Can You Watch a Smart TV Without an Aerial?

So you recently bought a Smart TV and you’re wondering if you need to buy an aerial to watch your favourite TV channels. Can you still access Freeview without an aerial? What are your TV watching options? Is an aerial necessary? I was struggling with those questions too, and I came across a few solutions that might put your mind to rest.

Let’s take a look at our options:

Can You Watch a Smart TV Without an Aerial?

Yes. You can watch a smart TV without an aerial but you won’t be able to access Freeview (or any other terrestrial broadcasts) and you’ll be limited to the content on your TV’s internet streaming apps. You could also consider buying an inexpensive portable indoor aerial to unlock Freeview channels.

What Can You Watch on a Smart TV Without an Aerial?

If your smart TV does not have an aerial, you will only be able to watch mod boxes or media from other sources (gaming consoles, Blu Ray players, computers, etc). However, if your smart TV can connect to the internet, as it should, you can use a number of streaming apps to watch plenty of media online.

Internet TV Apps:

The good news is your Smart TV likely has apps for your favourite channels, such as BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, and All 4. Not to mention Netflix, Amazon Prime, and YouTube. While you do not need an aerial to use streaming apps, you do need an active internet connection that can handle the bandwidth of HD media streaming apps, ideally 2 Mbps.

Apps such as BBC iPlayer have plenty of TV shows, documentaries, and movies, that you can watch for free without an aerial. Freeview also has an app called Freeview Play which I’ll talk about later on.

Watching Live TV Through Wifi

If you don’t want to wait until a show is available on-demand, another option would be to use the live TV feature on the apps that were included with your TV. Some broadcast channels, such as BBC, allow you to watch live TV through wifi with the BBC iPlayer app or a website.

In some cases, you can simply browse to a specific website on your smart TV and watch live TV from the built-in media player, but that usually isn’t the best option because the performance can be spotty. Most TVs don’t have the best web-browsers and they probably aren’t compatible with most website media players.

However, I don’t think this is the best option for watching TV without an aerial because watching live TV through Wifi can be troublesome. You can run into buffering issues, delays, quality loss, audio cut-outs, and other issues. If you want to watch live TV, I recommend buying a portable and inexpensive indoor aerial so you can watch Freeview live with no problems.

Catch Up on Demand:

Worried about missing your favourite show? Don’t worry. Even terrestrial TV channels like Freeview that broadcast live can be watched later without an aerial. But you do need an internet connection.

It’s simply a matter of opening the designated app and taking a look at the on-demand shows, most shows are available for free up to 30 days after they air. You do not need an aerial to watch catch up on demand from BBC iPlayer and other apps.

In some cases, you can even download the content to watch it later. Bear in mind, your TV needs an internet connection to use the previously mentioned apps, ideally through ethernet because it offers the fastest speeds. The problem is that a lot of these lesser-known apps have very poor layouts and are difficult to navigate with smart TVs. And they aren’t updated very often, either.

Do I Need an Aerial to Watch Freeview?

Yes. While Freeview does have an app called Freeview Play, it still requires both an aerial and an internet connection to unlock all the content. Freeview Play is like an add-on to Freeview which allows you to either watch live TV (with the aerial) or catch up TV (through the internet) as well as other features.

The downside is you need an aerial and an internet connection, it can’t work with only one. You can watch regular Freeview without an internet connection, but not Freeview Play or any of the other apps.

Do bear in mind that while most TVs are Freeview compatible, that does not mean you can watch Freeview on them without an aerial. You will always need to connect your TV to an aerial to receive Freeview broadcasts. You also need to be within the range of the Freeview broadcast.

The Best Solution:

The best option for watching a TV without an aerial is to connect your TV to your router or broadband via an ethernet cable and use the built-in streaming apps. Streaming movies and TV shows online is much more reliable than other methods, and it’s easier to access more content, not to mention the big-name streaming apps are very user friendly. However, sometimes having access to free terrestrial TV is good too, in which case I would suggest buying a budget-friendly aerial.

You can find plenty of great portable indoor aerials that you can connect to your TV in seconds to receive all nearby channels in addition to your internet apps. In short, while you can still watch TV without an aerial, I recommend getting one anyway because it will unlock a lot more options for you.

About S. Santos

Tech columnist and tech blogger, audiovisual aficionado trying to keep up with the ever-evolving world of gadgets, home entertainment, and personal technology. If not fiddling with AV cables at home or in front of the computer, he can be found playing tennis or padel.

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