3 TV Alternatives to Cable & Satellite for RVers
For quite some time now, there has been a trend toward cutting the cord to traditional methods of watching TV. Luckily, you can cut the cord while traveling in your RV too.
There are many alternatives to cable and satellite TV in your RV. Options range from a simple HDTV travel antenna for free programming to multiple streaming services that can all be combined. These options can also prove to be more flexible and cost-effective for RV travelers.
Reasons to Cut the Cord
Cable and satellite TV in an RV can be entertaining and a nice perk while you're camping. Unfortunately, you might experience some limitations.
Satellites need an unobstructed view of the sky. This makes it difficult to maintain service if you love to camp under trees (something we love to do in the Pacific Northwest and the South). Another thing to consider is that rain also wreaks havoc on satellite TV.
Satellite TV can also be an expensive option, due to the price of some channel packages and if you need to buy hardware. Local TV channels will also often be tied to your "home base". If you want to receive the local programming in your RV's location, you may actually have to call in an address change. But, some providers limit the number of times you can change your address.
As for cable, this can only be had if a campground has cable hook-ups and even then, some campgrounds may charge you for its use. And, if you like camping in state and national parks, you'll be hard-pressed to find any cable hookups there.
RV TV Alternatives
1. Travel HDTV Antenna
If you're looking to save money, or are most interested in local TV programming, this might be a great option for you. For a relatively low cost, you can pick up an HDTV antenna designed for travel, like the Winegard Rayzar (either the Rayzar RV-RZ20 Micro TV Antenna or Rayzar RV-RZ85 Amplified TV Antenna).
The antenna allows you to pick up any free channels coming in over the air in the local area where your RV is parked. We've cut the cord and gone the HDTV antenna route before, and it's easy to do in your RV. You can stick the antenna on any window. Because suction cups hold it in place, it can be taken down or adjusted easily at any time.
Some Winnebago models already have a King Jack HDTV antenna pre-installed. If that's the case, you're already set.
If you think you might miss watching movies, you can always find a local RedBox to rent movies from. The only box this option doesn't check is cable network programming like ESPN or HGTV.
Travel HDTV antennas pick up programming. Your RV might already have a King Jack over-the-air antenna pre-installed.
2. Amazon Prime Video and/or Netflix
If you're not a fan of making trips to RedBox, you might be interested in Amazon Prime. There are many streaming services to choose from, but if you're already an Amazon Prime member, your Amazon Prime Video subscription is free.
We have personally used Netflix and Amazon Prime. At one point we had both, but we cut back to just Amazon Prime. In our case, we want to be sure to spend as much free time as possible outside. The cost savings is also a plus.
Not all streaming services are the same. Some have their own original shows. For example, the popular show Stranger Things is only available on Netflix, since it's a Netflix original series. Some services allow you to download content for offline viewing while others don't. Since Wi-Fi isn't a guarantee as an RVer, that's an attractive option. (For more tips on off-line downloads, read this article by a fellow GoLife writer).
Some services allow multiple accounts and simultaneous streaming which might be of interest if you're RVing with family. With Amazon Prime, we can stream on two devices. We're in a Class C with just one TV, so we don't generally use that feature.
3. Hulu & YouTube for Live TV
Some streaming services don't offer Live TV or local programming. Live TV might be a must if you enjoy tailgating in your RV. If you're a die-hard NBA or College Football fan you might want a bit more live TV than what an HD antenna can offer.
Luckily, more streaming services are beginning to offer live TV. Hulu, another popular streaming service, offers live TV for a higher monthly cost than its base package. In general, services or options with live TV are more expensive. If live TV isn't a must, you can subscribe to a streaming service without it and use an HDTV antenna for local channels.
We've decided to give YouTube TV a try. YouTube TV makes live TV and local programming available to you. You can also watch national networks like HGTV and TNT. Movies are also included, but they do have ads.
Tips for Streaming
If you're not going with satellite or cable TV, and you're not interested in only having an HDTV antenna, then that means you're likely going to go with a streaming service -- like the ones mentioned above. A streaming service, regardless of whether it includes live TV, works by accessing the internet. In order for your TV to be able to stream, you must have a streaming player.
The streaming player we have is the Roku Streaming Stick. There is some free content from Roku. But, keep in mind, much of what you will see as "channels" may require an additional subscription. The Roku makes it possible to stream to your TV from any streaming service which is why you'll see Hulu, for example, in the menu even if you don't subscribe to their service.
To take advantage of streaming services, you'll need a streaming player like Roku.
Last, you need an internet connection. The Roku and its competitors need to be connected to the internet for you to be able to stream to your TV. Streaming requires a lot of data, so you'll want to make sure you have an unlimited data plan. We have a plan with Verizon and use our Verizon Mi-Fi hotspot when we stream.
Our set-up is very simple. We have our wall-mounted TV, plugged into its HDMI port is the very small Roku Streaming Stick. And we control everything with a small Roku remote control. (If you have an older TV in your RV, Roku does make one player that can connect to TVs without HDMI ports).
We hope these tips help you save some money while still enjoying your favorite TV entertainment!