July 23, 2014

A cord-cutter’s quick guide to purchasing an indoor HDTV over-the- air antenna [Guest Post]

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If you’re reading this article it may be because you’ve already taken the plunge and cut the cable TV cord. Or you may be on the fence, trying to build up the courage to sever ties with a cable or satellite subscription that has set you back almost $90 each month for years. This is a big decision, and it’s normal to wonder if your favorite TV shows will be waiting for you on the other side. They will, and you’re not alone.

A new survey by Morgan Stanley found that 1 in 10 pay-TV subscribers will definitely “cut the cord” within the next year, that’s up from 8% last year. This is a growing trend, and there are plenty of ways to access TV shows without a cable or satellite package. In fact, Nielsen ratings show that 9 out of 10 top-rated shows are on local broadcast channels (side note: the Nielsen ratings are compiled on a weekly basis).

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The first step is to choose an HDTV over-the-air antenna, and let’s get the ultimate myth out of the way first. Today’s HDTV antennas are not the archaic bunny ear models of the distant past. We’ve come a long way, and indoor antennas are designed with flat screen TVs in mind. They’re razor-thin and can fit into any home décor by placing it on a window, on the wall behind your entertainment system, or you can even lay it flat on a table. Indoor antennas come ready to use so there’s little to no assembly required.

It is important that your antenna receives VHF and UHF channels to maximize your reception as most areas have programs broadcast on both ranges. VHF contains channels 2-13, and UHF contains channels 14-51. There are websites such as dtv.gov that can determine which broadcast signals are available in your area.

Distance between your home and broadcast towers play a major role in choosing the best antenna. You will need to purchase a non-amplified antenna if you live less than 35 miles from the nearest tower or an amplified antenna if you’re more than 35 miles away. For example, amplified antennas are ideal for homeowners in rural locations with low signals. If an amplified antenna is what you need, choose one with a low noise figure to achieve the best SNR (signal to noise ratio).

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When researching your antenna purchase, you will come across the terms directional and bidirectional, or multidirectional. This is, again, relative to your home’s location to the broadcast towers. Directional means the antenna receives signals from one direction whereas bidirectional picks up signals from multiple locations.

The prices for an indoor over-the-air antenna range from $30-$70. Keep in mind that this is a one-time cost, and you’ll enjoy live, local programming every month for free. Most cord-cutters bundle an antenna with a streaming service like Netflix ($8) or Hulu Plus ($8), and a streaming set-top box like Apple TV or Roku ($50-$100) in order to access additional on-demand programming. It’s also interesting to note that some content creators are finding new ways to get their programs to consumers without a cable or satellite subscription. For example, Comedy Central recently launched a mobile app that offers next-day availability of “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show” to anyone. It’s a cord-cutters world, and setting our schedules to catch TV programs as they are broadcast live is a thing of the past as ‘Free TV’ and ‘on-demand streaming’ are becoming the norm.

About Grant Whipple

Grant WhippleGrant Whipple is the Consumer Electronics Product Manager for Winegard with nearly 10 years of product and market development experience for over-the-air, satellite, and wireless broadband antennas. His commitment to advancing antenna technology by providing design and logistics solutions coupled with his personal mission to inform and educate the public on evolving TV trends and laws has uniquely positioned Grant at the forefront of the industry.

Grant has played an integral role in Winegard’s growth by successfully contributing to the design and roll-out of more than 20 new antennas, amplifiers, and power supplies. Some notable achievements include pioneering one of the first ultra-thin antenna designs in 2008, as well as introducing the lowest noise, commercially available amplifier, and the first compact ultra-thin antenna with a U.S. patented true VHF/UHF design in 2013.

Additionally, Grant worked to expand Winegard’s distribution channels to include mass retailers such as Amazon, Home Depot, and Costco. Revenues have increased five-fold during his time with the company.

Grant has collaborated with the FCC, NAB, MSTV, and CEA to inform and educate the public on the TV and antenna industry. For example, he served as a panel expert regarding the 2009 Digital Transition at an event hosted by the NAB. Looking ahead, Grant’s mission is to continue to develop Winegard in the consumer market, and to showcase its efforts as an enterprise solutions company as well. He’s currently focusing on VSAT and wireless broadband solutions.