Do not go back to cable TV or expensive streaming platforms. Free over-the-air TV (OTA TV) is available at any time, with channels including FOX, CBS, PBS, ABC and a lot of local broadcasters. Getting started with OTA TV can cost as little as $ 25, so what are you waiting for? Here̵7;s all you need to know about your cable bill and start saving money.
But wait, I thought aerial TV sucks? You may miss some cable exclusives with OTA TV, but it’s not a big deal when you subscribe to streaming services like Netflix, HBO Max or Disney +. In addition, aerial TV offers better picture quality than cable, and you can easily add cable-like features and DVR functionality to free TV using an OTA box.
The basics: Digital antennas and your TV
You cannot watch aerial TV without a digital antenna. Do not worry – we have passed old-fashioned rabbit ears. Modern digital OTA antennas stick to your window or attach to the outside of your home to pick up clean uninterrupted transmissions. They are easy to install and they connect to the coaxial socket on the back of your TV. You can also connect a digital antenna to devices such as Xbox One or Roku, as long as you own an external tuner with video outputs. (You can also use this type of external tuner to watch aerial TV on a projector, tube TV or any device without a built-in digital tuner.)
But what type of antenna should you buy? Most people should stick to indoor antennas because they are cheap, powerful and easy to install. But if you want lots of channels and great reception, an outdoor antenna is the best option. (You can also install an outdoor antenna in the attic or in a room that you do not mind ugly.)
I suggest that you check which channels are available at home before sitting on an antenna. That way, you know what you’re getting into. The TV Fool website lists all available channels at your address and even marks channels with lower signal strength that you will not download without an outdoor antenna.
Start watching free TV!
Add an OTA Box for a cable-like experience
Free OTA TV is simple and easy to use, but it lacks some of the best features you like with cable TV. For example, your digital antenna does not come with a DVR and you can not navigate through free channels with an on-screen grid guide. At least not without an OTA box.
OTA boxes provide DVR functionality, network guides, live TV breaks, programmable recording tools, and exclusive streaming features for your aerial TV installation. Some OTA boxes even add streaming features to OTA TV, so you can watch local channels on your phone, computer or any internet-connected device such as an Apple TV or a smart TV.
One of the most affordable OTA boxes, the $ 100 Tablo Dual LITE, lets you stream local TV to any Internet-connected device. You can also connect the Tablo Dual LITE to an external hard drive for DVR functionality. More expensive OTA boxes, such as TiVo Bolt and TiVo Edge, also include robust cable-like network guides, built-in DVR storage, multi-channel recording and streaming access to services such as Netflix and Hulu.
If you have already invested in a service like Sling TV or Amazon Prime, AirTV Anywhere or Fire TV Recast may be better options for you. These streaming boxes add local channels to your Sling TV channel guide or the Fire TV home screen, plus all the DVR and streaming features you’d expect from a basic OTA box. Plex users can also add local TV to their custom media installation, as long as they own a Plex-compatible tuner card.
The best OTA box
Are you preparing for ATSC 3.0?
Antenna TV may feel like a thing of the past, but the party has just begun. A new era of free TV is on the horizon thanks to a new digital format called ATSC 3.0 that supports 4K video, HDR, Dolby audio, targeted advertising and streaming for mobile phones and cars.
The new ATSC 3.0 standard is exciting, but today’s OTA TV hardware cannot pick up or interpret ATSC 3.0 signals. If you want to save yourself from replacing your TV antenna in a few years, you may be tempted to buy ATSC 3.0 compatible hardware today.
The problem is that ATSC 3.0 compliant hardware is super expensive. An ATSC 3.0 set-top tuner costs you about $ 250 at the time of writing, and low-range ATSC 3.0 antennas are too expensive to suggest with a straight face.
If you do not really want to be an early adopter of ATSC 3.0, I suggest you stick to current OTA TV hardware. Broadcasters are required to simultaneously air their content as ATSC 3.0 and current generation signals by 2023 at the earliest, so you have plenty of time to prepare for the switch.
That said, outdoor ATSC 3.0 antennas sell for under $ 50. Installing outdoor antennas is a bit painful, so it may be smart to buy and ATSC 3.0 ready model today if you are already planning to go outdoors. That way, you do not have to uninstall your old antenna and reinstall if a new model arrives in 2023.
A future-ready outdoor antenna