How to Stream Over-The-Air TV to Your Streaming Device
For some people, over-the-air TV is all they need to be entertained and informed. There's local news, network shows, and syndicated programming, and it's all free. However, it's 2018 and that fancy smart box you have plugged into your TV needs something to do. You could watch over-the-air TV directly from the cable wire to your TV, but if you have multiple TVs and want to get the cable wire out of the room, here's a few smart solutions to over-the-air TV.
- TiVo OTA - If you've recently cut cable, and you're looking for the closest experience to the cable box from the cable provider, the TiVo is as close as it gets. The interface is one of the best in the business, the remote is comfortable and designed well, and is highly rated among consumers. That level of polish comes at a price, $399. To add more TiVos to other TVs connecting back to the base TiVo, those cost $179 each. Services fees are included in the price, so there is no monthly fee, however, that price may be too high for most, and it doesn't exactly solve the problem of using existing streaming boxes in the house. I did include it for those who prefer the dedicated channel remote for channel up and down, and a number pad. If you can live without that, the next options will be cheaper and hook up to your streaming boxes.
- Tablo - For $139, the Tablo is a bit pricey, but it works really well. Setup can be done on any device with the ability to run the Tablo app, including the PC, iOS, Android, Fire TV, and the Roku. It does need to be plugged in through Ethernet, but once that and the antenna are plugged in, setup is very fast. If you want cloud DVR or to record shows to an external drive, you have to pay monthly at $5, or annually at $49, or lifetime guide service for $149. The device is a bit slow to start up and get going, but it works smoothly, and I have no issues to report. To get OTA TV on as many devices without stringing cable to every TV, it works very well.
- HDHomeRun - If you're okay with a slightly more involved setup process, and you already have an existing media server, the $99 HDHomeRun is great. It runs faster than the Tablo when starting up, however the interface is odd on the HDHomeRun. It takes a bit to figure out where the pointer is, and things just are not labeled easily. However, if you do have a fast media server to crank out DVR, at $35 annually, it's a great value. This does not work on the Roku, which is a little annoying, but for those who like to tinker, this is a great product.
- AirTV - Sling wants to bridge the gap between traditional cable, and over-the-top streaming services. That's why they made the AirTV. It has the same idea as the Tablo, and HDHomeRun where it works on the normal range of streaming boxes, including Fire TV and Roku, but if you're a Sling subscriber, it integrates that right into the Sling guide. If you don't have Sling, there's a free AirTV app for that. The only issue is this does not support DVR, which is a big deal-breaker for some. However, if you're married to Sling, this $119 solution wouldn't hurt.
- Windows Media Center - I miss you. The last time you could access Windows Media Center was on Windows 8, and that was after paying extra for the software, which is phenomenal. I don't know how well it will work with today's streaming devices, as many years have passed by, but if you're a diehard, you can combine WMC with HDHomeRun, and create the world's greatest combination of the ideal home theater experience. So long as you don't mind a full blown computer running the show.
There's many ways to get local over-the-air TV in one streaming box. The best overall is Tablo, which has the most device support, and the better interface, but for tinkerers or those who love Sling, the other options on the list are great alternatives, and should do just fine.