How to Cut Cable and Still Watch Live, Local Channels

Local channels carrying the major broadcast networks air some of the highest-rated shows in the country. ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, and NBC — the Big 5 major networks are known for their easy access and availability which allows them to broadcast some of the most-watched sports, sitcoms, drama, and news, on television. Cord cutters that make the switch from cable or satellite do not have to miss out on their favorite live content airing on these networks. Here’s a breakdown on how to watch local channels without cable for free or with a paid service.

How to watch local channels for free? 

Antenna

For nearly 70-years the TV antenna has been a staple when it comes to watching local channels live for free. Gone are the rabbit ear style antennas (though some cord cutters still use and swear by them!); today’s indoor antennas have a sleek look with incredible range to boot. Today’s indoor antennas can pick up stations from 50, 60, or even 70 miles away. You can simply check to see what stations are available in your area by entering your zip code on a site like AntennaWeb and they will suggest antennas for you.

For most cord cutters, especially the ones that live near a station, an indoor antenna will be the best way to watch local channels including the Big 5 networks without cable.

Free streaming services

If you’re a cord cutter who happens to not live near any stations or your antenna isn’t providing a clear signal, there are plenty of web-based alternatives that allow you to stream your favorite local channels for free. These services require a Smart TV or devices such as a Roku, Fire TV, Chromecast, Apple TV, mobile phone, tablet, or PC.

Locast is a popular non-profit streaming service that allows cord cutters in select markets to watch their favorite local channels for free and it’s available on all major streaming platforms. Locast users will be able to watch the Big 5 networks and their local news. Signing up is simple. All you have to do is provide an email and a password. Once you confirm the email, you can begin streaming on the Locast app or on their website. To keep its non-profit status, Locast does ask for donations that may be disruptive to your viewing experience. If you would like to you can set up a monthly donation to watch without interruption. If you are a cord cutter who resides in the markets below then Locast is available to you.

  • Atlanta
  • Baltimore
  • Boston
  • Chicago
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Detroit
  • Houston
  • Los Angeles
  • Miami
  • Minneapolis
  • New York
  • Philadelphia
  • Phoenix
  • Puerto Rico
  • Rapid City
  • San Francisco
  • Seattle
  • Sioux City
  • Sioux Falls
  • Tampa Bay
  • Washington DC
  • West Palm Beach

STIRR is a Sinclair Broadcast Group-owned service that allows users to watch a plethora of local channels on their website via desktop or on their app via mobile device or smart TV.  STIRR is a more flexible option for a web-based streaming service because it isn’t restricted by geolocation. This gives cord cutters the ultimate freedom of watching live content in any city they want to.

Since STIRR is ad-supported, it does not carry primetime shows from the Big 5 networks. For example, if Dancing with the Stars is on then you will not be able to watch it as STIRR would air Sinclair content in its place. STIRR City is the flagship channel that offers curated content based on where you live. If you live near a Sinclair-owned station you’ll be able to watch local programming including local news on STIRR. For cord cutters who do not live near a Sinclair station then STIRR would offer content from their Washington DC station WJLA-TV.

Big 5 network apps

ABC, CBS, CW, FOX, and NBC all have their own apps that allow cord cutters to stream their favorite primetime broadcast. These apps usually are ad-supported, but they’re a good free way to stay updated on the latest shows. The biggest drawback is that not all programming is offered live and sometimes there may be a couple of days delay to watch a show on-demand. Pairing a Big 5 network app with your local station’s app is the perfect cord cutting technique to stay updated on local news and your favorite shows.

Watch local channels with a subscription to a live TV streaming service

When it comes to streaming the shows you enjoy the most that air on local networks, there are a few different subscription services that offer different networks. Some services offer different packages that will give you access to more channels. Below is a table of which services offer what networks and how much their monthly plans start at.

ChannelATT TV Now (*Starts at $55/mo.)Fubo TV (*Starts at $64.99/mo.)Hulu + Live TV (*Starts $54.99/mo.Sling TV (*Starts at $30/mo.)Youtube TV (*Starts at $64.99/mo.)Vidgo (*Starts at $40/mo.)
ABC*YesYesYesNoYesYes
CBS*YesYesYesNoYesNo
CW*YesYesYesNoYesNo
FOX*YesYesYesYesYesYes
NBC*YesYesYesYesYesNo

*Pricing and network availability may vary based on plan and subscriber’s location.

That’s our complete guide on how to get local channels without cable. How do you watch your favorite local channels? Sound off in the comments and let us know what service you use!