Free/Open-source Television Software

Watching live or recorded TV feeds using a desktop computer is made possible using television software. Most TV software applications nowadays are integrated into media center programs with playback support for almost all kinds of media contents such as audio, video, image files and even RSS feeds.

To those who are using Linux and are looking for some television software, then you are in luck because there are plenty to choose from. Here is a list of some of the best free/open-source television software that you may want to try out:


Freevo is a full-featured personal video recorder application for Linux, BSD, and Mac OS X similar to MythTV. It allows easy playback of videos, DVDs, pictures, music, and watching live TV. It also allows scheduling a TV program for recording with a TV tuner, and backup of DVDs.

The Freevo front-end is programmed in Python, and uses 3rd party applications for many of its functions. MPlayer or Xine are used to handle the multimedia playback. Freevo is intended to be used in home theater PCs and media centers, and is designed to be easy to operate with just a remote control. Freevo is used by the GeeXboX project.

GeeXboX is a free embedded Linux distribution that aims at turning your computer into a so-called HTPC (Home Theater PC) or Media Center. Being a standalone LiveCD-based distribution, it's a ready to boot operating system than works on any Pentium-class x86 computer or PowerPC Macintosh, implying no software requirement. You can even use it on a diskless computer, the whole system being loaded in RAM.

Despite its tiny ISO image size, the distribution comes with complete and automatic hardware detection, not requiring any driver to be added. It supports playback of nearly any kind of audio/video and image files and all known codecs and containers are shipped in, allowing playing them through various physical supports, either being CD, DVD, HDD, LAN or Internet.

GeeXboX also comes with a complete toolchain that allows developers adding easily extra packages and features but that might also be used to give birth to many dedicated embedded Linux systems.

KatchTV is an Internet TV application for the KDE desktop, which is popular on Unix-like operating systems such as Linux. Similar to Miro Media Player, KatchTV allows users to find and watch digital TV channels (in the form of podcasts). By clicking on a channel's feed button from a website such as VODStock, users can subscribe to that channel. For all subscribed channels, they can see a list of episodes available, and can download episodes of their choice. Any downloaded episodes can be watched from directly within the program. KatchTV is free software, licensed under the GNU GPL.

kdetv is a television capturing program in the KDE application suite (though one of the "Extragear" programs, released separately) that allows Linux and UNIX users to view television programs on their computer, if they have a working TV tuner card installed. The requirements on having a TV tuner card include having an ALSA or OSS-compatible mixer (for audio), and video4linux, video4linux2, or XVideo-input (for video).

LinuxMCE (Linux Media Center Edition) is a free and open source software platform designed to allow a computer to act as a HTPC (Home Theater PC) with a personal video recorder complemented by home automation functionality, which allows control of everything in the home including lighting, climate, home security and surveillance, and a full-featured phone system with video conferencing.

The LinuxTV project is an informal group of volunteers who develop software related to digital television for the Linux operating system. The community develops and maintains the DVB driver subsystem that is part of the Linux 2.6.x kernel. The Linux kernel and the LinuxTV CVS include a fair number of drivers for commonly available PCI cards and USB devices, but the DVB subsystem core is also targeted towards Linux based set-top boxes.

The LinuxTV project was originally initiated by the Berlin, Germany based company Convergence Integrated Media GmbH with the goal to distribute free and open source software for the production, distribution and reception of digital television. In 1998, the Convergence founders claimed, "Only the access to the source code of our future television sets will guarantee the independence of content and technology".

My Media System
My Media System is an Open Source application for Linux that manages, displays and plays media content such as videos, music, pictures etc. The target platforms of this application are Set-Top-Boxes and HTPCs.

My Media System is being developed since 2002 and was formerly known as Mpeg Menu System V2 but changed its name in October 2006 with the 1.0.8 release to My Media System to better reflect its current feature set. My Media System was originally written as a software front end for the DXR3 card but has since been extended so that it now works with the DVB, SDL, X11, and frame buffer output systems.

Unlike the commercial Media Center MCE from Microsoft, or the also free Media Centers, like Freevo, MythTV or LinuxMCE, MMS has no TV functionality of its own, but offers the possibility to integrate such.

MythDora is a specialized Linux distribution based on Fedora Core 6 and MythTV 0.20-1. Like KnoppMyth, MythDora is designed to simplify the installation of MythTV on a home theatre PC. Unlike KnoppMyth, however, it does not run as a Live CD. The distribution is installed on the computer in order to run.

