Watch TV while Tailgating

The Do it yourself section of Ultimate Tailgating dot org has been a little sparse so I thought I would start out with something major.

Watch TV while Tailgating

One of the coolest things to do while tailgating is watch TV. I don’t know why, it just is cool to watch TV outside. So, whether you’re just chilling watching the pre-game with your friends or you would rather party out than make it in to the stadium (nearly a third of tailgaters don’t), getting all the pre-game updates , other game highlights, and just being the envy of all the other tailgaters around is worth dropping a little coin. If you’re prepared to spend some cash we’ve got several different ways you can watch TV while tailgating. We’ll review the different ways to get set up, how difficult it is to do and how much it will cost.

Method 1 – Traditional Satellite Setup

It used to be the only way you get TV from a stadium or camp ground was by setting up a huge satellite system. Now days the technology is a lot smaller but the setup remains quite complex. Using this method, you would need the following things:

  • Satellite Dish ($125 for dish and tripod)
  • Satellite Receiver ($130 for brand new HD receiver)
  • Outdoor TV that can handle the brightest of conditions (you can get crazy but a 32″ LCD is ~$1900)
  • Some sort of power supply
    • If you go Car Battery: Inverter ($100 for 1500-watt)
    • Gas Powered Generator (roughly $500 for 2100 watt 125cc)
  • Outdoor Extension Cord ($10)
  • Total Estimated Cost: $2265-2665

This way to setup a TV for tailgating can be pretty cumbersome. You’ve got all the equipment you have to bring along, then there’s the issue of setting up the satellite dish. You have to have a clear line to the sky and then go through the process of getting everything lined up so you get a good signal. On a good day this process takes around 30 minutes and that’s thirty minutes you could be doing other things (like setting up the portable tailgating grill). This setup also assumes that you already have a DirectTV or Dish network subscription (which can run $35/month and up). So for a cool $2500 and the cost of a satellite subscription you could be watching the game at the tailgating party. However, if you want to avoid the headaches check out the other methods

Method 2 – Easier Satellite Setup

The traditional satellite setup is tough because you have to fine tune the satellite dish which is a pain even when you have help. Plus if you don’t have the dish spot-on it can be frustrating because the slightest wind or tree limb can cause you to lose signal. And that will just piss you off when you’re in the middle of the game. The good news is that there are a couple products out there that makes the satellite setup so much easier.

  • The VuQube Stabilized Portable Satellite Antenna with Auto-Signal-Find is a self contained satellite antenna that automatically levels itself and then proceeds to fine-tune the satellite reception for you. All you have to do it plug the unit in and hook it up to the receiver. (~$710)
  • or you could try the Winegard Carryout Automatic Portable Satellite Antenna which is more-or-less the same thing. The design is a little different in that the handle is at the top which could make transporting a little easier. What’s nice about this unit is that it plugs into the 12volt outlet of the vehicle. But if you only have one cigarette lighter outlet it could compete with the inverter. (~$712)

If you use either of these two products you wouldn’t need the satellite dish or the tripod so that would knock about $125 bucks off the method 1 price but you still would need all of the other equipment (satellite receiver box, TV, power equipment, etc). So using this method you get rid of a lot of the headaches for about $2800 plus the cost of the satellite television subscription.

Method 3 – The Slingbox Method

Not many people have heard of Slingbox which surprises me. As it gets easier to get the internet from just about anywhere and with more devices being internet capable (especially all the mobile phones), The Slingbox service is way more applicable than ever. Basically, what Slingbox does is take the feed from your Cable/Satellite box or DVR and, through an internet connection, makes it accessible to any device that can access the internet. So you can watch live streaming television from your computer whether it’s at home on your wireless network or at work or at a tailgate party. Here’s what you would need:

  • Slingbox SOLO (~$170 or if you need HD ~$300)
  • Laptop Computer with a video output (HDMI, S-Video, DVI, VGA) (let’s just say $500 for average laptop)
  • Misc. Conversion cables (depends on what you need but a good guess would be $30)
  • Outdoor TV that can handle the brightest of conditions (you can get crazy but a 32″ LCD is ~$1900)
  • Some sort of power supply
    • If you go Car Battery: Inverter ($100 for 1500-watt)
    • Gas Powered Generator (roughly $500 for 2100 watt 125cc)
  • Outdoor Extension Cord ($10)
  • Total Estimated Cost: $2700-3100*

You’d also need a broadband wireless ($60/month) and Cable or Satellite TV ($40+/month). At first glance this looks like it costs more than the satellite methods mentioned above. But when you look closer it becomes much more affordable. Chance are you already have Cable or Satellite. With the other two methods you have to have Satellite TV. With this method you can use your existing TV service. You probably already have a laptop that would work, so that’s another $500 off the cost. Now we’re looking at $2200 to $2600, back in the range of the previous methods. And by using the Slingbox you have a few advantages. The setup is a onetime thing. You don’t have to setup a satellite dish every time and try and position it; the Slingbox is user friendly and can be set up easily. Once installed, you have to setup a free account with and follow the instructions to set up internet access. Once all of this is done, all you have to do is log in and watch.

Another advantage is that you can use the Slingbox for all sorts of other applications: traveling, watching TV in other rooms, watching TV at work (whether or not you should). You can also use it to control your DVR so you can record other games to watch when you get home. Sure you bought it for tailgating, but it doesn’t have to stop there.

No matter which way you decide to go it’s going to cost some cash, but, hell, why not? Right? This is a setup that’s going to ridiculously awesome while tailgating and you can use it wherever you travel – camping, RVing, whatever. A couple of things to consider before you head out to the party:

  • You’re spending a lot of money on all this gear, you want to make sure to keep it protected. Keeping it locked in your car and maybe in a box or under a blanket to keep any peeping toms from getting too curious.
  • Test your setup before you get to the game. You don’t want to look like an ass with all of this gear that flat out doesn’t work (not to mention all the space it takes up). Even the stupidest little thing can throw a wrench in the plans; you could forget a cable, not have gas for the generator, not have a good satellite signal. Setting it up and testing it out will help figure out what needs to be done and what you can and can’t control.
  • Bring extra food and beverage. You’re going to make many more friends with the tailgate TV time, might as well feed the mooches too.

Good luck and enjoy throwing the baddest party on the lot!

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11 Comments to “Watch TV while Tailgating”

  1. By Michael R, August 23, 2011 @ 5:47 pm

    I think that of all of these options right now the best and easiest is going to be the sling adapter. They are selling for about $100 and if you have DISH Network you can get it connected to your dvr and you can watch all of your dvr events as well as the game. We went to the Packers game against the Cardinals and we didnt even go in, we watched the pregame, and Last years superbowl and then the game. I connected my laptop to my 47 inch tv and used the sling to bring it right to the game. Best idea ever. Everyone loved it. If your interested in getting dish and the sling adapter, they are practicly giving it to new customers, go to The people there know what they are talking about and it seemed like they were more geared toward getting me what I wanted. AWESOME COMPANY!!!

  2. By Bill, August 30, 2011 @ 11:08 am

    Wouldn’t you also need to be in a hotspot for the Slingbox to work? Not sure how many stadium parking lots have wireless internet.

  3. By admin, August 30, 2011 @ 9:40 pm

    Hey Bill,

    You do need to have internet but you have quite a few options. Wireless hotspot is one. Many of the smartphones these days have the ability to tether and act as a wireless hotspot so there’s a good chance that you or someone in your crew would have it. Then there are the portable modems that cellphone companies are selling that do the same thing but work directly on your computer. This could add more to the cost, especially the last one which is something like $30-40/month. Good catch!

  4. By Chad, September 7, 2011 @ 11:36 am

    Not to rain on the parade, but when I go to my games of choice Michigan football in Ann Arbor. 120,000+ people congregated around the big house brings mobile internet to a grinding halt. At least in my experience. My phone gives up on trying to send phone calls, text messages, and I can absolutely forget about doing anything on the internet. The big Michigan Notre Dame game is this coming Saturday and only broadcasting on ESPN and ESPN 3. Trying hard to figure out a way to get internet and ESPN3 around the stadium but running stuck. Ideas?

  5. By admin, September 12, 2011 @ 8:15 am

    Hey Chad,

    I hope you found a way to enjoy your last minute comeback on ND and weren’t left in the cold listening to it. I have to admit, I’m scratching my head on how best to get internet when the phone service blows. I’ll keep working on it to see if we can avoid this sort of thing in the future. I welcome any and all suggestions from the community.

  6. By Trenton, November 1, 2011 @ 10:20 am

    Haven’t tried this yet, but it is something my frat is going to try to implement next season. We tailgate in the Grove, and for the first time ever, generators are allowed. So, our tents can now have electricity (we are too far from outlets in the trees).

    We plan on using an Xbox 360 with Xbox Live connection and ESPN3. Being a part of the SEC, the games that would be first priority for us will most likely be on ESPN3, and we could pick up others as well. This cuts out the cost of everything associated with a satellite.

    The TV, Xbox, and speakers and generator will be in a constructed TV cabinet that can be locked down for the game, so it is safe to leave in the Grove. Being in college, we have easy access to an Xbox and nice TV out of all of the guys in the frat. The only expense will be the generator, which will run about $300 for one that meets the Grove specifications.

    Also, students have access to a WiFi that the general public doesn’t, so it isn’t overloaded on game day.

  7. By Mariano, December 6, 2011 @ 2:31 pm

    Thats a lot of money to watch TV at a tailgate! I got my setup for around $350 and it works great everytime.
    – deep cycle marine battery ($90)
    – battery case($20)
    – two outlet dc/ac invertor ($35)
    – 19″ flat screen ($180)
    – regular digital/cable antenna ($20)

    I dont see the need for cable or satellite or sling box since most stadiums are in major cities and a regular (bunny ears) antenna works great for picking up the local channels…CBS and FOX.
    I got the deep cycle battery so that I wouldn’t drain my car battery and so that it could hold a longer charge. I’m a Raider season ticket holder and have only had to charge the battery once in the four games that I was able to go.
    The 19″ TV works great for traveling because it’s not too bulky and doesn’t take a whole of room given all the other tailgate supplies we travel with….namely beer and carne asada.
    The battery case is just for safety so that no loose wires are exposed and someone doesn’t accidently shock themselves in their drunken stupor.

  8. By admin, December 9, 2011 @ 8:55 am

    Word Up Mariano. That’s pretty solid. I may just have to update the post to reflect the easy way to do it. The only problem I can see is for the college tailgaters who may not have bunny ear access.

  9. By Cool Wife, September 23, 2012 @ 10:12 am

    Just checking in to see if there have been any advancements in this area. I’m having a surprise tailgate party for my husband’s 40th birthday and would love to be able to watch the game once it starts. This all seems slightly too technical for me (even tough you broke it down beautifully). Looking for a plug and play option! Thanks!

  10. By Minerva Prestidge, October 29, 2012 @ 2:19 pm

    Contact FailZero. But I’ve not been impressed. Slipstream lasts twice as long.

  1. Best TV for Tailgating | Ultimate Tailgating — September 23, 2010 @ 3:19 pm

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