May 6th, Charter TV will be going all digital, which I initially thought to be good news; but, then I was informed that every TV I had would need to have a set top box attached to it. Now, if I had 2 or maybe 3 TVs I suppose I could stomach that, even at $7 a month per set top box after that first one, or maybe there is a fee for that as well, I’m not sure. The same situation exists for satellite TV (I checked), every TV needs a receiver, and for Directv that is $6/month/TV.
I was told that the good news was that I could record six different programs while watching multiple different channels, all at the same time! Wow! Maybe if I didn’t have a life, or was a trust fund baby, or an unemployed college graduate living in my parents basement, maybe then I might have occasion to do as much. As it is, the reality is that in my house there might be a handful of times during the year (when company comes) that there are two different TVs on, on two different channels; and, I have never recorded anything yet.
So this is what I did for less than $20. This is pretty simple, and I’m sure many others are already doing it.
The cable coming into your home has to be split among all of your TVs;
Every TV must have the signal de-encrypted by a set top box; (so they tell me, when it does happen, I’m still going to hook my tv up to the raw cable and run an auto-program to see what happens). I admit that I am frustrated by the disincentive to allow you to realize the least expensive solution.
Every cable coming out (output) has to be going somewhere (input);
What you identify:
What TVs do I want the capability to surf channels on, check the guide, maybe DVR something, etc.;
What TVs do I want to just turn on and watch a preset channel (like Fox News);
How many TVs will be used to watch different channels at the same time; this will be the minimum number of set top boxes you will need. In my home, that number is one.
What you need:
A coaxial powered splitter of which ever number of set top boxes you might want; I bought a 1:4 powered splitter from Radio Shack for $15. Something like this one.
3-5 extra coaxial cables of 3-6ft length;
What you want to do:
You are going to share one set top box among all the TVs in your house you want preset to one channel. If you only want one channel at one time, you only need one set top box.
The cable company has already hooked all of your TVs up to a distribution hub of some sort that splits the signals to the cable runs in your home supplying your TVs. Their solution is to put a set top box at the end of each cable run for each TV, at $7/box/mo.
My solution is:
Put one set top box at the front end of the cable run (figuratively) by connecting the cable (TV, not internet) coming from your modem to the input of the powered splitter. You now have four amplified signals to use. I have a distribution hub already that has five inputs and 16 outputs. You should have some sort of a splitter or hub that all your TVs are connected to.
Connect a cable from one of the outputs of the powered splitter to the input the cable set top box. [You need to get a set top box that has a coaxial output (it should have a HDMI too)] Then connect a cable from the coaxial RF out to the input of the hub that supplies all of your TVs in the house. Now, all of your TVs are operating off of that one set top box.
You still have three left over powered outputs; so you can take up to 3 TVs off the distribution hub for all the TVs and connect it to the raw signal in front of the first set top box and use your second and third set top boxes at the other end of the cable run, between the wall plate and television set. In my case, I only have one other.
I have a home theater that I have a set top box for, and my other box controls all the other television in my home.
The only problem now is how to avoid going to your distribution hub in the basement or attic to change channels:
There are two solutions I thought of:
1) If you have two cable runs going to a TV on the main floor (this is what I did); you can simply move the box up by outputting the signal from the powered splitter into the cable going up to the room (wall plate), then connecting that to the cable to the input on the set top box, and then outputting (RF out) back down the other cable run and connecting that to the input for the distribution hub for all the other TVs. As I mentioned earlier, the set top box also has an HDMI output, and you can connect this to your TV. My set top box will deliver signal to all outputs simultaneously (although I’m sure they will change this if too many circumvent the need for multiple set top boxes as I’m describing here). So, anyway, when I change the channel in my living room, it changes the channel for all of the televisions in my house except for the one separated out by the powered splitter that goes to the home theater.
If you don’t have two cable runs, and you have an attic or an unfinished basement, it would not be a big deal to run an extra cable.
2) If a second cable run is not an option, than you could use a wireless remote control extender kit like this one here, or something similar.
If you want to control channels in more rooms, you can do so by buying additional transmitters for the IR remote extender receiver that is by the shared set top box (controlling it).
I think its actually pretty convenient. All the common TVs are preset to channel 3, so all you do is turn it on and turn it off and control the volume. If you’re watching a program on one of the shared/common TVs and move to another room, all you do is turn the one TV off and the other one on.