How to get TV on your boat, the choices expand

Ben Stein

Ben Stein

Publisher of, passionate marine electronics enthusiast, 100-ton USCG master.

25 Responses

  1. Pat McQueen says:

    Great article Ben. We also see folks using the dish tailgater when in a marina. As long as there is a stable surface it seems to work great.

    I am curious about the trackvision A9 as a less expensive option. Is is marketed to the RV market but not marine. Is that because it needs a more stable surface? The A9 is under $5k and seems to offer most of what the more expensive dishes offer.

  2. Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

    Pat, great point about the Tailgater. In addition to the Tailgater there are self aiming dishes (that find the satellites automatically but don’t track them in motion), tripod mount and single axis stabilized dishes. I suspect the A9 may be a single axis stabilized dish. It’s stablized for movement of the vehicle but not for rolling or pitching as on road vehicles don’t do as much of that. I’ll take a look.

  3. Bob says:

    The biggest challenge to the use of streaming services is data caps. If you are out and about, chances are you are using a wifi hotspot. Good luck finding an affordable plan that supports sufficient data allotments to support streaming.

    I am long over getting excited about the latest greatest “unlimited plan”. Ironically, they are too limited to be viable.

  4. Ben says:

    We have been quite happy with the DirecTV Now service, running on an AT&T unlimited plan. Linksys cellular modem to boat’s AC1900 router (feeding a number of things including a Roku with the DirecTV Now app). Data for TV is supposed to be exempt from the 50GB throttling cap. Bandwidth has been very satisfactory, considering we were on FiOS in our land home.

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Thanks, Ben, but I can’t figure out which AT&T unlimited plan you’re using. Is it an “Unlimited &More Premium” plan where you’ve somehow gotten one line to be a SIM card that works in the Linksys modem?

      But I did find an FAQ that says “Data Free TV” can even apply to some AT&T prepaid cards, and even after the card’s data allotment is used up. Could be great for seasonal cruisers, though again I’m not sure what prepaid cards they’re talking about:

      PS for possibly confused readers: AT&T Ben is not the Ben Stein who wrote this entry, nor am I.

      • Ben says:

        Too many Bens!
        To clarify, we have two iPhones and one cellular modem device (correction, it’s actually a Netgear LB1121, not Linksys) that share an AT&T ‘Unlimited Plus Multi-line’ package (per the bill). It appears to match the “Unlimited & More Premium” one mentioned above. At the time we switched from a regular family plan, to the Unlimited plan in order to transition to life aboard, they also had a promotion for adding DirecTVNOW; we have a 65 channel plan that includes 20 hours of cloud DVR, 2 simultaneous streams, and free HBO, all for $25 per month. We use a combination of cellular, and marina wifi to access the content.
        ‘AT&T Ben’ (not Stein or Ellison)

  5. David says:

    Hi Ben, 2 floats away from you. Dish Network has mobile pay by the month accounts with no shut off fee. Easy and fair. Direct TV on the other hand charges a fee to turn your system on and to turn your system off and also has attempted to charge me a $450 equipment recovery every fall even though I own MY KVH Equipment and sat reciever. I have spent over 30 hours on the phone over the years with their rep getting my bill corrected. Back to Dish. I went.

  6. Bob McLeran says:

    We fall into the boating category of “escape from TV” but when we do watch when cruising our Shakespeare 3004 SeaWatch omni-directional antenna works very well.|344|2028695|2029063&id=3019628

  7. Charlie McVey says:

    We have a KVH marine 1 with direct tv. We traveled the loop including the Bahamas and Canada. We never lost signal. We record what we want to watch on the DVR so we can go and come as we please. I called direct and changed our local channels several times. I told them we were traveling in our rv. I had just a couple of the agents refuse to give us local channels but they always would program the New York channels which are on a wider band satellite. I like KVH and Direct TV

  8. Joseph Pica says:

    Hello Ben, Real novice questions. If ATT is going to kill Direct TV via KVH that seems to say Don’t buy the Direct TV version of a KVA. Satellite Dish. My understanding is these KVA satellite dish were not compatible between dish and Direct TV. are not compatible but need to verify that.
    Also, since the primary providers Direct TV and Dish have migrated to the Ka band does this mean that the legacy KVH Ku band single Satellite dishes are not functional.? Or are Dish and Direct TV they still broadcasting in the Ku bands, just not in HD?

  9. Ben Stein Ben Stein says:


    Generalizing a little because some of the specifics get confusing. The decision by DirecTV to stop broadcasting via satellite will affect all makers of receiving dishes and force a move to IP (internet protocol) delivery of programming from DirecTV. If I were betting I’d wager a fair sum they won’t make the 2020 time-frame and wouldn’t be surprised to see them slip by a lot from that date.

    DirecTV is currently using Ka for HD programming but still broadcasts standard definition on Ku. Dish network currently broadcasts all of their programming on Ku.

