While streaming services like Netflix use the power of Wi-Fi to transform the landscape for watching movies and TV at home, lots of us are still hooked up to broadcast TV and cable with an old-school coaxial connection – you know, the same thing you used to hook up your Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. Enter internet protocol television (IPTV), which delivers both live and on-demand TV programming. Mac users, get ready to make some choices, because while IPTV hasn't hit the mainstream yet, you've got a few options to sift through.
IPTV on VLC
Under the surface, IPTV works much more like browsing the internet than it does traditional broadcast TV. Just as you need a browser to surf, you'll need to use your choice of apps and software to, in a sense, "translate" IPTV programming to your Mac.
Video of the Day
VideoLAN's free, open-source VLC media for OS X (and other platforms) offers an accessible route, but one that takes some tinkering to get going. To watch IPTV on Mac, open VLC's Tools menu and click "Preferences." Under the "Show settings" option, check the box next to "All." From the list of Advanced Settings that appears, click "Video Codecs" under the Input/Codecs header, then choose "FFmpeg." At the FFmpeg audio/video decoder menu, set the hardware decoding option to "Disable," then go back to the Input/Codecs menu and set Network Caching to a value of 3,000. Set the NTU of the network interface value to 1,500 if you're using cable internet or 1,498 if you're using DSL internet. Save your settings, then quit VLC.
To start viewing, you'll need an IPTV playlist file in the M3U format, typically available for free download online. Open the M3U of your choice using VLC (you may need to copy and paste an M3U URL into the "Open URL" field) and you're ready to roll.
Cross-Platform: GSE IPTV
Available for Android, iOS and OS X devices, GSE Smart IPTV is still in the beta testing phase as of late 2018, but it potentially offers a less complicated solution to viewing IPTV on your Mac.
Since it also runs on your iPhone or Apple TV, GSE focuses on cross-platform viewing. More a plug-and-play solution than VLC, GSE is specifically an IPTV player (as opposed to a media player that also supports IPTV), so it's simply a matter of downloading the app from the Mac App Store and plugging in your M3U or JSON IPTV playlist – or choosing from the sample playlists included with the software. GSE Smart IPTV also includes features like playlist management, multiple themes, parental controls and support for Apple Airplay.
Other OS X Options
If you're still looking to watch IPTV on a Macbook, the Mac App Store has a few more plug-and-play options for you, though none are as widely used or tested as VLC or GSE.
IPTVMax and IPTVMini, both priced at $0.99, are bare-bones M3U list players – if you're looking for a straightforward IPTV experience. At the $5.99 price point, IPTV Player features a drag-and-drop interface – just drag your M3U to the playlist window and you're good to go – while IPTV Streamer Pro adds support for playlist file types well beyond M3U, including RTMP, RTSP, UDP and TS formats.