Harness The High-Definition Airwaves

Harness The High-Definition Airwaves
Staff Photo Nick Brothers Digital antennas, such as the the black rectangle in the window, can be used to receive free, unadulterated HDTV from the major television networks in addition to a few other channels.

Staff Photo Nick Brothers
Digital antennas, such as the the black rectangle in the window, can be used to receive free, unadulterated HDTV from the major television networks in addition to a few other channels.

Man, doesn’t paying for cable suck?

Cable doesn’t show any signs of getting more affordable. Let’s face it. Among the hundreds of channels available, maybe three or four, such as ESPN, are regularly accessed. So for $80 a month (or more) you end up paying for just a few channels. And usually, those channels kinda suck most of the time. And that sucks.

Because of all of those reasons, I made the decision to go without cable when I moved into my place earlier this year. That meant forgoing local TV news or weather updates (I only got what dredged up on my social media accounts), all of the late night talk shows, no sports and forgoing the luxury of having television on in the background. I know, I’m aware it’s a bad case of the first world problems.

Recently, my buddy Raul introduced me to digital antennas. That changed the game.

Digital antennas aren’t anything new, but it certainly was new to me. Maybe, this will be new to you. If not, and you’re some omni-informed person, you are excused from reading the rest of the article.

In short: you get free HDTV from the airwaves, and it looks and sounds better than what you get with cable.

Here’s the deal. There are no paid subscription fees to receive over-the-air (OTA) television, and the picture and sound quality is better if not just as good as dish or cable because of the unadulterated format, which the FCC mandated take over in place of analog broadcasts (the kind the bunny-ear style antennas recieved) in 2009. OTA broadcasts aren’t hindered by signal compression that cable and satellite use, according to the FCC.

What you get with the digital antenna is about 10 channels (at least that’s what mine picks up) that include all the major networks such as NBC, CBS, FOX and ABC in high definition, and a few other channels that offer stuff like cooking and hobby shows and reading services for the blind. I especially like being able to watch football again without mooching off my friends.

I’ve had mine for about a week now and I still can’t believe it’s free. I like to imagine that digital antennas are 2015’s version of what getting a radio in the early 20th century must have felt like. Somehow, when you buy this little box (i.e., antenna) you magically get all of this programming from the sky into your living room. Except ours is moving pictures matched to audio.

Now of course, if you are a diehard sports fan, it’s probably in your best interest to get cable so you can access ESPN, TNT and the Fox Sports Network. Making a move like this really only applies to people who primarily already use Netflix, Hulu or HBO Now as their primary entertainment outlets and rarely watch anything on cable television.

Of course, taking the antenna route doesn’t include DVR, which is admittedly a great luxury. But if you’re like me, you might be interested in trying this method out.

So how do you get one? It’s as easy as searching on Amazon or the Internet at large for different antennas. I bought a 1byone amplified HDTV antenna that’s rated for 50 miles off Amazon for $37. It’s just a floppy plastic rectangle that you have to hang up on the wall or window. The higher up it is, the better. I placed mine in a window for better reception.

The antenna should come with some method to fasten or stick the antenna to something. Mine came with three double-sided sticky squares from 3M. They kind of do the trick, but with the constant temperature changes on the window’s glass, it could probably benefit from something stronger.

If you’re worried it might be an eyesore, you could probably place a portrait or a poster over it if you want to cover it. You can also leave it flat next to the TV. It looks a little goofy I suppose, but it’s equipment.

Once you place your antenna and plug in the coax cable into the TV, you’re ready to go. You just go find your TV settings (presuming you have a modern HDTV) and scan for your channels and watch as your gizmo picks up all the basic channels. Keep in mind, if you move it, you’ll need to rescan each time.

So yeah, if you want to stick it to the cable and dish companies and save yourself potentially more than a thousand dollars, I think this is the way to go. This way you still get all of the major networks in crisp HD for public and local awareness without signing a binding contract and paying a bunch of extra fees you’re force to pay that feel like scams.

Thanks for reading.

Categories: Commentary
Tags: antennas, cable