Hey what’s up guys,
There have been so many claims whether you can get free TV channels or not and I’m sure there will be plenty to come. And the truth is that you can’t get CABLE for free, legally at least, you may not have realized that you CAN get most network TV channels for free, even in high definition, at least here in the United States. Stay tuned for how to Watch Free HD-TV Channels?
If you’re like me, you might just be assuming that really the only way to have TV service is to get it through the cable company, even for the most basic channels.
But that’s where you’re wrong.
You see, all the major “network” TV channels, like NBC, CBS, ABC, PBS, and Fox, are actually broadcasted over the air, in high quality, high definition video. And these can be picked up with a TV antenna that costs maybe $30.
And they don’t look like what you’re probably thinking, which is a big metal antenna on your roof.
No, these antennas are pretty small.
There’s one that is basically just a flat sheet that you stick on the wall, or window, or anywhere with good reception really. But the best part is you will never have to pay to watch these channels.
You buy an antenna once and you are good forever.
I know this might seem very obvious to many of you, but when I was growing up, we always just had cable as long as I can remember, so I just kind of went on thinking that was how you got TV. And recently, I decided that I don’t really watch TV ever, so I cancelled my cable subscription.
The only thing that stopped me from doing it before was the thought that I might rarely want to see what’s on the major channels I mentioned before. I should therefore at least have the most basic cable package right?
Well imagine my shock when I found out I could get all those same channels for free, and the radio signals were already flying by me as I speak. So I picked up that antenna. For those of you who aren’t familiar with all this, you might be wondering how exactly you do this, and how many channels you’ll get.
Setting Up the your Free HDTV Antenna
Well set up is really easy. You’ll first want to know how many TV broadcast towers are near you, so you know how big of an antenna to get, for example mine is 50 miles.
There are a ton of websites that will tell you which channels you should expect to receive based on where you live. Once you buy the antenna, you just plug the coaxial cable into your TV, and stick the antenna either on a wall or window. Mine gets similar reception even when hidden away on a wall, so I put mine there.
This particular antenna also has a built in amplifier that’s USB powered, so I can plug that into one of the TV’s USB ports.
Then once it’s all hooked up, your TV will have some function to scan for channels, and that’s it.
No waiting on hold with the cable company, waiting for a 4 hour window to activate your service, or renting a cable box.
Just plug and play.
In my case, I receive a whopping 90 channels. Now, I need to point out, there are really only a few of these channels that you’ll ever want to watch. You’ll have the main network channels and some local news channels which are usually affiliated with the major networks too. And again yes, you might even be able to get HD signals depending on the broadcast station nearby. But the rest are probably going to be crappy public access channels, or Spanish channels.
Over the air Free HD Channels are Better than Cable
Here’s another interesting fact that the cable companies definitely don’t want you to know. It turns out, the high definition video signals you get with an antenna, for free, are actually BETTER video quality than the cable stream you would get for that same channel. You see, cable companies have to fit so many channels down a single coaxial line, that they rely on heavy compression for the video streams.
The video will obviously still look good, but you will definitely notice compression artifacts if you look carefully. However, over the air TV signals don’t have this problem. They’re still compressed a bit, but not to the same degree as cable channels. So these channels, particularly the HD ones, will look really good, even better than cable. Besides the setup though, receiving your TV through an antenna isn’t much different from cable.
If your TV has a built in guide feature, you’ll still be able to use that to browse through all the channels and see what’s on. It will also tell you the schedule for what’s coming up next. If you want you can also set up a DVR the same way you would with a cable box. You can see here there are quite a few to look through, most of it just junk, but the main lower channels have all the stuff you’re used to. The local channels probably won’t have anything good running during the day, but you’ll at least get the news at night.
I should also point out that it’s definitely possible to have both cable and an antenna, depending on your setup. If you have a cable box that uses HDMI or RCA wires to put the video on your TV, you still have that coaxial plug on the back you can use with the antenna. Or alternatively, you could get a converter box for the antenna, which could also output video through something other than coaxial.
Oh, and if your TV is older than about 2007, you’ll probably need a converter box anyway, since that’s when TV stations switched from Analogue to Digital, and older TVs might not support that.
When you get your TV over the air, there are some other quirks you’ll notice. For example, with many of the channels you get, there are also sub-channels. Like channel 3-1, 3-2, etc. The channel might broadcast different signals simultaneously, whether it’s totally different programming, or maybe one is HD and one is SD. Or maybe one of the sub channels is only for weather, or public access, that sort of thing. And many of these sub channels are just not available if you get cable. Now before I briefly touched on the fact that you can buy antennas that have different ranges. And depending on how far away from TV towers you are, what kind of terrain is around you, and signal strength, you’ll need a certain antenna size.
to get the best signal at different times. As for the technical aspects of TV antennas, they will receive one of two types of signals. Either VHF or UHF, which stand for “Very High Frequency” and “Ultra High Frequency”, referring to the radio waves. VHF is for channels 2-13, and UHF is for 14 to 83.
VHF uses the lower frequency, larger wavelength band between 30 to 300 Megahertz, and UHF is from 300 Megahertz to 3 Gigahertz. These frequency bands have different properties in terms of signal range and how well they deal with obstructions. For example, because UHF is higher frequencyand therefore shorter wavelength, it can be received with smaller antennas than VHF. However, VHF signals may propogate better across terrain obstructions like valleys and hills.
In my experience, almost all the channels come in crystal clear. But there are a few channels that are really far away that are unwatchable because the signal is too weak, and it just looks like a mess.
My apartment also isn’t on the ground floor, so I get a little bit more elevation that way, which would help with the reception. If you live on the ground floor, or in a valley or something, you’d probably want to mount it higher up.
This is especially so considering that for the TV shows I do like, like on HBO, I can typically just get a streaming service to watch them. For example HBO has “HBO Now” which is like $15 a month, as well as ShowTime and other premium channels. No need to go through the cable company, and you aren’t locked into a contract, you can just buy the service as long as your show is airing, and cancel it after the finale. So we may as well talk about some of the alternative options for cable besides just broadcast networks.
Alternatives for watching HDTV and other Programs
These days there are a few devices you can choose from. There’s Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, and Android TV devices like the Nvidia Shield. Also, you might not need any of these if you have a smart TV that includes streaming apps right out of the box. Once you have the device, then you’ll be able to use it to connect to any number of streaming services.
The big one is Netflix obviously, and the ones I already mentioned are HBO Now and Showtime. There’s also Amazon Prime video which has been adding a lot of shows recently, both originals and from big cable channels. And finally another big one is Hulu, which has been around for a while.
These services range in price, but are typically in the 8-15 dollar range. Considering how expensive cable is these days, it’s probably possible to get multiple streaming services to cover almost all cable shows anyway, for a fraction of the price. Obviously the only difference is you can’t watch the show live, you might have to wait a day or so. We do have a category about streaming services, you may want to read.
That may or may not be a big deal to you. In any case, the main point of this article is to inform you guys about another way to get TV besides just going through the cable company. Maybe some of you knew about this all along, but I’m sure those younger than me hadn’t even considered getting a TV antenna.
I know I didn’t. But now I do!