more people rethink ways to get television programming
outside the traditional cable and satellite companies,
the unsung TV antenna is becoming a fundamental
component of their cord-cutting strategy.
makes sense. Not only are broadcast TV signals free, but
even a simple antenna can produce the best picture youíve
ever seen on your TV because the high-definition signals
are less compressed than through cable or satellite.
new flat, wall-mounted indoor antennas are a cinch to
install and far less offensive aesthetically than the
old rabbit ears ó some can be affixed to a window
behind drapes, for example. And with a one-time cost of
about $50 for about 50 channels ó including almost all
of the most popular 50 shows ó the switch is a
recently announced it would offer streaming online HBO
service without a cable or satellite subscription,
removing yet another reason people remain tethered to a
paid-TV provider. ESPN, perhaps the largest hurdle to
cutting cords, reportedly is looking into the same
sales spiked several years ago with the switch to
digital broadcast signals, but the antenna business has
continued to flourish, said Ian Geise, senior vice
president of Voxx Accessories, the largest seller of TV
antennas under such names as Terk and RCA.
really been this shift in mindset for people and (their)
television entertainment," he said. And itís not
all older consumers and cheapskates. Young adults who
grew up on streaming content are becoming big customers
of antennas as a way to complement their online video
entertainment, he said.
typical cord-cutting setup would include an antenna,
supplemented with online programming that can be sent to
your television via such streaming boxes as Apple TV and
Roku and many of the newer "smart" television
sets that allow you to log in to online programming
services such as Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime Instant
course, you would still need Internet service,
potentially from the cable company, which results not in
cord-cutting but cord-trimming. Even if you donít want
to use over-the-air signals for your main TV, an antenna
might work well for televisions in a bedroom or den,
avoiding the monthly cost of extra cable boxes.
in free TV? Here are questions and answers about
antennas and getting some of your video entertainment
over the air.
EQUIPMENT DO I NEED?
TV and an antenna. If you have an old TV without a
digital tuner, pre-2007, you might need a digital
CHANNELS CAN I GET?
the big broadcast channels, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox,
CW and PBS. All but three of the top 50 shows were on
broadcast networks during the last TV season and could
be picked up by antenna, according to TV Guideís list
for the 2013-14 TV season. Youíll also get independent
channels and subchannels of main networks that provide
additional programming, such as old TV shows and
PROGRAMMING WONíT I GET?
"The Walking Dead" on AMC, "Monday Night
Football" on ESPN or "Duck Dynasty" on
A&E. No CNN or MSNBC, and no pay channels, such as
HBO and Showtime.
IS THE QUALITY OF OVER-THE-AIR TV?
you are receiving a strong signal, excellent. No snow or
ghosting picture. "You have a cliff effect; you
either have a signal or you donít have signal. If youíre
not receiving your signal properly, for the most part,
youíll just get a blue screen," Geise said.
Otherwise, the picture is likely to be noticeably better
than cable or satellite. An exception might be broadcast
subchannels, if there are a lot of them. They might be
slightly lower quality than the main channel, but still
high definition, said David Wilson, vice president of
technology and standards at the Consumer Electronics
DO I BUY AN ANTENNA?
websites can help you determine the reception at your
address, the nearest TV transmitters and the channels
youíre likely to receive. Some help you choose an
outdoor antenna model with color codes. Consumer Reports
recommends antennaweb.org, antennapoint.com, TVFool.com
and the FCCís DTV Reception maps, tinyurl.com/fccmaps.
ARE THE TYPES OF ANTENNAS?
basic choice is between indoor antennas, if youíre
roughly 25 miles or closer to transmitting towers, or
outdoor and attic antennas if you are farther away.
Outdoor antennas are better but indoor antennas are
smaller and more discreet. Some flat, flexible,
magazine-size plates can be mounted behind a TV, for
example, or even painted the same color as the wall.
Some newer outdoor antennas are smaller than traditional
models and can be mounted to the side of a house,
similar to a satellite dish, Geise said. Besides Terk
and RCA, Mohu brand indoor antennas get good reviews.
Thereís no such thing as an HD or digital antenna,
which are marketing terms.
indoor antennas, you attach it to your TV with the
familiar coaxial cable and perform a channel scan to see
what stations you get. See your TVís manual for
instructions on performing a scan. Moving the antenna
around the room might change which channels you receive.
Mounting an outdoor antenna will depend on how handy you
are and whether you are comfortable working at heights.
Hiring an installer is an option.
trees and buildings can all impact signals and the type
of antenna that works best at your location, so you
might have to try a few. There is no "best."
"There are so many factors that can come into play
to get the best signal you can," Geise said. So,
buy from a retailer that offers no-hassle returns.
Consumer Reports says that for indoor antennas the wood
or metal in your homeís walls might interfere with and
degrade digital signals. It found the best placement is
usually near a window facing the direction of your local
TV transmitters. But again, your best strategy is trial
that are amplified and omnidirectional sound like theyíre
better, but they are not necessarily. A nonamplified,
directional antenna might work best.
MUCH DO THEY COST?
Reports found little correlation between price and
performance. The antenna that was generally able to pull
in the most stations during its test was a $32 model
I FEED SEVERAL TVS WITH ONE ANTENNA?
You can use a splitter for the cable, possibly adding
amplifiers for longer runs, as you would with cable and
THERE A DOWNSIDE?
Besides the inability to get nonbroadcast channels,
recording shows and movies can be expensive or a hassle.
You can record broadcast TV on DVRs, but some, like Tivo,
have monthly service costs, mitigating your cord-cutting
savings. Channel Master is another brand that is more
expensive but has a DVR without a subscription. Tablo
and Simple.tv are others. The biggest downside is that
some people just wonít be able to get a good enough
signal to make an antenna work in their locations.
you are close enough to TV towers to use an indoor
antenna, consider trying one. They are relatively
inexpensive and low hassle to set up. If it doesnít
work, itís no big deal. Just return it to get your