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Tailgating, UCLA Style: How to Watch

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Whether you want to catch other Pac 12 football games or matches from around the country, we’ll give you options beyond the traditional satellite dish.

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NCAA Football: Texas A&M at UCLA Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I’m kind of a traditionalist when it comes to my TV—where I come from, NBC is channel 4, ESPN is 15, etc, and shall forever remain that way. Adding the “10” in front of it to get to the HD channel was quite a transition for me, so moving over to satellite providers like Dish or DirectTV is most likely never going to happen in my house.

With that said, I also want quality television while I’m tailgating. At home, our local carrier is Cox and we’ve been using them as far back as I can remember. The question becomes this: How do I get cable TV at the Rose Bowl, when portable units are currently not an option?

Here is an example setup if you subscribe to a cable TV provider:

  • Set up a laptop or tablet, and log in to the channel you want to watch through their website or app (WatchESPN, for example). You’ll use your provider’s log in information to gain access.
  • For internet access, we use a jet pack from our cellular provider. It was pretty inexpensive to add one to our plan and we use it all the time outside of tailgating. Just be sure you have the appropriate data plan. A lot of providers offer “unlimited data”, but beyond a certain threshold, the quality of the data drops, which can impede your TV watching. We have one of the largest plans offered to non-business customers, and we can stream games and also have our seven year old on her iPad all the time and we’ve never gone over. Overage charges are awful and no one wants to get “that alert” when you’re mid-tailgate.
  • Get the image to a TV by using your TV as a monitor. We have a 36” TV that we take with us, and we connect the laptop to the TV with an HD cable. If you’re using an Apple laptop or iPad, be sure you have the appropriate adapter (laptops usually come with them). PC laptops usually have the right connection, depending on how old they are. Just check your connections before you go.
  • For sound, we have a portable speaker that we plug in to the laptop via speaker cable. We use this one, and it has served us well for two years now. It even comes with the cable to connect to a laptop. It’s plenty loud and can be heard well even over the noise of Lot H tailgaters.
  • If you’re wondering how to power all this stuff, check out last week’s post.

Another option is a Slingbox. I’ve never used one myself and I’ve always been curious. They are in the $100 range, and claim that you can watch your TV in any location, whether you have cable or satellite TV. It’s basically a middle man between your home TV and the TV you’re traveling with (kind of like the laptop/jet pack set up above). You’ll still need internet access to use it.

With regard to internet access at the Rose Bowl, it’s fine for the first four hours (after the initial renovation, they actually increased the bandwidth in the area). However, we’ve noticed that once the media shows up and they start turning things on inside the bowl, reception can get spotty. There’s not a whole lot we can do about this, except, go with satellite TV.

Which brings me to your next option. Let’s say you have satellite TV at home already. You can purchase a portable unit and take it with you. Just connect as you would at home to the TV, and off you go. Most people have the portable dishes on top of their cars to get the best reception. Just don’t forget your power source.

Now, let’s say you have cable TV, but you want to dip your toes in the satellite TV pond. Here’s a lesser known fourth option: There is a product out there by Dish Network called The Tailgater. Dish claims that you can buy this product, NOT sign a contract, turn it on when you want to use it, and turn it off when you’re done. AND, you don’t have to be a Dish Network home customer. The product was designed for people who are frequently in RV’s or tailgate on a regular basis. In theory, you could buy this thing, start service in September, and then shut service off at the end of the season. I tried calling Dish a few years ago when this product was new, and they wouldn’t answer any of my questions unless I bought their unit. I wanted to be absolutely sure that there was no contract and I could actually turn service on and off at a moment’s notice and not pay any fees. This would be ideal. Terrible customer service, if you ask me. If anyone out there uses this product, please add your input in the comments. I’m still really curious.

No matter how you choose to do it, nothing beats watching TV with your pals while tailgating for six hours. Just make sure you have a safe way to lock everything up!

Go Bruins!