Xbox One - Connecting Analog Cable To The Xbox One

Xbox One

Are you a cable cutter, or do you have an inexpensive cable subscription with your Internet subscription?

I've been both, and because of this, I've been extremely interested in the Xbox OneGuide.  

The Xbox One comes with a TV feature called the OneGuide.  Xbox's OneGuide is a TV listings service that shows you your local channels, and goes a step beyond by adding features from apps, like showing popular shows from Amazon Prime Instant.  Theoretically, it's the perfect piece of software for people that don't want to, or can't, use the cable company's guide.  It seems like the OneGuide would be the best possible situation for people with low-end cable or antenna.  

Even though the OneGuide is a nice piece of software, it has some significant limitations for people with premium cable service.  For example, right now it does a terrible job of controlling a DVR, and it is slower than the (relatively bad) guide from Comcast's boxes.  Unfortunately, the premium cable subscriber is where Microsoft has focused their marketing.  This lack of outreach to lower end cable subscribers and antenna users is hard to understand, given the clear use case for that population.

Let's correct that today.  First, I'll show you how I added my current low-end cable subscription to the Xbox One - for less than the cost of a game.  My method has a significant side benefit as well; I'm able to connect all of my classic gaming systems to my HDTV, which does not have any composite ports - my HDTV only has HDMI inputs (similar to the Xbox One).  In a later article, I'll cover off connecting an antenna to the Xbox One.  

This is my cable box from Comcast - as comcast has eliminated QAM in several markets, a converter box for every channel (even locals) is often required, and within those boxes, only the more expensive boxes allow for passthrough of the HDTV signal.  The box below is a couple of dollars a month, versus over $10 a month for their more 'premium' services.  As you can probably imagine, TV isn't all that important to my household, especially in the basement, which is mostly just used for gaming.  This cable box comes with a remote that doesn't allow for any kind of guide.  Either I know what's on TV or, well, I channel surf, I guess.  That ends today!  Xbox One to the rescue!

Cable Box

The connection is relatively straightforward - I connect my cable to a VCR which I got for $8 at my local Goodwill.  I ensured that I picked up a stereo VCR with a screen on the front.  As you can imagine, there are plenty of VCRs to choose from at Goodwill (or the Salvation Army, or probably any garage sale).  I picked up what looked like the most common, feature packed model.  

Plugging the Cable into the VCR

Once the cable is plugged into the VCR, I turned the channel to the channel defined by the cable box (channel 4), and output that via composite.  I plugged the composite video into a device I picked up from for $50.  It's their Composite to HDMI converter, product ID 9994.  Pictured below.  I actually had picked up an earlier version of this device, as I set out to solve my classic-game-to-HDMI issue long before I picked up the Xbox One.  Nonetheless, this is approximately the same device, in a slightly updated box:

 You'll need an HDMI Converter

From here, the HDMI output goes into the Xbox One.  In setting up the OneGuide, there are a couple of important notes:

  1. The Xbox One is absolutely able to pick up the remote control codes for low end cable box - and that's important, given that the Xbox will change the channels for you via voice
  2. By default, the Xbox One favors the high def version of your cable channels.  Given the low end nature of this connection, that's almost always wrong.  To correct this, you must ensure that you pick "Show All HD and SD Channels" when setting up the OneGuide's cable subscription layout.
  3. Add your current package to the Favorites section of the Xbox OneGuide.  This will both improve the voice recognition for your channels, and it will provide you an alternative means of navigating should the voice recognition not work.

That's it! 

Now, I realize that I've used $558 worth of devices to display a low end TV signal + guide on my TV, but I was going to get the Xbox One and the HDMI converter anyway - my only additional outlay was $8 for the VCR.  This may be a niche, but if you're an edge-case like me, I hope you'll find this guide useful.

I'll be covering Antenna hook up soon!

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Anonymous, 11/27/2013 7:27:46 AM
Score: 0  
This does not allow HD Broadcast TV though? Still great work around.
Anonymous, 11/27/2013 8:49:50 AM
Score: 0  
Previous poster

Found a device from Amazon that might fix the HD part.

larsoncc, 11/27/2013 8:35:22 PM
Score: 0  

Yeah, this particular solution is intended for people with analog cable connections as above.  In my case, the cable connection didn't provide HDTV.

If you have High Def cable, you can just plug HDMI right in.

My next article will cover off several methods of hooking up antenna - there are actually a few ways of getting this done, but like the above, you do have to invest a bit into a device to get the conversion done.

Anonymous, 12/2/2013 11:54:21 AM
Score: 0  
I live in a dorm and do not get an individual cable box for my room, we just plug straight into the coax outlet in the wall and get all the channels. Could i just run the coax from that to the vcr, then to the hdmi converter, then to the xbox without the little cable box thing?
larsoncc, 12/2/2013 11:00:20 PM
Score: 0  

If the channels are analog, then absolutely, yes.  Meaning - channel 2,3,4,etc, will work.  If you get channels like 2.1, 7.1, 11.3, etc, these are digital channels (technically "high def" even if they might not look high def). 

If you get high def from your cable connection (channel 2.1, 11.3, etc) in your dorm, then you're probably dealing with what is called "QAM".  There are a couple of ways to feed this into your Xbox, one of which is linked below.

I have not tested that box, so buyer beware, but seems like it should do the trick.

I also haven't tested the box linked above in the prior post, but that might do the trick, too.  That one looks like a neat option, and I'm considering getting it just to write an article about it.  :)

You could also use Windows Media Center - get a PC with Windows 7 and a tuner card / usb tuner ($50), and connect to xbox via hdmi out from your video card.  The great advantage of Windows Media Center is that it can record - turning your computer into a DVR. 

Anonymous, 7/11/2015 3:50:48 PM
Score: 0  
I tried that same kind of solution but it didnt work. The xbox could see the cable box and control it a little but it couldnt see the tv signal so I got nothing but a blank screen.
Anonymous, 3/22/2016 12:18:05 PM
Score: 0  
Thank you for posting this
Just wanted to say thank you for posting this. I tried a Magnavox MDR557H because it has an ntsc tuner and HDMI out. Unfortunately, the xbox one does not have the necessary IR built in to control it, but still this write up addresses the fact that analog is still used by many cable companies and SHOULD be supported. Its beyond annoying to see Xbox use the Hauppauge tuner it uses and not support NTSC even though the tuner itself does. So many posts online say "ntsc is dead" as a response, but never addressed it like you have. Thank you!

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