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How to Watch Live News and TV without Cable in 2021

Keeping up to date on international and local news is important for many of us. And watching our favorite new TV shows when they air can be a fun way to unwind in the evening. However, the trend of cord-cutting has left many people asking how to watch live news and TV without cable. If you’re looking to cut the cord with cable TV, there are many alternatives to staying in the loop while avoiding those ever-increasing monthly cable bills.

The best way to watch live news and TV without cable is by installing a TV antenna and using a digital tuner to access your local TV stations. Another option is to sign up for a streaming service that offers live streaming of your local stations as well as some cable news channels.

If you’re still not sure what you need to become a cord cutter, we wrote up a guide to what equipment you really need to cut the cord with cable TV. Everyone’s situation is different, so think carefully about what channels and content you truly can’t live without. And remember, you can always add and remove services as you need to, so go with the minimum amount of content and see what you really miss before adding everything at once.

Live news vs live TV shows

It’s helpful to make the distinction between streaming live news and streaming live TV shows. You may want to do both, or you might just be looking for one type of content. The hardware and the services that you opt for highly depend on whether news, TV shows, or both are important to you.

What kind of news are you looking for?

Also, consider whether you’re simply looking for an easy way to access your local news or if you’re more of a CNN, MSNBC, Fox News type of viewer. If cable news is important to you, your best cord cutting option is a streaming service like Sling or FuboTV. 

Local news, on the other hand, is available for free over the air (OTA) with a TV antenna and a digital tuner. Once you’ve installed your antenna and tuner (or digital converter box), you’ll be able to access your local news channels for free as long as you’re within the broadcast range of your local station. It might take a bit of work to set up, but the money you save in the long run can’t be beat.

Before making the decision to buy a digital converter box, make sure you don’t already have one built in to your TV. Many newer TVs come with tuners already installed as a feature.

Do you really need TV shows the moment they air?

TV shows, in general, seem easier to access than specific types of news. The things to consider with TV shows are: how much do you want to spend or save, how immediately do you want to watch the shows as they air, and are you already spending money on services that carry the shows you want?

If you like to gather with friends and have watch parties for your favorite shows right when they air, access to the network broadcast might be the best way to go. As with local news, that would mean installing an antenna and digital tuner. 

However, realize that with many streaming services you can access new shows minutes after they air. You’ll need to check the specific show and service to determine whether or not this will work for you.

In terms of a cost benefit, weigh whether or not it’s worth subscribing to a service that carries your favorite shows vs purchasing a good antenna and a digital tuner if you need one.

Some notes and suggestions about live news and TV:

  • Watching live news and TV at home with an antenna and a digital tuner will almost always be your cheapest option in the long run.
  • You’ll also have immediate access to local news and TV shows through your local channels OTA (over the air) with an antenna.
  • Paying to access cable channels like CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News can be relatively affordable and is readily available on many of the streaming platforms.
  • Some of the popular live TV streaming platforms, while they offer lots of channels and options, can be as expensive as a standard cable TV subscription, if not more.
  • In order to watch live TV “on demand” if you’re using an antenna, you will need to pick up a dedicated DVR and record shows yourself.

Watching sports without cable TV

In all honesty, watching live sports without cable TV can be a challenge. 

It’s absolutely possible to enjoy live sports without cable if you’re willing to pay for the privilege. However, if you’re a sports fan who likes to watch any game, any team, any sport, at any time, you’re going to be frustrated at some point.

There are services that specialize in providing content for sports fans, FuboTV for instance is regularly rated the best streaming service for sports fans. It’s also at the top of the range in terms of cost. We’ll get to a more in depth discussion of FuboTV shortly.

If you’re a hard-core sports fan, you’ll most likely end up either sticking with cable TV or paying a premium with one of the streaming platforms that has an extensive channel lineup. But, if you’re a more occasional or local sports fan, there are some less expensive options to consider.

If you just want to catch a game or a golf tournament now and then when they’re broadcast on normal television stations, you’re in luck. A good antenna will most likely be all you need. And a decent DVR will allow you to record games and watch them any time.

There are also individual sports services for more specialized fans. For example, I’m a hockey fan. I don’t pay too much attention to many other major sports seasons, but I have subscribed to NHL Center Ice for several years in the past. You get tons of games, but for the cost it ended up not being worth it for me, especially due to the black out games that mean you can’t watch your home teams.

For some, those sports specific apps are the answer though. Along with hockey, there are services for NFL, MLB, and more.

How and where to stream live news and TV online

If you know you’re opting for streaming content instead of, or in addition to, an antenna and a digital tuner, let’s take a look at some of the services you can choose from.

