Ask Ken: HDTV On Your Boat

Here's how to overcome the challenge of receiving HDTV on your boat.
Shakespeare HDTV

Q. How can I get HDTV on my boat?

A. A number of marinas do offer cable television as an option for their customers. This has the advantage of duplicating the same high-definition experience you have at home. Away from the dock, HDTV is more of a challenge. Most satellite TV antenna domes you see on boats are not capable of HDTV reception. Due to the position of satellites in the sky, boaters need a larger, more expensive antenna to receive DirecTV in HD (starting at about $10,000). Dish Network satellite locations allow for more conventional-size antennas (starting at $2,700) to be used, although not all HD programming may be available. “Flying saucer” shaped antennas ($170 plus) can pick up free HD programming from local over-the-air stations in the area. As a bonus, many non-HD digital channels can be received that are not available on cable or satellite TV. These include free movie channels, older popular TV shows, travel, cooking, documentaries, news and more. Don’t overlook installing an HD Blu-ray player on board. These are great for viewing your DVD collection or Netflix rentals. They occupy little space and are available from under $100.

Onboard HDTV can be viewed via Dish Network with only 12.5-inch internal dishes and compact antenna domes as small as the KVH TV1 (13.5 inches by 13 inches, $2,695) and the Intellian i2 model (15 inches by 14.5 inches, $2,995).


Generally, antennas that have larger domes (15 by 17 inches to 20 by 22 inches) with larger internal antenna dishes (14 to 18 or more inches) are less likely to lose the signal while the boat is underway or affected by severe wave and wind movement when at anchor or on a mooring, or when heavy rain occurs. Prices for larger models range from $4,000 to $6,000 or more.

For DirecTV HD reception, larger domes with special internal tracking antennas such as the Intellian s6HD (27.5 inches by 28.3 inches, $9,995) or KVH HD7 (26.1 inches by 27.1 inches, $12,995) are required.

Tip: If you are already a satellite TV subscriber at home, you may be able to add the DirecTV and Dish Network receivers you install on your boat to your monthly home bill because each can be considered as an “additional room” to your home account. This means you will be charged a nominal fee of approximately $6 per receiver instead of having to pay for a more costly second full subscription.


Dish Network also offers boating customers the Pay as You Go Plan. This gives you the option to subscribe to one or more months at a time when you are using the boat without any penalties or additional charges.

Don’t overlook the benefits of installing an over-the-air broadcast television antenna even if you have satellite TV on board. These disk antennas measure from 10 inches to 21 inches in diameter and are only a couple of inches thick, which makes them easy to accommodate and install. Some popular models include the Glomex 10-inch GXV9125/12 ($238) and the Shakespeare SeaWatch 15-inch 3015 ($170) and 19-inch 3019 ($245) antennas.

Free HDTV broadcasts are available from land-based local TV stations. With only a couple hundred dollars of investment, you can get brilliant picture quality on your boat. While over-the-air antennas cannot tune in cable channels, you can view the local affiliates of networks such as ABC, CBS, CW and Fox, as well as PBS. You will be amazed at how many stations you will be able to pull in.


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