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A Growing Number Of Vizio Users Are Unhappy With Antenna Integration Update


Vizio WatchFree Plus Local channels

A growing number of Vizio TV users are unhappy with a recent update that removed their ability to access local channels without using WatchFree Plus. Even though Vizio seemingly introduced this update as a means to offer more of a cohesive experience, the issue antenna users have is the lack of an ability to opt-out.

WatchFree Plus is Vizio’s own streaming service and app. Like many other apps of today, WatchFree Plus is free to use and offers access to a variety of FAST channels and on-demand content. An update in late May also added local antenna channels to WatchFree Plus.

The idea here is to offer users a single location where they can access all of their TV channels, whether they are local, over-the-air channels or FAST channels, through the single app and interface.

This change not only made switching between local and FAST channels easier, but it also integrated local channels in the Program Guide, making it easier for users to see what’s on now, later today, and in the days to come.

The problem many users are finding out, however, is that these local channels have actually moved to WatchFree Plus. Instead of simply integrating them and making access to them within WatchFree Plus optional, any TV users that were using an antenna to access their local channels are now forced to use WatchFree Plus.

While the update was officially announced on May 23, it has been rolling out in stages since then, and each week, it seems more users have voiced their disappointment with the update.

For some, the update has directly impacted the user experience in a negative way. For example, some of the replies to the original announcement highlight how users have found the new experience to be buggy and switching between channels to be slower.

Other complaints include no ability to see which channel they are on without going into the Program Guide first, and the whole process of watching local channels to be more difficult for older family members.

For others, the issue is simply a matter of choice. They would prefer to have the option to watch their local channels without having to open and use the WatchFree Plus app, just like they did before the update. As Vizio explains in a help post, “the “Antenna” input will always direct to WatchFree+ once you receive this update,” confirming that pressing the Input button and selecting Antenna now forces the user to WatchFree Plus, and seemingly without any way to opt-out.

According to some users, they have resorted to factory resetting the TV, disabling the Wi-Fi on startup, and using the TV in a reduced state just to access their local channels.

Of course, the downside with this approach is that the smart element of the TV has been totally disabled, removing its ability to be used to access any other streaming apps and services. As one Reddit user described the situation, “Nothing like lobotomizing your smart TV to get it to function normally again.”

With the update now seemingly rolling out broadly, it doesn’t look like there’s much choice for users. While it is possible Vizio may re-add the removed functionality as an optional feature in the future, that might not happen, and especially if other users do see the value in integrating local channels with WatchFree Plus.

John Finn


49 responses to “A Growing Number Of Vizio Users Are Unhappy With Antenna Integration Update”

  1. Michael Thompson Avatar
    Michael Thompson

    Well even Vizio isn’t happy with their company apparently. since they just sold the company the Walmart for 2.3 billion! Hopefully Walmart we realize this update isn’t good for their new company. If not, I plan on using my new Vizio 50inch as the perfect target practice in my back yard! Maybe I’ll attempt a bonfire and see if a tv will burn! I’ll NEVER buy another Vizio! ……….NEVER!

  2. Dissatisified owner Avatar
    Dissatisified owner

    You’ve turned your so-called smart TV into stupid TV. congrats. I’m making sure any future TV purchases is steered clear away from VISIO.

  3. Former Vizio Customer...bye Felicia!! Avatar
    Former Vizio Customer…bye Felicia!!

    Do the right thing, push another update to make this new experience optional. The new experience is horrible, removing an owner’s control of how they use their tv and the change purely discriminates towards older users. Even with the update, I cannot fully use the Vizio remote that came with the TV. The update is riddled with bugs!!! This new feature should have been an optional function (especially for older model units to grandfather them in, by owner choice). This is not to improve the customer experience but instead for the company to have the ability to track EVERYTHING you do. Antenna is over the air, open FREE for anyone to use and now you for forcing people to use it through your app. The decision was made to hijack our freedom to use the TV. FYI to anyone reading this comment, Roku has the same horrible user experience. I’m selling or giving away my Vizio TV as soon as possible and will highly discourage anyone from purchasing any Vizio TV model. Recommending the manufacturer focus on truly delivering a good customer experience instead of becoming so intrusive by collecting data to sell to make billions in profits instead of making billions in profits selling TVs.

  4. Displeased in Midwest Avatar
    Displeased in Midwest

    I live in rural area. Internet sketchy. Wife bought me Vizio tv for fathers day- she is so sweet! Same as other posts that I now despise Vizio Watchfree+ and how they pulled a scurrilous switch. Glad I found this forum to express my displeasure; I do not want to hurt wife’s feelings regarding her gift. Will I buy another Vizio product? Nope. I will tell anyone except my wife to avoid like the plague? yep. (she figured out Vizio is terrible on her own though!)

  5. very Disgruntled Avatar
    very Disgruntled

    Never another Vizio. Telling everyone I know the same. This childish corporate maneuver is also putting lives at risk.

