Just because you’ve cut the cord doesn’t mean you’re necessarily ready to part ways with all your favorite local channels, including CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, PBS… and so on.
But when it comes to local channels, things can get tricky. Each streaming service is responsible for securing agreements with local affiliate broadcasters to be able to make those channels available to viewers on their platform. Even then, availability will generally vary by region.
To help cord-cutters cut through the confusion, we’ve put together this guide covering the best streaming services for local channels.
Our pick for best streaming service for local channels: DirecTV Stream
DirecTV Stream offers more local channels than any other streaming service out there, likely because the AT&T owned service doubles as a satellite television provider. Because of this, as well as its solid list of features, it’s our top choice for watching local channels.
Why DirecTV Stream?
Although it’s one of the pricier options on this list when it comes to streaming services, DirecTV Stream also has the most local channels available, and the least location restrictions.
To see a full list of all the local channels available in your area, all you need to do is visit DirecTV Stream’s website and enter your ZIP code. Regardless of which plan you subscribe to, you’ll get access to all the affiliate stations available in your region—however, if you want access to watch Regional Sports Networks, you’ll need to subscribe to at least the Choice plan. (DirecTV Stream also has the highest number of RSNs, too!)
But here’s the thing with local channels. Sometimes, agreements fall through and a channel that was once available in your area no longer is.
In situations like these, we’ve seen numerous examples on Twitter of DirecTV Stream’s stellar support team offering quick help and sometimes even remuneration in response to issues that come up for their viewers.
When it comes to a streaming service, the last thing you want is to be stuck in a situation where you can’t get a hold of anyone for help. DirecTV Streams offers fast support through live chat, email, or Twitter.
Top 3 features
- DirecTV Stream offers the most local channels. CBS, NBC, FOX, ABC, PBS, Univision and even the CW are all included in your subscription (subject to your area). To check that all the local channels you need are available in your area, enter your ZIP code on DirecTV Stream’s website.
- You get an unlimited DVR. Don’t have time to watch a certain game, TV show or news special? DirecTV Stream offers all new subscribers unlimited DVR storage space, keeping your recordings saved and available for rewatching for up to 9 months.
- You can stream on up to 20 devices connected to your home network. DirecTV stream is great for the whole family, with over 75+ sports, news, and entertainment channels within just its base plan. You can simultaneously stream on up to 20 devices at a time that are connected to your home network, and an additional 2 devices outside of your home network.
You can check out our in-depth review of DirecTV Stream here.
Best for cost-conscious viewers: Sling TV
Sling TV is the most affordable option on this list for getting local channels—however, if you want to get the most local stations, you’ll need to pair your Sling TV subscription with an OTA antenna.
Reasons to choose Sling TV
The reason we love Sling TV so much is because it’s one of the cheapest ways to watch local channels. With Sling Blue, you’ll get FOX and NBC-owned channels, along with 40+ other sports, news, and entertainment channels.
Sling TV’s app is compatible with most devices, and your subscription includes 50 hours of DVR. If you need more recording space, you can pay an additional $5/month to bump it up to 200 hours.
Sling Blue offers you 3 streams per account, making it easy to share with family members or a couple friends. Sling TV is currently running an offer that gives you a 50% discount off your first month’s subscription. If you’re looking for an affordable way to try it out, now is a good time.
Reasons to skip Sling TV
Without an antenna, you’ll only get FOX and NBC with Sling Blue, and there’s no guarantee that they’ll be available in your area, since availability varies by market. Local channels aren’t available through an add-on or even by subscribing to a different channel package.
The lack of local channels can be fixed by pairing an OTA antenna with your subscription, but not everyone wants to go through the hassle. Sling TV even offers a few device deals for digital over-the-air (OTA) antennas, so take a look if you think this streaming service could be right for you.
However, here’s the catch. The 50-hour DVR included in your subscription won’t work for channels you get through the OTA antenna. So if you’re hoping to record something on ABC or CBS, you unfortunately wouldn’t be able to.
You can check out our in-depth Sling TV review here.
Best for sharing your account: YouTube TV
If we were to name a second best to DirecTV Stream when it comes to watching local channels, YouTube TV would take the cake. YouTube TV only offers one base plan, which removes all the confusion of complicated subscriptions models.
YouTube TV has broadcasting rights to many local networks, including: ABC, CBS, FOX, The CW, MyNetworkTV, NBC, PBS (select regions), Telemundo, Univision, and Unimas.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get all these channels just because you’ve subscribed to YouTube TV. Unfortunately, availability varies by region, so the best way to check which channels will be available is by entering your ZIP code on YouTube TV’s website.
