Most people under 30 don’t realize there was a time before cable TV. They don’t remember when your TV was not just the focal point of the room but it was a full fledged piece of furniture; made of wood. Hey, I had that giant wooden behemoth even after I had cable TV, only before cable TV we had rabbit ears. Rabbit ears sucking all those air waves down into our homes and bringing us television that we didn’t have to pay for. We only had to watch commercials. Then somebody decided it was a good idea to make people pay for a bunch of programming no one really needed, still keep the commercials and make a whole lot more money. It all sounds kind of absurd. I pay an astronomical cable bill and I’m still getting bombarded with hours of commercials.
Regardless, in the last 20 or so years, rabbit ears disappeared, giant wooden TVs became hanging picture framed works of art and the pictures are so large and crisp and pausable and rewindable, yet those same old free air waves never really went away. In fact, by 2009, Upgrayedd, in the form of the FCC, found those old air waves and forced them to be digital. And beautiful. And still free. Yes! Free over the Air TV!
So how do I get free over the air TV? It’s easy. If you have a newer TV with a digital converter inside (which I think most TVs since ~2006 have) all you need is some type of antenna. I would assume those old rabbit ears would still work however I actually went out and purchased a Mohu Leaf HD antenna for about $40 to conduct my test. That’s a 1 time fee. Not a monthly stranglehold. And let me tell you, the picture is absolutely amazing; most of the time possibly even better than the cable picture. Full HD TV over the air. Apparently it has something to do with all of those thousands of cable channels coming into your house compressed whereas the over the air signal is not compressed in any way. I get all the basics… CBS, ABC, NBC, PBS, FOX, WB plus about 35 more channels of free programming.
If you do have an older TV, like my Sony HD TV from 2004, you will also need a digital converter box to convert that digital over the air signal to your analog TV. It works almost like your current cable set top box. I see them online for, again only a 1 time fee, of sub $50. A family member actually had one laying around unused from when the conversion originally happened so I didn’t need to worry about purchasing it. Again, it turns that Mohu Leaf into a magically free TV experience for older TVs.
So if this over the air TV experience is so great, why doesn’t everyone do it? Well because people get stuck in their ways… people just don’t know about it… people just don’t care… and there are some downfalls of course. Lets go over those downfalls.
- You only get the basic stations. What about the cable TV shows that I actually do watch? Some of those 1000 stations actually do have some worthwhile content every once in a while.
- Sports! – If you want to watch almost all MLB, NHL, NBA, MLS, La Liga, etc. games, you need cable. Very little is broadcast over the air.
- But what about my DVR? I can’t record shows or pause live TV?
Those are the main issues I have run into so far. But there are solutions for most problems and we will go over them in future posts. For now though, it’s NCAA Selection Sunday and I have some bracket work to do. Almost all of the NCAA tourney is broadcast FOR FREE over the air. My cable, that I’m paying money for, will sit idle as I watch CBS for the next few weeks. What a waste.