How to turn your laptop or tablet into a TV
Check out our guide to watching TV on your laptop at university
03 Jul 2014
Heading to university without a TV? That doesn't mean you have to miss out on your favourite shows and soaps, for there are a number of ways you can watch telly on your laptop.
Here we'll walk you through a couple of options for watching both live and catch-up style TV, but first the most important bit - when you do and don't need a TV licence.
When you do need a TV Licence
You will need your own TV Licence if watching or recording live TV in your room, which will also cover you to stream live TV online on another device such as a tablet, laptop or phone.
Even if you do not have a TV and are only watching live programmes as they are broadcast on other devices such as a tablet, laptop or phone you'll still need a licence.
This applies whether you live in halls of residence, or in a shared student house. Note, even though the halls may have a licence, you still need one for your own room.
When you don't need a TV licence
If you're only streaming programmes after they've been broadcast via catch-up services like the BBC iPlayer and 4OD you don't need a TV licence.
Get the full lowdown on the TV Licensing site, which has a special page designed for students.
Live TV (need a TV licence)
Mum and dad have Sky at home and if you ask them nicely they may let you use their Sky Go logins to watch TV on your laptop at university.
Sky Go can be accessed through a web browser on your laptop - there's also an app for phones and tablets. With it you can tune into live TV from any Sky channel from anywhere you have an internet connection.
Whether you want to impress your new mates with the Monday Night Football or the latest in America's Next Top Model - your room could become a popular one.
Remember you need a TV licence for this.
But what about if you don't have Sky? Watch live terrestrial TV and Freeview channels through your laptop with TVCatchup. All you need to do is visit the TVCatchup site and quickly create an account.
Then simply select the channel you're after from the dropdown list and you're ready to roll. Before you can tune into the channel you first have to sit through a short advert - a small price for live TV on your laptop.
You can also find out what's on with the handy TV guide feature, and record shows to watch again later.
If you have a laptop with a super-sharp screen like the Apple MacBook with Retina or the Acer S7 it'll be like having a top-of-the-range TV in your bedroom.
Remember, you need a TV licence for this.
Watching TV after it's been broadcast (don't need a TV Licence)
Catch-up services such as the BBC iPlayer have revolutionised how we watch TV. No longer are we bound by the TV schedules - we watch shows whenever we want.
This chimes perfectly with uni life, when unexpected nights out, later-than-planned library sessions and extra shifts in your part-time job can all see your plans change at short notice.
With iPlayer you don't need to get home to watch EastEnders at 8pm on Monday, you can watch it whenever you want over the following 7 days from your laptop or tablet instead.
iPlayer is easy to use too. On your laptop just load up the iPlayer site in a web browser and you can search by BBC channel, or by programme category. If you're stuck for inspiration, check out the 20 most popular programmes list.
Similar services can also be found for the other main channels. ITV has ITV Player, Channel 4 has 4OD.
Catching up on TV boxsets your new mates introduce you to (don't need a TV Licence)
University is a rite-of-passage, a cultural awakening. While there you'll encounter all kinds of new music, films and telly.
New friends might introduce you to bands and cult programmes you've missed.
Thank heavens for Netflix, then. A streaming site that gives you access to entire boxsets for acclaimed series such as Breaking Bad, House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.
You can either pretend you've already seen them, and binge a whole series over the weekend to cover your tracks, or come clean about missing them first time around, and enjoy them at a more natural pace.
Something to watch out for
Streaming takes up a lot of data. For example watching a football match in HD will take up around 2.4gb of data, while streaming a 90-minute movie will eat up 500MB of data.
Sign up for an unlimited broadband package with your new housemates if you plan on watching a lot of content over the web.
How are you going to watch TV via your laptop next term? Let us know in the comments below...