How to Watch TV On Your iPad

Turn Your iPad Into a Portable Television

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One of the great things about the iPad is just how many cool ways you can use the tablet, and this extends to watching TV. There are a number of good options that allow you to watch TV on your iPad, so you never have to miss your favorite shows or that big game.

Cable TV / Network Apps

Let's start with the easiest way to watch TV on the iPad: Apps. Not only do most of the major providers like Spectrum, FIOS and DirectTV offer apps for the iPad that will allow you to stream channels to your iPad, most of the actual channels offer apps.

This includes the major broadcast channels like ABC and NBC as well as cable channels like SyFy and FX. 

These apps work by signing into your cable provider to verify your subscription and offer DVR-like streaming options for the least few episodes of their most popular shows, and in some cases, the live broadcast. You can also access premium content via apps. HBOCinemaxShowtime and Starz all have apps that work with most providers.  

Even better, the iPad includes a TV app that brings all of this together into a single interface. It will even curate Hulu TV to include alongside the broadcast, cable and premium channels. The iPad can even store your cable credentials so you can add additional channel apps without the need to put in your cable provider's username and password each time.

Cable Over Internet

Traditional cable is dead. It just doesn't quite know it yet. The future of television is over the Internet.

And the future is here. The two biggest benefits of streaming cable over the Internet are (1) no need for any additional wires or expensive cable boxes beyond those required for Internet access and (2) the ease of streaming content to devices like the iPad. Many of these services also include a cloud DVR that allows you to save your favorite shows until you are ready to watch them.

These services are basically the same as traditional cable, but they tend to be slightly cheaper with skinnier bundles and they don't have the two-year commitments popular with traditional cable.  

  • PlayStation Vue. While it includes PlayStation in the name, you don't actually need a PlayStation to watch it. Vue is available on the iPad, Apple TV and Roku devices among many others.  
  • DirecTV Now. DirectTV is the first major provider to jump into the future. What's DirecTV Now like? It's basically like DirecTV without the satellite dish.
  • Sling TV. If you are looking to save money, Sling TV is among the cheapest alternatives to traditional cable with packages starting at $20 a month.
  • Read More About Cutting the Cord.

TiVo Stream

If you aren't interested in cutting the cord and want full access to all of your channels including your DVR, TiVo may be the best overall solution. TiVo offers boxes like the Roamio Plus that include streaming to tablets and phones as well as TiVo Stream, which adds the streaming service for those who have a TiVo box that doesn't support streaming.

TiVo can be expensive to set up because you are buying the equipment. It also requires a subscription to keep going. But if you are paying $30 or more a month to rent HD and DVR boxes from your cable provider, TiVo may be able to save you money over the long term.

  

Slingbox Slingplayer

Not to be confused with Sling TV, Slingbox's SlingPlayer works by intercepting the television signal from your cable box and then "slinging" it across your home network. The SlingPlayer software turns your system into a host that allows you to stream the television signal to your iPad across both Wi-Fi or your iPad's 4G data connection. With the SlingPlayer app, you can tune in, change channels and watch any TV show that you could watch at home. You can even access your DVR and watch recorded shows.

Beyond being a good way to watch remotely, Slingplayer is also a good solution for those who want access to the TV in any room in the house without wiring cable outlets everyone or springing for multiple televisions.

One downside is that the iPad app must be purchased separately and adds to the overall price of the device.

...And More Apps

Beyond official apps from your cable provider or premium channels, there are a number of great apps for streaming movies and TV. The top two most popular choices are Netflix, which offers a nice selection of movies and TV for a relatively low subscription price, and Hulu Plus, which doesn't have quite the same movie collection but offers some television shows still within the current season.

Crackle is also a great option for streaming movies and doesn't require any subscription fees.