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Watching TV has never been easier, with apps for smartphones and tablets streaming live pictures to your handheld device. It’s been tougher for desktop users, but with the release of Windows 8 several apps have come along that make enjoying TV on your computer much easier.
Desktop and notebook owners have long had the advantage of TV cards and USB signal converters that enable the capture, display and recording of TV signals from terrestrial, satellite and cable providers. However, setting up these devices can be tricky, and in the case of the USB solutions, a drain on your system resources. While there are various standalone client apps that stream TV to your computer, Windows 8 has several apps that make watching television much easier.
The following apps are all free from the Windows 8 Store.
TVCatchup (UK Only)
In the UK, TVCatchup has a huge user-base across the various mobile platforms and has also been released on Windows 8. Although considered by some to be somewhat notorious (it has been the subject of court cases as it essentially uses a legal loophole to rebroadcast live content across the web), this free, ad-supported app offers the majority of the UK’s free-to-air TV channels.
Despite the name, TVCatchup doesn’t actually offer any delayed viewing facility.
There is a good chance that the service – which has already been reduced thanks to some legal defeats – will be retired or pivoted in the near future, so take advantage of TVCatchup while you still can!
TVCatchup is available on a number of mobile platforms and as a plugin for XBMC.
Omniverse TV, Live TV and FrostWire TV
Produced by FilmOn TV Inc, these three free apps are essentially the same, offering a vast selection of channels from the US, Europe, Latin America and Asia.
Why so many apps have been released offering the same content with the same user interface isn’t clear; however, the standard definition streams are available free and can be upgraded to HD upon the paying of a small fee (requires an account).
After launch, the app will run a speed check to see what your system is capable of, before providing a list of available channels. While you might encounter a few more adverts than usual, the app offers a full screen view.
Another free app, Zenga TV purports to offer a range of Indian and international live TV (including movies) to Windows 8 users.
This well-regarded app is largely focussed on Indian and Asian content, however, so if you’re looking for US or European entertainment this isn’t going to fulfill that requirement.
ZengaTV has a good user interface, full screen view and a large selection of channels to view, including a lot of movies. If you’re a fan of martial arts and Bruce Lee/Bruceploitation movies, this app is particularly recommended!
Live TV Channel Apps
In addition to single apps offering a variety of channels for you to watch on your Windows 8 PC or tablet, there are also several single channel apps available.
These offer just one channel that can be streamed to your device, typically delivering news content. In some cases, apps might offer a group of closely-related channels.
Such apps include:
- Sky News – combines a user-driven menu of latest stories with a live feed from the Sky News TV channel.
- France 24-MCD-RFI – delivers international news on TV and radio to your Windows 8 computer in 12 worldwide languages including English and French.
- RT On Air – this is Russia Today in English and Arabic, offering live feeds from RT America, RT Global, RT Arabic and RT Spanish.
Other TV Apps Are Available
What we have listed above is the best selection of live TV apps for Windows 8 at the time of writing. Others are available for the desktop mode, of course, adding more ways for you to watch online TV legally and free.
Of course, other apps are available, offering streamed TV shows and movies, but these offer an on-demand service. I’m thinking here of apps such as Hulu and Netflix, the latter of which seems to be available on virtually any platform (except Linux).
You will also find a big selection on-demand TV apps that offer programming by genre, such as a collection of favourite shows from iFood.tv, for instance, or a bunch of kids’ TV shows presented through a single app interface. There’s even a Top Gear News channel app, offering clips from the cult car show along with behind the scenes exclusives and more (although at present this links to lots of external content that cannot run within the app).
Let us know if you find any apps that you think should be added to this list, or if you have anything to share about the apps we’ve covered.