Here’s How people watch TV at tailgates (Explained!)

Not all tailgates have complete setups, but many people prefer to watch TV at them. There are various ways to set up and watch TV at a tailgate. 

How do people watch TV at tailgates?

People watch TV at tailgates by using a digital TV antenna, streaming the game with a mobile hotspot, using a DISH Playmaker, or screen mirroring a mobile device to the TV. These methods are effective but require a reliable network connection and a power source.  

TVs are a common commodity at tailgates. They can be used to watch the game or for entertainment for bigger gatherings, but to do so, we need to prepare equipment and setup. We will explain how most people can watch TV at tailgates and make some recommendations based on our experience. 

How do people watch TV at tailgates?

How Do People Watch TV At Tailgates?

Tailgating is a popular pastime for many sports fans, and watching the game on TV is a big part of the experience. This is for tailgaters planning to arrive early and watch the early set of games or for tailgating but not attending the game. 

Whether rooting for our favorite team at a college football game or enjoying the action at a professional sports stadium, people watch TV at tailgates in a few key ways.

The most common way to watch TV at a tailgate is to bring a portable television to the parking lot. These TVs are usually small and lightweight, making them easy to transport and set up. 

When people watch TV at tailgates, they will need a method to access the channels like an antenna, a TV, and a power source. These are all essential before considering the different setup methods mentioned below. 

5 Ways To Watch TV At Tailgates

Having a tailgate without a TV is a party foul for many people. We recommend avoiding this dilemma and using one of these methods to watch TV at a tailgate. 

People watch TV at tailgates in different ways. Some use TVs mounted on the backs of trucks, while others bring portable TVs with tables. There are tons of different ways to do it. 

This includes buying a digital TV antenna, streaming the game using a mobile hotspot, using the DISH Playmaker, or watching the game on a mobile device and screen mirroring the picture to the TV. 

3 Suggested Read: Here’s How People Watch TV At Tailgates | Here’s a DISH Playmaker vs. Playmaker Dual (Tailgating TV Comparison) | Here’s What Dish Playmaker Satellite Is All About!

Use A Digital TV Antenna

First, we need to confirm we have a digital TV antenna and a TV that are compatible and suitable for use in our area. This will determine if we can get the local channels. 

A digital TV antenna is cheap and easy to use and gives us free access to local channels like Fox, CBS, and ABC. These are the needed channels to watch the big football games on Sundays. 

There is an option to buy a powered antenna or use an older model requiring zero power. We prefer the digital option because it’s more reliable and provides a clearer picture. 

After it is connected and set up with the TV, use the TV’s channel search function to scan for available channels. This will allow the TV to find all the available channels in our area using the antenna.

Once the channel search is complete, we can access the available channels by using the channel up and down buttons on your TV remote.

Remember that the quality and number of channels we can receive with a digital antenna will depend on our location and the strength of the signal in your area.

Stream With A Mobile Hotspot

Another option is to use a smart TV and get an internet connection from a mobile hotspot. We must have a smart TV with streaming apps for this to work. 

To connect our TV to a mobile hotspot to stream games at a tailgate, we will need a TV compatible with streaming and a mobile device with a hotspot feature connected to the internet. 

First, turn on the mobile device’s hotspot feature. On most devices, we can do this by going to the Settings app, selecting “Network & Internet,” and then selecting “Hotspot & tethering.” 

Follow the prompts to turn on the hotspot feature and set a name and password for the network.

Next, go to the settings menu on the TV and look for the “Network” or “Internet” settings. Select the option to connect to a wireless network.

Select the mobile device’s hotspot from the list of available networks. Enter the password for the hotspot when prompted.

Once the TV is connected to the hotspot, we should be able to use a streaming app or service, such as the Fox or CBS streaming apps. Hotspots are effective these days and provide solid speed to get a good picture. 

Buy The DISH Playmaker

A DISH Playmaker is a portable satellite antenna that allows us to watch DISH programming on a compatible TV at a location where a standard satellite dish is not installed. 

The DISH Playmaker is designed to be easy to use and set up, making it a convenient option for watching TV at a tailgate or other outdoor event.

First, we need the DISH Playmaker antenna, a compatible DISH receiver, and a TV that is compatible with the DISH Playmaker. The antenna can be connected with a coaxial cable. 

Next, connect the DISH receiver to the TV using the appropriate cables (HDMI or coaxial). Turn on the TV and the receiver, and set the TV to the correct input.

Follow the prompts on the TV screen to complete the setup process, including activating the receiver and scanning for available channels. Once the setup is complete, we can access the available channels using the DISH receiver’s remote control.

Use The Screen Mirroring Feature With A Phone

Another way to watch TV at a tailgate is to use a smartphone or tablet. Many sports fans bring their mobile devices to the parking lot and use them to stream the game live. 

This is an excellent option if we don’t have a cable setup or want to watch multiple games simultaneously. All we need is a good internet connection, and we can watch the game on our device’s screen.

 watch TV at tailgates

What Do You Need To Watch TV At Tailgates?

To watch TV at tailgates, consider the following items to make it possible. 


First, we will need a TV with a screen large enough for everyone at the tailgate to see. We should consider a TV with a high-resolution display, a good viewing angle, and good outdoor visibility if we plan to watch the TV outside.

Power Source

You will need a power source to power the TV and any other electronic devices you plan to use at the tailgate. Depending on your location and the available power sources, you may need to bring a portable power source, such as a generator or battery pack.

Mounting Method

If we set up the TV at a tailgate, we will need a portable TV stand to hold it and keep it at a good viewing height. Many portable TV stands are available, including options specifically designed for outdoor use.

