How to watch live broadcast TV on your Apple TV without cable

“Being a cord cutter (actually, I’ve never had cable, so I haven’t technically cut any cords), I’m always on the hunt for new ways to keep myself entertained,” Lory Gil writes for iMore. “On Apple TV, I use a handful of apps that, either I subscribe to a streaming service for (like Hulu and Netflix), or offer a free streaming TV feature that doesn’t require a cable subscription (like PBS and The CW).”

“For those looking for “cable lite” in the form of small packaged cable subscriptions from services like Sling TV and DirectTV Now, we’ve got a list of the best streaming live TV services,” Gil writes. “Keep in mind, though, that most of these services don’t offer unlimited access to broadcast channels like NBC, CBS, ABC, and Fox. What I’m referring to is the ability to watch any broadcast channel available in your area.”

“There is also this thing called broadcast television, which anyone can watch as long as they have a TV that supports digital television (or a digital conversion box) and an over-the-air (OTA) HDTV antenna. The thing about broadcast television is that I couldn’t watch it on Apple TV. I’d have to switch my TV input over, and then flip through the channels until I found something to watch. I rarely watched broadcast television because I tend to stick with Apple TV for my TV and movie watching activities,” Gil writes. “That is until I got HDHomeRun. With HDHomeRun, not only can I watch live broadcast television on my Apple TV, I can also watch it on my iPhone or iPad. Plus, with a subscription, you can record live TV and watch it the way a person with cable and a DVR would watch TV.”

Tons more in the full article – recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: We’ve cut our cords with Apple TV 4K units, Playstation Vue, Netflix, Amazon Prime and other content apps. Depending on your location and desires, throw in an over-the-air antenna to fill in those networks your streaming service is only offering on-demand and an HDHomeRun and your cord is as good as cut!

MacDailyNews Note: Today is Washington’s Birthday in the U.S.A., a federal holiday and, as such, the U.S. markets are closed for the day. We will resume our normal posting schedule tomorrow.

Washington’s Farewell Address, September 19, 1796

How to cut the cord with Apple TV 4K – November 27, 2017
Record live TV without a cable subscription – March 23, 2017
Making sense of myriad cord-cutting options – March 17, 2017
The ultimate cable television cord cutting solution for Apple TV owners – February 17, 2017


  1. After you pay for all the mini subscriptions, HDhomerun and subscription, how much each month would you really save for all the hassle? Unless you save over $100 a month, seems like too much hoop jumping. IMO, Life is short, enjoy it while you can, even if it costs a few more bucks. To each his/her own though…

    1. I cut the cord January 2013 and have saved about $1500 a year vs what I used to pay DirecTV. My folks cut the cord in November 2016, their TabloTV was very simple to set up and much less expensive than what I used.

      At the time I cut the cord options like the TabloTV didn’t exist, so I set up a Mac mini. I did go a bit overboard and bought a maxed out mini and a Drobo for storage, so it took until July 2015 for the savings to pay off the hardware investment, yielding about 3750 net savings since I started. I did that as I wanted to have all of my DVDs and blu-rays ripped for easy access (my Drobo currently has 16TB of content), plus the mini emulates multiple game consoles (via OpenEMU paired with a couple Playstation 3 controllers). The mini also handles iTunes content for current cable series I watch, cost of which is factored into my annual savings. I also like to import PAL DVDs from Europe, which the Mac can play back just fine after I’ve ripped them. The higher resolution of PAL (576i) over NTSC (480i) is readily apparent on an HDTV – classic Doctor Who never looked so good stateside!

      Blog entries about my Mac mini DVR setup. Note: I’ve recently switch from the EyeTV 3 to HDHomeRun DVR software, but haven’t blogged about it yet. Overall I like the HDHomeRun software better.

      OpenEMU – a slick, Mac only, multi-system emulator.

    2. Everyone’s situation is different. I used to pay about $180 a month to TimeWarner, for internet and tv, and boxes and taxes. By cutting the cord and streaming, I’ve gone down to $35 for my internet, no taxes, which added over $10!!! Your stream subscription can vary depending upon what you want. Sling has the cheapest sub packages, but the number of simultaneous streams can vary from 1 to 3. DirectTV costs more, but also has stream limits. The one I use is PlaystationVue. I get the $45 monthly package which has all the sports channels, mostly soccer, that I watch. You get 5 simultaneous streams, which is more than the others. You also get 28 day DVR, so you can add the Bundesliga, and it’ll record in the cloud all the games. Works great.

      So, I’ve gone from $180 a month, to $80 a month, saved $100. My Playstation Vue streams come thru my AppleTV or my Roku, or to your Mac or iPhone, etc.

      As for live broadcast channels, I get CBS thru PSVue. PBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox, have most of their stuff on-demand, afterward, not live. I have an antenna on my roof, if it’s absolutely necessary to see something. For sports, NBC will show it on NBCSN on PSVue, and anything on ABC will show on ESPN on PSVue, and anything on Fox will show on FoxSports on PSVue. So, for me, I don’t miss anything, except not having to pay an extra $100 a month.

  2. I tried OTA TV with Homerun and Channels app. If you care about a quality video picture and consistent signal, I would look elsewhere to cut the chord. I went with DirecTV Now and 3 Apple TV’s including the free one they give you for pre-paying your first 3 or 4 months. Still sorting out some issues, but my overall experience is favorable as compared with FiOS TV. Some glitches in tuning in some channels from the Guide and some HDMI CEC issues getting my TV to turn on when I turn Apple TV on. Otherwise, this is the future of TV, and its a big improvement price and service wise.

