No joking. No scams. You can get uncompressed high definition (HD) broadcasts over-the-air, simply by using those rusty old antennas that you probably threw away when you got cable. HD is available over the air waves, no subscription required, and the quality is tremendous.
Indoor/Outdoor HDTV Antenna
Indoor HDTV Antenna
($59 Radio Shack)
How it Works
The evolution of Digital Television “>(DTV) allowed for the ability of High Definition Television (HDTV) to be broadcast over-the-air. Digital signals can be split into multiple channels, allowing broadcasters to transmit both standard definition and high definition programs.
What do I need?
You will need some sort of antenna to receive the broadcasts. Many TV mounted (set top) antennas will work fine, although depending on where you live there may be interference. The best antennas would be rooftop antennas, because they bypass any obstructions such as other houses and buildings. Even better than a stationary rooftop antenna would be a rotary antenna. Rotary antennas can be rotated via a remote and therefore pointed directly at broadcast centers. You can simply connect your antenna via coaxial connection on the back of your TV. Many companies still sell antennas. Your local Radio Shack will carry several models. Larger selections can be found at AntennasDirect.com.
How do I see the Channels?
If your HDTV is HD Ready, meaning, it has a built-in HD tuner, you are ready to receive HD channels. (However, some older HDTVs are only HD capable, and will need an HD receiver to translate the signals to your television.) The high definition channels will most likely be represented by a number AFTER the channel number. For example, “Channel 7-1”. This is because the normal “Channel 7” is probably still broadcasting standard definition – most likely a 480i resolution. The digital channels will follow the main channel, and may be in either 480p, 720p or 1080i, the last two mentioned being high definition resolutions.
How many channels will I get?
This will depend on where you live. More than likely you will get your local ABC, NBC, CBS and FOX affiliates. And, PBS has an amazing library of hi def programs. In addition to the major networks, you will also get all the digital broadcasts available in your area. For example in my zipcode I can receive over 25 digital channels, at least 5 of them are HD. For a listing of all the digital broadcasts within the range of your antenna, visit AntennaWeb.org.
How does over-the-air HDTV compare to cable and satellite?
This depends on how you look at it. If you are looking at it from a programming point-of-view, there are many more broadcasts in HD being provided by your cable or satellite providers (at an extra charge). But if you look at it from a quality standpoint, the over-the-air transmissions are about as good as you can get, and the audio is uncompressed. In addition, there is no additional equipment needed if your TV is “HD Ready.” With cable and satellite you will need to purchase a HD receiver and pay an additional charge for HD programming each month.
The Bottom Line
If you don’t want to pay extra for HD channels, and don’t want to purchase additional equipment, getting broadcasts over-the-air is a great option. You will also be able to impress your friends with this little known bit of knowledge. If you are looking for programming, you may want to consider doing both. With a cable or satellite subscription you can get more HD channels. But if you use an antenna in addition, you will not only get the local HD channels, but there may be many digital broadcasts being transmitted that you won’t see on your cable or satellite guide.
Keep Over-the-Air Broadcasts alive!
Support your local television stations. They are the ones producing amazing local HD content, at no charge. Check out your local news station broadcasts that provide coverage in HD. Sports highlights in HD are just jaw dropping. Even watching the weather is more enjoyable. Also support PBS, whose HD content is superb… well worth the effort to set up your antenna.