Another option is to use the truck bed of a pickup. We can lower the hatch and strap the TV in right here to view it quickly as long as it’s secure. 

However, the TV size matters when deciding on a mounting method too. For example, a larger TV will likely need a big plastic folding table for proper weight support and balance. 

Network Connection

To watch TV at a tailgate, we also need some type of network connection. This could be WiFi or satellite, as long as it can connect the TV to the correct channels to watch the games. 

You will need a TV antenna to watch over-the-air (OTA) TV channels, such as local network affiliates. Many types of TV antennas are available, including indoor and outdoor options. 

We must choose an antenna suitable for our location and the TV channels we want to watch. This will allow us to watch the correct channels based on what sporting events we want to see. 

How Do You Get Power To Run A TV At Tailgates?

Overall, there are many different ways that people watch TV at tailgates. Whether we bring our own portable TV, use a smartphone or tablet, or use a satellite antenna, we can enjoy the game while we tailgate.

Use A Battery-Powered TV

One option is to use a portable TV that has a built-in battery. This allows us to watch the game without worrying about finding an outlet to plug in our TV or setting up an advanced power source like a generator. 

We recommend a portable TV or a small HDTV with a built-in battery. This also works well with a small portable satellite dish to get a signal. However, the TV needs to be fully charged, and the battery life is limited. 

Use A Portable Generator

Another option is to use a portable generator to power your TV. These small, lightweight generators provide enough power to run a TV and other electronic devices. 

We will also need to ensure that we have enough fuel for the generator and be careful to use it safely. The other alternative is to use an electric or solar generator which doesn’t require fuel. 

Look For Outlets

While this only works in rare scenarios, some tailgating spots have access to power outlets. This is especially true at smaller parking lots around major sports stadiums. 

This is the best way to get power for a TV. Look around the area or ask local staff to see if there is any available power, but bring a backup plan just in case. 

Use A Vehicle Power Inverter 

Finally, some tailgaters use their vehicle’s batteries to power their TV. If we have a vehicle with a large enough battery, we can use a power inverter to convert the battery’s DC power into AC power, which can be used to run the TV. 

This is a convenient option, but ensuring that our vehicle’s battery has enough power to run the TV for the game’s duration is important. If not, we can burn out the battery and not have the power to drive home later. 

How Do You Set Up A TV At A Tailgate?

Anybody who has ever walked through a busy parking lot at an NFL game has likely seen groups of people huddled around a TV watching the games. Getting this setup can be done in a few simple steps, and it’s not very complicated. 

Get The TV Ready

First, we need a TV before we do anything. Some tailgaters also bring larger TVs to the parking lot and set them up in the back of their vehicles or on a fold-out table. 

These TVs are often connected to a satellite dish or antenna, which allows them to pick up the game’s broadcast signal. If we have less space, it might be easier to bring along a smaller TV for an easier setup. 

Determine The Power Source

Next, we must decide the best power source method for our TV. This will also depend on our budget and the available storage space in our vehicle. 

Some options include a portable generator, a vehicle power inverter, or a battery-powered TV as an alternative. We like to bring a generator because it’s the most reliable method for a long tailgate party. 

Find The Ideal TV Area

Once we know how to get power, there needs to be a dedicated area for the TV where it won’t get knocked over or damaged. This is typically on a folding table close to the power source. 

It’s recommended to have everything ready to make the setup fast and easy too. For anybody using an antenna, find a safe area to put this equipment too. 

Connect The TV To The Power Source

Next, connect the TV to the power source and allow time for the TV to turn on. Double-check that everything is working before moving to the next step. 

Set Up The TV Connection

Next, we can set up the TV connection. This can be done with one of the methods we have mentioned earlier, like an antenna, or by streaming with a mobile hotspot. 

Connect all cables or go into the settings on the TV and connect to the internet. Once this is complete, we can start watching TV and enjoy ourselves. 

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 watch TV at tailgates

How To Get Internet At Tailgates

Tailgates are a great way to get closer to the sports team and have a good time with fellow fans. The best parties have internet and TVs to watch the games, but what if we don’t have Wi-Fi?

Luckily, there are ways to get internet at tailgates to watch TV and stay connected. Here are some methods worth considering below. 

Mobile Hotspot

Many smartphones can act as a hotspot, allowing other devices to connect to the internet through the phone’s data plan. To use a phone as a hotspot, go to the phone’s settings and look for the hotspot or tethering option. 

Keep in mind that using our phone as a hotspot can drain the battery and may use up data from our plan quickly. It’s also possible to upgrade the hotspot with our phone provider for more data and better speeds. 

Satellite Signal

If we are in a remote location without access to other internet options, we can use a satellite to connect to the internet. Whether we use a digital satellite antenna or a DISH satellite antenna with power and paid channels, they can work well. 

These services use a satellite dish to transmit data back and forth to a satellite in orbit, allowing you to connect to the internet even in areas with no traditional broadband service. It’s considered one of the best ways to access the internet and watch TV at a tailgate. 

Check For Local Networks

If a nearby coffee shop, restaurant, or other business offers public Wi-Fi, we can connect to their network. Remember that public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured and slower, so they may not work well enough to provide a consistent signal. 

Key Takeaways

  • People can watch TV at tailgates with a digital TV antenna, a mobile hotspot, a DISH Playmaker, or by using the screen mirroring feature on a mobile device. 
  • The best ways to get power for a TV at a tailgate include battery-powered TVs, portable generators, and power inverters. 
  • Internet is hard to come by at a tailgate, but the best options include a mobile hotspot, satellite signal, or connecting to local networks. 

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