    DirecTV Now currently has a cloud DVR in beta. I have not been invited to participate, yet, but I’m hoping they launch it network-wide sometime in the next couple of months.

    1. Bullwinkle – Sorry to hear the HDHomeRun and Channels setup didn’t work well for you. While I am in the midst of switching from Channels DVR to YouTube TV for all my ‘stuff’, I found that the HDHomeRun and Channels combo gave me pristine quality and reliability. It was beyond no other I tried in the past. There is no compression or loss of quality when using this for live TV. The exception would be if you are using the HDHomeRun box called “Extend”. This one box re-compresses the incoming MPEG2 signal to H.264. Depending on the quality setting, compression can definitely be seen with this. The other boxes from HDHomeRun will just stream the original MPEG2 stream as it is pulled directly from the local stations. I might give it another shot if it has been several months since you last tried it. I’ll continue to use my HDHomeRun and Channels for those rare occasions where I want the best quality – i.e. Super Bowl.

      1. can’t remember which HDHomeRun box I got – might have been Extend or one of the other two. I thought the issue was the antenna – which was a top-rated Terk 65 mile HD antenna. Reception was spotty, even after tuning direction according to antenna tower maps. I also recall that Channels app didn’t integrate with Direct TV Now channels, which I had been misled about by an online article I read. I am more than capable of DIY but my test of the solution left me skeptical, so I returned it all. After my 3 months with DirectTV Now I might try YouTube TV. I am experimenting. The biggest challenge is teaching the wife how to use Apple TV remote.

  3. Keep in mind that YouTube TV now includes the locals in major cities. In Central Florida, I get all the major locals (minus PBS). This could save you a lot in money and setup. Sounds like they might be upping the cost from $35 to $40 on March 13th. So try their free trial now if this sounds appealing. DVR and On Demand services work as advertised. Quality is not on par with Over-the-Air, but its not bad either. Streams are compressed and come in around 10Mbps. Most live streams seem to be at 720P (pretty standard for these services), but some On Demand is coming in at full 1080P. Nice to have it all in one place. iOS App is pretty darn good, and the Apple TV app could use some improvement. Also, YouTube TV allows for single sign-on service on almost every channel in their lineup. Most other similar providers lack in this area.

    1. Give $5 a month to a PBS station and you can stream online all you want. You can also pick an out of market station if you do not like local programming.

      PBS Passport usually starts at $5 a month donation- and it is tax deductible.
      The PBS app on iOS tvOS and Passport unlocks lots of full episodes.

  4. Nothing is special about the antenna required (at least in the USA) for broadcast HDTV. It’s just a TV antenna, despite all the rubbish to the contrary. And I’ve seen plenty of misinformation and fraud pretending otherwise.

    • HDTV requires only the UHF portion of the antenna.
    • I highly recommend a plug-in, amplified antenna. This is because the USA standard allows for splitting up a channel / band into up to four channels. As such, the power broadcast per channel is commonly much lower. The amp helps bring in the weakened result.

    And yes, the allowance of lowered power stations is outright stupid. Smart stations build in higher power for broadcasting in order to reach their entire former NTSC viewership.

    Side note: You don’t know how stupid #MyStupidGovernment can be until you’ve checked out the specs of our fraudulently named “HD” digital radio. It’s a catastrophe only the RIAA could love. That’s why it was DOA and remains so.

    1. “HDTV requires only the UHF portion of the antenna”

      Not true, here in Houston channels 8, 11, and 13 all broadcast on their original VHF channels. If you click the RF column in the table linked below you’ll see quite a few channels in Texas still broadcast on VHF channels.

      We did lose the upper UHF channels – from the link below, “In 2009, with the move to digital television complete in the US, channels 52 through 69 were reallocated as the 700 MHz band for cellular telephone service.”

      1. Exactly, the idea was to release the Lo-band VHF (2-6) for spectrum reallocation.

        The biggest issue I had in my former job though was with ch 5 out of Memphis which remained in the VHF lo band, a really really stupid move on their part as not all VHF antennas are cut to receive those signals anymore not to mention the small radius of good reception they have.

        1. No, the engineering department for an ISP out of Little Rock.

          I have no idea since all my work (microwave) consisted of Little Rock, Shreveport and Dallas off air channels, although I did tune KAIT ch8 reception on several towers and most Memphis channels on two towers of ours but not for the sub channels save for the must carries.

          The closest I worked that direction was Parkin/Earle to relay ABC ch 7 (22) there from the same transmitter that served West Memphis.

          Good times….

        2. Yes I am very familiar with Windstream, they are WEHCO’s bandwidth backup or primary supplier in many markets. They are also kind of a…uh…amateurish group at times. Very nice folks, good prices….amateurish.

  5. Looked at all the options for the Olympics. Best choice for me was one month of StrongVPN, $10. I connect to Toronto and then go to the Canadian Broadcasting Company website.
    They have live streaming of all events and the best part, full replay of ALL past events. Many with no announcers, which I love. Just let me watch in peace with no extra noise.

    1. I am in that camp right now. 35 miles outside the city with a big hill two houses away that blocks all the TV towers.
      Currently trying to figure out how high of an antenna I need to get a signal.

  6. We save $170 per month versus ATT Uverse! We have 100 MBS internet from Comcast, PS Vue, HBO, Ooma for home phone, HD Homerun for locals that are not included in PSVue, individual apps for PBS and a few others.

  7. All the variations, glitches and different levels of quality described here! Sheesh! For me, I’d rather pay one simple fee and have a crapload of stuff to watch.

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