The ABC's of TV for RV

Here are the best options for TV viewing in your rig.

Don Cohen Don Cohen  |  02.15.2015

[Editor’s note: For an updated version of this article click here.]

Mobile TV watching has come a long way since my parents traveled in their RV in the early 1970’s where a “compact,” 12-inch square, black and white Sony, with a single telescoping wand antenna was their only option.  And even at that, the channel selection was usually limited to four or five channels in a big city and maybe one in a rural town.

Now, inside our Navion motorhome in a rainy Tampa with two flat screens, HD TV antenna, cable input, satellite dish, and AppleTV, the only reason we’d be bored is because we’re dead.  But, all this entertainment choice comes with a trade-off: complexity.  At this point, if you’re part of that exclusive class of book readers only, you can stop here while the rest of us ascend the hierarchy of television reception options.


If you’ve been plugged into cable at home over the past decade you probably missed the part of the digital revolution where the FCC required over-the-air broadcasters to switch to digital signals.  This required new frequencies and tuners and, for the past decade, all TVs have this circuitry built in.  It all means that rabbit ears now refer only to Bugs Bunny, not the twin v-rods extending from the rear of the TV.  To receive over-the-air TV signals you now need an HDTV antenna.  In our case its a batwing shaped KINGJack TV antenna that can be rotated around by a manual ceiling control with five little blue LEDs that light up when you home in on the best signal.

Broadcasters continue to air their main channels as usual, but there are sub-channels they also broadcast alternative programs on.  The result is that there are far more channels to chose from over the air, but don’t expect to see cable/satellite only channels like CNN or Discovery off your antenna.


If your rig is wired for cable input, you can get basic programming tiers in standard definition.  This usually is 20-40 channels.  Hi-definition channels usually require a digital tuner (ex. cable box).  In one case, when we were hooked up to a cable in Moab, Utah I was shocked to see some high-def signals appear, but that’s rare.  Park cable systems range from poor to crystal clear signals and often the lower band channels are poorer in quality (there’s a technical reason for that, but it’s not worth going down that rabbit hole).

Depending on whether or not you are feeding your TV with an over-the-air or cable signal, all modern TVs will require you to go into the menu settings and have the TV scan for the available channels – a process that usually takes 10 to 20 minutes.  Inside psychological tip: if you stare at the screen while it’s scanning, it will seem like it’s taking twice as long, so busy yourself with something else while your TV does it’s thing.

And here’s the number one tuning tip than many RVers overlook:  make sure your outside antenna booster circuit is turned off.  Many late model RVs (Winnebago included) use antenna amplifiers for off-the-air digital antennas.  When that little switch is on (and there’s usually an indicator light) it can cause distortion in the cable signal. Turn he switch off — your picture quality should be much better.

Satellite service

In the US there are only two satellite providers:  DirectTV and Dish Network. Bell Canada is the Canadian provider.  While both US services offer a gigantic range of signals, DirectTV does offer exclusive services like NFL Sunday Ticket that allows you to watch any NFL game.  Satellite service is the ultimate TV lover’s choice with both Dish and Direct offering 100+ channel packages starting around $60 per month.

Adding satellite to your RV requires several decisions to be made up front. The first is which service and the second is which type of dish.  Let’s start with service.

While Direct and Dish are very comparable in their offerings and prices, they use completely different satellites.  In DirectTV’s case if you want high definition channels, then you’ll have to go with an open style satellite dish.  If Direct’s standard definition is okay, then you can use a dome covered antenna.  Unlike DirectTV, Dish allows you to use a dome covered dish for both standard and hi-def signals. If you already have Direct or Dish service at home, you might consider taking one of your receivers on the road.  If you are buying a service from scratch, then Dish has the edge for several reasons.

One feature Dish provides at no extra cost is allowing you to change your service address so you can get local channels. If we’re going to be staying in a particular state or region for a week or two I’ll call Dish and give them a local address (such as a campground) for our service address.  That activates the local channels so you get all national networks like CBS, NBC, ABC, FOX, PBS and CW.  (There used to be an additionally priced service for national networks from the east and west coasts, but that’s no longer offered.)

Dish works with a dome antenna for both hi-def and standard-def signals.  So products like the Winegard Mission RT, G2 and Tailgater work well.  Dish also has a “pay as you go” plan that allows you to basically pay for satellite service on a month to month basis when you’re traveling.  But here’s the irritation with that.  While Dish advertises and markets this service to RVers, the actual process is painful and confusing.  When I first started the service I asked several Dish agents about the consequences of not paying my bill.  I was assured that it was not a problem and service would simply be turned off, until I wanted to re-activate by paying for the month ahead.

Well, when I stopped paying, the notices via mail and e-mail started coming with dire warnings should I not keep my account current.  I called several times and was assured that, “no, everything’s fine and you should discard the insistent e-mail and mail payment reminders.”  I held my breath to see if Dish would ultimately report this as a credit problem — fortunately, they didn’t.  Usually we turned service off for a month or two, but in our most recent stretch at home we didn’t use Dish services for over 90 days.  That caused my account to be deactivated and I had to pay a small reactivation fee.  That particular agent said I should call and “suspend” my service and I would only be assessed a $5 dollar a month maintenance fee.

Man, all of this is far more complicated, confusing, and as customer unfriendly as it gets — especially since it’s so contradictory from the promise of Dish’s pay as you go marketing.  Yet despite this continuing aggravation I still feel that Dish is the best choice because of the ability to get both high and standard definition channels and the rather torturous ability to save money by suspending service.

