How to Watch Local TV Online without Cable: Stream Local Channels

watch local TV online

It’s 2017, and cable TV is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Millions of savvy people are switching over from expensive and restrictive cable TV subscriptions into more affordable and flexible online streaming services. These new services are great, allowing you to watch many of your favorite channels online. However, it’s a bit more difficult to watch local channels online, as networks like FOX, NBC, ABC, CBS, etc. have different broadcasting rules and contracts. Luckily, there are now ways to watch local TV online – and we’ll show you how in this guide.

The “Big Four” local channels are NBC, FOX, CBS and ABC. These channels are nationwide businesses, but they offer local affiliates in each major market across the country. So, if you live in Seattle, you’ll get the Seattle NBC/FOX/etc. affiliate, which is different than the affiliate for, say, Houston, TX. This creates some issues for online streaming – but there are still ways to stream local TV channels without cable.

 

Use Sling TV to Watch Local TV Online (NBC, FOX, and ABC)

Sling TV reviews

Sling TV, the most popular online streaming service, also happens to be one of the best ways to watch local channels online. For those unfamiliar with the service, Sling TV is basically an internet streaming service that gives you 40+ channels for $25 per month, with no contract. These channels stream over the internet, to your favorite devices – such as mobile phones, computers, streaming players like Roku/Apple TV, and more. Some key details of Sling TV:

  • $25 per month for Sling Blue
  • 40+ channels are included
  • Key nationwide channels include AMC, CNN, TNT, TBS, Comedy Central, FX, NBCSN, FS1 + more
  • You can stream local TV channels including FOX, NBC and ABC in select markets
  • Our Sling TV review has the full channel list + more information
  • No contract required
  • Works over the internet
  • Watch on your TV via a streaming player (Roku, Apple TV, Chromecast, etc.)
  • Get a free Roku if you prepay for a few months of Sling TV
  • Also watch on your mobile device, computer, tablet, etc.
  • You can try Sling TV free for 7 days

If you’re wondering how to watch local channels without cable and how Sling TV comes into play, here’s your answer: in the “Sling Blue” package, which is $25 per month for 40+ channels, both FOX streaming and NBC streaming are available in select markets, as well as ABC streaming (as part of the Broadcast Extra add-on package for an additional $5/month).

Sling TV offers FOX streaming live in the following markets:

  • Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte N.C., Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Gainesville, Fla., Houston, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Pa., Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa, Fla. and Washington D.C
  • Select FOX programming may be available on-demand nationwide, but live streaming is only in the above listed markets.

Sling TV offers NBC streaming live in the following markets:

  • Chicago, Dallas-Fort Worth, Hartford, Conn., Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego and Washington D.C.
  • Select NBC programming may be available on-demand nationwide, but live streaming is only in the above listed markets.

Sling TV offers ABC streaming live in the following markets:

  • Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco.
  • Select ABC programming may be available on-demand nationwide, but live streaming is only in the above listed markets
  • For sporting events airing on ABC, the event will also be aired on ESPN3, which is offered by Sling TV nationwide in select packages. This applies only to sporting events.

So, essentially, Sling TV allows you to watch local channels online if you live in one of the listed markets. Select content will also be available on-demand nationwide. Also, it’s important to note that new markets are added regularly, so if you don’t see your market listed just know that Sling TV is regularly adding new covered areas.

Sling TV offers a free 7-day trial, so you can try it out for free and watch local TV online free for a week while exploring the service for yourself.

 

Stream Local Channels with DIRECTV NOW (NBC, FOX and ABC)

directv now review

DIRECTV NOW is a new online streaming service that works over the internet. It’s not to be confused with the regular satellite DIRECTV, as DIRECTV NOW is online-only and does not require any sort of satellite or equipment (or a contract). Some highlights of DIRECTV NOW include:

  • The basic package is $35 per month
  • No contract is required
  • 60+ channels included in the basic package
  • Key channels include ESPN, TNT, AMC, TBS, FOX News, CNN, A&E, Food Network, and more
  • Local TV channel streaming of FOX, NBC and ABC is offered in select markets
  • Our DIRECTV NOW review has the full channel list + more information
  • Watch online, from anywhere with internet
  • Watch on your favorite devices, from streaming players (Apple TV/Chromecast etc.) to computers and mobile devices
  • Up to 120+ channels are available in larger packages
  • You can add on HBO for just $5 per month
  • You can try a free 7-day trial of DIRECTV NOW

So, how can you use DIRECTV NOW to stream local TV channels? Well, again, it comes down to where you live, as different networks are offered in different areas.

