Live TV on Your Home Network

Even though I haven’t had a television for the past 8 months (maybe more on that in the future) I haven’t stopped watching television. I cut the cord years ago but still love to watch a few shows. I’ve been using an EyeTV One from Elgato for several years and it’s been working great. A couple of limitations, though, have been nagging at me. First, it has a single tuner.  By splitting the OTA input we can watch one program while we record another but we can’t record two programs at the same time. And for us this happens occasionally with a couple of prime time shows where the wife and I can’t agree on which to record. Second, trying to watch live TV from another device (laptop, tablet, phone) using the streaming output from EyeTV is dismal. I’m running on an older Intel Mac (Mini) and the quality of the stream is barely watchable between the stuttering and artifacting.

To deal with these issue I’ve added an HD Homerun Extend (HDTC-2US). This clever device is as simple as 1-Power, 2-Network, 3-Input. It’s about the size of a wi-fi router and takes input from your OTA antenna, uses two HDTV tuners, and outputs as DLNA-compliant streaming video on your home network.

After connecting it you browse over to http://www.myhdhomerun.com. Your browser locates the device on your local network, checks the firmware version and updates it if needed. Next, run a channel scan to find your OTA channels. Finally download the software for your system (optional).

I’ve seen some folks have had issues getting it to work with EyeTV and I was concerned, even though the box specifically says it works with EyeTV. I had to go to the settings in my EyeTV software and change “device” from Elgato>EyeTV One to Elgato > HDHomeRun*. This setting didn’t “stick” on the first restart of EyeTV but it did the second time and EyeTV now shows 2 tuners. The first thing I did? Clicked record on two programs during the same time slot and marveled at not getting a conflict message. It’s the simple things.

The optional software from the hdhomerun site includes HDHomeRun VIEW, a simple player for your computer. It was as easy as starting the application to watch HD-quality live TV on my laptop. It even shows a channel listing with current programs.

Alternatively VLC finds the DLNA streams under UPnP network devices and you can watch them the VLC app, without the on-screen controls of course.

The next hurdle of getting TV to my mobile devices wasn’t as simple as I’d hoped. There’s no HDHomeRun app in the iOS App Store that “just works”. There is however an app called InstaTV Pro. The reviews are not that great and the business model is odd. It’s a “free” app that you can install and configure. But as soon as you click on a TV station to watch it tells you that the free version doesn’t include audio; so it's bascially a non-functional demo! The in-app purchase to unlock the full version is $11.99. If the app works well I suppose that’s not an outrageous price, but I’d rather it was $11.99 in the app store to begin with; maybe that’s just me. Some of the poor reviews mention the “Restore Purchase” option hanging. Recent updates say that was fixed, but I can confirm that happens for me with the newest version as of this writing. The other thing I’m not clear on is if my $11.99 purchase can be shared with all my iOS family sharing devices. I don’t want to pay $11.99 again for my wife’s iPad.

It's too early to say definitively but so far I think the HDHomeRun is a great addition to my cord cutter setup. We've now got a second tuner that works with our EyeTV DVR and hopefully (with a bit more setup) live TV on all our mobile devices.

*- Even though the HDHR is now from SiliconDust and no longer officially supported by Elgato at least according to some online discussions I’ve seen. This may not bode well for future updates but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it.