with a listing of all your local channels on Hulu.
Local Channels on YouTube TV
YouTube TV is an equally great option for watching live ABC, CBS, Fox, The CW, and NBC. You can check your Zip Code on Youtube TVs Website to make sure those channels are available in your area. They are also one of the only live services to offer PBS in their channel lineup.
YouTube TV is also a top service for watching local and cable channels live online. The service costs $64.99 per month with no contract, so that you can cancel at any time. YouTube TV is available on Roku, Android, iOS (includes AirPlay to Apple TV), and Chromecasts/Chromecast-compatible TVs. You can see our in-depth review of YouTube TV for more information on their service.
Local Channels on Fubo TV
FuboTV offers live local Fox, ABC, NBC, and CBS in select markets. This service also includes networks known for sports like FS1, FS2, beIN Sports, NBCSN, BTN, and more. You can see what’s available at FuboTV through this 1-week free trial. We cover this streaming service in-depth in our Review of FuboTV.
FuboTV is available on major platforms, including AppleTV, AndroidTV, Roku, and Amazon FireTV. The price of their “Family Plan” is $64.99 per month after the free trial. That includes a cloud DVR with 250 hours of storage and the ability to watch on 3 devices at once.
AT&T TV Local Channels
AT&T TV is another streaming service that offers local channels in most TV markets in the United States. The service offers live ABC, NBC, FOX, CBS, The CW, and more for a price of $69.99 per month. A subscription to AT&T TV includes:
- watch 3 streams simultaneously per subscription
- a cloud-based DVR
- channels like Freeform, AMC, HGTV, Discovery, and more
- supported on AppleTV, Android TV, Roku, Amazon FireTV, and more
More Limited Options
Sling TV offers only local FOX and NBC in select markets if you subscribe to Sling TV’s “Blue” channel package. You can watch Sling TV on Windows and Mac PCs and laptops, Android and iOS devices, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Nexus player, Xbox One, 4th Generation Apple TV, Chromecast, and more. To find out more about what Sling TV offers and more information about Sling TV device compatibility, check out this detailed review of Sling TV. Sling offers a 3-day free trial.
Paramount+ provides the local live CBS broadcast markets across the U.S. Check the link to see if the live local feed is available in your area. If interested, you can check out this free trial to Paramount+.
Vidgo streams Fox and ABC in around 100 markets around the country but doesn’t offer NBC and CBS. Vidgo is supported on available on Android, iOS, Roku, Apple TV, Fire TV. You can also stream the service on up to 3 devices at the same time. We have the full details in our guide to Vidgo’s live streaming service. They do offer a 3-day free trial, which you can cancel within the first three days at no charge.
Watch Local Channels on Roku and Amazon Fire TV
Obviously, if you chose to use Hulu, YouTube TV, or Locast to stream your local broadcast channels, you can download the app to your streaming device and watch local TV. However, if you decided to go with a TV antenna, we need to go into a little more detail.
If you have a Roku TV instead of the standalone Roku device, a “TV Antenna” Roku app reads input from the coaxial port on your Roku TV back. Connect your TV antenna to the port and turn on the TV Antenna app. You will have access to a program guide and all the channels your antenna receives. Amazon Fire Smart TV’s have similar functionality.
If you don’t have a Roku TV but a Roku device, you still may be able to use an antenna. However, you will need some additional hardware. Here are two solutions.
Tablo DVR – This is a DVR for your TV antenna. Your antenna plugs into Tablo DVR, and the Tablo plugs into your home router. From there, you can use the Roku table app to manage the DVR, watch live TV, and set recordings. Read more in our review of DVRs for your TV Antenna.
HDHomeRun Connect Duo – This device is not a DVR. It connects to your router via ethernet. You then connect a TV antenna to the HDHomeRun, and the TV signal is available on your home network through the HD HomeRun Roku app. This device is available through Amazon.
Of course, you can always hook the antenna to your TV, switch your TV input to Roku for streaming, and “TV Antenna” to watch live TV. These solutions are more for the convenience of access to live TV through your Roku menu.
