Cutting the cord doesn’t mean giving up live TV. Local channels are completely free and often include content that interests you, including sports. But if you want the antenna TV experience to be a little more modern, you should add local channels to your Plex server for a great channel guide, remote streaming, DVR functionality, and more.
How does local TV work with Plex?
As we’ll explain later in this article, adding local TV to your Plex server is an incredibly easy task. Once you have the hardware, setup takes about ten minutes, if that. But how does local TV work on Plex?
Well, Plex uses a TV antenna and digital tuner to scan for local channels. All locally available content ends up in a Plex channel guide, complete with detailed descriptions, subtitles, and a two-week schedule. You can stream these local channels to any device with a Plex app, including your phone, tablet, streaming device, or smart TV.
Any Plex user can add local TV to their server for free. But Plex Pass members get extremely useful extra features. Plex Pass members can not only stream video outside of their home, but can also use a DVR feature to record local TV directly to their server storage.
This DVR is extremely versatile. You can set it to automatically record every new episode of your favorite show, for example, and you can even save previous broadcasts if a show is re-aired at a higher quality. Plex can also remove (or automatically skip) ads in recorded content, which is pretty cool.
Please note that Plex offers a wide selection of live TV channels for free, although these channels do not include local stations. To add local channels to Plex, you need to follow the steps listed in this article.
Everything you need
You need a couple of pieces of hardware to get local channels on Plex. And unfortunately, this hardware will set you back a little over $100. I think the ability to stream and record local channels is well worth it, but if you’re on a budget, you might want to start out using a digital antenna with just a TV first. of buying the tuner to sync it with Plex. .
- digital antenna: A TV antenna is required for this project. Any digital antenna will work, either indoors or outdoors. If you live in a rural area, I suggest using the latter option to improve signal quality and expand your channel selection.
- compatible tuner: You need a digital TV tuner to process your antenna information. I suggest using SiliconDust HDHomeRun as it works with all Plex servers regardless of OS or region. That said, Plex does offer a full list of compatible tuners on their website. (If you have a digital tuner with an Ethernet port, give it a try, it might work.)
- Plex Pass (Optional)Note: Any Plex user can set up OTA TV on their server. But if you want DVR functionality or remote streaming outside your home, you need Plex Pass.
Please note that some services, such as YouTube TV, offer local channels without additional hardware. But OTA TV on Plex is a much cheaper and customizable option. Plus, setup with Plex is super easy. If you managed to put together a Plex server, you won’t have any problems with this project.
How to set up the digital antenna and tuner
Setting up your digital antenna and tuner is surprisingly easy. Basically we just need to connect this to your home network; It should only take a few minutes, unless you need to install an outdoor antenna of course.
First, take your digital tuner and connect it to your router (not your Plex server) via an Ethernet cable. If you have a mesh Wi-Fi system with multiple “router nodes,” I’d suggest connecting your tuner and your Plex server to the same node for maximum reliability.
Now you need to connect your TV antenna to your digital tuner. Most antennas have a built-in coaxial cable, and outdoor antennas come with super-long cables, so you don’t need to buy anything extra.
The location of the antenna is very important as it can greatly affect your signal. If you use an indoor antenna, I suggest you stick it to a window or wall with of the painter headband instead of the included sticker, at least for now. This way you can easily move the antenna if you find the reception is poor (something we’ll discuss in the Troubleshooting section).
The SiliconDust HDHomeRun digital tuner works with all Plex servers, regardless of their operating system or region. Just keep in mind that you can only handle two simultaneous streams at a time.
How to enable OTA TV on Plex
Once your antenna and digital tuner are set up, you can go into the Plex web app and enable OTA TV. Assuming you’ve done everything right, this should take five minutes or less, though you may have to wait half an hour for Plex to find all available channels.
- Open the Plex web app in your browser and sign in.
- Go to Settings (the wrench icon in the top right corner).
- Scroll to the bottom of the left sidebar and click on “Live TV & DVR”.
- Click the big “Set up Plex DVR” button (even if you don’t plan on using DVR).
- Plex should automatically discover the digital tuner on your network (if it doesn’t, see our Troubleshooting section).
- Click “Set up device”, enter your country and zip code and press “Next”.
- Plex will automatically scan for channels and ask if there are any channels you don’t want in your library; make your selection and complete the setup process.
The “Live TV” tab in Plex should start to fill up with local channels. It can take around 30 minutes for Plex to complete the channel guide, as it collects airtimes for shows two weeks in advance.
Once the Plex channel guide is complete, you can stream OTA TV using the Plex app on any device on your local network. If you’re a Plex Pass member, you can also stream this content outside of your home or record video using the DVR feature.
Pressing the red circle next to a program name in the channel guide brings up the DVR settings. From here, you can choose where the content will be saved (usually your “TV Channels” category). You can also tell Plex to automatically record all new episodes (or reruns) of the same show, which is pretty handy. And if you go into Plex Settings (under “Live TV & DVR”), you can select the quality of DVR content and tell Plex to automatically remove ads from recorded video; this function is about 90% accurate, in my experience.
Troubleshooting and tips
Most people will have no problem setting up OTA TV with Plex. But depending on where you live (and the quality of your antenna), the channel selection or quality may not meet your expectations. And hey, this is Plex we’re talking about, so you might run into oddities on the software side.
As I mentioned earlier, you can check what local channels are in your area using the FCC’s reception map or Channel Master’s live TV tool. If Plex is missing channels you’re interested in (or the channels you get look like crap), you probably need to move your antenna; That’s why I suggested sticking it somewhere before committing to a spot with the included adhesive.
Try moving your antenna to a window or wall elsewhere in your home and rescan for channels in Plex (go to “Settings”, open “Live TV & DVR”, select your tuner and click “Scan”). If you don’t want to play the guessing game, use the FCC’s reception map to see which direction (north, south, east, west) your favorite channels are broadcast. Pointing your antenna in that direction (or placing it on a wall facing that direction) should improve the signal for those channels.
Now, let’s say Plex doesn’t discover your TV tuner. Not a big deal, just restart the Plex web app and try again. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to manually find your tuner’s IP address and enter it into Plex. You can visit My HDHomeRun to get the IP address of an HDHomeRun box, though you’ll need to refer to the instruction manual if you buy a different tuner.
I must also reiterate that there is a ton of settings and options for OTA TV on Plex, especially when it comes to DVR stuff. Open Settings and go to “Live TV & DVR” to automatically remove ads from recorded content, adjust transcoder quality, blacklist channels, automatically replace recorded content with higher quality streams, and more.