or years, I paid embarrassingly high Direc TV satellite
fees to watch shows like 60 Minutes on CBS, even
though I spent most of my screen time using stream-
ing services like Netflix. I recently discovered the Amazon
Fire TV Recast, a device that lets me watch network televi-
sion—both live and recorded—on my TV, iPhone, and iPad for
free. Thanks to the Recast, I’ve been able to cancel my satel-
lite subscription and avoid purchasing all of the big network
and cable companies’ streaming services.
The Amazon Recast Bundle
The Recast is an over-the-air Digital Video Recorder (DVR).Normally sold separately, Amazon recently bundled theRecast with a Fire TV Stick and an HD antenna, all for $250.The 500 GB two-tuner model can store 75 hours of recordedcontent and record two shows at once. The 1 TB four-tunermodel lets you record four shows.
The Fire TV Recast is a small black plastic box with anantenna connector, pairing button, USB port, Ethernet port,and plug.
Setup was easy, thanks to the iPhone Fire TV app, whichwalked me through the steps to plug in the device, connect tothe Wi-Fi network, and scan for over-the-air TV stations. Frommy rural home in Iowa, I was able to scan in 12 channels. Byselecting Favorites, I was able to eliminate unwanted stationsand duplicate networks. Half of the channels I’d never evenheard of, like Grit, a station that plays old Westerns, and Comet, a sci-fi channel with everything from cult classics to newreleases. If you live in a big city, you may be able to scan inover a hundred stations. As a bonus, Closed Captions workwell, both on DVR recordings and on the iPhone app.
I use the Fire TV app to stream live TV and play recordings
on my iPhone and iPad from anywhere. I also watch shows
on my Fire TV-connected television by selecting the DVR tab.
I can use a free channel guide on the TV but not the iPhone.
From the guide, I record individual shows or series. I can
schedule recordings up to 14 days before they air and can re-
cord a whole series or new episodes only. Some events, like
sports or political debates, go longer than the expected run
time. In these instances, you can extend your recording time
to create a buffer so you don’t miss anything. You can only
record live TV, not on-demand streaming programs. Even so,
recording live TV expands your video library by a wide margin.
I can’t use my phone to schedule Recast recordings, but I
can with the Alexa-enabled remote for the Fire TV Stick.
The system isn’t perfect; several times the Recast recorded all the aired episodes, even though I set it to record onlynew episodes. Live TV and recordings are not supported ona Mac or PC. Occasionally, when I try to watch a live showor a recording on my iPhone, the program starts to load butthen gives me an error message. I find force-closing the appeliminates the problem. The Fire TV Recast also only displaysin 720p resolution.
Should You Buy It?
While a bit buggy, the Recast is cheaper than the TiVo DVR,both in terms of out-of-pocket costs and monthly fees. Withthe Recast, once the equipment is paid for, the service is free.If you’re looking for a low-cost way to watch and record freebroadcast TV, the Amazon Recast is a nice alternative.
This Box Lets You Watch Network TV Free ForeverF
Hal, along with his wife Rita, founded i Phone Life’s original publishing company,Thaddeus Computing, in 1985. You can reach him at email@example.com. Check outHal’s new book at meditatingentrepreneur.com.
Illustration by Mikaila Maidment, mikailamaidment.com