Reasons to choose YouTube TV
YouTube TV is one of the best streaming services for sharing your account. You can stream on up to 3 devices at a time, and create up to 6 different user profiles. You get over 100+ channels with your base subscription, and have the option to add individual channel packages like Showtime, Epix, or HBO.
The features don’t disappoint, either. Its 4K Plus add-on lets you watch certain live and on-demand content in ultra 4K HD. Unlimited DVR is included in your plan, with recordings saved for up to 9 months.
Reasons to skip YouTube TV
While YouTube TV offers a ton of local channels, you’re still at risk of only getting a few of them, depending on where you live. If YouTube TV seems like a good fit for you, be sure to enter your ZIP code on YouTube TV’s website to verify what channels you’ll get prior to subscribing.
Another thing to note is that there could be some restrictions on your local channel recordings. YouTube TV hasn’t disclosed exactly how these restrictions work and on which channels, but some viewers have complained that they cannot fast-forward through content or ads for some DVR recordings. Also, there are certain live sports broadcasts that aren’t able to be recorded. YouTube TV claims that these kinds of DVR restrictions are rare, but it is something to note.
You can check out our full review of YouTube TV here.
Best for sports fans: fuboTV
The sports-centric streaming service fuboTV made it to this list not only for its impressive list of sports channels—but also because of its solid offering of local channels.
You’ll find that fuboTV has local affiliates for most of the major networks, including: ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, The CW, AT&T Sportsnet, MyNetworkTV (very limited locations), Estrella TV, Telemundo, UniMas, and Univision.
But just like any other streaming service, subscribing to fuboTV isn’t enough to guarantee that you’ll get access to all of these channels. Availability varies by region, so enter your ZIP code on fuboTV’s website to see a full list of channels you’d get.
Reasons to choose fuboTV
fuboTV has secured broadcasting agreements in over 200 local markets—which is significantly higher than many streaming services, with the exception of DirecTV Stream.
The streaming service offers 2 different plans, each with over 100+ channels to choose from. You’ll find more sports channels than almost any other streaming service out there. With any fuboTV plan, you’ll get channels like beIN Sports, Big Ten Network, ESPN, FS1, FS2, NBA TV, NFL Network, Pac12 Networks, and much more.
You can stream on up to 10 devices at a time connected to your home network, and 2 devices outside of your home network, making it easy to share your account with your family and friends.
fuboTV offers 1,000 hours of DVR included in its cheapest subscription package. While this isn’t unlimited like the other options on this list, it should be more than enough for you to record the live sports matches and other programming that you need.
Reasons to skip fuboTV
fuboTV is a great option as a streaming service overall, particularly for sports fans looking to get access to local channels. However, fuboTV offers less RSNs than competitors like DirecTV Stream.
fuboTV offers a 7-day free trial so you can test out the streaming service risk-free.
Check out our full fuboTV review here.
You ask, we answer. Here are our answers to the most-commonly-asked questions we hear about watching local channels without cable.
Can I watch local channels on Amazon Fire TV?
You can watch local TV channels on Amazon Fire TV with fuboTV, Hulu+ Live TV, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and DirecTV Stream. You can use your credentials to log into the app once you download and install it.
Can I watch local channels on Roku?
You can watch local TV channels on Roku with fuboTV, Hulu+ Live TV, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and DirecTV Stream. Download any of the apps for free from the Roku Channels store. Once you sign up, you can use your credentials to log into the app.
Can I watch local channels on my Apple TV?
You can watch local TV channels on Apple TV with fuboTV, Hulu+ Live TV, Sling TV, YouTube TV, and DirecTV Stream. Download any of their apps on Apple TV’s App Store, sign up, then use your credentials to log in.
Our takeaway: DirecTV Stream is the best streaming service overall for local channels
Overall, we recommend DirecTV Stream as the top choice for watching local channels. Although it’s one of the pricier options on this list when it comes to streaming services, it also has the most local channels available, and the least amount of restrictions based on location.
If you already know what local channels are available in your area, such as local NBC, CBS, or FOX affiliates, you can find scheduling information through our local TV guides.
Tara Khudairi • Author
Tara Khudairi is a freelance content writer and copywriter based in Toronto. Since 2014, she has contributed to brands and blogs alike to tackle popular topics relating to technology, personal finance, entertainment, travel and lifestyle. Whether it’s the latest streaming service or cryptocurrency, she’s passionate about making the complex simple. When she’s not busy typing away, you’ll find Tara watching Netflix’s latest true crime doc or a classic 90’s horror flick.
Desiree Wu • Editor
Desiree is a full-time Honours Business Administration student at Ivey Business School at Western University. She also works as the Editorial Intern at Flixed. Desiree is based in London, Ontario.