Do you love TV? Then you also love XBMC, even if you don’t know it yet. The ultimate media center software offers a wide variety of ways for you to catch up with your favorite shows online, legal and otherwise. Set up a few plugins and you can watch whatever you want in a couple of clicks, from the comfort of your couch.
Legally watching TV shows can be insanely complicated, depending on where you live. Hulu only works in the USA and BBC’s iPlayer only works in the UK. This means, to legally watch TV online using XBMC, you need to know which services work in your country and find a plugin for those services.
Illegal methods of watching TV on XBMC work everywhere, meaning they’re ironically a great deal simpler to get set up. I’ll outline those as well, mostly for the basis of comparison. Media companies – please help simplify this. We want to pay to watch TV online.
Confused about what XBMC is? Check out MakeUseOf’s Guide to setting up XBMC, written by yours truly. I wrote it to explain how to set up XBMC and install extensions if you’re a beginner, so check it out first if you’re not sure how to set up the extensions below.
Legal Ways To Watch TV In XBMC
Let’s begin with the perfectly legal ways to watch TV on XBMC. Because legal ways to watch TV online are always annoying, these plugins will only work in the countries in which they’re based. I’m sticking to the English-speaking world.
If you live in the United States, the Hulu Plugin for XBMC (above) gives you access to every show on the site, with or without commercials. I also highly recommend you check out my article outlining 5 amazing addons for XBMC, which includes Free Cable – a fantastic free plugin for streaming content from a wide variety of USA-based TV stations. If a given show is offered online by a TV station you’ll find it there.
Live TV offerings are limited in the USA, unfortunately – the assumption is that you have cable.
If you’re based in the United Kingdom, I recommend you check out the iPlayer plugin for XBMC. With this installed, you can watch your favorite BBC stations live, or watch your favorite one on demand.
UK users should also check out TV Catchup (above), which provides live streaming of a variety of TV stations in that country. You’ll need to sign up for an account before you can use the TVCatchup XBMC plugin.
Canadian users should check out Canada On Demand, which brings in content from a wide variety of different Canadian TV stations. Similar to Free Cable, this plugin offers shows from a the websites of broadcasters.
Those living in Australia should check out the TV Catchup Australian repository. There’s a lot of extensions offered there, which I unfortunately am unable to test.
New Zealand users should check out NZ On Demand for a variety of live TV streams and on-demand offerings.
Again, I’ve focused here primarily on English-language nations, because this is an English-language site and in my imagination it’s being read by English-speaking people. If your nation’s primary language is something else, however, don’t panic – there is almost certainly a plugin for streams from your country.
I recommend Googling the name of your country, the letters “TV” and “XBMC”, or simply check out the next chapter – illegal ways to watch TV everywhere.
One more thing – plenty of news stations offer 24/7 streaming on their website – and XBMC is capable of playing those streams. I outlined how to watch the news online using XBMC, so check out that article if you’re interested.
Legally Questionable Ways To Watch TV In XBMC
Of course, if you want every channel you can imagine – live – there really isn’t a legal way to get that. There’s no technical reason for this, but even if you were willing to pay for every individual channel, most channels are only available for satellite and/or cable users. There simply isn’t an online option for most live TV.
SuperTV [No Longer Available], however, is a free extension for XBMC offering live streams from a wide variety of countries. Just pick the nation you want to watch TV from, then pick the channel you want to watch – you’ll be seeing what’s on, right now, in real time. There’s even a TV guide, allowing you to see what’s playing and check out what will be on later.
The quality isn’t always great, and the extension itself can be rather slow at times, but it’s worth checking out for the curious.
It’s also worth checking out XBMChub’s list of video addons. A couple – 1Channel (above) and Icefilms – give you (completely illegal) access to every TV show and movie on the planet, all from the comfort of your remote.
And no list of legally questionable XBMC plugins is complete without mentioning NaviX, which is perhaps the ultimate XBMC extension. You’ll find more than a little TV there, live and on-demand.
Set Up XBMC To Be A PVR
Of course, I’m missing the obvious way to watch TV on XBMC – getting a TV adapter card for your PC and setting up XBMC to function as your own personal DVR. You’ll probably need a cable subscription, but you’ll be able to watch TV in real-time and record the shows you care about.
Unfortunately getting this set up can be a little difficult, so check out the XBMC wiki page about setting up XBMC live TV.
What shows are you watching using XBMC? Let me know in the comments below, along with any other suggested extensions for the job.