These three routes to hook up cable yourself require active cable service, as well as a cable box.
In the olden times—like, the early 2000s—you could simply connect the cable from the wall directly to your TV and get a decent array of basic channels.
Not anymore: Full cable TV service only works with a digital cable box between that wall cable and your TV, even the smartest of smart TVs. We’ll be covering the connection between the cable box and your TV. These instructions could also be applicable to a satellite TV box.
HDMI cable—Best picture quality
Coaxial cable—Quickest setup
S-Video cable or composite-video cable—For older TVs
Like HDMI, a coaxial cable transmits both video and audio, just at slightly lower quality. Any cable box, no matter how old, will have a cable output connection—they look the same, so get a good view of the labels and don’t mix up the input and output or you’ll get no signal.
A coaxial cable is the same kind of cable coming from the cable company to your home, and short-connection household versions are as easy to find as HDMI cables. The most common length is 3’, and pricier ones (with gold-plated connectors, etc.) don’t give you a better picture than budget versions.
If you have an old-old-old-school analog TV, chances are it will use an S-Video or composite video input. Some cable boxes will accommodate these kinds of connections, but most newer ones will require an adapter between the cable box and the TV.
S-Video cables have 4-pin connectors and deliver a low-grade standard-definition picture—which you likely won’t notice, since a TV with S-Video input will also be standard definition.
- Connect the S-Video cable to the S-Video output on the cable box (or to an adapter).
- Plug the other end into the TV’s S-Video input.
Composite video cables are similarly low-grade, but they use RCA mini-plug connectors—yellow for video, red for right stereo audio, and white for left stereo audio. TVs with this type of connection will also be standard definition, and will probably require a connection adapter to work with a modern cable box.
- Plug one end of the RCA connectors into their corresponding color-coded inputs on the cable box (or adapter).
- Plug the other end of the RCA connectors to the TV.
The picture with this or an S-Video connection will tend to look dark and fuzzy if you’re used to high-definition TV. If your doorbell camera gives you a better viewing experience than your TV, it might be time to upgrade to HD.