While many of the following options have similar, or even identical channels and features, they also have some significant differences that make each choice worth considering for your specific needs. Whether it’s based on cost, types of content, or a combination of the two, you’re sure to find the right fit with a bit of research.

There are apps that replicate a cable TV subscription, and there are apps that are specific to each network. Many of the network apps you can install on your streaming device will offer some level of free live content as well.

Also remember that almost every service has simple month to month billing with no long contracts or anything to lock you in. Most of them also have trial periods as well. So, it’s really easy and low risk to try them out and decide which one is right for you.

Another nice thing about the easy cancellation policies is that you can move from service to service and watch the shows that each one has that the others don’t.

Network Apps

As mentioned, one way to get 24/7 live news coverage is through network apps available for download on your device. You can also stream news with these apps directly through a Roku device, an Amazon Fire TV Stick, or a smart TV. Some of these apps are totally free and provide push notifications for updates on topics that you mark a priority.

ABC

With ABC’s app you get access to clips from various shows like Good Morning America, 20/20, Nightline, and This Week. There’s also the option of watching, reading, or listening to the news through ABC News Radio. 

ABC offers news on a long list of topics from health and lifestyle to politics and finance, which you can rank depending on your interests. This allows you to avoid wading through new stories that aren’t of importance to you. All you need for the app is a WiFi or mobile connection, and you can stream news on your phone, tablet, computer, or through your Roku or smart TV.

CBS

The CBS News App is another option for watching live news coverage, as well as full segments on demand from shows like CBS Evening News, CBS This Morning, Face the Nation, and 60 Minutes. You also get access to documentary series from CBSN Originals, as well as daily shows like Red and Blue. 

Like ABC’s app, you can receive push notifications daily as breaking news occurs. While ABC’s app might be more interactive, CBS’s app seems to run more smoothly according to the many reviews online.

NBC

Similar to the other network apps, the NBC app provides around-the-clock coverage and a way for you to catch up on news shows like Rachel Maddow, Nightly News, TODAY, and Meet the Press. 

Or if you’re looking for a steady coverage of news all day, they also offer a way to listen live to MSNBC on-the-go. Another plus is the option to cast the app onto your TV through Chromecast, something that most other apps don’t have.

Issues and Considerations

These apps might be a good choice for price and convenience. However, they have received many complaints for spotty streaming, unprompted videos popping up, and the inability to view video clips at all. 

After updates, many users find that the app works worse than before. Another thing to keep in mind is that not every network app is free, and some of them require a cable subscription to stream content, defeating the purpose of cutting the cord. Be sure to read the fine print!

I think the bottom line is, keep an open mind and realize that you’re going to have to put up with some inconveniences going down this cord cutter path. But I do think that you’ll see the pros vastly outweigh the cons when it comes to ditching cable TV and embracing the streaming lifestyle.

Sling TV

We’ve mentioned Sling TV before, because of how well it transitions into non-cable living. It’s one of the services that feels most “cable-like” in terms of its interface. It’s a great option for someone who is looking for live TV and news or who simply enjoys keeping up with network cable shows. 

Sling’s Orange package contains channels including Disney Channel, Freeform, ESPN, and Nick. Jr. They also feature CNN, Bloomberg, BBC America, and Newsy. Sling Orange is billed as being good for sports and families, so if this fits your situation, check out Sling Orange.

Sling Blue, on the other hand, includes a lot of the Orange lineup plus select channels through Fox and NBC for more than 40 channels total. Blue is advertised as the News and Entertainment solution and includes Bravo, FX, and SYFY as well, but check the channels to see the fit for yourself.

There are also add-ons for each package called Extras that start at $5 a month. Sling makes it easy to customize your TV watching experience, but be careful not to get sucked down a rabbit hole of channels you don’t need or will never watch.

The packages are grouped into categories like News, Kids, Sports, Comedy, and Lifestyle. One downside is that even with the news add-on, you don’t get all of the big news networks. 

If having a large majority of channels is fine with you, then Sling might be a good option, since it’s one of the cheaper plans on the market.

YouTubeTV

We admit…YouTubeTV is great. It seems to be very stable, and the service offers a ton of content and channels. Because it’s at the higher end of the scale at around $65 per month, it’s not our first choice. But if the price is less of a factor for you, and especially if you’re looking for sports and other entertainment, this might be the right one for you.

YouTube TV offers the ABC, NBC, FOX, and CBS networks, as well as other big stations like CNN, BBC America, BBC World News, HLN, and MSNBC. However, one of the main differences between this streaming service and the others is the number of sports stations available.

