A couple of years ago we ditched Comcast as our source of video, phone and internet service in favor of AT&T Fiber, Roku and a bunch of streaming services. For the speed Comcast offered it was way too pricey.
But our setup doesn’t handle live events — sports, breaking news stories — too well. While you can buy streaming packages which replicate cable offerings they generally also tend to replicate cable’s pricing models, too. Who wants to pay for access to 500 channels when you only rarely watch more than a couple of them? I thought I’d have to wait until the silly cable TV bundled pricing vanished into the dustbin of history to stream live broadcasts affordably.
I was wrong. There is a way to do it, today. And it’s fairly easy:
- Buy an antenna if you don’t already have one. I got this one from Amazon. It works great, and even has a remote-controlled motor to reposition it.
- Buy a device from SiliconDust which turns what your TV antenna picks up into a digital streaming service which you can tune into from your Roku devices. With a bit of additional free (still in beta) software you can also record stuff to play back later.
But you know what was best of all about this little project? When we built our home back in 2014 I chose not to put an antenna on it because (a) I didn’t think I’d ever need one and (b) they’re unsightly. But the one I bought works great from inside the crawlspace above our master bedroom! So I get live TV without having to violate my delicate aesthetic sensibilities :).
The biggest challenge getting things up and running involved connecting it to my network so the Rokus could “see” it. For reasons known only to them SiliconDust’s hardware requires a hardwired connection to your network. That wouldn’t be a big deal…unless you’re someone who installed his antenna in the attic where, for some strange reason, he failed to provide wired network connections.
Fortunately I had a spare Wi-Fi access point lying around. Which I converted into a Wi-Fi bridge (that just involved changing some settings on a web page and rebooting). So the SiliconDust device is happy speaking to the bridge, which squirts the data over to my Wi-Fi access point, which makes it available everywhere on my home network. Voila!
Rube Goldberg has nothing on me :).
One last fun fact: positioning your antenna to get good digital/HDTV signals is more important than it was in the days of strictly analog TV. For example, I couldn’t get channel 5 (KPIX; CBS) or channel 9 (KQED; NPR) until I’d put the antenna in the attic…and mounted it upside down from the roof trusses (simply sitting on the floor of the attic wasn’t enough).
So I wanted to make sure the antenna was at least pointing at Sutro Towers where all the signals I’m interested in come from. I dutifully determined the bearing from my home to the Towers on Google Earth and figured I’d use the “north/south” alignment of my home as the benchmark for mapping the heading to the desired antenna direction. Only to discover the “north/south” axis of my home is almost exactly — less than 2 or 3 degrees — off the desired heading.
Which made it easy to align the antenna: just line it up with the roof’s peak truss. Even I can do that!