DIRECTV NOW offers FOX streaming live in the following markets:

  • Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas-Ft Worth, Detroit, Gainesville, Houston, Minneapolis, New York, Washington D.C., Tampa-St Petersburgh, Orlando-Daytona, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles.
  • On-demand content for select FOX programming may be available on-demand nationwide

DIRECTV NOW offers NBC streaming live in the following markets:

  • Chicago, Washington D.C., Dallas-Ft Worth, Hartford-New Haven, Miami-Ft Lauderdale, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Los Angeles.
  • On-demand content for select NBC programming may be available on-demand nationwide

DIRECTV NOW offers ABC streaming live in the following markets:

  • Chicago, Houston, New York, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham, San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, Fresno-Visalia, and Los Angeles.
  • On-demand content for select ABC programming may be available on-demand nationwide

As you’re probably starting to see, the answer to how to watch local channels without cable really depends on where you live. DIRECTV NOW offers the ability to watch local TV online for a number of areas, and the list is always growing – but, there are still tons of areas where these channels are not offered.

DIRECTV NOW offers a free 7-day trial to test things out. And remember, the service is non-contract; so no need to commit or be locked into anything!

 

Watch Local Channels Online with PlayStation Vue (NBC, FOX, ABC, CBS)

PlayStation Vue is another live streaming service that offers a decent way to watch local channels online, as well as many nationally broadcast networks. Like the services we’ve already discussed, PlayStation Vue works over the internet, and provides local TV streaming in select markets. Some highlights of PlayStation Vue include:

  • Plans start from $30 per month
  • No contract is required
  • Watch live TV from networks like ESPN, TNT, CNN, Bravo, Cartoon Network and more
  • In select areas, watch local TV online from networks like NBC, FOX, CBS and ABC
  • 45+ channels included in the basic package
  • Our PlayStation Vue review has the full channel list + more information
  • Watch online from home
  • Mobile viewing is restricted for most channels
  • Use your PS3/PS4 or streaming device to watch
  • PlayStation Vue offers a free 7-day trial

Again, when it comes to watching local TV online, Vue’s offerings vary depending on your location. See the full scoop below.

PlayStation Vue offers FOX streaming live in the following markets:

  • Atlanta, Austin, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Gainesville, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Orlando, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Francisco, Tampa, and Washington DC.
  • On-demand coverage of select FOX programming is available nationwide

PlayStation Vue offers NBC streaming live in the following markets:

  • Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Hartford/New Haven, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Francisco, and Washington DC
  • On-demand coverage of select NBC programming is available nationwide

PlayStation Vue offers ABC streaming live in the following markets:

  • Chicago, Fresno, Houston, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia, Raleigh-Durham and San Francisco.
  • On-demand coverage of select ABC programming is available nationwide

PlayStation Vue offers CBS streaming live in the following markets:

  • Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Grand Rapids, Harrisburg, Hartford/New Haven, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Sacramento, Salt Lake City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Louis, and West Palm Beach.
  • On-demand coverage of select CBS programming is available nationwide

So, depending on where you live, PlayStation Vue might be a good way to watch local TV online. It offers CBS in some areas, which DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV do not. But other than that, this service is inferior to both Sling TV and DIRECTV NOW – Vue is more expensive, doesn’t allow mobile streaming, and has recently cut out many key channels from their lineup, while their competitors are expanding. At this point, we typically recommend the services in the order listed – Sling TV first, then DIRECTV NOW, and PlayStation Vue last.

 

Watch CBS Online with CBS All Access (CBS Only)

cbs all access

The last option we have for you to watch local TV online is to use a service called CBS All Access. This is the official streaming service of CBS itself, and, as you may imagine, the service provides access to CBS content. It’s primarily an on-demand service, offering on-demand access to 8,500+ episodes of hit CBS shows. However, the service also provides CBS live streaming in a huge number of markets. Here are some highlights of the service:

  • Costs only $5.99 per month (or $9.99 per month for no commercials)
  • No contract is required
  • Watch on-demand CBS content (over 8,500+ episodes of hit CBS shows)
  • Watch CBS live in most areas (around 80% of the US is covered)
  • Our CBS All Access review has more information
  • Watch online from home or on the go, using most devices
  • Try a free 7-day trial of CBS All Access

CBS All Access provides CBS streaming live in the over 80% of US markets around the nation. There are really too many to list here – you can check availability at CBS All Access’ website. Overall, this is a good way to watch local TV online, if CBS is the most important network for you. With that said, it only offers CBS, so obviously it’s a bit restrictive.

Click here to try CBS All Access free for 7 days.

 

How to Watch Local Channels Without Cable: Bottom Line

Information overload, anyone? We get it – the above guide is a lot of information to take in. The bottom line when it comes to how to stream local channels is that different networks are available in different areas. To add to the confusion, each service that provides local channels offers those channels in a slightly different selection of markets. Better yet, these services are adding new markets all the time, so it’s difficult to maintain an up-to-date list.

Still confusing, we know. Here’s the good news, though: every service described here offers a free 7-day trial. This means you can try the service(s) out for free and determine for sure which local affiliate channels you get. To watch local TV online without cable, we recommend signing up for a free trial or two to get a feel for the services – and remember, even if you don’t get your favorite local channel, you’ll still enjoy anywhere from 30 to 120+ nationally broadcast networks from these services, depending on the plan you choose!

And, as always, if you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment or shoot us an email. Thanks for reading!

 

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Austin Meadows

Austin Meadows is a writer, traveler, and cord-cutting expert based in the rainy but beautiful Pacific North West.
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