We all hate paying crazy monthly fees just to watch TV. Our parents and grandparents watched TV for free with a set of rabbit ears. They only had half a dozen or so channels, but there was always something good on TV. Well guess what? Despite cable and satellite companies efforts to lock us into bundled plans with not a lot of value, there are alternatives that at most will take you a few hours to implement.
I am reviewing two internet options and one OTA option. They all have DVR capabilities and no monthly fees. Best of all, the programming is all HD. These options will bring you 22 or 23 HD local channels to your living room. Playon.tv also has additional basic cable channels for no additional cost.
This company is the stealth leader in bringing local TV and basic cable to your home. I say they are the stealth leader because you do not see major internet publications espousing their value proposition to the world every day. What you hear about most is the cool hardware offerings that without content are worth nothing. So what is Playon.tv? They provide you with a PC/MAC based software package that resides on your media server at home. The server needs an HDMI port to your TV, and can be a repurposed old desktop or laptop computer. You load their software and set it up and you are ready to go.
Playon.tv also has DVR capability called Playlater and even a browser add-on called Playmark that lets you select streaming media from anywhere on the web (including foreign programs if not geo blocked) to watch and record.
One of the compelling reasons you might want to select this solution is that all three products, Playon, Playlater and Playmark with local programming and basic cable stations (over 90), is available for a onetime payment of $60. You can’t be that with a stick.
To watch all that programming in all the rooms of your house, and to not spend all day in front of a computer, you can interface with the Playon.TV products with a Roku box and its simple remote.
This company broke the mold in terms of trying to solve the problem of local programming available over the internet. Aereo provides 22-23 channels of local programming (select major US markets) accessible through a Roku box or similar device directly to your TV. They charge your $7.99 a month to access an OTA antenna that is geographically in your TV market area. That’s it. Nothing else to do. Sign up for the service, load the app on your Roku box, and watch local TV programs. Aereo also provides cloud based DVR services for no additional cost.
This international company has been around for a while. They make hardware (USB based and PC cards) that allow you to provide TV programming from your cable provider or an HD antenna. Some of the HD antennas available by third parties look just like the antennas your parents had on the roof of their house. It may take you an hour or two to properly install and align an indoor/outdoor antenna and connect the cable to the same entrance connection used by your current cable TV provider.
Their USB product, the HVR 950Q, allows you to watch local HD TV in your home. Plug the USB stick into the back of your media PC and screw in your existing cable from your cable box at the TV. Hauppauge also has a software companion for their products which manages your TV guide, recording and playback features called WinTV. To extend your viewing capabilities to hand held devices they have a remote viewing application is called ‘WinTV Extend’. Hauppauge, like Playon.tv charge you only one time. The USB stick with the applications is around $100.
When you get tired of paying for programming you don’t need or want, spend a few minutes on line and decide for yourself if any of these alternatives will work for you.