Upcycling and old TV to a Smart TV with an Amazon FireTV Stick

Once upon a time, a TV was simply something you plugged into an arial socket and used to watch whatever broadcasters were prepared to show at any given time.
With the rise of streaming, TVs have now become “smart”. Well, smartish. I mean, some of them use really slick software and have lots of Apps that enable you to stream from a variety of sources.
Others are a bit less sophisticated and have limited access to such Apps.
Not only that, the world is now full of the old type of “dumb” but perfectly serviceable TVs.
So, if you want to :

  • Revitalise an old non-smart TV
  • Make a new not-so-smart TV smarter
  • Place a TV somewhere that’s not within easy reach of an arial socket

…then help may be at hand. There are a number of devices you can plug into a TV to beef up it’s smartness.
As these devices are streaming content over the internet, you don’t need an arial to make use of them.
Furthermore, they are a fraction of the cost of buying a new Smart TV.

What follows is an account of how I’ve setup an Amazon Fire TV Stick and used it to access the wealth of streaming content that’s freely available in the UK, as well as some of the main subscription services…

Why FireTV ?

Let’s be clear here, I’ve not done any extensive research into streaming sticks so I’m not saying that FireTV is the best. However, it does fulfill all of our requirements whilst being a very cheap way of “smartening up” your TV. It also happens to be the only one I’ve used, although I have used it on several TVs now, with uniformly impressive results.

Installation pre-requisites

First up you’re going to need a TV with an HDMI port.
You’ll also need access to a reasonable broadband connection. At the start of 2020, let’s say that anything over 12Mb/Sec should be good enough if your not sharing, maybe super fast broadband speeds (20MB up) if you are.
You can use slower speeds but this can be prone to buffering.

Oh yes, you’ll also need one of these :

firetv

Other stuff it would be useful to have to hand :

  • Your Wifi network name and password
  • Your Amazon account – if you have one – don’t worry if you haven’t
  • Your BBC Account – if you have one

One point to note is that, if you do happen to have an Amazon Prime account, there’s a whole bunch of streaming content that is available to you for free so it makes sense to use this account when seting up the FireTV.
If you don’t it’s not a problem however, as we’ll see shortly…

Initial Setup

Plug the FireTV stick into a it’s power cable then into a mains socket. Then connect it to an HDMI port on your TV.

Now turn on the TV and play hunt-the-HDMI-port to find out which one your FireTV is plugged into.

FireTV will now take you through the initial setup process which consists of :

  1. Set Language (English UK in my case)
  2. Set up Wifi to connect to your network
  3. Sign in with your Amazon Account ( or create a new one) – NOTE – you can set up an account without providing any payment details !
  4. Select the brand of TV you are using so that the power and volume buttons on the FireTV remote will work

At this point the setup will give you the opportunity to install some of the more popular apps. Don’t worry if you can’t find what you’re looking for, because we’ll add a lot more apps shortly.
So, select Netflix, YouTube and anything else being offerred that takes your fancy.

Finally, we have the FireTV Home screen. Before we do anything else however, we need to go to the menu that’s displayed at the top of the screen and select Settings
Scroll across and select My Fire TV.
Then select About from the list that pops up.
Finally you need to select the option Install Update if it’s there.

If there is a pending update, FireTV will download it and then either automatically re-start or prompt you to re-start it.

Once it’s re-booted, you can now download your apps.
Back on the Home screen menu, navigate to Apps. This opens up the FireTV app store.
If you navigate to Categories then Entertainment, you’ll find the TV services you need to access a significant chunk of the Freeview channels, along with some subscription services.

Some of these apps will require registration ( or use of an existing account), however all of the ones listed below can be installed and used without having to pay anything.
Note that, as a TV License payer, you will have access to a veritable treasure trove of content on BBC iPlayer, including classic programs, box sets and even movies.

Streaming Freeview Channels

The mapping between Freeview Channels and Apps is as follows :

Channel App Notes
BBC 1 iPlayer
BBC 2 iPlayer
ITV 1 ITV Hub
Channel 4 All 4 Catchup only
Channel 5 My 5 Catchup only
ITV 2 ITV Hub
BBC 4 iPlayer
ITV 3 ITV Hub
Quest TV Player
E 4 All 4 Catchup only
Really TV Player
More 4 All 4 Catchup only
Dave UK TV Play Catchup only
Drama UK TV Play Catchup only
5 USA My 5 Catchup only
ITV 4 ITV Hub
Yesterday UK TV Play Catchup only
ITVBe ITV Hub
5 Star My 5 Catchup only
DMax TV Player
Food Network TV Player
Home TV Player
47 TV Player
Paramount Network My 5 Catchup only
5 Select My 5 Catchup only
Blaze My 5 Catchup only
PBS America My 5 Catchup only
CBBC iPlayer
CBeebies iPlayer
CITV ITV Hub
BBC News iPlayer
BBC Parliament iPlayer
Sky News Sky News

You can stream some channels in more than one App. For example BBC1 can be streamed live on TVPlayer or iPlayer.

Other useful apps

If you’re a BT TV subscriber, you can use the BT App to access some of the content and save yourself buying an extra set-top box. Note that BT do charge for access via the FireTV stick.
Also, if you happen to have a Plex media server configured, we’ll there’s an App for that ( under the Apps and Games category).

In fact, if you can’t find an app, it’s always worth asking Alexa.
Right, back to my catch-up of a repeat of QI on Dave…

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