Local channels are the foundation of any decent TV package. They provide you the best of regional news and sports coverage, as well as any other events that are unique to your city, town, or state. Now, if you’re looking to cut the cord, there are a few things to keep in mind. There are several avenues you can take to gain access to local channels, all of which we’ll cover below. Some of these methods require a paid streaming service like Hulu + Live TV, while others involve additional hardware like an antenna.
You’ll need a media player like Roku if you want to stream free and paid apps on your TV. Outside of recognizable streaming apps, Roku hosts a number of local channel apps within its Roku Channel Store. Here are the best ways to watch local channels with your Roku device.
Navigating local network channels
Local networks are comprised of channel affiliates of ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. Each of these channels provides broadcasting that caters to a certain regional flavor and coverage area. That way, you’ll receive the latest news on things like school delays and your city’s sports team. For instance, if you live in the Pittsburgh area, WPXI Channel 11 is the NBC affiliate that delivers updates on news, sports, and weather.
Local Roku TV channels
The Roku Channel Store is packed full of free local news channels that are professional apps provided by the channels themselves. With a five-star rating system, you’ll be able to quickly see which apps are worth your time from those that aren’t. Use the search tool — just type in “local” — to find the long list of available local channel apps. Many are obviously regionally specific. So, you’ll need to do a little digging to find the channels that apply to your area. These apps offer live streams and video clips of recent news.
Paid streaming channels
The paid streaming channels with local channels mostly come in the form of cable alternative services. Some of the most popular options include fuboTV, Hulu + Live TV, and YouTube TV. With some services, your coverage will depend on your region — particularly for Sling TV, and Vidgo. There are plenty of options out there, so we recommend that you first check out some of our in-depth reviews before deciding. And fortunately, most cable alternatives offer a free trial, and there’s never a contract.
Private local channels
Private local channels are developed by independent sources. Unfortunately, the private local channels won’t populate when you browse for local channels. You’ll need to know the exclusive code that you can find on a third-party site like Reddit or on RokuGuide.com.
Third-party local apps on Roku
Many of these apps work by selecting the feeds and videos from the areas you want to see. Our top picks consist of Haystack Local & World News, Local Now, and NewsON.
Primetime TV networks
The Roku Channel Store carries many of the apps from your favorite major news networks. You won’t find an app for MSNBC, but there are plenty of other options like CNNgo, FOX News Channel, and Sky News.
Even though there are local news apps in the Roku Channel Store, they still differ quite a bit from your traditional means of broadcast. If you’d prefer high-definition (HD) local channels that you can channel surf, an OTA antenna may be your answer. Antennas have evolved over the years and now have sleek and concealable designs. It’s a one-time purchase for the antenna itself, and then you have free future local coverage.
YouTube contains more videos than any other app on the planet. Nearly every news station also has a YouTube channel where it posts daily news stories. Some channels even televise live streams of journalists and developing stories.
Roku screen mirroring
Just like Google Chromecast, you have the option to cast apps from your mobile devices to your Roku. This is also a useful tool for mirroring your personal photos and videos to your TV screen. What’s even better, you can surf the web for news sources while using your TV as a large computer screen.
The final cut
The good news is that there are many ways you can watch local channels on Roku. While there are many free sources, the most traditional method is via a cable-alternative service or an HD antenna. This is especially good to know for those who want access to live sporting events. The free apps available in the Roku Store won’t provide such access and focus more on news coverage. Since we’re already prone to watching news in the form of bite-sized YouTube videos, you’ll be pleased to find this has carried over to the free local news apps. And if that’s not enough, open your YouTube app.
Each of Roku’s devices is complemented by a remote. If you already own a Roku device, it’s not a bad idea to learn more about what your Roku remote can do.
Roku has an impressive line of devices that fill a pretty extensive list of needs. For example, if you’d like to stream your apps on an older TV, Roku Express+ is pretty much the only game in town since it comes with a composite cable. However, one of the more popular devices is the Roku Streaming Stick+, which is about the size of a flash drive (similar to Amazon’s Fire Stick). It allows you to stream with 4K and HDR TVs and is accompanied by a more advanced remote with voice controls.
Our personal favorite, however, is Roku Ultra. It’s a clear upgrade with its wireless design and remote with earbuds for night owls who don’t want to disturb their partners. For a full, comprehensive analysis, we suggest our complete review on all things Roku.