Opting out of Dish Network, Looking for Whole House OTA and Streaming Setup


Nov 7, 2014
Dish has gotten to be too expensive for what we get. There are bunches of channels that we never use, along with music, etc. We do not subscribe to any premium channels. I need help determining what setup to use in order to achieve my desired outcome.

Existing Setup:
I have a total of 4 TVs in the home, 3x HDTV, 1x SDTV with RCA inputs as well as the F-type. I think all of the HDTVs have the F-input for OTA signals as as well.

The Dish system uses 2x receivers, with each one sending signals to TV1 and TV2. Each receiver has a DVR, and we record regularly.

Along with these, I have a Windows Home Server 2011 box and several PCs running Windows 7 Ultimate. One PC has an old Avermedia PCI TV tuner card I have used to watch & record OTA shows on my PC. While it is unlikely I'll ever watch anything on it, we also use an Android tablet that is on our Wi-Fi network.

Each TV location has a bundled wiring feed consisting of 2x RG6 and 2x Cat 5e cables. Currently the RG6 cables are used for Dish, one of the 5e cables is used for phone and the other for network. I have an equipment room that contains a splitter for the RG6 and a switch for the 5e cables.

Wireless capability is via a Wireless-n router.

Desired setup:
I want to be able to easily use a remote and watch and record (except for DVD):
2. Netflix & Hulu Plus and possibly others (trying to match what we watched on Dish)
3. DVD on main TVs (current TV1s). Can connect a DVD player to alternate inputs on TV if needed, so this is low priority.

In a nutshell, I want the system to be about as easy to use as the Dish remote was- turn on the box, the TV, and scroll to find what you want to watch.

Possible options I've researched:
1. Roku 2 or 3 (2 for SDTV, 3 for others)
Pro: Ease of use, lots of interface ability for streaming. No subscription fee.
Con: Cannot connect OTA, no way to play a DVD. Unknown as to recording. Also saw something about having to enter credit card info during setup process.

2. Windows Media Center
Pro: Free, proven to work with existing OTA tuner card. No subscription fee. Has free OTA episode guide. Add-in software allows for TV ads to be removed.
Con: Streaming ("Internet TV") apparently removed. Unknown as to interfacing to TVs, no DVD capability. Possible difficulty integrating streaming services.

3. Multiple HTPC setups:
Pro: Flexibility, can have as little or as much as needed. Could use tuner/dual tuner card, DVD, etc. AFAIK, could use server to store recordings so no massive HDs needed.
Con: Cost, possible complexity, use of remote.

4. Channelmaster DVR+
Pro: Dual tuners, no subscription fee
Con: Cannot interface Netflix, Hulu, etc.

I am playing around with XBMC on my computer. So far it seems to work OK, but I found it assigned incorrect movie names to some existing videos I had such as YouTube clips and some I shot with a camcorder. This was likely a noob mistake on my part.

I'm also looking into using software such as PlayLater to record streaming shows for later viewing.

A final question, is it possible to have a central setup- such as my WHS 2011 server- use the OTA card and streaming device and then have each user control what they want to watch? I've seen boxes that convert HDMI signals to Ethernet and then back to HDMI.

I'm leaning towards option #3 at this point, as I have some experience putting together PCs and this seems to be the most flexible setup.

Thanks for your patience in reading all of this and any suggestions or help.


Nov 7, 2014
Here's what I've done so far, along with some pending ideas:

Windows 7 Media Center (free)
MCEBuddy 2.3.13 (free, later versions require a $25 one-time donation but are faster)
Plex media server (free)
(pending) PlayOn & PlayLater ($40 one-time)

(pending) Hulu plus ($8/month)
(pending) Netflix ($8/month)

Above-listed computers.
Above-listed Avermedia card (will be replaced by pending SiliconDust HD Homerun HDTC-2US network tuner, $70~110)
(Pending) Roku 2 (SDTV) and 3 (all others) boxes, plus stick for ceiling-mounted projector. $40~99 each.
(Pending) RCA RCRPS04GR universal remote. Supposed to control Roku & up to 3 other devices, about $10 if you shop.
(Pending) Outdoor antenna

Process so far-
OTA signal received via desktop antenna and recordings scheduled via WMC. Files (WTV) are saved on faster computer. MCEBuddy SW converts them to MP4 and strips commercials (hit or miss so far, still learning about this), and places output file on NAS computer.

Plex SW reads files from NAS and places them as TV shows or movies.

So far, I've only been able to test it using a DLNA Blu-ray player, but the Plex server showed up OK and I could play recorded files.

Desired end result?
Universal remote will allow control of TV and Roku. Can use computer as DVR. PlayLater SW allows streaming shows to be recorded for later viewing. PlayOn SW claims several channels we already have such as CNN.

If (a big if at this point) I can get decent broadband I can save about $60/month over Dish NW/existing slow DSL and actually have more content to watch when I want to watch it. Leading candidate is Exede satellite plan for about $70/month.