OTA HDTV Reception Q&A

Updates on the DTV transition and how to receive over-the-air digital television for free.

Location: Richmond, IL, United States

Hello there! I created this blog to share the information about over-the-air HDTV reception you have been wearily searching the Web or calling technical lines for, whether you have decided for less expensive means to get your favorite TV shows, or still adjusting from the over the air broadcast DTV transition that occurred on June 12, 2009. After working for a leading antenna manufacturer for almost 5 years, during which time I've shared my expertise with those who asked on the phone and by email at work, I decided to do the same in the Blogosphere! Confused about getting your local HD channels? Just click through the archives, some of the most useful information is in the early posts from 2005-06. If you want to get in touch with me with antenna related questions, just leave a comment anywhere on this site.

Saturday, July 15, 2006


I suppose you may be one of those people stumbling across the blog and wondering to yourself, "Why is this guy blogging and making a living working with of-air television antennas? I mean, who isn't get their TV from cable, satellite, or maybe even their phone company which is offering a lot of channels to choose from?" Well, from what I have observed and experimented with lately, I have quite a few arguments that support that there are others like me who still believe in the terrestrial broadcast TV model. I will list these arguments here in this entry.

1) Off-air broadcast television, analog or digital, has NO MONTHLY FEE. You don't need to shell out over $40 per month to a digital cable, satellite, or telco provider for HDTV from your local broadcaster. The right antenna an a DTV tuner is all you need. In addition to the HDTV, you will also get the multicasts from the broadcast stations for no monthly fee. In some major markets, you will get multicasts such as family-friendly channels, live weather and radar information (i.e. from your local news or NBC Weather Plus), and now even music videos. A new music video channel, The Tube Music Network, is available in some markets on a local station's multicast, over the air for free. Let me say that as a fan of quality music, The Tube is a blessing. For the moment, there are no advertisers, and this nationwide network provides nothing but music videos from GREAT TALENT from classic seminal artists like the Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, to '80's videos from when we actually wanted our MTV, to great new artists like Beck, Coldplay, Modest Mouse, David Gray, Norah Jones, etc. No reality shows, no gossip, no over-commercialized fluff. Now while The Tube IS available from some digital cable providers, again, this multicast is free over-the-air with an antenna and DTV tuner where available. To see if The Tube is available, visit http://www.thetubetv.com/ and click on the "Where To Watch" link.

2) Because off-air reception is, if anything, a great backup source of information when cable or satellite service goes out. Yes, cable service still goes out once in a while, and with satellite you sometimes have to contend with "rain fade" or even re-adjusting the dish. But if that happens, if your antenna is getting the signal, then you can switch to the antenna tuner and either see the game you are trying to enjoy, or maybe there is important emergency information from the local news that you may need to know. Recently I looked through a pamphlet published by our local radio station about how to be prepared for weather emergencies, and one recommend is to have an off-air antenna should the cable or satellite go out so you can stay informed of developments and the latest information.

3) Off-air HDTV looks better. Cable and satellite providers do need to receive the broadcast signal, but then they need to re-route the data on their bandwidth, and unfortunately, that does result in some bit errors. Like making a copy, it is not quite as good as the original. By getting the digital data over the air, if the antenna is positioned optimally, you are receiving the bitstream broadcast from the station -- think of it as eliminating the middleman and increasing efficiency as a result.

4) Are you actually watching the channels you are paying for? Interestingly enough, with broadband Internet becoming more available, people can now be informed and entertained on their own time with different methods other than getting it from cable and satellite, and just "surfing channels". Here is my personal take -- for now I don't have satellite TV, and the cable video service I'm getting is just a $15 per month basic broadcast package with the broadcast channels, and that is a backup to my free off-air DTV reception. And in reality, I'm paying $5 per month for the backup because I'm getting a $10 discount by combining it with my high-speed Intenet service through my cable system. With my broadband Internet, I have actually been getting news and information that fits me through video podcasts, most of them for no additional charge, through my Media Center PC. I have it hooked up to an analog TV through the S-video, and these podcast vids are of pretty decent video quality, and I am watching the HD shows through the built-in ATSC tuner on my PC, and recording the content to watch later. If I feel like watching something and I'm all caught up with what I got over the air, I can get additional on-demand content that actually interest me with few to no commercials for free to $5 with on-demand content services like iTunes, Akimbo, and Cinemanow. Okay maybe I'm missing out on some original dramas on cable, but I really don't have the time or interest in them personally. Where I live, I'm within a short drive or even bike ride to Fun City (http://www.onefuncity.com/) where I can watch live ESPN and satellite TV sports watchable all over the place because it has over 100 HD monitors. So I can enjoy live NFL action there, listen to the audio with a little receiver, and actually socialize with people. I am single and live alone, so these great methods suit me well and give the time and money for other things. And with the price of gas the way it is, at least I can swing the cost of getting to work or an occasional road trip. By saving on cale bills, I've got my Media Center PC all paid up now, and I'm happy to say I'm living the debt-free lifestyle, and I am able to put a bit of money away for an annual getaway, and for the future.

5) Do you have the time for all those channels? Again, I don't with my lifestyle. I find myself online quite a bit chatting and swapping emails, pictures, and videos with friends and family, even entertainers whom I've become fans of. So broadband Internet and these popular online social sites has actually helped personalize my entertainment, and the time I've spent of it has pretty much denied time to just sit and surf channels. Oh, and of course I'm taking a bit of time blogging about what I do because I do like helping out and being someone instead of being a lazy couch potato. In fact, I read somewhere that in the UK, more people are spending more time online than watching TV. Being online gives people unlimited choices in on-demand video if you know where to look.

