Over-the-Air Digital Video Recorders



With the advent of faster internet and broadband's wider reach, many people are deciding to forego their cable or satellite subscription in favor of an antenna and streaming devices such as Roku. This method allows you to watch your local networks such as ABC, CBS, and NBC while also gaining access to various programming options available on the internet. While this method of watching television content won't fit everyone's lifestyle, many people are quite happy with the reduction in content and the savings in their budget.

Should you decide that cable and satellite are no longer for you, what are your options for recording over-the-air programming from an antenna? Being able to DVR your favorite network shows doesn't have to be difficult although unlike with a cable subscription, you'll have to do the heavy lifting yourself. You won't be able to call a company for repairs and you'll have to supply your own DVR. That said, you do have options that will allow you to record this network content.

Windows Media Center

Probably the most labor-intensive and expensive method for recording over-the-air (OTA) ATSC television would be to pair a PC in your home with an ATSC tuner. The advantage is that it's possible to set up a PC to record all four of the major networks at once. Several companies produce ATSC tuners and by default, Media Center will allow you to have four available at any time. Using Xbox 360s as extenders, you can make this content available to up to five other TVs in the home. When paired with Roku devices, you have access to live TV, recordings and internet streaming content while using only two devices. While you could use the 360s for internet content access, it's important to remember that you'll need an Xbox Live Gold account on each one. This can get expensive when compared to using a device such as Roku.


While there aren't many OTA DVRs available, it's a market that's starting to open up due to the "cord cutting" phenomenon. Channel Master offers a two tuner ATSC model that will record two shows at once. You'll have to pay a small monthly fee for guide data if you want more than a few days worth of listings but the price is far below what you'd pay for cable or satellite every month. As well, Simple.TV will soon be releasing their single tuner ATSC device that, once you connect your own hard drive, will allow you to stream live and recorded TV to Roku devices as well as mobile phones and tablets. Like with other solutions, your up-front cost will be higher with these solutions but going forward, the monthly fees you pay will be well under a cable subscription.


While TiVo's newest devices have dropped the ATSC tuner, older Premiere line TiVos will allow you to record over-the-air content. You'll still need a TiVo subscription in order to get your guide data and schedule series recordings but you'll also have access to a lot of streaming content on a single device. One downside is that most of the older TiVo devices won't be compatible with the company's forthcoming IP set-top which will act as an extender meaning that you'll need a separate TiVo for each TV in your home.

DVD Recorders

While rare, there are still DVD recorders available that have built-in ATSC tuners. More than likely you'll only get one tuner but your shows will be burnt directly to DVD and can be taken to other players in your home for playback. This is a bit of an out-dated method for sharing this content around your home but it is viable if you're looking to save your recordings for extended periods.


The point here is that just because you no longer want to subscribe to cable or satellite, you don't need to drop your DVR. Each of these solutions requires that you put out the money up front instead of paying a monthly fee but if you can live without having 250+ channels of television content, you'll earn your money back in no time.