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How To Watch TV In An RV Without Cable

cable TV antenna on RV - feature image for TV without cable in an RV
Catch up on your favorite shows while RVing. Photo: Shutterstock

How To Watch TV Without Cable

Watching TV in your RV is a comfort from home that many RVers use on rainy days, as part of an evening wind-down routine, or just to catch up on favorite TV shows or sports while on the road. But most of the time, we don’t have access to cable when we camp, even when we’re at an RV park. 

New RVers frequently wonder how to watch TV in an RV without cable.  Here are four solutions that are sometimes even better than having cable TV.    

Ways to watch TV without cable

When you don’t have cable hookups for your RV, you’ll be getting your TV signal via Wi-Fi, data, satellite, or  OTA (Over The Air) signals.  

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RV TV Antenna

If you want to enjoy TV programming (like news or sports) without the cost of hooking up to cable, you can get access to channels via OTA signals by using a high definition RV antenna. 

Most RVs come equipped with an antenna that may or may not suit your needs. If your RV’s TV antenna doesn’t pick up strong enough signals to get a variety of channels, you can always upgrade your RV antenna with one of the many HD/digital antennas on the market. 

With most outdoor RV TV antennas, you’ll get an improvement in reception, but don’t expect to get more than 10 channels with an antenna. With an indoor RV TV antenna, improvements in reception aren’t as significant, but if you’re looking to strengthen signals you already have, they can do the trick. To read more about how you can get free TV channels by using an RV antenna, click here.

Mobile Satellite TV 

Mobile satellite TV lets you get your favorite programs without Wi-Fi or cellular data.  For the price of a monthly subscription and a satellite antenna and receiver, satellite TV offers hundreds of channels via satellite signals. The most popular mobile satellite TV providers in the US and Canada are: 

DISH Outdoors

DISH Outdoors requires you to purchase DISH compatible equipment, including an antenna and a reciever. After that, you can subscribe to a variety of channel packages that include up to 120 channels. 

DISH offers a Flex-Pack package that allows you to customize exactly which channels you want in your package. In order to get DISH Outdoors for your RV, you’ll need a US physical address and a US phone number. DISH Outdoors is not yet available to Canadians.

DIRECTV offers its satelite TV packages wherever you go in your RV.  You’ll simply need to purchase a Winegard or King Satellite antenna, and then sign up for one of their channel packages.   

Shaw Direct offers mobile satellite TV packages in Canada through its Explorer Mobile Satellite programs. Shaw Direct offers a streaming app to all of its customers. Whether you already have Shaw at home or your RV, and you have access to Wi-Fi, you may want to try the BlueCurve TV app.

Stream using Wi-Fi

Streaming is by far the easiest way to get TV on the go. If you have access to Wi-Fi or a good cellular data plan, you’ll be able to stream TV shows and movies through a streaming device connected to your TV through its HDMI port. Then you can connect to Wi-Fi using the local signal or Bluetooth from a mobile device. Here are some popular devices that you’ll want to consider to meet your streaming needs.

  • Apple TV: An Apple TV HD connects to your TV to bring you shows, movies, live sports, and access to your favorite Apple services. An Apple TV will get you content from services like Netflix, Hulu, Disney+,  as well as live channels via YouTube TV. The Apple TV comes with a remote that has voice activation, which is a handy feature. The Apple TV can also be used by Android phone users. However, those with iPhones will be able to access a wider range of features on their Apple TV.
  • Google Chromecast: Google Chromecast casts your favorite TV shows and streaming services from your Android or iOS device using Bluetooth. It comes with a voice activated remote to adjust volume and display. The voice activated remote will also help you find shows to watch.  
  • Amazon Firestick: An Amazon Firestick plugs into your TV’s HDMI port to stream media, including your favorite TV shows and movies over Wi-Fi. The Firestick comes with a voice-activated remote to adjust volume and navigate the different shows and movies. You’ll need to have an Amazon account to use the Firesick. You can also use the remote to control other smart home products such as the Ring doorbell or iRobot vacuum.
  • Roku Express:At about $40, Roku Express is by far the most economical streaming device in our lineup. Using an included HDMI cable, the Roku plugs into your smart TV’s HDMI port to allow you to watch free TV, live news, sports, music, movies, and more. The Roku Express works with Android or iOS, but you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection for it to work. This streaming device is a great value for any RVers who wants to watch TV without cable.

Connect your phone directly to your TV’s HDMI port

If you don’t wish to get one of the suggested streaming devices, you can always connect an iPhone or Android phone to your smart TV using an HDMI cable and an adapter. To watch TV without cable using a direct connection, you’ll need:

Connecting your TV directly to your phone will turn your TV into a computer screen. You’ll then be able to use your smartphone as a controller to stream your favorite TV shows, movies, or sports through YouTube TV or any other streaming app.

Forums such as iRV2.com and blog sites like RV LIFE, Do It Yourself RV, and Camper Report provide all the information you need to enjoy your RV. You’ll also find brand-specific information on additional forums like Air Forums, Forest River Forums, and Jayco Owners Forum.

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