So recently we were considering the costs of cable and alternatives so I wanted to write about it. I’ve always grown up with cable and it was basically understood (to me) that in order to get TV you had to have cable. I always (even when I moved out) had a cable box and connected that to my TVs. I budgeted in the cost of cable with the other “utilities” and that was it.
When you look more into it you find that you can get TV a variety of ways.
Since the beginning of time there was broadcast TV that could be picked up with antennas. This is (what I knew of) as the rabbit ear antennas of old. My parents told stories of having to use their rabbit ears and having to hold them a certain way to get channel 10 etc. I think this is why I got so used to cable because of the convenience. In truth antennas require clear signal and really only work when you can put your antenna in a place that it can receive the broadcast. So if you were in a city where you have lots of buildings and things that block signal, antennas might not work as well. Also if you’re in the mountains and super far from where signals are broadcast you also might have issues. In 2009 the US government forced all broadcast services to use digital vs analog transmissions. This is really good because it means that they can broadcast HD quality over the air. With a digital antenna you can receive that, and it’s free! As soon as I found this out I couldn’t believe it. I really thought I was stealing or something but realized that no this is how it is. Now if we move or there’s bad weather or something that might interfere with the signal, so its kind of “at your own risk” but still good.
I already obviously covered cable so won’t go into detail with that except to say that it is more convenient. Also cable providers usually have DVRs and that kind of thing all built in. If you want a DVR with antenna service it’s possible you just have to get a converter box and do some additional work.
Additionally it should be mentioned there is always satellite. Satellite is really good for those remote places where either cable is not present or they’re too far out to pick up broadcast signals with antennas.
Finally it should also be mentioned that there are streaming services that provide local channels now. I’m not super familiar with those but have seen many advertisements and I’m sure with some quick googling it would be possible.
So back to my original point, the over the air antenna. So we went over to Target and got one of the basic ones. It was just a GE one that cost about $20. When you buy it the owners manual points you to go to http://www.antennaweb.org or http://www.dtv.gov to find out which channels are available in your region. I have to say both websites are awesome. They show you a little graphical map and a list of the channels that you might be able to get and an indicator that shows how strong the signal is. This made deciding to do this very easy because it showed that we could get all the local channels we wanted.
So after hooking up our antenna we found this to be awesome. We get free HD channels and are able to not need the cable box. I do have to put one caveat in that we still have cable because we love the DVR service and Verizon Fios gets you with their bundles. Overall, however, it was an awesome experiment and definitely recommend if you’re looking for a cool way to save money and learn about this stuff.