  6. Lost Access to my CCTV Have to throw this Vizio TV Out


  8. I will Never, NEVER, EVER buy another VISIO product. “Watch free+” will NEVER bother me again. Stupid corporate decisions that affect MILLIONS of people (who purchased their product) without their consent. Fool me once…

  9. Just got hit with this new update. Nothing working right for me but they get there commercials our working. Will disconnect from the internet. You can be sure next TV will not be a Vizio

  10. Dealing with same issue here. Reading the new privacy policy that comes with the change and talking with Vizio it appears that to use the features for which I purchased the television I must give up my personal information. There is no way around it, and the previous methods for opting out of using your data no longer exist. How is that even legal to totally change the functionality of the television part way through my ownership?

  11. I’ve been with Vizio over 17 years now but I have bought my last one and it is for sale now both of them. Change it so you can opt out of this last update where I have to go through Vizio watch free + for any of my channels over the air. Good luck selling these tvs with this update installed. SO LONG VIZIO you have made big mistake with this update and just bought new SAMSUNG today it is excellent.

  12. I won’t buy another video

  13. I do not have internet but it’s still updated and now I got to go to watch free to watch local channels and it’s a pain

  14. Dissatisfied Customer Avatar
    Dissatisfied Customer

    This “hack” may be dated. A work-around is to use Vizio Mobile app on my iPhone. Under “inputs” it still allows me to go directly to my antenna channels. I say this hack may be dated since I have not updated my Vizio app…honestly, I am concerned that if I update it I will lose the direct functionality.

  15. I’ve been around the block several times with Grayson at Vizio over this terrible WatchFree hijack of my local channels. Ever hear the phrase “runaround”? Right now he says my complaint from the BBB has been sent to some engineering dept. I live in the country and depend on local weather updates when there are storms in the area. So now a storm 10 miles away takes out a telephone line and the internet is down and I am not able to get weather warnings as to the direction the storm is traveling. WatchFree is putting people in danger. The one sure way to disable WatchFree…put the tv in the dumpster and buy a brand that has a no update version.

  16. Hate WatchFree. Will never buy another Vzio TV. Will tell as many people as possible that they MUST MUST avoid Vizio because of the WatchFree interface!

  17. I HATE these latest changes from Vizio. I have this TV for my 75 years old mother. Who is struggling with English language so I have to show her what button to press and where to go. With this change, I have to travel 30 minutes everyday to my mother and correct the issue for her. The channels are all buggies. One channel goes to the next channel, you’ll have to wait. I don’t freaking need to use my bandwidth for the local free channels. This was just WRONG. This will be my LAST Vizio TV, even if they are going to correct the issue. You took away our trust and freedom with the nonsense innovation.

  18. I want out of this Vizio watch free app! It makes it very difficult to access and watch my antenna channels. The antenna input go directly to it. Help or I’ll never buy a Vizio TV again.

  19. I was a loyal Visio customer with 3 sets, this update is terrible. T has taken over my TV. I will never buy another Visio TV if they don’t fix this now!

  20. HATE watch free! I have satellite & watch free wouldn’t load at all just a blank screen. Using antenna didn’t work either because the formatting was completely screwed up. Finally reset to factory to get it to work. Will never buy another vizio.

  21. watch free app is nothing but a joke, hate it, makes channel switching delay, will get different brand as soon as possible

    1. Vizio really screwed over my easy antenna access. I’ve been trying for a couple of hours to get just my antenna access back. I’ll never buy another one of their products or recommend them to anyone.

      1. we have five Vizio TVs and they will all be thrown in the trash if this problem is not resolved and will never buy another Vizio TV or anything else for that matter

  22. yeah, visio really anally did this update without any real requirements being looked into. what a f job. I’m with everyone saying no to visio. I now have a unresponsive unreliable piece of [removed]. no more visio if they don’t provide opt out of internet for local channels. it’s just one more thing someone else decided was best for me… best for us… f them, this really does suck big-time!!!

  23. OscarTheMusicalGrouch Avatar

    Found this article and these comments after working on the problem with my recent VIZIO update – seems I am not alone in being TOTALLY PO’d WITH VIZIO to the point that if it’s NOT fixed soon, I will NOT be buying VIZIO again. REALLY ARROGANT that they would make the antenna port basically USELESS AND NON-FUNCTIONAL and move it to streaming. I’ve read it’s to “improve the consistency of the surfing experience”. Don’t LIE to me, VIZIO – some execs there just wanted to SHOVE MORE ADS IN MY FACE THEY COULDN’T DO WHILE WATCHING OTA TV. So now if you want to watch free, network OTA TV, they STILL take control and force you to watch 50 ads on your screen. Class action, anyone? I sure hope somebody is working on that, because I will be. Not the same product, not the same capabilities, NOT THE SAME AGREEMENT I OKAYED, so agreement is VOID. And VIZIO has taken away a feature I was told it had. THAT’S CALLED FALSE ADVERTISING, isn’t it? I’m just not taking that anymore!

