A lot of people have “cut the cord” and gotten rid of paid cable or satellite service for cheaper online streaming TV. A great way to supplement that, especially for new shows or live sports, is with a digital over-the-air antenna. But if you’ve become acclimated to streaming, you might miss the ability to pause live TV.
Good news: if your TV has Roku software built-in, you can do just that. Roku’s TV interface has the ability to pause TV from an over-the-air antenna for up to 90 minutes. The feature was added in a software update a few years ago, without too much fanfare.
It’s not full DVR functionality—you can’t save shows to watch later, you can’t set up scheduled recordings, and you can’t track back and forth from pause. But it’s a tiny bit of luxury enabled by modern tech that makes watching live TV much more convenient.
You’ll just need a few things to get started.
A TV with Roku management software. A regular Roku box, one you plug in with an HDMI cable, doesn’t have this feature. Roku has partnered with brands like TCL, Sharp, Hitachi, and Philips, among many others, to ship televisions that have Roku’s platform built-in.
A digital antenna. This is just a regular antenna that gets over-the-air signals. You can buy them for as little as $10, and they’re a great way to supplement streaming services. You plug it into your TV with an old-fashioned coaxial cable, then go through Roku’s channel-finding setup process to add live TV to your screen.
A USB flash drive. Roku’s built-in software doesn’t have much storage space, so you need to augment it by plugging one of these into the USB port on your TV. An older USB 2.0 drive is fine, but it needs to be at least 16GB, and you’ll have to keep it plugged into the TV, so remove any files you have on there already. If you don’t have one, a drive that meets these requirements is super-cheap.
How to Set Up Live TV Pause
Make sure the antenna is plugged into your TV and you’ve scanned for local TV channels, then plug in your flash drive to the USB port. If this is the first time you’ve set up a TV antenna, the Roku software might take you straight to live TV pausing setup, too. If not, follow the steps below.
Go to the Roku home page, and select the “Antenna TV” option from the main grid. Press the “*” button on your remote. Select “Set Up Live TV Pause” and press the center button.
On the following screens, select “Set Up Live TV Pause,” then “Continue.”
On the next screen, enter the code and select “OK.” This will delete all the data on the flash drive, so make sure you’ve backed up anything important!
Reformatting the flash drive will take about a minute. Once it’s done, the interface will go back to the Roku home page. You can test everything out by opening the Antenna TV square, then pressing the Play/Pause button on your remote, just like most streaming video apps.
Note that changing the channel in the Antenna TV guide, going back to the home screen, or switching to a different app or TV input will all reset your pause buffer. It’s really only good for stopping to do something else, like grabbing a snack, going for a bathroom break, or answering the door. But that little tweak makes it so much better.