How to watch TV on your Narrowboat?

With Netflix all the rage, I am sure there are a growing number of narrowboaters that don’t even think about regular TV. However, if you are old school like me, today we will give you a quick guide on the best way to set up and watch TV on your canal boat! You will be watching ‘homes under the hammer’ in no time!

Why would you want to watch regular TV on your Narrowboat?

The thing is, watching streaming TV such as Netflix or iPlayer needs some type of internet connection. You are using up data on a mobile plan, which will be quite expensive (although marinas often have decently priced wifi too).

Watching TV from an aerial is old fashioned, but it is fairly simple, reliable and cheap to run.

What TV to use on a Narrowboat?

Before we get into the details of getting the TV broadcasts piped into your boat, the first job at hand is deciding the type of TV you wish to use.

I am sure that in this day and age, everyone is using flat screen TV’s! This is good, as can you imagine trying to wrestle one of those old CRT TV’s around your boat!! Those things were heavy and big! As flat screens are the norm, you can find one to suite all price ranges and sizes. It should be a simple task to find one that fits your needs perfectly.

However, all of this gets more complicated when we bring in the subject of power. If you get a 12 volt TV this will be simple to run from your boats batteries and won’t need any invertors. The problem is 12 Volt TV’s are not as widely available and generally not as good.

You can solve this by having regular mains power in your boat. Just make sure your power system won’t get frazzled and your batteries worn down whilst running a mains TV for extended time.

When shopping for a boat for your narrowboat, try to find something that you like for the lowest possible wattage. The lower the wattage the less drain it will have on your boats batteries.

If you do decide to get a massively overpowered TV that your batteries can’t handle, simply only use it when you are at shoreline power (such as in a marina).

How to get a TV signal?

To get a TV signal you will need an aerial. It will be a smaller version of what you see on people’s houses!

These are the type’s of aerials on offer:

Regular Aerial

Literally the same thing that you would put on your house, ideally just a slightly smaller version. Although this is the biggest and hardest aerial to deal with, it often gives you by far the best quality signal.

An aerial like this also needs to be positioned well to pick up the best TV signal. To make the process of positioning your aerial easier you can sue an app like the UK Aerial Alignment smartphone app below

Omnidirectional TV Aerial

An omni directional TV aerial is a round disc like aerial that will pick up a TV signal from all directions. This is convenient, as you don’t need to keep adjusting the position to get a good signal. However, they usually don’t work as well as a regular aerial.


Don’t be tempted to buy any of those indoor TV aerials, as they will be greatly affected by the mainly steel construction of your canal boat.

What’s the downside?

In the UK at least, you will need a full TV license in order to use a TV on your narrowboat. This is the case for watching or recording any kind of live TV (even through iPlayer online). Unless this is your second home and you already have a TV licence for your main home.

The aerial will be an eyesore, and you will need to either have a small one (and put up with a worse signal) or make something you can take off or simply retract. I have seen some people using magnetic poles for aerials, meaning they can put it up, take down or reposition with ease. Although a lot use a telescopic arm on their TV aerial’s pole to allow them to put it up and down in a fixed position.

Anything else to consider?

Do you want a permanent or temporary setup for your new TV aerial? By permanent, I mean by drilling holes and routing the TV cables into and around your boat. You can simply drape a loose cable into your boat through a door or a window, but it looks ugly and might even compromise your boats security.

If your boat is surrounded by tall trees or buildings, this will affect the quality of the signal your TV aerial will receive, no matter what you do!

If you are finding the TV signal to your boat is bad, no matter what you do, consider buying a booster box. A good one will be powered and fit between your aerial and TV connection.

Finally, if you are cruising the canal networks, each time you enter a new region, you will need to re-tune your TV to this new signal.

What about Sky TV on my Narrowboat?

Most subscription satellite or cable TV services are available online these days, and frankly if this is the main thing you watch I would get the internet side of your boat sorted and simply stream online.

If this is not possible for some reason, you will have to get a satellite dish. These are somewhat more expensive than a regular TV aerial and a lot more finnicky to position correctly to receive a signal from the service you want. I would recommend one that automatically rotates to pick up the different satellite signals itself.

It terms of mounting, these satellite dishes must be mounted outside, and are quite the eyesore! Make sure it is mounted in a way so that it won’t get in the way when you go over low tunnels too!!

Netflix No More

After reading this article, hopefully you will be well on your way to putting together a TV watching setup that suits your needs. You can now watch things such as the local news (that Netflix doesn’t have!!)

If you have come up with your own ways to watch TV in your canal boat, we would love to hear all about it in the comments section below.

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