  24. Vizio is acting like big brother Avatar
    Vizio is acting like big brother

    This update is awful. It seems that Vizio wants to be big brother and control how we watch free over the air channels. We have lost antenna channels so Vizio is limiting our ability to get free tv and important news alerts. If the internet goes out Vizio has removed our ability to watch local channels. The new calculator style channel pad is annoying ugly and slow to respond. We used to have fast transitions between channels now we see black screens for 30 plus seconds. Vizio sucks and this update ranks up there with the edsel and new coke for bad business decisions

  25. Kitchen TV viewer Avatar
    Kitchen TV viewer

    Totally agree with all the other comments. I will never buy another Vizio and the Watchfree platform is a turd. My main complaint is that it is sloooooooow, hard to switch channels, and the guide is so slow that it is easier to search for program info on the phone.

  26. Hate what they did with my local antenna channels! I cut the cord and went with local channels only to avoid having hundreds of worthless to me channels. Takes much longer to scroll channels with this clunky watchfree app. After owning nothing but Vizio TV’s over the last 10 years I will NEVER purchase another.

  27. I am in the same boat. Rural can’t use limited internet to watch free ota channels. Class action coming. Will trash this and buy a don’t.

    1. yeah, visio really anally did this update without any real requirements being looked into. what a f job. I’m with everyone saying no to visio. I now have a unresponsive unreliable piece of [removed]. no more visio if they don’t provide opt out of internet for local channels. it’s just one more thing someone else decided was best for me… best for us… f them, this really does suck big-time!!!

  28. I hate watchfree and it will cause me not to buy another vizio

  29. So glad to find information on this local channel change. Very irritating! Thanks for informing me of just what has happened and my inability to change back to my antenna.

  30. I cannot access my antenna at all since the upgrade. Yes I have tried all the tricks to get it to work. Now I have no local channels. Please add an opt-out. I want to be able to choose the antenna as a separate input. If not, my replacement will not be a Vizio brand tv.

  31. When my wi-fi goes down during severe weather, will I be able to see my local OTA channels for news and weather updates? The ability to have antenna channels is one reason I bought this brand. After your “update”, I don’t feel this is the same product I bought. This update could have tragic outcomes for some consumers. I had my Vizio TV set up the exact way I wanted and you have ****** it up. Thank you.

  32. Thanks for the explanation. I Will NEVER buy a Vizio tv again. I’m very unhappy with update!!

  33. I am fed up with watch free+!! I am about to buy 3 more tvs and if this watch free+ problem is not resolved I will not buy any more Vizio TVs!!!

  34. This update absolutely blows I put an antenna on since my satellite internet is sketch at best NOW I can’t even watch my antenna when internet is out. This was a shitty move by Vizio and they have lost my loyalty.

    1. Me neither,Any one wants to but my dumb VIZIO. TV?

  35. Thanks for the article. Been posting about this for a while but Vizio is trying to sweep it under the rug. EVERYONE hates this and I truly believe it will hurt any future sales – I know I will never buy another Vizio.

  36. Angry consumer Avatar
    Angry consumer

    When your internet goes out now you have ZERO channels. Glad I bought a vizio I can’t watch now.

    1. This is ridiculous! We should have the choice of how we want to view things on our tv! I will not be purchasing another Vizio tv in this house if this is how they make us view our channels. We are a family that only has Vizio TVs but that will change! I just spent the day thinking something was wrong with my tv and here it is all because of an update!! Give us the option of how we want to view!!

      1. I’m not too happy with this update!! It seems there is no way around it as it’s not an option to have on a vizio TV but it’s mandatory now. If the only way around it is to replace 3 tvs in my house then that’s the route I will go. NO MORE VIZIO TVS FOR ME!!

    2. Angry Consumer Avatar
      Angry Consumer

      Exactly. Now I have to use my limited data to watch free local channels.

    3. this is totally wrong I’m calling the fcc

  37. i own 2 vizio tvs, my 65 is connected to the internet. come to find out that watch free + now controls my antenna channels. not happy with this new method. please give your CUSTOMERS the option to choose on how to view over the air antenna channels.(don’t fix things that aren’t broken).if not this tv i have will no longer be connected to the internet.

  38.  Avatar

    Thank you for explaining this messed up situation. I’ve been a loyal Vizio customer for a long time, but I’m very unhappy with this Watchfree+ thing. I want to control my tv, you took that away from me!!! Unless this changes, I will not purchase Vizio in the future.

    1. I’m right there with you. I’d like to have the option to watch my local antenna channels without using internet like I used to. I wish I would not have moved my local channels to watch free. if I knew first that there was not an option. I wouldn’t have done it. Your not going to get me to do switch on my living room tv vizio.

    2. Also anonymous from Wisconsin Avatar
      Also anonymous from Wisconsin

      I also feel the same way. I have 3 Vizio tvs and it took me 90mins this morning to get one to watch live TV. Always updating and very buggy! I will never buy another Vizio! I hate the new update! And, I hate that I had no choice in the matter! Last May my TV was ruined since this crappy update! Very disappointed!

    3. Great idea me neither 😡

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