I Can't Get My TV to Connect to Cable Service

By Darrin Meyer

Older TVs offer fewer connection options for cable service.
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As the technology used in the design and manufacturing of televisions has improved and evolved over the years, so have the options for connecting the TV to different viewing sources. One such source is cable TV service; but sometimes, an issue, technical or otherwise, can prevent you from viewing your cable TV. When this happens, there are a few approaches you can take to fix the problem.

Cable Connections

One potential reason your TV will not connect to cable TV is that the television does not have the proper video input. Some older TVs may offer only a twin-lead antenna input, and not a standard RF/coaxial input. If this is the case, adapters are available to bridge this connection gap. Attach the twin-lead end of the adapter to the TV's antenna input, and the other end to the coaxial cable connected to the cable outlet or coaxial output on the set-top receiver box. You can also connect another device with a tuner, such as a VCR, between the cable source and TV to receive more channels if the TV will only tune to channels 2-13.


For older cable-ready TVs, if the set is connected to the cable service through the set-top receiver/DVR, the TV must be tuned to its designated viewing channel to receive the signal, which will likely be channel 3 or 4, and set to "Cable" or "CATV" mode. In addition, if you are routing the cable through a VCR, it must also be set to channel 3 or 4 when in VCR mode, or set to TV mode (or turned off) to view programming directly from the cable receiver and not through the VCR.


Newer televisions and HDTVs offer a variety of audio/video inputs to connect to cable TV--HDMI, component video, S-video, coaxial and composite RCA--and a cable receiver/DVR will provide at least some of the same types of outputs, depending on the style of receiver (i.e., standard or high definition). Ensure that the cable(s) you use are securely attached to both the receiver and the TV, and that the TV device input setting is set to the specific input the cable is connected to (i.e., HDMI 1 or AV 1) if the cable receiver/DVR is powered on but you do not have picture or sound.


Contact your cable TV provider for information and support on more complex connection or reception issues. The provider will be able to inform you if the service is out in your area, and should be able to make a service call if necessary to fix any problems. Upon subscribing, the technician will activate the cable feed to your residence, test any cable outlets to ensure they are working, and will likely make the necessary connections from the outlet to the receiver/DVR and/or TV, and power on the respective devices to confirm that you are receiving the signal.