YouTubeTV and sports

From NBC Golf to NBA TV, YouTubeTV is a great solution for die-hard sports fans who don’t mind paying a premium price. One thing to keep in mind with this streaming service is that the channels will change depending on your zip code, and in some areas, YouTubeTV is unfortunately not yet available. (This is changing rapidly though).

If you’re a sports fan who is lucky enough to live in an area where YouTubeTV is available, then definitely consider this service. A tight competitor with Fubo TV, YouTubeTV has even more major cable network channels. Because it has the networks listed above, as well as ESPN, you’ll be able to watch most news and sports events, both national and local.

Streaming YouTubeTV is easy too. You can watch on almost any device: phone, tablet, computer, Roku, Fire TV, or smart TV. Your family is also allowed to watch on up to three simultaneous devices, enabling you to enjoy what you all want to watch. If you’re looking for additional entertainment, there are a few extra channels, such as Showtime, Starz, and NBA League Pass that you can add for an extra fee.

Hulu + Live TV

Just like YouTubeTV, Hulu + Live TV is on the pricier end of the scale; however, Hulu also includes lots of major network stations like ABC, NBC, and CBS, allowing you to watch plenty of news and sports. By typing in your zip code, you can also find out how many local stations you’ll receive, increasing the amount of news and sports you’ll get.

One of the places where Hulu shines is with add-ons and bundles. Some of the add-ons are for specific networks like HBO and Showtime, while other Hulu add-ons are available for Entertainment or Español. With the entire Hulu library, plus over 65 channels of live TV, you won’t run out of entertainment quickly.

A really nice feature with Hulu is the ability to bundle with other services like Disney+ and ESPN for even more content at a lower price overall. And, if you’re a student, you can also bundle Spotify with your super affordable Hulu subscription for a media streaming home run.

FuboTV

Fubo is the ideal streaming service for sports fans, especially soccer, because it has close to 20 channels dedicated to sports. 

Again, this one is on the upper range in terms of cost, but you’re probably starting to get used to that if you’re a cord cutting sports fan. Any time a streaming service specializes in a hefty sports offering, you’re going to see higher monthly subscription fees. You’ll still be paying less than cable for a lot of sports streaming.

Fubo’s Starter plan comes in at $64.99 per month, FuboTV offers 114+ channels to stream, with big network channels included like FOX, MSNBC, and CNN. You’ll get three simultaneous screens to stream and 250 hours of cloud DVR included.

Their Elite plan is $79.99 per month and includes 160 channels, 1000 hours of DVR, and unlimited screens for streaming. You’ll also get Fubo Extra, which is another nearly 50 channels of entertainment.

Similar to Sling, separate add-on packages are available, such as Adventure Plus and Sports Plus. Fubo TV currently has more sports channels than any other streaming service, although that could change at any moment. And the number of available add-ons is pretty stunning.

Philo

This service is a great option if you don’t watch sports or follow news often, or if you have other methods of watching those events. For their cheapest plan at $20 a month, Philo offers 60+ channels like Nickelodeon, Food Network, and TLC.

Three simultaneous streams are available, allowing multiple members of your family to watch at the same time on a variety of devices, such as a laptop, mobile device, or smart TV. Philo also boasts unlimited DVR for their subscribers.

Philo is a very simple, easy to understand service. I think it’s a great option to pair with a TV antenna and a digital tuner. Similar to Hulu in that regard, Philo is another fantastic way to add what amounts to basic cable to your home entertainment at a fraction of the cost.

Peacock TV

We’re still evaluating Peacock TV, but it looks very promising. Even at the free level, we were able to find lots of content to stream, much of it great quality as well. 

The main drawback right now is the fact that you can only sideload it on Amazon Fire TV. But it does appear that they are in talks with everyone they need to be in order to be on all the devices. Here are the ones they support now.

One exciting possibility is that the NHL is in talks to find a streaming partner, and Peacock is apparently one of the front-runners for this.

Check back soon for more on Peacock TV.

Wrap Up

Watching live news and TV shows without cable is easier than ever these days. No matter what your current hardware setup is, it’s fairly simple and affordable to get going with live TV. Many of the streaming services cater to specific interests too, and with add-on packages, you can tailor your account to best fit your needs.

Fortunately, news is one of the easier types of content to find if that’s your primary goal, even if you’re planning on leaving cable. The trick is to find the networks that you love the most at a price that will make you happy. And hopefully now you have the info you need to make that happen. 

While sports can be tricker, with services like YouTubeTV, FuboTV, and Sling, it’s most definitely not impossible. Just be prepared to pay more than a non-sports fan will have to.

If you still have questions or you’d like to share some excellent tips on finding live news and TV, let us know in the comments.

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