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.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Lately I have been saying more and more local stations air their own PSAs on the DTV transition, and some of them summarize what actions households need to take, if any, and others put up links on their Web sites. Also last night on Chicago PBS station WTTW (July 23, 2008), on their local news and public affairs show Chicago Tonight, they did a demo of a DTV converter box with information on how to connect it inline to VCRs with analog tuners that will also no longer receive the full-power off-air TV broadcasts after February 17, 2009 (just the low power ones).

There, is however, one thing I am not sure all these PSAs are telling - that off-air DTV is available now, and the converter boxes will allow households the ability to see and enjoy DTV, possibly to the point that the American public will welcome the transition more than fear it. If I was not so aware of off-air DTV, then I wonder if some seeing these announcements are confused into believing that DTV will not become available over the air until February 2009. I think a few of these announcements should make people aware that the converter boxes they buy can be hooked up immediately.

Also, brand new TVs that have off-air ATSC tuners do not need converter boxes, unless maybe if someone wants the benefits of over-the-air picture in picture. Why can't these local broadcasters mention "If you are watching this on channel 4-1 through the antenna tuner, then your set is DTV ready"? Somehow I feel cable and satellite providers, who do sponsor local programming for the station and provide revenue, may be giving the content writers of these spots a bit of fear that if people knew about off-air DTV then they may cancel their pay TV subscriptions so they can afford to fill their gas tanks.


Last month the much anticipated Echostar DTV converter box arrived with a bit of confusion among the hype. Evidently the low-priced TR-40 may be coming out eventually, but for now, the Dish Network branded DTVPal box is now available, online only at http://www.dtvpal.com/. And while it is eligible for the $40 government coupon discount, it is retailing online for $59.99 plus shipping, handling, and taxes, same as the Zenith DTT900 I recently got to convert my TV, and that I got right at the store.

There was some anticipation since CES back January that Echostar would release a converter box retailing for $39.99 that can pass the analog signals, but now that has gone by the wayside for a friendlier brand name. From what little I have read about the DTVPal, it has one significant competitive advantage lacking in many converter boxes - a multi-channel electronic program guide (EPG) allowing you to see what is coming on up to two days in advance. However, that seems to be where the praise ends. The package includes only a coax cable to connect the TV set, and not an RCA cable package nor S-Video cable, and in urban areas the box seems to come up a bit short to the Zenith in terms of decoding the DTV channels. Also, the DTVPal remote from what I have been reading is quite disappointing in terms of use.

Meanwhile, Zenith has made itself more competitive by essentially upgrading its DTT900 box to a new DTT901 model for the same $59.99 retail price. Unlike the DTT900, the DTT901 is capable of passing the analog broadcast TV signals to the TV for those who want to continue viewing low power stations that will continue broadcasting in analog after February 17, 2009. I myself do not watch any low power analog stations that are not available as a DTV multicast, so as I said before, this is a non-issue to me personally. However, Zenith/LG deserves credit for paying attention to the community broadcaster/low power station issue, and allowing a good product to add this analog pass through feature.

Again, there are reports swirling that Echostar will release the $39.99 TR-40, but based on the DTVPal reviews, the TR-40 may lack the EPG and maybe a couple performance features as the $60 to $70 boxes, so it looks like a case of you getting what you pay for, after all.