Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Cut the Cable Cord? Find Out About HDTV Antennas

More and more Americans have decided to end their $100 monthly cable bills and subsist on a daily menu of Hulu and Netflix.  Although there is plenty of entertainment available for free or at a low subscription cost online, you can vastly improve your options with the addition of a simple accessory that shouldn't cost more than $10 - $50. 

Somehow, when television broadcasting switched from analog to digital HDTV broadcasting, many got the mistaken impression that OTA (over the air) antennas were obsolete and wouldn't work anymore.  But in urban areas, most home and apartment dwellers can get by with a simple indoor antenna to receive all the local network channels and much more.  In distant suburbs and rural areas, you would need a rooftop antenna (which you likely still have from before).  Here's a simple guide to getting hooked up to excellent TV broadcasting with an antenna.

Hunter Communications Original News Source:

Link to article:
How to Choose the Best OTA Antenna for Free TV

Excerpt: "The first thing you should do is find out what channels are available in your area. If you live in or near a metro area, you'll probably have several to choose from, including major network affiliates (CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox, etc.) and PBS. Even if you don't, you may luck out anyway. Search sites like TV Fool and AntennaWeb to find out what’s available. Both use your address to generate a list of channels near you, where in the city they broadcast from (which will be important later), and how strong those channels will come in.

TV Fool is the better search tool. It creates a polar graph and color-coded list of channels organized by callsign, signal strength, and distance. It even breaks out UHF and VHF channels. You can see an example in the image above. You'll be able to tell quickly which channels will come in clearly, which will be noisy, and which ones won't come in at all. AntennaWeb, on the other hand, does a better job of explaining the different types of OTA antennae and the language you'll see when you go shopping.

If the headlines are to be believed, consumers are abandoning traditional TV subscriptions in droves, embracing ever-easier-to-use streaming gadgets… Read…Once you have an idea of the channels available to you, look up the callsigns to see what network they represent. That'll give you an idea whether you'll be able to catch your favorite shows or live sporting events. We've talked about some of the biggest cable cutting myths before, so don't go into this assuming that you'll get a TV experience that's the same as cable. However, if your favorite programs are on channels like NBC, ABC, or PBS, you're in for a treat. Similarly, you won’t be able to catch every sporting event, but you can find a few on over-the-air channels like CBS and FOX.
Once you know what's available, it's time to choose an antenna. You have two big decisions to make. First, you have to decide which type of antenna you need. Take a look at the geographic plot that TV Fool (or AntennaWeb) provided for you. The map is situated with "up" as true north. The lines closing in on your location show you which direction each network broadcasts from.

You'll want an omnidirectional antenna if you have a lot of different networks coming in from all sides. This option means you'll get the most channels from every direction, but you may sacrifice signal quality. Omnidirectional antennae are easier to place, and you don't need to worry about beamwidth, or adjusting it every time you change the channel. The person in the map above would probably do well with an omnidirectioal model.

If all of the channels available to you (or at least the ones you want to see) all come from one direction—like the nearest major city—then a directional antenna could be the way to go. One bonus of directional antennae: they’re stronger and can reach farther, so channels you get will come in more clearly than with an omnidirectional antenna. The person in the image above would do best with a directional antenna. But which is best for you depends on your location relative to those channels."

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