How to Watch TV Through Your Xbox One, Even Without Cable

By Chris Hoffman on June 5th, 2016

Microsoft has downplayed the Xbox One’s TV features since its launch, but the Xbox One still offers useful TV integration. It’s even been enhanced: You no longer need a cable or satellite subscription to watch TV. You can watch TV for free with an antenna.

If you have an Xbox One, you should seriously consider setting up the TV integration. Microsoft clearly spent a lot of time on this stuff.

What You’ll Need

You can watch traditional TV on your Xbox One in one of two ways:

  • With a Cable or Satellite Subscription: If you have cable or satellite TV service, you can connect your Xbox One to your cable box. You hook everything up so that the Xbox One can control your cable box by sending infrared signals, and you can watch TV directly on your Xbox One.
  • With an Antenna: If you don’t pay for TV, you can now use an antenna to watch free, over-the-air (OTA) TV on your Xbox One. You just need an adapter. The only officially supported adapter for this in the USA and Canada is the Hauppauge Digital TV Tuner for Xbox One. It comes with a basic antenna, but you may need a better antenna to receive a stronger signal, depending on how far you are from your local broadcasting towers (see this guide for more info). For other countries, Microsoft makes its own “Xbox One Digital TV Tuner“. Don’t ask us why Microsoft doesn’t make its own tuner for the USA and Canada.

Of course, there are other ways to watch videos on your Xbox One. You could use apps from services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and HBO. There’s also Sling TV, which streams TV channels to you over the Internet. These apps no longer require an Xbox Live Gold subscription, as they did when the Xbox One was released. However, you will have to pay for a subscription for each service you want to watch.

How to Set Up TV Integration on an Xbox One

To set everything up, open the OneGuide app on your Xbox One. The Xbox One’s TV features are located here and can be accessed from this app.

OneGuide may point you towards apps for service like YouTube and Netflix, but you can press the menu button and select “Set Up Live TV” if you aren’t prompted to.

You’ll be prompted to set up a cable or satellite box, or a USB TV tuner. If you have a cable or satellite box, you’ll need to plug the HDMI cable from your cable or satellite box into the back of your Xbox One instead of directly into your TV. If you have a USB TV tuner, you’ll need to connect the USB tuner to one of the USB ports on your Xbox One–either one of the two on the front of the one on the side–and connect the antenna to that USB tuner.

After you do, you’ll select the “Set up your cable or satellite box” or “Set up your USB TV tuner” options.

If you’re setting up a cable or satellite box, your Xbox One will attempt to find the HDMI input and prompt you to confirm it recognizes the correct device.

However, you’re setting up over-the-air TV, you’ll be prompted to enter your ZIP code. OneGuide will then be able to find a local channel guide for your area, so it knows what’s playing on your nearby channels. Then it will scan for nearby channels you can receive with a clear signal.

Next, you can choose to enable pausing live TV. This allows you to pause, rewind, and fast forward up to 30 minutes of live TV. It appears to work automatically, but your Xbox One is really just recording the TV in the background so you can seamlessly watch it. This takes 4GB of hard disk space, but it’s a useful feature you should leave enabled unless you desperately need the space. You can always change this option later in the OneGuide app’s settings.

If you have a Kinect, you’ll then be prompted to set up TV integration. Your Xbox One can turn on your TV when you say “Xbox, On” and you can control your TV’s volume with Kinect voice commands. This does require a Kinect, as the Kinect itself will send infrared (IR) signals to your TV to power it on and control its volume. Your Kinect sends the same TV signals your TV remote does.

To do this, you’ll need to go through the wizard and provide the brand of your TV. It will then attempt to send mute, volume up, and volume down commands to your TV. You’ll need to tell the Xbox One whether the signals it sent was successful, as it has no way of knowing.

If the Kinect can’t communicate with your home theater equipment, you may need an IR extension cable.

When it’s done, you’ll be asked if you want to let your Xbox One track the TV shows you watch so it can provide you with personalized recommendations in the Xbox OneGuide app. That’s up to you.

You can then choose your “start setting”–you can have your Xbox One start up watching TV or go to the home dashboard by default. The TV integration will then be set up.

How to Watch TV on Your Xbox One

To watch TV, just open the OneGuide app. You can then use your Xbox One controller or Kinect voice commands to control TV playback and switch between channels. You can also open the OneGuide menu and select “TV Listings” to view a full TV guide.

TV can be snapped alongside a game you’re playing, so you can watch TV and play a game at the same time. Just use the Xbox One’s Snap feature to snap the OneGuide app.


Microsoft is reportedly working on a DVR feature that will allow you to record shows and play them later. This feature will apparently only work with OTA TV via an antenna, too.

(Update: Microsoft announced that the DVR feature is now “on hold” for the foreseeable feature shortly after we published this article. Unless Microsoft announces another change of plans, we wouldn’t be surprised if the DVR feature is never released..)

Chris Hoffman is a technology writer and all-around computer geek. He's as at home using the Linux terminal as he is digging into the Windows registry. Connect with him on Google+.

  • Published 06/5/16
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