Satellite dishes

Dishes are either fixed to the roof or detachable with a cable that runs from a dish unit placed on the ground. King and Winegard are the two big suppliers and both make good products.  We’ve had Winegard dome models on both our Navions and have been very happy with their dependability and good customer service.

If you do a lot of camping under the trees, you’ll want a detachable antenna dish that you can place with an unobstructed sky view.  I prefer the roof mount and, if TV watching is important to us that evening, we’ll often ask for a satellite friendly site when we check into a campground.  My signal’s been thwarted by very sparse branches.  There are also inexpensive apps for both the iPhone and Android that show you where the satellites are so you can park for an unobstructed view.

The traditional open style, concave satellite dishes need to be stowed in a lockdown position for travel.  Domes protect antennas from highway wind and the elements. If you remove the lightweight dome cover you’ll see a similar, though smaller, concave antenna underneath. Many dome units offer in-motion satellite tracking for continuous video viewing when traveling.  And if you have a coach with multiple TVs, you want to make sure that the antenna you buy has the ability to send two different signals to two or more TVs.

Satellite in Canada and Alaska

If you’re a Canadian, you’ll have a choice of providers between Bell or Shaw.  As of 2012, Bell no longer has signal service below the border.  Shaw does provide service in the US so you can keep up on your favorite curling competitions.  For Alaskan travelers, the general consensus is that satellite signal quality degrades the further north you get.  The satellites used for TV are in a geosynchronous (rotating at the same speed of the earth)  location 23,000 miles above Brazil.  This means that the more north you get, the lower in the sky you have to point your dish (almost to the horizon) which increases the problems for a blocked signal.  Satellite signals are very weak and that’s why dish antennas are curved to concentrate the signal (like cupping your hand over your ear).  In the case of extreme north locations you generally see larger four foot dishes to gather in the weak signal.

A new option on the horizon

I’ve discussed the three different ways (over the air, cable and satellite) that most people will use to watch TV, but there’s a fourth one that is starting to get some traction:  streaming.  Streaming is getting a TV signal through the Internet.  There’s a growing list of streaming media players vying for consumer’s love.  And there’s a lot to discuss about the ins and outs of this emerging technology which will appear in another article in the near future.  Streaming may have a very bright future for RVers, but for now the three “old school” ways of getting your favorite shows will be with us for a long time to come.

Similar Articles


Comments on this site are moderated for appropriateness and relevance. While differences in opinion, questions and other constructive comments are welcome, we will not be posting offensive, argumentative or unrelated comments. If you have a service, parts or product related question, please contact us to reach out to Winnebago Industries staff directly.


  1. Dan Posted on 08.28.2018

    Don’t know if anyone mentioned this but there is no such thing as a HDTV antenna. Stations are not sending an HD signal over the air they are sending a digital signal. All antennas pick up signals from the airwaves and send them to your TV. Its the TV that allows you to see HD quality not the antenna. If you don’t have an HDTV you will still receive the signal from the antenna.

  2. DM Posted on 08.01.2018

    Could you please do an update on this article subject?
    The demographics of the RV lifestyle are changing where some have done it all and seen it all, now their wheels are chocked. While the rest of us are traveling, not in a fixed location for more then weeks at a time. We need an update for these two groups concerning TV reception options via antenna or…..?

    1. Brooke Baum Posted on 08.01.2018

      Hi DM, Thanks for suggesting an update for this article, we will work on that. For now, there is a slightly updated version from 2016 that may be of interest to you:
      Thanks! -GoLife Editor

  3. James Watkins Posted on 03.22.2018

    I have a 2008 Winnebago Access 24 ft. I am looking for a schematic showing the location, type of wires, and how easy it is to hook up to the dish spot marked on the roof. My book only says it’s there. I don’t want to make a mistake when I drill the hole.

  4. Di Posted on 01.12.2018

    We have the liteweight dome cover off, and its pouring with rain, does that effect the care of the antenna?

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 01.12.2018

      Hopefully not. There are some low voltage electronics, but they’re probably sealed. Let things dry out and, if everything’s working correctly, get a new dome replacement as soon as possible.

  5. TERRI Posted on 01.07.2018

    I have dish tv. When we bought our used rv, it also has a dish on top of the motorhome and a dish receiver. Im not sure how to get this working and I also wondered if I could use dish anywhere while traveling.

  6. Les Posted on 12.18.2017

    Any suggesions on what system to use for Canadians traveling south to Arizona. Would you recommend Shaw ?

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 12.18.2017

      I’m not sure Shaw will work much past the northern part of the US. Some of this may depend on what kind of satellite dish you own on whether or not you go with Dish or DirecTV. They’re both fine and priced fairly competitively.

  7. william gaut Posted on 11.24.2017

    I am currently using a 1000.2 satellite dish and vip211z receiver in my RV. I want to go to a tailgater for easier setup. What model’s will support watching 2 TV’s at same time on different channels? We can do exactly that presently. Thanks

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 11.25.2017

      Take a look at the Winegard Carryout G2. The specs say that it supports multiple TVs. However, you will need a receiver for each set.

  8. Joseph Posted on 11.12.2017

    I have a 2016 HR vacationer gas with King jack 8500 antenna. This thing is useless. I get 3-4 out 4 lights and still no signals.
    What can I do to get some TV channels?

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 11.12.2017

      Depending on how doggedly curious you are, you make be able to troubleshoot this yourself. The first thing to check is that your TV has properly scanned for channels. TV setups give you the choice to scan for cable or off the air. There’s a difference. If you’re in an area where you know there are strong local signals, pick up a very inexpensive antenna (here’s one for $14 on Amazon: Plug an external antenna in and if your TV is getting a signal then you know you’ve got a problem somewhere from your jack back to the antenna. At that point you may need to seek further help from a dealer or residential TV antenna specialist.