6) Off-air DTV is mobile! And now laptop PCs are being made with built-in DTV tuners, so if you bring one out with a small off-air antenna, you can watch live TV anywhere, and for free. Of course as I mentioned in a previous entry you will soon be able to watch live TV on your mobile phone, but those services will likely cost you. Off-air DTV on the right laptop in the right place? No charge.

And one more thing, I mentioned that I am watching digital content on a Media Center PC hooked up to an analog TV set via S-video. That is how I am enjoying off-air DTV. You really don't need an HDTV set to enjoy free DTV, a Media Center PC or even an affordable terrestrial set-top-box with an ATSC tuner will suffice in watching free-to-air TV with incredible digital picture quality. However, you will need an HDTV monitor to experience the true HD resolution, but me personally, I can do without it for now, so I choose to hold out for the monitor prices to continue to drop.

So there you go, this is why I do what I do for a living. Those who have great fulfilling lives are the ones who make a living doing what they love and having a passion for it, and a reason for that passion. And now you have just read my reason for my passion. I do hope that people will become more aware of the DTV transition and the benefits of free off-air DTV. Maybe as 2009 nears this will become a more talked about issue. We shall see, but with broadband Internet connecting a lot of people and producing the ability to unleash do-it-yourself content, and on-demand libraries continuing to grow, a paradigm shift may be happening soon with broadcast media. Maybe soon people will just watch live TV events and breaking news and get the rest of their entertainment on-demand online, and if that is the case, some may just choose to do so for free with an off-air antenna. They just need to be aware that free off-air DTV is here, and the means to get it effectively.

For additional information, visit http://www.myfreehdtv.org/.


Blogger antennaguy said...


Sales Increased 220% 3Q 2007 Over 3Q 2006
As Cable TV Looses 1.1 Million Subscribers

December 3, 2007, St. Louis, MO –The cable industry has lost over one million subscribers this year, suggesting a year ending with a 2 percent loss of market share, as reported recently in several newspapers, trade magazines and Internet newsletters. Some of the declines actually surprised Wall Street. But they didn’t surprise Richard Schneider, President of Antennas Direct, whose new Terrestrial Digital brand of antenna sales tripled during the same period. Schneider said “Because of the tremendous improvements in our Off-Air antenna technology and design that have taken place in the last few years, along with changing customer attitudes and needs in the new and highly competitive digital TV and HD era, we’ve found ourselves right in the middle of a thriving resurgence of Over-The-Air (OTA) antennas. Research projects that 15 percent of TV households and 23 percent of TV sets in U.S. homes don’t receive cable or satellite TV. That represents more than 70 million TV sets that only receive OTA broadcast television. It’s no wonder our phones are ringing off the hook.”

Schneider continued “Two of the reasons suggested by most business reporters for the decline in cable numbers are TV subscribers switching to Satellite (DBS) and the emergence of telco TV. While partially true, telco numbers are much too small to be a significant factor, but a meaningful percentage of these cable TV losses come from unhappy cable customers switching to OTA antennas and dumping cable’s hundreds of unwatched channels in favor of getting all their favorite local broadcasts FREE. Cable companies are stumbling with penetration percentages hitting a 17-year low. A significant number of cable subscribers are finally getting enough of cable TV’s higher costs, billing add-ons, service outages, contact difficulties, aggravating half-day in-home service waits and no shows, resulting in lost customers, while our business is doubling about every 180 days”

On November 29, 2007, The Bridge Data Group reported overall “customer satisfaction” with DBS at 72% and cable at only 58% and the “likelihood to switch” for both at 10%. These numbers might have accounted recently for the “attack” on a Comcast payment center in Virginia by a 75 year-old hammer wielding grandmother.

And it’s not only problems with Cable (and Satellite) providers that have caused this dramatic OTA antenna sales increase. The benefits of Off-Air antennas are compelling and numerous. There is only so much room on cable or satellite bandwidth in which to squeeze signal, so data is compressed to fit, resulting in a somewhat "soft" picture. An OTA signal is the gold standard in digital reception because it's completely uncompressed and also FREE; good news for the millions of homes not using cable or satellite. But what about those cable or satellite subscribers that want access to all their local broadcasts or all available HD local broadcasts, but can’t get them from their present provider.

Local digital TV broadcasts are everywhere. And how hot is HD? High Definition Televisions bumped digital cameras out of the top spot for the most desired CE product for 2007. But bandwidth limitations mean that cable and satellite providers may not carry all local channels in many areas, or may not offer all of them in high definition. Contract disagreements between local cable operators and local broadcasters can mean that major networks may not be available via cable TV in several areas. DISH Network® offers local HD coverage to about 47 percent of U.S. markets, while DIRECTV® reaches about 65 percent, but for an additional monthly fee.

“What about those other millions of viewers who want to see their favorite local shows and in HD” asks Schneider? “The answer is to add an OTA antenna to other signal reception sources”. This not only gives a viewer the ability to receive all their local stations, but, with the right Terrestrial Digital antenna, some viewers may even be able to receive out-of-town channels, which may carry blacked out sports programs or network broadcasts not available in their home town. For lower income families, an OTA antenna may be the only alternative. As an added benefit, an OTA antenna provides back-up reception options for local cable or satellite signal loss due to equipment failure or rain, snow and ice fade and to smaller TVs and second sets in homes not wired for whole-house signal distribution.

The Consumer Electronics Association, which does not track antenna sales, puts antennas in their accessory category. Accessory? Try getting an OTA broadcast signal without one.

12:40 PM  

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