Watching TV off-grid

pff grid TV

One question I frequently hear is how do I get TV or movies while living off-grid. I will tell you that I have been living on a mountain side, in the high desert of far west Texas (yes, Texas has mountains), I am in a very rural place far away from any city centers. I cannot put up an antenna, even a high gain one to get over the air TV stations, we only have one radio station that comes over the air as well. So how do I get my entertainment?

Well, first of all, I refuse to pay to watch TV, so no satellite, cable or anything like that. I do have (somewhat) high speed internet, fortunately it’s an unlimited kind of service with no data caps, so as long as our internet is up and running, I can watch streaming videos as long as I wish to. For those of you who have data caps because of satellite internet or using your cell phone service for internet, I have some suggestions below. Second, I don’t have the power to waste on a regular TV, even one of those low energy LED or LCD TVs, so I use my laptop or even better, my tablet, it doesn’t use very much of my precious power.

I have several online sources for watching TV shows and movies, I’ll name a few here. My go to streaming service is Amazon Prime, I get loads of free (included with Prime) TV shows and movies, lots more than I could even begin to watch, they are also beginning to add their own produced original TV shows and movies, some I like, some I wouldn’t give you a nickle for, but that is just my taste, yours may vary.

One I just watched recently is Mr Church, a superb show starring Eddie Murphy in a serious role, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen in a while, I recommend a box of tissues to go with it, you’ll need it :)

At $99 a year for Prime, it’s a chunk of money up front, but it includes free 2 day shipping, since I buy many things through Amazon, it’s worth it to me, the included streaming videos (and music) are a big bonus to me, not to mention the myriad of other goodies included. Recently they have added a monthly rate if you don’t want to or can’t cough of the yearly fee, it’s $10.99 a month. You can try it free for 30 days here Try Amazon Prime 30-Day Free Trial.

A few other places to stream TV shows and movies, Hulu and Netflix. I have used Netflix before and was happy enough with them, but ran out of shows I liked so I dropped the service. Hulu, I’m less excited about, though I have many friends who love it. The main reason I dislike Hulu is their commercials they insert in the shows, even if you pay for the premium service, there are commercials, sorry but that’s just annoying, so no Hulu for me.

Of course, one of the biggest streaming video sites is YouTube. There is even a premium service through YouTube where you can watch movies and TV shows, though I have never really looked into that, it’s there. If you do searches, you can find where people have uploaded full TV shows and movies, it’s not legal and eventually they get caught and their channel vanishes, but for a while the show is there to watch, I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you wish to watch shows like that, I’m not suggesting you do it or not, I’m just saying it’s there.

Now for those of you who have data caps and can only download so much per month, most satellite companies give you a period of time during the overnight hours to download all you want without it counting against your data bandwidth allowance, I don’t know if cell phone plans have that, but I know that satellite companies do.

With Amazon, you can download shows and movies on a portable device such as a tablet or phone (apparently not on a computer or laptop) to watch later, I have never done that, so I’m not sure exactly how it works, I just know it’s available. You can download YouTube videos easily even though it’s no setup for that, there are many YouTube video downloaders out there, just search for them. Download the shows during the overnight hours while your satellite company isn’t keeping count of your bandwidth, then you can watch these shows at your leisure.

If you are more adventurous, you can find just about any TV show or movie streaming online, I would classify these sites as very risky, and you are more likely to get a virus on your computer by going to theses kind of sites. The legality of these sites is often questionable, chances are you wouldn’t get into trouble unless YOU are uploading to them, personally I wouldn’t risk using a site like that, at least not without having some heavy duty protection, such as addons to your browser that will aggressively block java, javascript and popups (and probably a slew of other things I haven’t even thought of).

Have I missed anything that you know about? If so, please let me know in the comments below.


5 Responses

  1. I’ve been off-grid for 8-9 years with only cell phone data available (16 GB data + phone = $123 a month). Like you I’ve tried Sat TV, antenna, etc. My solution was to buy multi TB “My Book” USB hard drives from Western Digital and store all my movies/TV shows on them to view when I please.
    We all have friends who have large DVD libraries, I went to them 1st. and ‘ripped’ (extracted just the movie) their DVDs saving 1 copy for me and 1 for them if they wanted, basically backing up/digitalizing their collections for them. They were more than happy to help me out. I also had a $30 a month plan with Netflix for 5 DVDs at a time. I never watch the DVDs, just ‘rip’ them and can have them (5 DVDs takes about 2-3 hours to rip) back in the mail the same day. I averaged about 50 DVDs a month w/Netflix. The best deal is my public library (10 DVDs for 10 days) and they have ‘thousands’ of them old & new.

    NOTE: I am retired, so I’ve plenty of time for all of this.

    I use ‘Acrok Video Converter’ software ($40/50) to rip DVDs and the FREE ‘VLC Media Player’ to watch the videos on a 32″ led TV via ‘HDMI’ cable from my laptop. The VLC player allows one to change the “Aspect Ratio” of a film so you can watch all video in ‘Full Screen mode.’

    Currantly I have about 2500 movies & 60+ multi season TV shows I’ve got stored on about 9TB of hard drives with 3TB free for more.

    Oh & the “friends who have large DVD libraries” call me quite often asking for copies of titles they have had go bad, loaned out & not returned or damaged by their children.

  2. Look up software called PlayOn. It lets you legally record content from all the major online streaming sites. Just pick the shows and movies from the sites you have a subscription to and set it to record during the night hours when there is no data cap.

  3. Great suggestions. If you or others are near a public library you can also rent movies on DVD. If that’s not your cup of tea, and if you have Netflix and Amazon accounts, your could also go there to use their WIFI to download movies to your tablet or computer using those services. Both of them allow you to download certain shows. One way to help get around blowing through your data caps, and usually library Internet is pretty speedy.

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