TV Antennas Make a Comeback

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TV Antennas Make a Comeback

What’s not to like about free TV? And it’s going to get even better soon.

By James K. Willcox | June 27, 2017

TV antennas aren’t as outdated as you might think. If you live near a city, there’s a good chance you can get networks such as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, and Telemundo over the air.

The main benefit, of course, is that the broadcasts are free. But there are other advantages, too. The quality of the picture may be better than what cable provides because the signals may be less compressed. And many stations now offer “sub-channels” with programs such as older TV shows or public channels that may not be available on cable.

The other good news? Even more viewing options are on the way. A new technical standard, called ATSC 3.0, will let broadcasters send high-quality 4K TV signals over the air, something they can’t do today. You’ll also be able to get internet content through your TV antenna, too. Other anticipated benefits include better coverage in spotty reception areas, and the ability to receive broadcasts on your smartphone.

There will be some downsides, however. You may have to pay for some content, and today’s TVs won’t be compatible with the new broadcasts. All of these developments will be rolled out over several years—nothing is changing in 2017, and today’s TVs aren’t in danger of becoming obsolete anytime soon.

For now, TV antennas as inexpensive as $30 work well for many people—but they can require some fiddling. Follow these quick tips to get the best reception:

  • Try the antenna in different spots around the room, preferably near a window. See whether placing it in a higher location, such as an attic, helps.
  • Try an amplified TV antenna if you live far from a broadcast tower or your reception is marginal.
  • Rescan for channels periodically; you might get a new station or two.

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