  9. Kenneth Gray Posted on 11.02.2017

    My Wife and I just purchased a 2017 View 24G over the summer. We would like to add an “in-motion” satellite dish. This would allow my better half to watch when I am driving. We know the View is pre-wired for the satellite dish, I have seen the marked spot on the roof. We have DirectTV at home so it would be an easy connection to extend the contract to our RV and giving us familiarity. I am not as concerned about the HD service as the TV’s are under 24” or 26”, although HD would be a bonus. Adding to the equation is the fact we go to Canada with some regularity and would like to be able to access there too(Ontario mostly). I don’t know if we are able to get more than 1 channel at a time. We are trying to figure what is our best option? KVH, King or Winegard? Don’t want to spend $5k either.

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 11.03.2017

      Any kind of in-motion antenna will have to be the dome type instead of the dish. I know the Winegard T4 and King Dome in-motion products only receive SD signals for DirecTV, but both SD and HD for Dish. They both offer 2 channel outputs (which will require a dual or two separate receivers). We have crossed borders into both Canada and Mexico and were able to receive US signals. However, that’s not a guarantee. There’s a certain point you may travel outside of the satellite’s footprint coverage.

  10. dan Posted on 10.16.2017

    Not sure I caused this but when hooking up cable to our rv in used the output jack instead of the input. The air antenna works fine. But now I try to use cable and the tv does not pick up any channels. The antenna is turned off

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 10.19.2017

      You probably didn’t harm anything by the cable switcheroo. Try this: make sure your cables are CORRECTLY connected to the proper jacks. Then, go to your TV and get into the settings mode. Every TV is a little different, but essentially the same in scanning for channels to set up. If you’re feeding the TV with a cable source, then run a scan for cable channels. Most RV parks that offer cable provide the older style analog signal that does not require a set-top box. All over-the-air channels are now digital.

  11. kitty and hawk Posted on 10.08.2017

    Great article. I wonder if it took as long for it to be written and edited as it did for me to read and reread it trying to understand, at least the basics and nope, im no closer to getting it than i am in calling equipment parts “dohickies”. I’m probably a little older than most newbie RV enthusiasts and perhaps it is time for me to admit i’ve slowed down a bit. Especially when it comes to technology but im still a whip compared to my husband. I truly appreciate the time and thought the author invested in his attempt to educate me but i. Really tried much harder than i wanted to and i don’t get it. Quite frankly, i don’t want to get it and have spent too much time on this already. I want someone young and knowledgable to come and do whatever it is that needs to be done so i xan make my husband a sandwhich; push the button on a remote control thingamajig and escape for a couple hours while he watches the Raiders Game. Does anyone do this kind of job? I think there is the potential for good money to be made if a couple of well seasoned folks went out for about an hour or two to visit RV beginners and teach them, with there own equipment how to plug everything in; hookup hoses that burp if you dont burp them first; where to put extra leveling blocks; where the fuses are and how to avoid blowing them everytime you pull anchor and for me, most importantly, what button do i push to make the tv work. and where do I pay the bill every month when our social security posts so we dont ever, ever get cut off. I would happily pay someone willing to do this for us but the Raiders started 7 minutes ago, so i’m doubting it’ll be today.

  12. jack delmar Posted on 09.19.2017

    Hi, we are rv’ers who are going full time in October, starting in NC, then to Ga then to Florida and then to Yuma ,Az. Called Dish, interested in the playmaker and they stated they don’t work well on the east coast since they only pick up the western Arc?? but the G2 has both western and eastern Arcs? True or not??

  13. Scott Owen Posted on 09.15.2017

    I have a 2017 Winnebago Minnie Plus. The TV doesn’t work when dry camping. I thought the TV runs off of 12volt. Any help would be appreciated

  14. Benny Bulger Posted on 09.03.2017

    As a first timer I spent 2 hours trying to figure out why I couldn’t get the on site cable to work on my brand new motor home. Your
    “And here’s the number one tuning tip than many RVers overlook: make sure your outside antenna booster circuit is turned off. Many late model RVs (Winnebago included) use antenna amplifiers for off-the-air digital antennas. When that little switch is on (and there’s usually an indicator light) it can cause distortion in the cable signal. Turn he switch off — your picture quality should be much better. ”
    Put my nightmare to bed. Thanks for the insight. One thing to add is make sure you do the scan AFTER you turn off the booster.

  15. Debbie Goldsmith Posted on 08.26.2017

    After turning off the green button I don’t get any channels even after turning it back on. Any help would be appreciated

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 08.29.2017

      Ahh. Welcome to the confusion of the antenna amplifier. Many Winnebago coaches use an antenna amplifier. It’s most commonly a small pushbutton on the antenna jack panel. When pushed in, and the light is green, it indicates that the amplifier is on. You’ll want it on if you are trying to get over the air signals. If you’re connected to an outside cable source (like in an RV park) you’ll want to make sure the amplifier is off. If not, you may get a poor or no signal from the cable.

      If you’re using a source, such as a satellite, DVD, or streaming media player that uses and HDMI connection, then it doesn’t matter whether or not the antenna amplifier is on or not.