Watch Prime Time Network TV Online
If you aren’t in a market where the streaming services listed above offer live local channels, they still stream content on demand. While you won’t have local news, it will cover a lot of prime time network TV. They all provide free trials and no contract, so there is no risk to try them.
Stream Network Shows On-Demand
Another way to catch primetime network television is the combination of Hulu On-Demand, NBC Peacock, and Paramount+. This combination will provide several hit primetime shows on CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX, and The CW. You can give Hulu a try to see if you like the service. If you’re looking for PBS shows, they can be accessed through the PBS app. It is available on almost any device.
While Paramount+, Hulu, and the PBS app is supported on most browsers, tablets, and smartphones, you probably want to watch these shows on television. To do that, all you need is a streaming device like Roku.
These devices connect to various video services over the internet using apps (also known as channels.) They then stream the video directly to your TV.
Watch Free with Network TV Apps
While you typically can’t stream your local network through the apps below, they offer some free content. In most cases, the latest seasons of primetime shows are available to watch through these apps free. However, while there is free content, don’t expect them to have everything you want to watch available.
You can watch several NBC Shows using the NBC app or at NBC.com. They make you wait 8 days before watching the most current episode, but the full-length episodes are available for the current shows free on most streaming devices. You just need to search your devices channel store for the NBC App.
Current episodes for the following show’s latest season were available through the NBC app: American Ninja Warrior, Connecting…, Dateline NBC, Ellen’s Game of Games, This Is Us, Transplant, The Voice, The Wall, and Weakest Link.
While the ABC app requires a TV provider login for some content, current episodes of ABC shows available free. A “lock” symbol identifies which episodes require you to link your participating TV provider account. However, Locked episodes for most shows will become available to watch without signing into your participating TV provider account 8 days after the episode first airs on TV.
I checked, and you can watch the latest episode of the following shows eight days after airing on ABC: 20/20, America’s Funniest Home Videos, American Housewife, The Bachelorette, Black-ish, Card Sharks, Celebrity Family Feud, The Con, The Conners, Dancing with the Stars, Emergency Call, The Goldbergs, The Good Doctor, Grey’s Anatomy, Match Game, Press Your Luck, Station 19, Supermarket Sweep, and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
The shows look to keep at least the last 5 episodes available free. You can download the app to your mobile or streaming device or watch on ABC’s website.
The Fox Now app does have many programming online for free, but it appears they delay current episodes if you don’t have a valid cable or satellite TV account. Some shows seem that they are on more of a delay than others. However, there is a method to the madness.
Generally, without a TV provider, new episodes of returning FOX shows (i.e., shows that have been on the air more than 1 season), unlock 8 days after they air on TV. In some cases, only the most recent 5 episodes will be available free. So you can watch the latest episodes of The Simpsons and The Masked Singer. However, new shows like LA’s Finest will be locked without a TV provider.
The Fox Now App is available on most streaming platforms.
You can watch several CBS Shows using the CBS app or at CBS.com. There may be a bit of confusion on which shows are available on THe CBS vs their premium Paramount+ service, but the full-length episodes are available for the current shows free on most streaming devices. You just need to search your devices channel store for the CBS App.
Current episodes for the following show’s latest season were available through the CBS app: NCIS, The Equalizer, Clarice, and more. New episodes appear the day after they air on CBS and generally are available free for a few weeks before moving over to Paramount+.
The CW is great when it comes to watching broadcast TV online. They have up-to-date full-length episodes of “Arrow,” “Supernatural,” “The Flash,” and more. Most of their shows are available soon after airing. The CW app is available in the channel store of most streaming devices.
PBS also does a great job of providing online content. You can stream the live feed of the local PBS member station in over 125 TV markets. See our guide to watching PBS online for details. Many Full-length episodes of PBS shows are available for free at PBS.com.
Looking For a Specific Local Network
If you are in a specific live local network, then check out the channel-specific articles below
- Watch Fox Online Without Cable
- Watch NBC Online Without Cable
- Watch CBS Online Without Cable
- Watch ABC Online Without Cable
- Watch The CW Online
- Watch PBS Without Cable
For information on watching other TV channels online check out: How To Stream Specific TV Channels
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