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.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007


As soon as the broadcast networks' TV season officially ends on May 23rd, which these days has become highlighted by the American Idol finale, the major electronics retailers will begin, in time for advertising their "Dads and Grads" sales campaigns, alerting consumers of the impending analog over-the-air television shutoff in February 2009. That is because the FCC, in an open meeting last April, set May 25th as the date for electronics retailers to put warning labels on any analog-only sets in store inventories. As I post this, the May 25th date is pending approval by a federal government committee. In addition, I researched the Web sites of the nation's leading electronics retailers, and I discovered that they are beginning to sell more new digital ready TVs and fewer analog only sets, and on the online spec sheets for such analog sets, the warning disclaimer has been posted. This disclaimer reads as follows:

CONSUMER ALERT: This television receiver has only an analog broadcast tuner and will require a converter box after February 17, 2009, to receive over-the-air broadcasts with an antenna because of the Nation's transition to digital broadcasting. Analog-only TVs should continue to work as before with cable and satellite TV services, gaming consoles, VCRs, DVD players, and similar products. For more information, call the Federal Communications Commission at 1-888-225-5322 (TTY: 1-888-835-5322) or visit the Commission's digital television website at: www.dtv.gov.

This disclaimer, should the May 25th deadline get approved, will become noticeable in retail stores, and then, consumers unaware of the DTV transition should now ask questions about DTV. In addition, as of March 1st, television set manufacturers, per an FCC mandate, should no longer be manufacturing television sets with over-the-air analog (NTSC) tuners, but digital over-the-air (ATSC) tuners, although many of these sets would also have tuners capable of receiving analog cable TV signals.

While a coupon would be used to purchase such a "converter box", it may make more sense for a consumer to just get a brand new digital TV, which is becoming more affordable. For example, during my retailer Web site research, I noticed that Best Buy is selling a 24" 4:3 tube-style standard definition digital TV set for $200. The page for this particular model also mentions the fact that since the digital TV is standard definition (SDTV – 480i resolution, whereas HDTV sets offer 720p, 1080i, or 1080p resolution), programming broadcast in HDTV will be viewable on the set, but the consumer will only be able to watch in 480i resolution, which is still a crystal clear picture and sound provided the antenna is in an optimal location. Additionally, my research revealed that Wal-Mart carries a comparable 24" SDTV model for $175, as well a 24" analog only set for $137, and the disclaimer on that Web page. So, for about an extra $40 after sales taxes are figured in, the consumer can avoid putting what could be an eyesore converter box on a new set. However, the coupons would be used only toward the purchase of converter set-top boxes, and NOT a new DTV set.

Among the retailer Web sites I visited, I found neither Sears nor Target had an easy-to-find page on their respective sites explaining the DTV transition. I did find pages with good explanations on the transition for Wal-Mart and Circuit City, but Best Buy, in my opinion, has a Web page with the best explanation to consumers about the DTV transition. However, I was a bit disappointed to notice that none of these pages had a statement assuring that an old-fashioned roof-top antenna that may currently be in use by a consumer to get free over-the-air signals for analog sets would also work for digital signals, and a new antenna may not be required. As a small consolation, Best Buy and Circuit City did provide links to www.antennaweb.org on their DTV explanation pages as a means to get information on choosing an antenna for over-the-air reception, but not much helpful information on the antenna selector color coding used for that site. So, I recommend before you visit the retailer pages I have linked on this page that you read my explanation on how the antennaweb site works in one of my earlier posts linked here, followed by my post on some tricks in using the site linked here.

Also, on April 29th, the Associated Press published a good article about how consumers are using old-fashioned antennas to receive over-the-air digital TV broadcasts for free. That article is linked here. In addition, I found a great Newsweek article linked here about the sudden resurgence of off-air antennas. That page also can link you to additional articles in the "Related Stories" field.

Finally on a personal note, I feel all the links I have created here on this entry should lead you to all the general information you will need about the DTV transition. I am about to start a new position in downtown Chicago, and I do not see myself having much time to post additional entries for several months. Once I come across an issue that I feel should be addressed, I will gladly share my experiences in a future post, but for now, I am becoming more and more confident that in the next couple months the American public will become more aware of the DTV transition with help from the retailers, and now the switch to digital TV is looking to become a little smoother.


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.

12:33 PM  
Blogger goofy328 said...

WalMart was selling a Polariod SDTV for like $384. I have to admit I was apalled the picture was nice, but keep in mind I grabbed a 19 inch HDTV with a full ATSC tuner for like $240 at K-Mart. WalMart isn't that competitive in the HDTV business; what they are good at is offering SDTV and DTV televisions at low price points; I think their 13 inch is a tube for $99. I can't honestly recommend WalMart at this time because their prices weren't as good as those at Best Buy and Circuit City

10:24 AM  

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