  16. Dianne Siegelman Posted on 06.15.2017

    We have a new 5th wheel with3 TV’s. We had Directv install a splitter so we could bring a satellite receiver/DVR from home and we have a dish mounted on a tripod. It worked fine until we got out to Arizona. We live in Alabama. We could not get the dish to pick up a signal at all. Do we need to change the tilt or anything because of the distance from our home. This was very frustrating. We were assured we could pick up signals but could not. Thanks.

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 06.18.2017


      Most TV satellites are parked 23,000 miles over Brazil. That’s why dishes always point south. As you travel, your angle changes in your “view” of the particular satellite(s). By and large roof mounted RV satellite antennas have an auto seek function that scans and locks onto a signal.

      Tripod mounts generally require manual pointing. Depending where you travel, your dish may need to be pointed more to the right or left and up and down facing the southern sky. Here’s a link to an article that will help:

      I also recommend downloading an “aiming” app for your smartphone that will show you where the satellites are and give you a better idea of where to point the dish and avoid obstructions. There are a handful of apps out there that do this for both Dish and Direct.

  17. Angela Vos Posted on 05.11.2017

    Your article is dated 2015. Is there a portable, automatic HD satellite receiver that can be used with DIRECTV?

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 05.13.2017


      Winegard makes an excellent portable antenna called the Tailgater ( However, these kinds of smaller domed units only receive the standard-definition (SD) signals from DirecTV. If you want to get hi-def signals with Direct it will require a non-dome larger dish antenna. These can be set up on tripods outside the coach.

  18. Landon Cox Posted on 05.09.2017

    Great article! However, you need to learn the difference between the verbs “hone” and “home”. In the “Over-the-Air” discussion (last sentence, first paragraph) you say “. . . five little blue LEDs that light up when you hone in on the best signal.” To “hone” something means to sharpen it as in “honing” an axe or a knife to sharpen the cutting edge. The verb you should have used is “home” – as to home in like a homing pigeon or a heat seeking missile. I

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 05.09.2017

      I appreciate the nice comment and sharp eye. In this particular instance it was a typo and proofing mistake, not a grammatical gaffe, though your short lesson does point out this common misuse. Ms. Huebner, my eight grade English teacher would concur.

  19. Maurice Posted on 04.19.2017

    I have talked to two different sources at Dish and Dish outdoors. Both tell me that whether you use Dish Pay as You Go for one hour or for a full month, you pay for that whole particular month, not just hours/days used. Can you tell me if that is correct, as I see comments here that are contrary to that. I would like to know exactly how Dish Pay as You Go Works.

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 04.21.2017

      Dish’s pay as you go plan is essentially a one month pre-payment (in advance) plan.

  20. Kathy Hudson Posted on 04.12.2017

    Hello, really enjoy reading these articles and has given me great knowledge, but not seeing my problem, here goes. We bought a 2007 Winnebago Journey that has the Winegard Auto Satellite Dome already installed. We we brought it home, took our Direct TV box out of the house and hooked in the RV and it worked, was so HAPPY. We turned everything off that night and the next day and still to this day Nothing, the Satellite Box tells me that it is locked on the satellite direct uses 101, and region 6. but the direct tv box tell me no signal. We have tried everything to get the satellite TV back with no luck. Any Suggestions??. BTW the direct tv receiver works great in the house.

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 04.13.2017

      From your description it seems like the satellite dish may not be searching correctly. I have found Winegard’s tech support to be very helpful. Here’s a link to their contact page.

  21. Kathy Hamilton Posted on 04.11.2017

    We are moving into our camper full time. We are staying in one spot but also want the ability to record programs. Is that available? The campground we are at has WiFi but not nearly enough

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 04.12.2017

      If you can receive and are satisfied with over-the-air channels, then a good DVR solution might be a TiVo. Dish Network has a one-time charge that allows DVR recording onto a small USB drive. I’ve tried that and it works well, however it’s more limited to recording while you’re out versus recording one channel while you’re watching another. However, both Dish and DirecTV do offer sophisticated DVR options. For an RVer the tricky part is having an antenna with multiple LNBs which would allow you to record/watch several channels simultaneously.

  22. Jewel Lusher Posted on 02.21.2017

    We recently bought a King Jack black batwing. It said it has a built-in booster but I can’t pull in CBS. We had at first gone cheep and bought the $50.00 white batwing top that you add to the wineguard antenna. It also wouldn’t bring in CBS or NBC. Then we took it off but left the booster hooked up and got everything! I so regret spending the $150.00 for the king jack. We should have left the smaller white one off and just left the booster hooked up. Can’t figure out why the batwing shape seems to block some signals!

  23. Eugene Bohatch Posted on 02.13.2017

    Where may I find detailed instructions on how to connect portable satellite dish and receiver?
    Have 2010 Aspect WF730C
    KING Tailgater2 for DISH
    DISH Receiver VIP211Z
    26″ LCD TV mounted in center cabinet over cab.
    In cabinet to left are 3 cable ports marked:
    From roof satellite dish.
    From portable satellite dish.
    To satellite receiver outlet.
    Owner manual says RV is prewired for satellite.
    In shore power bay, at back of RV, are 2 cable ports: 1 for cable, 1 for satellite.
    In cabinet to right of TV is the Quest Video Control box with switches for Air, Cable, Satellite, DVD.
    Below the Quest box is the DVD player.
    All, any help will be greatly appreciated
    Thanks, Gene Bohatch

  24. Rae Tally Posted on 12.23.2016

    We just retired and bought our first TT (Timber Ridge 27′ by OutdoorsRVMftg). We are winter camping in Gallatin Gateway, MT (between Big Sky & Bozeman). Being long time tent campers this is our first experience with a TT. Bought Dish (Winegard Pathyway X1) and still don’t have it set up. We are a ways from our RV dealer (should have had them install the dome, etc.). Went to local RV to purchase but they now can’t help with install. Calling the Dish technical support has not been a positive experience. Any advice on the basics of just getting hooked up (step by step) would be appreciated. Trying for 3 weeks now, :o(

  25. tom Posted on 11.30.2016

    Saw this and thought it might be of interest

    You Can Now Watch Netflix Anywhere You Want Without The Internet

  26. jann Posted on 11.16.2016

    We are full time and would like to watch sports on tv when we are camping! So from what I have read above ,Dish”pay as you go”, seems to be best. We will be buying a portable satellite ! My question, our son has DirectTV (best for Sunday Ticket) ; could we piggy back off his? He would be watching at home when we watch at campground!

