How to watch TV on your iPad

You’ve probably used your iPad to watch online video from YouTube or maybe a bit of catch-up TV using the ABC’s iView iPad app. But you may not know that it’s entirely possible to turn your iPad into a 9in TV that works anywhere you go.

First the esoteric. iPad apps from the likes of TVUPlayer and TheChanner act as TV content aggregators offering hundreds of channels from all over the world. This includes kung fu horror spaghetti Westerns and other movies; the American CBS network; and (in TheChanner’s case) content from Argentina Cameroon Italy Turkey and other countries. Their respective iPhone/iPad apps provide access to their programming which is of widely varied quality and sometimes questionable interest.

EyeTV-equipped Macs broadcast their availability over the local network using the Bonjour discovery protocol.

If you’d prefer to watch Australian TV another option is the Slingbox whose Slingbox Solo ($349) can broadcast live TV to your iPad or iPhone using the $36.99 SlingPlayer Mobile for iPad; note that you must apparently buy the $36.99 SlingPlayer Mobile iPhone/iPod touch version separately if you want it too.
A cheaper option is MyTVR: for prices ranging from $5.85 per month to $78.60 per year MyTVR records shows for you then streams them to your iPad iPhone or desktop using web video standards. This isn’t exactly live although the new ‘Record and Play Now’ option offers a roundabout way to get live TV by recording a show then streaming it to your iPad or iPhone as it records.

If you own a Mac there’s an easy way to broadcast live TV to your iPad whether at home or on the road using Elgato’s EyeTV family of TV tuners – such as the standalone $179.95 EyeTV DTT Deluxe or the $399.95 networkable EyeTV Netstream which has two tuners and feeds digital TV across an in-home fixed or wireless network.

Live TV streams straight to the iPad via Wi-Fi or once you’ve signed up for My EyeTV service over 3G.

It’s dead easy to get working: start up EyeTV open Preferences (Command-) click on the iPhone tab and tick Enable access for EyeTV for iPhone/iPad. Enter your system password while a component is installed and then the EyeTV software will be available to play host to any iPhone or iPad on your network (if you’re using the excellent Netstream you can connect to it from the iPad without even needing a Mac host).

To watch live TV you’ll need the $5.99 EyeTV app. Start it up and give it a moment to search the network for TV tuners. In our example we have two networked Macs each running the EyeTV software but connected to the same Netstream unit. We can tap on any of these to see currently-broadcasting channels; tap one and the video buffers for a few seconds before playing. Wi-Fi connections may see the occasional buffering stutter depending on signal strength but the end result has been excellent overall in our trials.

EyeTV can also rebroadcast the video to an iPhone or 3G-connected iPad. First sign up for Elgato’s My EyeTV service a free locator service that lets your iPad or iPhone ‘phone home’ from the field. As before go into ‘EyeTV Preferences > iPhone’ then tick the ‘Use My EyeTV Service box’ and create an account.

Scroll through the current TV guide and pick your channel.

Once it’s set up EyeTV will test your account and show a green dot if all’s well. If you get an error check your firewall settings (System Preferences > Security > Firewall) to ensure EyeTV has network access; open EyeTV’s port 2170 in your wireless router; or drop by for troubleshooting.

Getting your live TV in the field is simple: start the EyeTV app tap Edit tap Add EyeTV and enter your My EyeTV credentials. They’ll be confirmed and all going well you should see your TV sources available and ready to go. Et voila! Live TV wherever you happen to be.