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So you’ve read a lot about cutting the cord, and your neighbor keeps bugging you about it. It might seem like a lot of trouble or research, and you’re just not sure. Take the first step by installing an HD antenna. It is the easiest decision you’ll make when cutting the cord. Before you get all tangled up in deciding if you need a skinny bundle streaming service or a DVR, venture into the world of cordcutting by purchasing a quality antenna.
Over the next few years, consumers will benefit from the better picture, sound, and reception in over-the-air broadcasts. Expect new services like video on demand, mobile viewing, 4K Ultra Hi-Def, enhanced emergency alerts, a high frame rate, more colorful picture, and immersive audio – all delivered free with an over-the-air antenna.
With its low cost and easy installation, an HD antenna should be part of every homeowner’s entertainment setup. Antennas are the most cost-effective way to get rid of cable TV. Simply plug it in, point it in the right direction, and run a brief scan and it delivers all the major broadcast networks and sub-channels with no monthly fee. You can even keep your favorite pay-TV service if you’re not ready to do more than dip your toe into cordcutting.
Once you’ve installed the antenna, you’ll be shocked at the high quality of the broadcast. You’ll get the best reception if you mount an indoor antenna high up in a second-story window or along a wall near the ceiling. It sounds harder than it is – modern antennas are so small you can put them almost anywhere. Some flat models can be painted to match the wall color.
The original broadcast signal from an antenna is the best high definition TV with 4K clarity that exists. No matter how much you pay for the TV signal to reach your home, you won’t get a better picture. That’s because cable and satellite providers capture the signal, compress it to fit into their allotted bandwidth, and re-distribute it. Even a live streaming service can suffer from a bit of lag, but broadcast TV is the most current broadcast you can watch. When it comes to major sporting events, an antenna will help you avoid spoilers from those seconds ahead of you.
Rainstorms and bad weather can affect the signal reception of satellite systems by interfering with the signal or moving the dish out of alignment. An antenna won’t replace your subscription service in poor weather conditions, but it will allow you to connect to the local broadcast channels to get weather updates and emergency announcements.
Expect sophisticated upgrades to the emergency broadcast system as our national broadcast network performs upgrades in 2019-2020. Enhanced emergency alerts delivered over-the-air after the update will include live video, maps outlining escape routes, and other details so you can respond more quickly to warnings of natural disasters or weather events.
If you’re signing up for a skinny bundle streaming service, you might get some of the local channels, but live coverage of the major networks is hit and miss. Sling TV doesn’t include ABC or CBS in its lineup, and it only offers local Fox and NBC feeds in a small number of U.S. markets. Philo doesn’t include any local channels and FuboTV doesn’t include ABC.
An antenna fills in the gaps of broadcast coverage without any monthly subscription fees, but it also provides additional programming — every major broadcaster programs sub-channels you can only receive over-the-air with an antenna. Additionally, no provider has a deal with PBS, so the only way to get a live, local feed is over-the-air. But an antenna can also provide channels such as MeTV, Comet, Cozi, and Decades, which are broadcast over any unused bandwidth.
If you prefer to watch your shows on demand rather than live to make things a bit more convenient, an antenna is still your best bet. You could subscribe to Hulu to watch all of the shows from ABC, NBC, and Fox one day after they air live for only $6, but you still wouldn’t get your favorites from CBS. CBS All Access provides on-demand shows the next day, but it also costs $6 per month. Subscribing to both gives you access to all major networks, but it will set you back $12 a month.
Rather than shelling out hundreds per year, consider recording shows you like via the antenna on a DVR. The TiVo Bolt OTA and the Tablo Quad are both best in class over-the-air DVRs that store your shows locally. Unlike cloud-based DVRs, viewers don’t have licensing restrictions that require storage time limits or ad-skipping restrictions. These flexible solutions have automatic commercial skipping, and certain models allow you to transfer shows to other devices or view them remotely.
There are a lot of advantages to using an antenna, regardless of whether you’ve decided to cut the cord. The inexpensive solution delivers a powerful signal that can’t be matched by any pay-TV technology. You can get the major broadcast networks and a variety of other free channels without paying any monthly fees. Not only will you get the programming for free, but you can also expect to benefit from upgrades over the next few years.
Step away from the compressed signal you get from cable or satellite and open up a world of free TV. You’ll get free programming with better picture and sound than what you’re paying for today with the installation of a simple antenna.
Megan Southard is a writer, mom, technology enthusiast, and movie junkie. She dreads the day her kids have to explain gadgets to her and is old enough to say, "I was the remote for our TV growing up."
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