How to Add Local TV Channels to Your Plex Server – Review Geek
Cutting the cord doesn’t mean giving up live TV. Local channels are completely free and often include content that interests you, including sports. But if you want to make the antenna TV experience a bit more modern, you should add local channels to your Plex server for a killer channel guide, remote streaming, DVR functionality, and more.
How does local TV work with Plex?
As we’ll explain later in this article, adding local TV to your Plex server is an incredibly easy task. Once you have the hardware, the setup takes about ten minutes, if so. But how does local TV work on Plex?
Well, Plex uses a TV antenna and a digital tuner to search for local channels. All locally available content can be found in a Plex Channel Guide, complete with detailed descriptions, closed captions, and a two-week schedule. You can stream these local channels on any device with a Plex app, including your phone, tablet, stream stick, or smart TV.
Any Plex user can add local TV to their server for free. But Plex Pass members get some extremely useful additional features. Not only can Plex Pass members stream video outside of their home, but they can use a DVR feature to record local TV directly to their server storage.
This DVR is extremely versatile. You can set it to automatically record every new episode of your favorite show, for example, and it can even save on older shows if a show is replayed at a higher quality. Plex can also remove (or automatically skip) ads in recorded content, which is pretty nice.
Remember that Plex offers a wide selection of live TV channels for free, although these channels do not include local channels. To add local channels to Plex, you need to follow the steps listed in this article.
Everything you need
You need a few pieces of hardware to get local channels on Plex. And unfortunately, this hardware will set you back just over $100. I think the ability to stream and record local channels is well worth the money, but if you’re on a budget you might want to start off with a digital antenna with just one TV before buying the tuner for Pair it with Plex.
If you want to see what channels are available in your area, try using the FCC reception map or the Channel Master live TV tool. These websites should also give you an overview of signal strength, which is important when choosing an antenna.
- digital antenna: A TV antenna is required for this project. Any digital antenna will work, whether indoors or outdoors. If you live in a rural area, try using the latter option to improve signal quality and expand your channel selection.
- Tuner supported: You need a digital TV tuner to process your antenna information. I suggest using SiliconDust HDHomeRun because it works with all Plex servers, regardless of OS or region. That said, Plex offers a full list of compatible tuners on its website. (If you have a digital tuner with an Ethernet port, give it a try, it might work.)
- Plex pass (optional): Any Plex user can set up OTA TV on their server. But if you want DVR functionality or remote streaming outside your home, you need Plex Pass.
Keep in mind that some services, such as YouTube TV, offer local channels without additional hardware. But OTA TV on Plex is a much cheaper and more customizable option. Plus, setting up with Plex is a snap. If you’ve successfully set up a Plex server, you won’t have any problems with this project.
How to set up digital antenna and tuner
Setting up your digital antenna and tuner is incredibly easy. Basically, we just need to connect this hardware to your home network – it should only take a few minutes, unless you need to install an outdoor antenna, of course.
First, take your digital tuner and connect it to your router (not your Plex server) via an Ethernet cable. If you have a mesh Wi-Fi system with multiple “router nodes”, you should connect your tuner and your Plex server to the same node for maximum reliability.
Now you need to connect your TV antenna to your digital tuner. Most antennas have a coaxial cable built in, and outdoor antennas come with extra long cables, so you don’t need to buy anything extra.
Antenna placement is very important, as it can greatly affect your signal. If you are using an indoor antenna, I suggest sticking it to a window or wall with painter tape instead of the included adhesive – for now, at least. This way you can easily relocate the antenna if you find reception is poor (which we will discuss in the Troubleshooting section).
The SiliconDust HDHomeRun digital tuner works with all Plex servers, regardless of operating system or region. Just keep in mind that it can only handle two simultaneous streams at a time.
How to Enable OTA TV on Plex
Once your antenna and digital tuner are all set up, you can go to the Plex web app and enable OTA TV. Assuming you’ve done everything correctly, it should take five minutes or less, though you might have to wait half an hour for Plex to populate the data in its channel guide.
- Open the Plex web app in your browser and sign in.
- Go to Settings (the wrench icon in the upper right corner).
- Scroll down the left sidebar and click on “Live TV & DVR”.
- Click the big “Configure Plex DVR” button (even if you don’t plan to use the DVR).
- Plex should automatically discover the digital tuner on your network (if not, see our Troubleshooting section).
- Click “Set up device”, enter your country and postal code, then click “Next”.
- Plex will automatically scan for channels and ask you if there are any channels you don’t want in your library – make your selection and complete the setup process.
The “Live TV” tab in Plex should start to populate with local channels. It can take Plex about 30 minutes to populate the channel guide because it collects show times two weeks in advance.
Once the Plex channel guide is populated, you can stream OTA TV using the Plex app on any device on your local network. If you are a Plex Pass member, you can also stream this content outside your home or record video using the DVR feature.
Tap the red circle next to a show name in the channel guide to display the DVR settings. From here you can choose where the content will be saved (usually your “TV Channels” category). You can also have Plex automatically record all new episodes (or reruns) of the same show, which is really helpful. And if you go to Plex settings (under “Live TV & DVR”), you can select the DVR content quality and tell Plex to automatically remove ads from recorded video. This feature is about 90% accurate, in my experience.
Troubleshooting and tips
Most people will have no problem setting up OTA TV with Plex. But depending on where you live (and the quality of your antenna), you may find that the channel selection or quality does not meet your expectations. And hey, this is Plex we’re talking about, so you may encounter quirks on the software side.
As I mentioned earlier, you can check which local channels are in your area using the FCC reception map or the Channel Master live TV tool. If Plex is missing channels you’re interested in (or if the channels you’re getting look like crap), you probably need to move your antenna. That’s why I suggested sticking it somewhere before committing to a spot with the included adhesive.
Try moving your antenna to a window or wall elsewhere in your house and scanning for channels in Plex again (go to “Settings”, open “Live TV & DVR”, select your tuner and click “Scan”) . If you don’t want to guess, use the FCC reception map to see which direction (north, south, east, west) your favorite channels are streaming. Pointing your antenna in this direction (or placing it on a wall facing this direction) should improve the signal for these channels.
Now, let’s say Plex doesn’t discover your TV tuner. It’s okay, just restart the Plex web app and try again. If that doesn’t work, you’ll need to manually find your tuner’s IP address and enter it into Plex. You can visit My HDHomeRun to get the IP address of an HDHomeRun box, but you’ll need to consult the instruction manual if you buy another tuner.
I must also reiterate that there is a tonne of settings and options for OTA TV in Plex, especially when it comes to DVR elements. Open Settings and go to “Live TV & DVR” to automatically remove ads from recorded content, adjust transcoder quality, blacklist channels, automatically replace recorded content with higher quality streams, and more.