How to Watch TV on Your Computer, Laptop, Tablet, or Phone

There are a plethora of Live TV streaming options for viewing on your computer. Some stations offer free live TV on their website. Several companies offer a live TV subscription (like YouTube TV and Hulu + Live TV). If you want to get really fancy, you can try using a tuner to get cable TV on your device. This minHour teaches you how to watch TV on your computer using a network's website, streaming services, or a tuner.

Watching on a TV Website

Search for a TV network or station website.

Want to watch television without a television? Luckily, there are plenty of ways to watch TV without cable. Many local stations, as well as some major networks and cable channels, stream the latest episodes of their popular shows for free on their websites and some providers stream their live broadcasts in some areas. Some of the major networks that provide streaming content include:

  • ABC:
  • NBC:
  • CBS:
  • FOX:

Locate and click the link to watch TV.

This will typically be a button labeled something like “Live TV.” Not all networks or stations will have this option. If a site doesn’t have offer online programming, check other sites, such as network affiliates in different markets.

Watch TV.

Start watching live TV! The website will be streaming whatever is scheduled for their channel at the time you’re watching.

Using a Live TV Subscription

Go to a subscription service website.

  • If you are a cable or satellite subscriber (e.g. Spectrum TV), you can watch many cable networks by signing in to a network’s site with your subscription information.
  • There are plenty of live TV options to choose from! Quite a few offer free trials: YouTube TV, Sling TV, Hulu + Live TV, Philo, fuboTV, and DirecTV Stream.

Select the services and plans that best suit your needs.

There are usually a variety of packages offering different features (like additional devices you can watch on and streaming quality).

  • You can usually add extra channels. Pick and choose the ones with shows you are interested in!

Watch live TV.

Go to the Live TV section of the streaming website to watch your favorite channels.

Watch recent TV shows.

Many streaming services have an option to watch certain TV episodes on demand. Plus, you can often record TV shows to watch them later.

  • Hulu lets you watch programming from major broadcast and cable networks. In many cases, new shows become available the day after they air. Most Hulu shows still have commercial breaks, but you can pay more for a premium no-commercials subscription.
  • HBO Max is HBO’s standalone streaming service. You can watch new and archived HBO series, like Game of Thrones. New episodes are available online within hours of their original air time. Unlike the cable-affiliated service, HBO Go, HBO Max doesn’t require a cable or satellite TV subscription.

Watch entire seasons of TV series.

Whole seasons of many television series are available from Hulu and HBO, as well as:

  • Netflix, which releases original programming, like “House of Cards” and “Orange is the New Black.” Netflix also has entire archived seasons of many popular TV series from several networks.
  • Amazon Prime also offers a large number of archived series, as well as its own original programming, such as “Transparent” and “The Man in the High Castle.”

Using a TV Tuner

Purchase an external TV tuner.

A TV tuner allows you to connect your antenna or cable box to your computer, and then use your computer to watch and change channels using onscreen controls.

  • TV tuners for computers are available from most major electronics retailers or through online outlets such as Amazon and Newegg.
  • Many TV tuners allow you to also record footage and save it to watch later, much like a DVR.

Connect the tuner to a USB port.

Slide the tuner directly into a USB port on your computer, or a USB extension cable if the ports are too close together to accommodate the tuner. Avoid using a USB hub, as they usually don’t draw enough power.

  • You can also install a TV tuner card into a spare PCI slot on your computer, though this will take longer compared to plugging in a USB tuner. See this guide for details on installing PCI cards.
  • An external USB TV tuner is much simpler to install than a TV tuner card, and is just as powerful.

Connect your antenna or cable box.

Some tuners come with a built-in antenna. Otherwise, use the coaxial connector to attach a cable from your antenna or cable box to your TV.

  • If you wish to keep your cable box connected to your TV, but also want to connect it to your computer, you will need a coaxial cable splitter.

Install the tuner software.

You may need to install software that came packaged with the tuner. Follow the instructions that came with the tuner to do so.

  • Windows Media Center supports TV tuners.

Scan for channels.

Start the TV tuner software and follow the instructions to scan for available channels. If you are using an antenna, the channels you receive will depend on signal strength and the power of your antenna.

Watch TV.

You’re all set up to watch TV through your tuner on your computer!

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