Watch A TV Show While Recording Another With A DVD Recorder

How to get more flexibility for recording TV shows on a DVD recorder

If you are an avid TV viewer who likes to record your favorite TV shows, it's very convenient to have the ability to record one program while watching another on a different channel at the same time. 

This information applies to DVD recorders that have been made by (but not limited to) Panasonic, Sony, LG, Toshiba, Funai, Sanyo, and Magnavox. New DVD recorders are in very limited supply.

How Many Tuners Do You Have?

If you have a cable, satellite, or OTA (over-the-air) DVR with two or more tuners then watching one program while recording another on their hard drive is an easy and practical option. However, if you have a DVD recorder things are a little more restrictive. 

Magnavox MDR-557 DVD Recorder – Front and Rear Views

If you have a DVD recorder with a tuner it has to be a digital (aka ATSC) tuner to receive programs via an antenna. DVD recorders made before the 2009 model year may not have a digital tuner. In this case, you may need to connect a DTV converter box to your DVD recorder.

If you have a DVD Recorder Hard Drive Combo with two tuners, you can watch one program on your TV while recording another channel on your DVD recorder's hard drive or direct to DVD (minus any copy-protection issues) at the same time. 

However, if you have a DVD recorder or DVD Recorder/VHS combo unit that only has one tuner, or worse yet, no tuner at all, that throws up another obstacle.

If your DVD recorder has a built-in tuner and you are receiving TV programs over-the-air via antenna or subscribe to cable without a box you can record one program and watch another at the same time.

Due to cable systems eliminating an analog signal option, you may be required to have a cable box to continue to receive programming. This means only one channel at a time can be received.

Magnavox MDR-557 DVD Recorder – Antenna Connections

What to Do if Your DVD Recorder Doesn't Have a Tuner

If your DVD recorder does not have a built-in tuner, you have to connect an external cable, satellite, or DTV converter box to your DVD Recorder's AV inputs in order to receive your TV programs.

Magnavox MDR-557 DVD Recorder – AV Inputs

Since only one channel can be sent at a time to your DVD recorder an external box connected you can't watch a program from one channel and record another on a different channel at the same time.

The cable, satellite, or DTV converter box determines the channel that is sent down the rest of the path to your DVD recorder or TV. The channel you are watching or recording is what is sent to the DVD recorder and TV.

Even if your DVD recorder has a tuner, if it is connected to a cable, satellite, or DTV converter box, the same restriction applies as for DVD recorders without a tuner.

Additional Solutions

If you have a cable TV, satellite, or DTV Converter Box and you still desire to be able to watch one program, while recording another, you have two options:

1. Purchase or obtain a second cable, satellite, or DTV Converter Box. Connect one box to the DVD recorder and the other to the TV directly. This allows for different channels to go to the TV and DVD recorder.

One problem you might run into using duplicate cable, satellite, or DTV converter boxes is that they use the same remote control. Check to see if the boxes have switchable remote control response frequencies so that one remote only controls one box at a time. You don't want to inadvertently disable a recording or change the channel when you don't want to.

2. Ask your cable TV or satellite provider if they offer a cable or satellite box that has two or more onboard tuners with separate outgoing connection feeds that you can send to the DVD recorder and TV separately.

Your TV needs to have both an Antenna/Cable connection and AV input options, as the cable or satellite feed can be connected to your TV's antenna cable connection, but your DVD recorder may have to be connected to your TV's AV inputs or HDMI connection to allow the playback of recorded DVDs. 

Fire Edition TV Connections Example

The Bottom Line

If you are still using a DVD recorder to record TV programs, and want the flexibility to record one or more programs, while watching another at the same time, your best option is to use cable, satellite, or OTA DVR that has multiple tuners.

If your DVD recorder is still in good working order, the above options are what is available, provided the content you are trying to record is not anti-copy encoded by the content or service provider, which is becoming a more common practice.

DVD recorders are now very rare and although you will still be able to play your recorded DVDs going forward, you may not be able to purchase a replacement DVD recorder once your current one ends its useful life.