How to Watch TV On Your iPad

Turn Your iPad Into a Portable Television

USA, New Jersey, Jersey City, Man lying on sofa watching tablet pc
Tetra Images/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

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.

Most of these devices work by intercepting the television signal from your cable box and then broadcasting it through your Wi-Fi network, which can allow you to access your shows from anywhere in the house and while on the go via your iPad's data connection.

But one interesting option literally turns the iPad into a portable television, and if you don't want to spend the money on expensive accessories, sometimes an app is all you need.

Sling TV

The battle to cut the cord has been waging for a few years now, but when Sling TV appeared, the tide officially turned against the cable companies. Sling TV isn't a device that throws your current cable signal to your TV or an antenna that picks up stations for your iPad. It is an Internet cable provider, which means they do the same basic thing that your cable company does without running cable to your house. Instead, you stream your stations across the Internet.   

Sling gives you access to popular channels like ESPN, AMC, TNT, TBS and others. You can also subscribe to HBO, Epix, and additional channel packages.   

The good side is that Sling TV needs no extra hardware to work. The bad side is that it won't broadcast local channels.

TiVo Stream

If you aren't interested in cutting the cord, TiVo may be the best overall solution for pushing your TV signal to your iPad. Unfortunately, it may be the most expensive, at least in upfront costs. You will either need to add a TiVo Stream device to your existing TiVo setup, or your ill need the TiVo Roamio Plus, which includes both the TiVo Roamio for basic TiVo service and the TiVo Stream for streaming across the Internet.

But while getting setup on TiVo is more expensive, you can stop renting an HD DvD Recorder from your cable provider, which might end up saving you money.

The big bonus to TiVo Stream is the ability to watch recorded shows as well as live shows. The Stream essentially turns your iPad into a TiVo player, so you have access to everything recorded on your TiVo's DVR.  

Buy TiVo Stream from Amazon.

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 3G/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 a good chunk onto the price of the device.

Buy from Amazon.

@TV Plus

Belkin is the latest manufacturer to jump into the market, and their @TV is priced in between the Vulkano Flow and the Slingbox SlingPlayer. It includes all of the same basic features of the other two products, including the ability to pause and/or record live television.

One feature oddly missing from @TV is an HDMI connection. @TV only uses component or composite cables rather than the higher quality HDMI.

Buy from Amazon

Cable TV / Network Apps

An alternative to hooking up hardware to your entertainment system or plugging an antenna into your iPad is simply downloading apps available from your cable provider or major networks. Many major providers like Cox TV, Time Warner Cable, and DirectTV offer apps for the iPad that will allow you to watch TV, though not all support the full range of TV offered by your subscription and not all offer the ability to stream over 3G/4G.

You can also access premium content via apps, with some restrictions based on your provider. HBO, Cinemax, Showtime and Starz all have apps that work with some providers.

...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.

The Top iPad Movie and TV Apps

Did you know you can stream movies from your PC to your iPad for free? Home Sharing allows you to stream anything from your iTunes collection to your iPad -- including music. Find out how to set up Home Sharing.