    Nearly all the dishes out there are capable of receiving either DirecTV or Dish programming.

    • Colin A says:

      I’m curious how this goes. Most of the people I know still using direct TV at home live in rural areas with limited Broad band. Seems like it would cut out a core of their market (along with the RV and boat guys.)

      • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

        I agree with you that it doesn’t seem like a good way to serve their customer base. I think what at&t is counting on is that it might serve their bottom line better. Their satellite constellation is expensive to maintain. If they can get most people to move to an IP delivered solution and lose the most rural of their subscribers it might still be better for their bottom line. It won’t be better for those customers but I don’t think at&t really cares.

  10. Dan Barthel says:

    If you have good Wifi, a Roku and DirecTv Now is an unbeatable combination. There are small Roku TV’s suitable for marine use.

  11. Alden Cole says:

    There is a way to send home service to a remote location. That’s with the use of a Slingbox. It’s a little clunky, but it works. Broadband is required at both sights. Control is by an ap on a smart phone or other device. It can be streamed to a Roku device. The boxes can be found on eBay, but be aware that some of the older models had manufacturing issues. Capacitor virus, I’m told. So look for re manufactured units. I picked up three units for a hundred bucks including shipping. Those units actually had a tuner built in and can be hooked up to an antenna. Newer models don’t have a RF input.

  12. Adam Kerner says:

    In terms of data usage, is there any rough guideline for time of video per MB (GB)? For instance, if I wanted to stream a movie from a Netflix account, and I’m paying for data by the GB, how can I estimate the data hit to watch, say, a 2 hour movie?

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      Netflix help says their video ranges from 1-3gb per hour depending on resolution. I think that (fairly wide) range is probably a good indicator across the other streaming services.

  13. ELLIOT SIEGEL says:

    Hi Ben , love panbo , I have a tracvision M1 dome and a travvision M2 receiver . Supported by Direct TV , it “ STINKS “ and is expensive. I have a 38’ Sabre ( power boat ) I was informed by KVH THAT WITHIN THE NEXT 1-2 years all of their domes and receivers will be obsolete ( technology change ) and will have to be replaced , the wiring too . Which fixed mounted antenna do you recommend? Preferably ease of install and one that can use my existing COAX cable . Most of MT boating is from Maryland to Maine . Thanks Elliot

    • Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

      Thanks, Elliot. I recently heard that DirectTV was making some change that will badly affect marine antennas, and now I realize that we should try to figure out what’s going on. And by we I mean Ben Stein, who is much more expert in this area.

      One thing I can predict is that KVH has nothing to do with the changes and probably didn’t hear about it as early as they should have. Satellite TV companies have a long history of ignoring their marine clients and partners.

    • Ben Stein Ben Stein says:

      I’m working on getting more information from KVH and hope to publish an entry on the changing landscape soon. In the meantime I also think Jill from KVH will chime in with some clarification. It’s not quite as bad as described above but the current state of affairs sure is confusing. I think KVH is doing everything they can to clarify it, but that’s not easy and DirecTV is doing nothing to help.

  14. Jill Connors says:

    Thanks, Ben & Ben! Elliot, I do media relations for KVH, and I wanted to add some info that may be helpful. First, let me say I am sorry to hear about your frustration with the M1 this season. There are two issues:
    1. If you are still getting programming but not your locals, it is because DIRECTV is in the process of removing SD locals from the 119 satellite, starting with the smaller markets. You should still be getting other programming except for the locals.
    2. If you deactivated your M1 system (at the end of the last boating season, for example), DIRECTV will not reactivate it as they are no longer reactivating SD receivers. Your M1 ST antenna is not compatible with the newer HD receivers, so you would need to upgrade your antenna. (Note: The M1 DX model is not affected.)

    Our TracVision TV1 is a direct replacement for the M1 and would fit in the same spot on your boat and use the same COAX; right now, we have a promo for upgrading:

    If we can help any further, don’t hesitate to contact us via the landing page noted above.

    Thanks so much!

  15. Elliot Siegel says:

    Which is the most reliable fixed antenna ? My understanding is that the fixed antenna will use the same coax cable that is used for my KVH M1
    Dome ? Which would be a easy remove and replace , any suggestions are appreciated, thanks Elliot , Huntington, NY

  16. Kurt says:

    Hi I have a 27ft pontoon boat with a sun deck witch i trailer. I live in the north west suburbs of Chicago and boat on a river that is attached to several small lakes. I am looking to install a TV system and looking for the best way of doing that.

    Thanks I would appreciate your help

  1. November 28, 2018

    […] TV we like for news, sports and the occasional fill of mindless entertainment.  As I mentioned in my previous TV article, I’ve been using Plex and its DVR service to provide that, and while Plex is beautiful and […]

  2. August 12, 2019

    […] recent Panbo comment expressing frustration with DirecTV’s announcements caused me to do some more research and I […]

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *