More and more people are becoming cord cutters – people who are quitting cable and satellite TV in favor of streaming services. Providers like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Video are a great job cornering the on-demand space,but they haven’t completely taken over what’s great about TV. Luckily if you want to cut the cord but are looking for something a little different, you can stream free TV using a program called Kodi
Kodi began life as an app for the original Xbox console called XBMC. That’s short for Xbox Media Center.
It was a visionary application that predates all the modern Android and Apple TVs. Unless you wanted to drag a computer to your living room, this was the best way to play those media files on SDTVs back in the day.
Today XBMC has evolved into Kodi – a multiplatform media player that can do more than anyone could imagine back then.
Speaking of modern smart TVs, check out my article on how you can add some brains to your non-smart TV. Some of those options will run Kodi too!
Free as in Freedom
Kodie is Free and Open Source Software (FOSS). It means you never have to pay for it and anyone can modify it to suit their needs.
It will run on these platforms:
- Raspberry Pi
- iOS (if jailbroken)
- Mac OS X
The most likely place anyone is going to be running Kodi is on an Android, so I’ll be using the Android app in this tutorial. All other versions of Kodi work more or less the same though, so you should have no trouble.
I Fought The Law
Before I go any further I have to talk about the legality of streaming through Kodi.
Kodi itself is a perfectly legal media player application. Just like any other media player.
However, if you use it to play pirated content you’re doing something against the law.
The content available in the included repository are generally safe, but it’s still your responsibility to make sure what you stream is kosher.
Also, bear in mind that not all content streamed through Kodi is free. You’ll need to pay a subscription fee sometimes, but Kodi provides a way to stream it to your TV easily.
So with all the warnings out of the way, let’s get down to business. The first thing you should do is either visit the Kodi download page or head to the Google Play store as I’ve done to download the software.
Now open up the app and you should see this screen:
We’ll talk about all the other stuff that Kodi can do later, but for now we’re interested in video streaming. So scroll to “videos” and then tap on “add-ons”.
Add It On
An add-on in Kodi is sort of like an app within an app. Yeah, it’s a bit like that movie Inception in a way. Kodi needs add-ons to stream any content over the internet.
Now you can scroll through each add-on from the official Kodi repository. Note that some of these won’t work depending on the country you are in. So I picked one that appealed to me.
Now all I have to do is hit “install” and wait for the addon to finish downloading. This is a good time to browse around for others you might like.
Now, just go back to the add-on list under “videos”. You should see your new add-on there. Tap on it to start it.
Some add-ons require a setup from you. They usually have a wizard that asks you stuff like what language you speak or region you’re from. Fill in the info as appropriate.
Now you can pick the content you want from the add-on’s menu. If all is well, the stream should start up.
Congratulations, you have managed to stream free TV!
During this tutorial, you might have noticed that Kodi can do a lot more than stream free TV. In the main menu you’ll find these additional sections:
Installing add-ons for these media types works the same as it does for video, so go ahead and explore the ones from the stock Kodi repository.
Another interesting thing you can do with Kodi is play local content. If you have media files on a USB device that you can hook up to your Android TV, Kodi will play files from it.
It’s not only local storage that Kodi can play stuff from. If you have a network media streaming client installed on a computer you can stream media over the LAN.
This means that you can access all the media on your computer hard drive from your Android TV remotely.
This is one of the reasons Kodi is such an elegant and complete media center solution. Like I said, it goes way beyond the ability to stream free TV.
Get With the Program
Don’t forget that last section labeled “programs” either. These are various utilities and applications the community have created to do all sorts of things.
For example, there’s a program add-on that will wake a remote network device when Kodi starts up. So you don’t have to leave the remote computer on all the time just to be ready to stream.
Stream Free TV Like a Boss
Kodi is one of the best things to come out of the FOSS movement. It’s genuinely useful and does its job better than any commercial solution I can think of. To this day, even Microsoft has yet to build a better media center app.
That’s ironic because it’s exactly thanks to Microsoft missing the potential of the original Xbox to be a media center that we have Kodi. The latest Xbox One is still trying with limited success.
Yes, Kodi lets you stream free TV, but more importantly, it lets you feel free while streaming TV – you can change to be whatever you want it to be. All you need is time, patience and a community to support you.