A PC might not be the first thing that comes to mind when you think about set-top boxes, but there's plenty of reasons it's a great choice. When it comes to cord cutting, a media center connected to your TV isn't the only thing you need to consider. Smartphones and tablets are common these days, and in the best scenario everyone is able to get all their stuff, everywhere they want it.
So, we look to the Windows Store for help. Whether you're using a PC, tablet or a phone, there are some great apps out there to help you ditch pay TV forever.
The one drawback is that the content services aren't exactly universal. If you're based in the UK, like many of us Windows Central writers, these are the apps to download.
While it's the de facto choice for many when it comes to streaming TV shows and movies, Netflix also has great support for Windows 10. The latest "download-and-go" feature is included to take Netflix content with you when you don't have data, and the app is all around clean and simple to use.
It's also available on basically everything. Amazon Prime isn't on Windows 10 (and some other platforms), but Netflix is mostly ubiquitous. Things like that make it easy to recommend.
Download Netflix from the Windows Store (opens in new tab)
Plex is one of the most powerful media centers on the planet and will be right at home in your cord-cutting setup. Not only does it have a media server built in to store all your movies, TV shows, music and photos, it also has a great Windows 10 app.
Some of the newer features include a DVR that can help you record live TV (with the necessary hardware) and support for cloud services to store your media. The Plex Media Player app is also a neat way to optimize for the biggest screen in your house, though that's not available through the Windows Store.
One of the most well-known media centers in the world right now, Kodi is simple to set up on a Windows 10 machine; you just download it from the Windows Store.
It's a completely empty shell, to begin with, but there are so many things to plug into it that it can easily become the center of your experience. Live TV, DVDs, home servers and online streaming services can all be added to Kodi to organize all of your content in one place.
- What is Kodi and how you use it on Windows 10
- Download Kodi from the Windows Store (opens in new tab)
If you want to get basic TV channels without an antenna, TVPlayer is the app to use. For free, you can get a good selection of the UK Freeview channels to watch on your PC, tablet or phone, and if you're willing to pay £5.99 that selection increases to include more premium offerings.
It's a fairly basic app, but it has a good guide and is reliable. It also has the benefit of giving you TV on any device with a data connection, so you're not limited to your living room.
Download TVPlayer from the Windows Store (opens in new tab)
NOW TV is an offshoot of Sky that provides contract-free access to its channels. Subscriptions vary depending on what type of content you want to watch, and live sports are rather expensive.
The benefit is that it's a la carte, and you're never locked into a subscription to anything. You pay when you want to watch, and that's it. You can still get pay TV without all the bad bits.
Download NOW TV from the Windows Store (opens in new tab)
Emby is a solid alternative to Plex, and it offers much of the same feature set and supports Windows 10 with apps to view your content.
In a similar way to Plex, you can set up a server for all your own content, and you can also set up a DVR to record your live TV. The two services are closely matched, and if you're setting up a home server Emby should definitely be considered.
- Emby is a worthy media center alternative to Plex for Windows
- Download Emby Theater from the Windows Store (opens in new tab)
To watch BT Sport on TV can be expensive. To watch BT sport on your PC or your phone is less so ... with a big caveat. Customers of BT's broadband packages can get access to BT Sport at a massively reduced price, which means you get Moto GP, Champions League and much more for only a few pounds a month.
You don't need a TV package from BT to make use of it, either. Simply logging into the Windows 10 app will give you full access to the live BT Sport channels and any additional content.
Download BT Sport from the Windows Store (opens in new tab)
HDHomeRun is a cord cutters dream, because it allows you to share live, over-the-air TV channels with multiple devices in your house with only a single antenna. By setting up the box and connecting it to your home network, all you need to do is download the official Windows 10 app to get started watching TV.
It's a little flaky on phones, but the desktop app works well. And HDHomeRun is well supported by other apps, such as Kodi and Plex, for both live TV and DVR, respectively.
- How to set up and use the HDHomeRun tuner
- Download HDHomeRun from the Windows Store (opens in new tab)
If you ever need an app to play anything, VLC is as close as you'll get. The famed media player is available through the Windows Store and will play just about any audio or video format you throw at it.
In addition, it's pretty handy for watching live-streamed content from the web. All you need is the relevant URL for the stream and you're good to go. It's a perfect solution if you already have a large collection and just want something good to enjoy it in.
Download VLC from the Windows Store (opens in new tab)
Those are our picks for UK cord cutters to get all the content they want on their Windows 10 machines. But what are your favorites? If you're a fan of something we failed to mention, be sure to drop it into the comments below.
Richard Devine is an Editor at Windows Central. A former Project Manager and long-term tech addict, he joined Mobile Nations in 2011 and has been found on Android Central and iMore as well as Windows Central. Currently you'll find him covering all manner of PC hardware and gaming, and you can follow him on Twitter and Instagram.
How about a review of American cord cutter services (and associated apps). 🙂
I don't live in America. Which is why I have focused on the audience in my part of the world ;-) But yes...it's going in the pile. But naturally, needs a U.S. writer to tackle it!
I think that was already done for the US? Have a search on this site, I'm sure I saw an article on this.
Great article, though an odd title. For most UK customers moving over to IPTV means moving TO a cable and so AWAY from the aerial. Should it be called 'Dropping the coathanger' instead? Sort of surprised that all the main TV apps were not mentioned (BBC iPlayer has gone but ITV player, STV player, All4 and Demand 5 are going strong). That TV Player app looks good. Thing is, the biggest issue for UK HTPC users is not getting hold of IPTV. It's about getting broadcast TV easily now we don't have Media Centre. What we really need is an article about TV tuner software. Kodi is often mentioned but that is just a front end for the manufacturer provided apps which are often awful. PCTV Systems, I'm looking at you... So, alternatives? I get the impression that Plex is also just such a front end? In particular, for UK broadcast HD TV the packages provided by manufacturers often drop the audio at playback whenever it shifts from stereo to 5.1, which for films on stations with adverts (non-BBC) is a complete pain (this is due to a limitation in the MS codec as it does not support the standard audio requirements necessary for decent descriptive audio which causes this issue as well, as described deep in the MS technical documentation on their codec system, nice of MS to exclude the disabled, but when I bring this up with support they go strangely silent on me? Probably switching focus to the more valued able-bodied customers...). So, if you could do an article on proper tuner alternatives to Media Centre that talk directly to the tuner drivers rather than acting as a front end to rubbish manufacturer software packages, which also properly supports HD TV audio (and descriptive audio), and which do not make a point of excluding the disabled that would be a real boon to UK HTPC users. Thanks. I would love to read such an article, personally.
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