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 11.20.2016

      I still believe that for most RVers, Dish is the best way to go. As far as sharing a Sunday Ticket — technically you need to be the owner of your account. If you had a DirectTV account at home, you could then legally take your receiver from home and put it in your RV. Many people do that and it’s perfectly fine with either DirecTV or Dish. As full-timers, the honest (though expensive) way is to establish an account with Direct and pay for the Sunday Ticket service.

  27. klaus Posted on 11.14.2016

    I have a5thwheel with 3 TVS I have my home with 1 TV
    So here it is .. I like to get a box for the 5 th . so I can see all 3 TVs as I am on the go , but if I am home I also like to see TV in my home as it is I have to pay a month fee any how , can I do this ??????

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 11.20.2016

      Klaus. There are two issues here. The first is feeding multiple TVs. If you have multiple TVs at home or in your RV you will need (a) a satellite antenna with multiple LNBs and (b) a set-top box for each TV — that’s if you want to watch different channels on each set at the same time. If you’re content with seeing only one channel on ALL screens, then you would go with a less expensive dish and one receiver that (probably with an amplifier or splitter) sends a signal to ALL the other TVs.

      If you have a satellite account at home, you can then legally take your receiver from home and put it in your RV. Many people do this and it’s perfectly fine with either DirecTV or Dish.

  28. Phil Osborne Posted on 10.25.2016

    We recently (June 2016) purchased our first class C after having class A RV’s since 1989. We are on our 5th unit. This one has two Vizeo TV monitors and is equipped with a Dish receiver and Weingard auto search dome. On a recent month long trip the unit worked great, but when we got home, we called and had the active service discontinued while paying a 5 dollar monthly fee to avoid a new service charge next time we take an extended trip. I am now at a campground in Waco, TX for a few days, and tried to use the regular antenna to receive local channels. We can not get it to work and continue getting a prompt regarding “no signal.” My question is am I missing something somewhere that allows me to use the standard antenna? My monthly cost for Dish is 68 dollars whether I am using it or not unless I call to disconnect. We only take a couple of extended trips per year, so it is not worth the reconnect for just a few days if I have to pay for the entire month…in my opinion…

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 10.26.2016

      There’s a few things at work in your comment. First, is the $5 a month fee to voice a service charge. This is an area that I find highly perplexing about Dish. Under their poorly defined RV “pay as you go” program, I simply don’t pay the next month’s bill after we come off of a trip. After a couple of months my account goes inactive. When we are ready to resume service I call Dish and reactivate by paying for a month in advance. There isn’t a reactivation fee — or at least I’ve yet to see one.

      Whether you add or use a satellite service depends on where and what kind of TV you want to watch. We tend to use both off the air and satellite, but increasingly find our video viewing oriented more to watching downloaded movies or series that we stream from the iPad.

  29. William Patterson Posted on 10.15.2016

    We have a flat screen tv with a tuner and a built in DVD player. When we go to an RV park that has cable I simple hook up and go to the menu on the screen and it scans the input for the available channels. Same thing if I only have my over the air channels.
    What I am looking for is a DVR that has a similar tuner so I can record these programs for nothing more than the ability to skip commercials….record 30 minutes into a program for that kind of time shift. Seems like a simple task. Do not care if it is SD or HD as the TV we have is simple but gives us entertainment.

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 10.16.2016


      Look for a Magnavox HD DVR/HDD 500GB ATSC Tuner ($269 online at Walmart). It will record 2 digital (ATSC) signals at once. That may or may not work on campground cable, but should with over-the-air signals. It requires AC power and also has a DVD player.

  30. Mary Bean Posted on 09.24.2016

    We bought a used RV with a really nice Winngaard(?) on top. We got direct TV at home so we could use it in our RV (The dish is set for Dierctv)
    We pay $6 a month to have a receiver in RV. Works great.

  31. Dalton LeBleu Posted on 09.13.2016

    Look into a hotspot from tmobile, and an apple tv or similar device. With binge on from tmobile, you can stream for free from networks including espn, netflix, youtube, google prime and a bunch more.

  32. kelly willis Posted on 08.28.2016

    We are so frustrated with trying to get our new Winegard G2+ to work with our Direct TV. Winegard customer service doesnt have great hours for working folks. Its gonna be a long winter in the parks system with no tv!

  33. Chris Hudsons Posted on 12.15.2015

    You actually have the best option for rv’s. Thanks you a lot for posting this insights.

  34. Adrienne Brietzke Posted on 12.04.2015

    Very informative! Looking to buy our first RV – a Thor Axis 25.2 – and start seeing the country. Article here & the comment thread are extremely helpful. Thanks!

