One of the best things about TV service is the ability to watch local channels. These channels are often local subsidiaries of broadcast networks like NBC and CBS and carry content that’s highly relevant, like local news and public access TV. These networks are also one of the only ways to catch games from your local team.
In this article, we’ll explore all the ways you can watch local channels, from a simple TV subscription to streaming services. Let’s dive in!
Watch local channels with an HD antenna
The first, and most affordable, way to watch local channels is to get an HD antenna to connect to your TV. It enables you to pick up local broadcast channels over the air without a TV subscription or internet access.
HD antennas are capable of picking up streams up to 4K quality (provided they’re available in your area). It’s not unreasonable to pick up around 30–40 channels with an indoor antenna, including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and sometimes PBS, The CW, and more. Unfortunately, you can’t get classic favorites like ESPN or Comedy Central, but these don’t carry local programming anyway.
Best of all, they’re surprisingly affordable—decent options are available for as little as $20, and some of the best antennas on the market are available for less than $100. As a one-time purchase, this makes antennas much more affordable than most TV and live streaming options.
Our favorite antennas are the Mohu Leaf Supreme Pro and 1byone Amplified HD Antenna. The Mohu Leaf is one of the original flat-style antennas and offers a lot of power for the money, while the 1byone is a fantastic value at just $20.
Watch local channels using an app
Your next option for getting local channels is with a network’s app. Networks like CBS, NBC, FOX, and PBS all have streaming apps that offer tons of content, including some live news and local programming.
These apps generally offer some on-demand content totally free, but in order to stream everything, particularly live content, you’ll need to sign in with your TV provider, meaning you can’t use them as a complete cord-cutting solution. The exception here is PBS, which is always free.
Watch local channels using a live streaming service
These services make up a newer category of streaming apps that are gaining popularity. These services offer “live TV” in the same style as what you’d get through a cable subscription—minus the cable. Many (if not most) of these services also carry local channels.
There are an increasing number of options in this space, but the most popular tend to be YouTube TV, Sling TV, and Hulu + Live TV. These are all excellent services with something unique to offer:
- YouTube TV: YouTube’s live streaming service offers 85+ channels, including a number of local options. The exact local choices you’ll have available depend on where you live, but can include ABC, FOX, NBC, The CW, and more. YouTube TV prices start at $64.99 per month.
- Sling TV: Sling TV is one of the most affordable live streaming services, with plans starting at just $35 per month. Sling offers a good number of channels, but the local selections don’t include ABC. That could be a dealbreaker for some.
- Hulu + Live TV: This service is interesting primarily because it also includes the “regular” Hulu service, which is one of the best on-demand streaming services around (and one that many people may already subscribe to). Hulu + Live TV starts at $69.99 per month.
- Paramount+: This is a streaming service that carries, among other things, CBS content. Paramount+ is the way to get live streaming access to CBS networks in select markets—including your local CBS station. The service also has a ton of other great content, too, including sports and movies from big franchises like Star Trek. Paramount+ starts at $4.99 per month.
- Peacock: Peacock is NBC’s streaming service. While initially, it didn’t carry any local channels, it recently added live local news as part of its free package. Plus, now that NBC has its own streaming service, it's pulling many of its popular shows (like The Office) from other on-demand providers. So it's kind of a must-have. Peacock has a truly free tier, and you can unlock additional content with a subscription starting at $4.99 per month.
Watch local channels with a TV subscription
Finally, you can opt for the tried-and-true cable or satellite TV subscription. This is the most surefire way to ensure you get the maximum number of local channels, particularly sports. However, it can also be the most expensive.
TV subscriptions are especially useful for sports fans. The nature of local sports broadcasting contracts means that some games are only available on select local broadcast channels (called regional sports networks), and it’s very rare to be able to access these channels outside of a television subscription.
If this is the route you choose, you have a lot of solid choices. Some of our favorite TV providers include DISH, Optimum, and Xfinity:
- DISH: DISH offers an excellent value for the money, with a powerful DVR and a good selection of channels for a very reasonable price. Plans start at $69.99 per month.
- Optimum: Optimum is one of the best values in TV, with a huge channel selection and fantastic internet for a low price. Unfortunately, Optimum is only available in a very small market. TV plans start at $40 per month.
- Xfinity: This is one of the most widely available TV providers, and it combines excellent channel selection, a powerful DVR, and extremely fast internet into one package. Xfinity starts at $49.99 per month.
Get the content you crave
Whether you’re looking for a TV provider and can’t choose the best one, or you’re aiming to cut the cord and want to ensure you don’t miss out, local channels are key. The simplest way to get all your local networks is with a TV plan, but HD antennas, apps, and streaming services can all help bridge the gap.
Dave Schafer is a freelance writer with a passion for making technical concepts easy for anyone to understand. He’s been covering the world of gadgets, tech, and the internet for over 8 years, with a particular focus on TV and internet service providers. When he’s not writing, Dave can be found playing guitar or camping with his family and golden retriever, Rosie.
Bri Field has a background in academia, research writing, and brand marketing. She has edited scientific publications, conference papers, digital content, and technical communications. As Assigning Editor, she enjoys ensuring all content is accurate, clear, and helpful. In her free time, you can find her in the kitchen trying a new recipe, out on a hike, or working through her massive TBR list.