In addition to MythTV and its plugins, Mythdora includes extra Linux packages that are necessary for MythTV to run, and drivers for hardware commonly encountered in machines intended to run MythTV. Also included in Mythdora are several video game emulators, and extra tools and scripts. These aid with the initial configuration of the system and allow the user to perform such tasks as rebooting the machine and backing up program data, directly through the MythTV interface.

MythTV is a Linux application that turns a computer with the necessary hardware into a network streaming digital video recorder, a digital multimedia home entertainment system, or Home Theater Personal Computer. MythTV is free software licensed under the GPL. It can be considered as a free and open source alternative to Tivo or Windows Media Center.

MythTV features:

* A backend server and front-end client architecture, allowing multiple front-end client machines to be remotely served content from one or more backend servers. A single computer can perform as both the front-end client and the backend server.
* Analyzes recorded shows for optional commercial skipping
* Play recordings at an accelerated or decelerated rate, adjusting the audio pitch as necessary.
* Intelligently schedules recordings to avoid conflicts.
* Interfaces with free TV listing sources such as XMLTV or PSIP.
* Interfaces with subscription listings service Schedules Direct in the United States and Canada.
* Pause, skip, and rewind live TV shows.
* Schedule and administer various system functions using a web browser-based interface.
* Supports ATSC, QAM, and DVB high-definition television.
* Controls a decoder/STB using an infrared remote (Irblaster).

tvtime is a program for Linux that allows a person to watch television through his or her PC using a TV tuner or a Satellite receiver card DVB-S.

tvtime does not use a general purpose widget set, so it does not favour any particular desktop environment. The interface to tvtime is bespoke (American English: custom-developed) and resembles the On-screen display from a sophisticated TV set. tvtime's deinterlacer is well regarded, giving better results than most software provided by TV card vendors, and used in several other GPL-licensed projects.

XBMC (formerly named "XBox Media Center") is a free and open source (GPL) media-player and entertainment hub. XBMC can play a very complete spectrum of of multimedia formats, and featuring playlist, audio visualizations, slideshow, and weather forecast functions, together with a multitude of third-party plugins. Originally developed as XBox Media Player (XBMP) for the first-generation Xbox game console in 2002, XBMC have eventually become a complete graphical user interface replacement for the original Xbox Dashboard, and it is currently also being ported to run natively under Linux, Mac OS X, and Microsoft Windows operating-system. This, The XBMC Project is also known as "XBMC Media Center" or simply "XBMC").


xawtv is a program that allows a person to watch and record television through a PC with either a TV tuner or a Satellite receiver card DVB-S. xawtv works on Unix-like operating systems, and is licensed under the GPL.

It does not favour any particular desktop environment. It comes with applications that use MOTIF-based widgets, as well as other X11 and command line applications. It works with Video4linux and XVideo. The interface to xawtv is minimalistic.


  1. You might want to check out Elisa:

    It's by far the most beautiful Linux based media center, and the latest version is very stable.

  2. Hi,
    Nice post. I didn't know most of these apps. In particular I didn't know any which could actually record. I'll have to give them a try! Thanks!

    USA, TX

  3. My friend has always spoken very highly of mythTV - he has been using it for several years now - and loves it.

  4. I didn't see any reference to Knoppmyth. It is by far the easiest to install and configure and most "light weight" of all of the Mythtv based systems.
    The CD can be used as a Live-CD so you can use almost any computer as a front-end TV / Recorded program / Movie viewer by simply booting from the CD.

  5. Thank you all for the comments. I really appreciate it.

    @John: Thanks for the info. It looks great just by watching the screenshots. I will be trying it out soon.

    @Houser: Most of the featured TV apps here could do recording. Thanks.

    @Matt: mythTV is indeed great as I've been using it also.

    @Elgordo: Thanks for the info. I will be looking at Knoppmyth and find out how good it is.


  6. Don't forget other MythTV distros such as Mythbuntu.

    I don't mean to argue with other repliers, but IMHO, Mythbuntu is easier to setup than knoppmyth

  7. I vote for Elisa too

    Here's Elisa in action:

  8. I use miro (previously used democracy player) with Live TV Streams online to get a Tivoish system on my tv.

    It's not exactly the same but it's 100% free and hey it means I can save some money not paying for cable. I'll have to try a few of those you listed some of them look even better.

  9. XBMC Media Center is the ultimate media player software on all platforms :)

  10. Thanks for the info.