  35. Roger Sothman Posted on 11.06.2015

    When we purchased our 2014 Winnebago Access Premier, we had a Winegard Traveler satellite dish installed. We take our DirecTV receiver from home with us. It works great, and even though the receiver is HD, it also receives SD channels also. The only drawback to the whole system is that Winnebago still had HD compatible cable installed, but no HDMI cabling. DirecTV no longer has a cable outlet on their receivers (unless you have an old one.) All newer receivers only allow HDMI input. This rendered the cabling in the RV useless. Our RV dealer had some problems rectifying this ($$), and finally strung an HDMI cable in the back of the cabinets to the front tv. The back TV, with the help of a converter of some sort, now repeats the signal from the front TV. It’s not the best solution, but we have high def on the front tv, and a repeat signal SD on the back tv. All other TV functions such as cable and air work normally. We really like the Winegard Traveler, as it is all automatic in finding the satellites and setting up.

  36. Carlos Posted on 11.03.2015

    I would like to find a way to know the signal strength so I can best direct the antenna before scanning for channels. What would you recommend for this?

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 11.05.2015

      Our past two Navions have both had the standard HD amplified antennas that Winnebago uses in almost all their models. These units have 5 blue LEDs which light up sequentially the stronger the signal is. Usually getting 3 out of 5 is enough for a good signal. When we’re not using our Dish satellite I’ll rotate the outside antenna first to find the strongest indication of signal and then put the TVs in scan mode.

  37. chet Posted on 10.27.2015

    Is there a way to have the ability to record programs once you are set up in a RV resort . Which is the better service for this dish or direct .

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 10.28.2015

      Yes there is! If you’re a DirecTV subscriber you can get a DVR receiver. Dish has an equivalent one too. However, these are pure residential receivers. The Dish VIP211z is the one we use. I chose Dish over DirecTV as I can get both the SD and HD channels with my Winegard Mission Satellite antenna. And there’s another upside to the VIP211. You can plug an external USB hard drive (good ones are about $50) into it and, for a $40 one-time-only charge it gives you DVR capability. This is a very good value. However, unlike fancier DVRs, this solution is only good for recording a channel either while you’re watching or away from your coach. That’s because the antenna/receiver combo only allows you to be tuned to one channel at a time. While we’re traveling my Tivo Roamio is at home doing all the hard work recording shows we like to watch and, if you have a fast bandwidth connection, it can stream recorded shows to your computer or an iPad (very handy for watching the Denver Broncos games while we were in Europe). We’ve used our Dish/DVR set up on many occasions to record the evening news (CBS is my favorite) and play it back later during dinner.

  38. denise Posted on 10.15.2015

    My neighbor gave me her old DirecTV satellite dish. Can I use her satellite dish with my receiver and still get a signal? Or do I need to use the dish that is on top of my roof my roof at home? My neighbors dish is a Slim Model.

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 10.15.2015

      Well, I’m sorry my answer is going to be more expensive than a free dish. Residential dishes are fixed into position at the time of installation. While you can use the DirectTV receiver, you will need to buy either a roof mounted or portable (freestanding) dish. These dishes require power to control their auto-seeking function and then switching between different satellites (especially for Dish Network subscribers). Winegard has a portable budget unit at $200, but I think the more automatic ones are better starting at $500. Finally, like ours the roof mounted antennas average about $1,500. Camping World’s web site offers a wide variety of units with plenty of user comments. You have to be careful to make sure that the DirecTV receiver you have is compatible with one of the mobile antennas — not all are.

  39. Danny Posted on 05.01.2015

    Question on satellite service. We have DirectTV in our home and always just take one of those receivers when we travel. Just bought a new Navion, and have a few questions. The place for the receiver is behind the TV door. Is there some kind of infrared extender cable to use when the TV door is shut? Also, need a suggestion on the bedroom TV. Where would you put the second receiver?

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 05.03.2015

      There are many IR repeaters on the market. I bought one on Amazon for around $30. They do require AC power, so I mounted a powerstrip in the cabinet behind the TV to plug in our satellite receiver, Apple TV, HDMI switcher (switches between the satellite and AppleTV), and IR receiver.

      A second receiver for the back TV is more problematical. Our Dish receiver has an RF composite output which allows you to watch the SAME channel as the front TV and not with HD resolution. Because the TVs in the Navion are so close together, unless you think about plugging headphones in, it could be very annoying to have two sets with two different channels playing.

      Assuming you want to watch two different channels on two different sets you’ll need a dual LNB antenna and cabling to the back TV, plus run power into a cabinet near the back tv for the second receiver. Anything’s possible, but this would be hard to do as I don’t believe that in any of the four Navion floorplans there’s a way to hide a cable run.

      I had Winnebago pull a separate HDMI cable to the rear TV which was a significant cost and had to be done prior to installing the cabinets. This gives me the capability of sending a Hi-def signal from either our satellite or AppleTV to the back set. However, the same channel/signal plays on both sets.

  40. elisa Posted on 04.15.2015

    Over the air antennas: We have a class C rv 1994. Which king jack Antenna is best, there’s over 5 to choose, range of $38 to $129.

  41. Chuck Borcher Posted on 04.06.2015

    Our coach does not have a satellite receiver on the roof. I have Direct TV. I bought an antenna and take my DVR from the house. When we go to Arizona for the winter, I set up the antenna next to my RV and connect it to the DVR. I call Direct TV and tell them my winter billing address and they switch my service so I can receive local channels. The major pain with this is having to reconfigure my DVR for the two different antennas.

  42. Bob May Posted on 03.29.2015

    Great article, however what I need to know is how to get the sound piped in the Winnie surround sound system. My Vizio TV has the ability to output variable sound but I can’ seem to get the hookup right.

    any help?

