Cable television operators have been slowly losing customers for years. Many have cut the cord and are now relying on streaming services for their TV news, sports, and entertainment needs. However, some people are still reluctant to get rid of their cable TV because they want easy access to their local television stations without having to use an antenna. However, there are still ways to watch or stream local TV channels without cable.
Read more: Best streaming TV apps and services
We take a look at what options are available for cord-cutters to watch or stream their local TV channels. We also take a look at the good old-fashioned TV antenna as well. People who may have resisted getting one may not be aware of the number of free channels they can now get. There are even ways to stream over-the-air free TV on your mobile device or smart TV.
How to get local channels without cable
The easiest way to get your local TV stations without a cable is to purchase a digital HDTV antenna. If you think you will be buying an old piece of “rabbit ears” hardware for this feature, think again. You can get an antenna that can attach to a nearby window so you don’t have to climb on the roof to install one. Of course, there are also options for people who want to put up a more powerful antenna on top of their house for better reception and range.
Read more: Best HDTV antennas
While the number of channels you can receive clearly with a digital HDTV will vary depending on where you live, the good news is that you should be able to get as many as 80 channels or more. That’s because local TV stations have been adding to their translators with extra channels. That includes networks that offer reruns of old TV shows, such as MeTV, CoziTV, Comet, Heroes and Icons, and many more.
The future: 4K over-the-air TV channels
Not only can you get your local broadcast channels in full 1080p HD quality right now with these new antennas, but the best is yet to come. Slowly but surely, some US cities have already adopted the new ATSC 3.0 broadcast TV standard. Once it’s fully operational, you will be able to purchase a new digital antenna that will receive over-the-air TV in full 4K resolution, with Dolby Atmos or DTS:X audio support as well. Newer LG and Samsung smart TVs are already putting in ATSC 3.0 tuners in their current televisions in anticipation of the full roll-out.
Stream over-the-air channels to your mobile device or smart TV
There’s also a way to stream local channels from your over-the-air antenna to your mobile device or smart TV. The Plex Pass subscription, combined with digital television and a compatible TV tuner, will allow you to not only receive your local channels, but to stream them to your smartphone, tablet, PC desktop or laptop, or Roku-based smart TV. You can also record and store any over-the-air shows on a compatible DVR, cast your shows to a Chromecast-based TV, or pause and then fast forward live shows. It takes a little bit of time to set up, but the results may be worth it for watching your local channels the way you want to do it.
A Plex Pass subscription costs $4.99 a month, and there’s a $39.99 annual subscription. You can even get a lifetime subscription for $119.99.
Stream local TV channels with internet-based services
If you don’t want to mess with extra hardware like antennas or TV tuners to get your local television stations, the easiest way is to sign up for an internet-based live TV service. Several of them offer live access to all or most of your local TV stations. Most also offer cloud DVR for storing live shows on your account. You can stream them to your PC, mobile device, or smart TV.
Read more: Live streaming TV services
The biggest issue with going this quick-and-simple route is that the monthly bills for these services can be expensive. They include Hulu Plus Live TV, which costs $65 a month, with 50 hours of cloud DVR.
Another option is YouTube TV, which also costs $65 a month, but includes unlimited cloud DVR space (the recordings do disappear after nine months).
FuboTV costs a bit less, starting at $55 a month, and offers 500 hours of cloud DVR. However, not all of the local channels are available in all markets.
That’s our look at the options to watch or stream local TV channels on your various media devices. We will update this article if more services launch or existing ones make any changes.
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