  43. KAte Wilde Posted on 03.19.2015

    Liked your article and have passed it on to my husband to read. We just ordered DISH Anywhere and it will be installed in our home next week. I have been advised we can use it with out a satellite dish on our rig (we have a fifth wheel (which I find interesting) – please let me know any comments you may have.

  44. Bob Diamond Posted on 03.19.2015

    Don, thanks for the tutorial on TV options – I’m sure it can get a lot more technical – but was good enough for my wife to say AHA. I would like to know if there are any providers who have a bundle for both TV and Internet service. As noted by many of the responders, WIFI at most campgrounds is antiquated and lacks the bandwidth required for todays users.

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 03.21.2015

      To my knowledge, there aren’t any “combo plans” that combine satellite TV and wireless data. Both Direct and Dish do offer satellite Internet data service, but it’s expensive, has a lag (the signal has to travel 43,000 miles) and doesn’t support mobile antennas. For the patient, I would expect the landscape to change within five years or so. Dish has been buying up radio spectrum to the tune of several billion dollars. Google’s getting into the mobile telephone business. And chip manufacturers are making single chips to run on the different wireless systems in the US. All of this points to convergence, universality and ultimately a decrease in the cost of service.

  45. Cliff Cray Posted on 03.18.2015

    We have used Dish monthly plan. You do have to call them to get it turned on and we usually call and advise when we are not going to use it rather then wait for them to shut it off or send us bills. My gripe with Dish is as we travel around the country we have trouble getting the satellite signal and Dish is not much help. They try to blame Winegard. Last year we replaced an automatic dish with a dome antenna with no better luck. I am considering trying Direct TV this summer to see if we have better luck.

  46. Donna Wessels Posted on 03.15.2015

    Very good article. I have one question though about inexpensive apps for both the iPhone and Android that show you where the satellites are. Is there a particular app you can recommend? I have tried to download several and can never figure them out. We were at a campground last year and a neighbor had one on his phone that showed “Dish” satellites, the only ones I can find are “Direct”. I need “Dish”. Thanks.

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 03.16.2015

      You can find “dishformyrv” on the Apple App store. It’s a simple app and has helped me move our rig a few feet one way or another to see open sky.

  47. Judy Aselton Posted on 03.15.2015

    Last year we bought a Winegard Pathway X2 before we headed out west. Since we were Dish subscribers, we only needed to get 2 extra receivers for $7/mo/each added to our account and we could see anything we would see at home except for local service. thanks for the tip about letting Dish know about a local loction if you will be there for a long enough time, but we didn’t really watch many of the local channels unless we used our roof antenna to catch them. Service was good all over the country from Ga. to Ca. unless we had a wooded parking spot.
    It was only after we got home that we had a problem with it and want to send it in to Winegard to check it but they won’t let you until you do a test on the TV and it wouldn’t work enough to do that?????? When we go to Iowa this spring we will just take it with us and go by the factory and hopefully they will test it there before we take out next trip out west. But, we loved the assistance Dish gave us and we do have 2 Tvs on it so we both see what we want!!

  48. Clay Foushee Posted on 03.15.2015

    Mr. Lucier,

    We have a 2013 Tour, and which is factory-wired with High-Definition Media Interface (HDMI) cables, as a standard feature for that model year. I don’t recall if that was standard in 2012, but it shouldn’t matter if you have the larger open-face Direct TV dish on your coach, which you will need for HD channels, as Mr. Cohen explained well. You can use a co-axial cable input and still receive HD signals. A good RV tech should be able to set it up for you.

    In addition, kudos to Mr. Cohen for a very accurate, simple, but detailed explanation of the choices.

  49. Joe Lucier Posted on 03.15.2015

    We opted for Direct TV in our 2012 Tour because we have a built-in Direct TV Digital receiver in our new boat and want to activate it in the summer.
    Unfortunately Direct TV said that the wiring in our coach would not support the high def receiver so we now use only the standard def. It is a disappointment but when you are at a remote location standard def is better than no def.
    Surprisingly, the service tech a Winnebago does not agree with Direct and says that the high def should work??

  50. Joseph Vreeman Posted on 03.14.2015

    You comments about Dish are exactly right. Often I end up talking to a representative in the Philippines. They are good people but don’t have any idea about what a RV is. Two solutions. Ask to be transferred to Texas or just call back until to get someone who is knowledgeable about RV service.

    Otherwise much better service than our Verizon Fios at home.

  51. Bill Grey Posted on 03.14.2015

    Great article. Thank you. we added a Direct satellite dish after three years of hooking up to cable when we could and using the antenna on our 2007 Winnebago Outlook when necessary. Other times we just enjoyed the peace and quiet. We only pay and a $5/month fee for the service in our coach. It’s added on our home plan. We can’t record because we opted for the cheep plan. Your article gave us some food for thought. Thank you.

  52. Ken M Posted on 03.14.2015

    Wife told me to do a better job at explaining pay as you go from Dish Network. You have a special number to call when you want to turn your receiver on, they will tell you how long it will take to get it up. Go out to check all is up and working as it should be. When you get home from your trip you call Dish and tell them to turn it off. You are only billed from the time you had the system turned on for your RV until you had it turned off.

    Naturally if you don’t pay for something it will get turned off. To the writer of this article. But with automatic billing you don’t have to worry about paying that bill, they send you an E-mail to your bill amount and what is being deducted so you know what is going on and you can look at this on-line to see all is fine. We like this service and found it to be more user friendly than Direct TV. As Dish is the only service that really has a package for RV owners. Yes you have out of pocket expenses like having to buy the Dish system for the roof on your RV, they sell a bunch of these now in different sizes so the sight is not that bad to all those things we have on the roof. Then you have the cost of the receiver actually it is almost the same if you were getting it for your home. What package you get from Dish is up to you….. but the pay as you go was established for RV folks and we have yet to have any problems with it.

    Hope this helps to understand how Dish Network works and what options you have like the two TV’s we have and peace of mind to be able to see what you want while the other half gets her shows.

    Happy Trails, 2014 Winnebago Sunova

  53. Ken M Posted on 03.14.2015

    I think your way off with your comments on Dish Network.
    They have a service for us RV owners called pay as you go, you activate the receiver in the RV and only pay for the time you use when traveling. If your full time, they have many programs you can sign up for , but for us we love pay as you go and the cost is about .70 cents a day.

    Direct TV once again has been fined and sued by the Federal Government for deceptive advertising practices, they offer a service when you take your receiver from your home and use this in your RV when traveling, many who I have spoken with have issues receiving good programming as this unit was programmed for when your home is and not your RV.

    The unit we have from dish is the receiver we bought at camping world, you have a remote like with your TV and you can program it to operate the TV and Sat system off 1 remote. We get HD programs at no additional cost. The dome satellite was easy to get installed, better to have someone who knows this stuff than you doing it.
    Once turned on it finds the signal where you are, no setting up the dish and focus adjustments, it is all automatic. Sit back after a long day and watch your favorite show, or catch up on the news your option.

    Our RV is two year old, we had two receivers installed, wife gets to see what she wants in the bedroom, and if their is a game on I get to watch that. Both receivers work off the same dome system only difference if you need a receiver for the rear if you want to see whats on different than what is being watch up front, this gives you the ability to see what you want other wise if not done this way, you might miss that game you wanted to see because the wife has her must see program and it will be on both TV’s because you only have one receiver.

    I’m not picking on the writer of this article, just telling you as a DISH OWNER it is not bad like anything in life their are pro’s and con’s.
    We like the service we set up and our use time shows up on our monthly bill, we are paperless so you get an E-mail to what the bill is at your bill time, easy to dispute any issues but not being price gouged every few months is a good feeling and I have a few extra bucks wife and I can put to something else that the new rate charges we got every few months from Direct TV. They have no real system for RV owners unlike Dish Network.

  54. Ralph in Latte Land, Washington Posted on 03.14.2015

    Good morning;

    While this is intended mainly to reply to Manny, others might like to know that there is a WIT CLUB group for HAM radio; the WITCARS or WIT Radio Group. Look us up on the WITClub web site. A lot of information is available, including how to get a ham radio license.

    And, yes, my 1987 Winnebago Elandan WCP31RT is beginning to look like a porcupine. Just as with television reception methods and programming, there are so many things that you can do with HAM radio also. And, yes, there is a small portable TV stored in the Elandan, but, like so much of the other electronics in the Elandan, that TV is used mainly for communication purposes instead of entertainment.

    And the place where the original CRT type screen television was located now is a very useful storage area.

    Enjoy; Ralph, N7KGA, in Latte Land, Washington

  55. Pete L Posted on 03.14.2015

    Great article. We were fulltimers 12years ago and found much of the same information, but this provided a great update. Thanks

  56. Michael Roche Posted on 03.14.2015

    Thank you! We have an “older” RV and are used to cable at like KOA’s. We since broadened our outlook and started staying in other sites. We need to update our RV from the TV’s up. Your information is of great help.

    Again, thank you so very much: we needed this article.

  57. james snyder Posted on 03.14.2015

    We find after carrying a satellite box around that the digital channels that are available in every city, almost anywhere except the deep woods are plenty for us. We don’t live in the motor home and we don’t take a vacation to sit and watch TV.

  58. Lewis Edge Posted on 03.14.2015

    Most campgrounds will need to significantly upgrade their Wi-Fi systems before streaming video becomes an option for RV owners/campers. In three years of motorhome camping from Maine to the Florida Keys, I found only one campground that would support uninterrupted video streaming. It was identified as a “motorhome resort,” not a campground and had nightly rates to match.

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 03.14.2015

      I absolutely agree and believe that it’ll be a long time coming (if ever) where parks offer fast local wi-fi bandwidth. The bright spot on the horizon is that the price of fast cellular data continues to fall. On our AT&T plan we now get double the amount of data for the same price. But, even at that, data plans are expensive. Most of us are of an age where we could remember the high cost of long distance phone calls. Now, with cell phones it’s simply included. I believe that someday (and hopefully sooner rather than later) we’ll come to think of data costs the same way.

  59. Manny Posted on 03.14.2015

    Interesting article. If I buy a RV in the future, I will have this article in mind, but that could be a long time to come. I was thinking for more remote applications. HAM radio applications for example. Streaming is the latest and is here to stay. You have Netflix, hulu, just to name a few. You may even think about a Cloud, a location to store the data remotely.


  60. Don Williams Posted on 03.14.2015

    Very well done article, I apprciate the insight.

    I just purchased a Winegard Pathway X1 for our around the US and Alaska trip this spring. Any idea how far north we can go and still receive sattelite signals from Dish network?

    Thx again
    Don Williams

    1. Don Cohen Posted on 03.14.2015

      I updated the story with some good feedback from other readers. The short form on Alaska — it’s spotty. The more north you go, the harder it gets to acquire a signal. My online research indicated that if you’re in a place as north as Fairbanks, you probably need a 4′ dish.