Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

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Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Frugaldude » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:15 pm

I have read a few articles saying that since the local TV stations made the switch to digital HD broadcast back in 2009, that broadcast TV has gotten way better than what I remember from a long time ago.

I checked my local listings on the TitanTV site, and there are like 30 local channels that I could watch for free on my TV, if I had the right kind of rabbit ears. That blew me away because when I was a kid, there were maybe 5 or 6 channels.

They're pretty good shows too... comparable to basic cable. I would love to ditch the monthly fee for cable if the over-the-air free stuff is really that good.

I have a couple of questions:

1. Does anyone here have personal experience with making the switch back to the old-school TV with rabbit ears, now that it's all HD and digital? How do you like it? How is the reception?

2. Can you recommend a specific rabbit ears product to buy?

Thanks in advance for any guidance!
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby mlipps » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:19 pm

My parents live way out in the country. Last year, I convinced them to ditch cable for a Roku box and TV antenna. The Roku box didn't work out as they refuse to upgrade to cable internet from DSL, but the antenna was shocking. I think the picture was actually BETTER than the cable had been, even though we don't have an HD tv. It was pretty amazing, especially as far as we live. It was a bit finicky, but I think it's worth a shot. We got a $13 antenna from Amazon-I think it was the first one that came up when I searched for it. You don't have much to lose other than a little bit of your time setting it up.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Khanmots » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:27 pm

frugaldude, it'll be a while before I get home and can check on it but there's a website that will tell you what specs you'll need for an antenna for where your house is and what direction to orient it in. Note, that there's NO difference between antennas for HD or not our for digital our not. It's the same old frequency spectrum and the ones that have "HD Capable" or "digital ready" on the box are just playing marketing games. It'd be like a cereal maker putting "Abestos Free!" on their box. ;)i
Last edited by Khanmots on Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby drizzle » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:32 pm

Hello frugaldude-

I recently ditched cables and hooked up an antenna. I hooked up a small indoor antenna and got mediocre results. I then found TVFool. You put in your address and it gives you a map of where the channels are at and how strong they are. http://www.tvfool.com/?option=com_wrapper&Itemid=29

If your channels are pretty directional like mine, I ended up buying the RCA ANT751R, which is much smaller than any antenna I've seen. But most of the attic antenna's I've seen are omni-directional so they're huge.

I'm getting very good results, and I'm happy I did it. We use OTA HD, Hulu, and Netflix and it works well.

This is the antenna I got: http://www.amazon.com/RCA-ANT751R-Outdo ... B0024R4B5C
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby sscritic » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:33 pm

Frugaldude wrote:1. Does anyone here have personal experience with making the switch back to the old-school TV with rabbit ears, now that it's all HD and digital?

Which old-school are you coming from (or going back to)? The old-school that uses rabbit ears or the old-school that has an analog tv that needs a converter box for which the government passed out $40 coupons way back when when the switch was made to digital tv?
Please note: the last day to apply for a coupon or file an appeal was July 31, 2009.

I have a digital tv and use an indoor antenna (not quite rabbit ears). So how old is your old-school tv?
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby tainted-meat » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:45 pm

I haven't had cable in almost three years and use the digital converter box with a $10 antenna I bought from HHGregg. The only time I miss cable is during Football Season (Monday Night Football) but I would probably go to bed at half time anyways in order to wake up for work. I have DSL internet for $25/mo and this arrangement suits me fine. There are lots of channels now that TV has moved to the digital format. If I get bored I go to Blockbuster and rent a movie for a dollar.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby nisiprius » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:49 pm

Frugaldude wrote:1. Does anyone here have personal experience with making the switch back to the old-school TV with rabbit ears, now that it's all HD and digital? How do you like it? How is the reception?

2. Can you recommend a specific rabbit ears product to buy?
Go to antennaweb.org (and I'm bolding the .org because I just mistakenly went to a typosquatter's website by letting my fingers do what came naturally) and scope out what stations they think you can get with what kind of antenna.

Here's our personal story. In our house, about 20 miles from the transmitters,

1) in the analog days, using rabbit ears, on half the stations we'd get snowy ghosty pictures with clear sound, and on half we'd get non-snowy but still ghosty pictures with clear sound.

2) When the kids were in high school, we got cable for a while.

3) When the kids left, we cancelled cable, put a rooftop antenna and rotator in, and got perfect reception from twelve stations in two cities. By perfect, I mean better than the cable channels were giving us for those stations.

4) When we had our house reroofed, the roofers assumed the antenna wasn't in use and removed it (sigh).

5) When the digital switch took place, we experimented with rabbit ears and then an amplified antenna, but it just wouldn't do.

6) I put the old antenna in our attic. We now get every station we're supposed to get. The reception is perfect on a lot of stations a lot of the time, BUT in bad weather or on the weaker stations the picture will suddenly freeze or turn blocky for seconds to minutes.

In general, antennaweb.org was pretty accurate.

The problem with digital is that it's brittle, like FM only worse. You either get perfect reception or nothing--the old in-between (snowy ghosty pictures with clear sound) doesn't exist.

7) We enjoy having the extra channels, some of 'em aren't bad.

8) But, we are not very dedicated or demanding television viewers. We don't have HDTV and we are still using the 27" picture-tube set we bought for the 1996 Olympics.

I'm told that over-the-air HDTV is better than cable and I can easily believe it, because I've seen "digital" cable in friends' homes and am unimpressed. I think they must be using a lot of compression or something, because it looks sharp all right but the actors' skin often looks like a plastic doll.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby The Wizard » Thu Jul 19, 2012 5:51 pm

I have two HD TVs, one on cable, one on antenna for local stations only.
Antenna works just fine...

In contrast to Nisi's situation, you really want a 50"+ HDTV to enjoy OTA picture quality to the max...
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Khanmots » Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:02 pm

Pretty sure the website nisiprius mentioned is the one I'm remembering and mentioned earlier in the thread. Lots of very useful information.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby The Wizard » Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:12 pm

Khanmots wrote:Pretty sure the website nisiprius mentioned is the one I'm remembering and mentioned earlier in the thread. Lots of very useful information.

Tvfool.com is a bit better, IMNSHO...
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby sscritic » Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:16 pm

The Wizard wrote:
Khanmots wrote:Pretty sure the website nisiprius mentioned is the one I'm remembering and mentioned earlier in the thread. Lots of very useful information.

Tvfool.com is a bit better, IMNSHO...

I would take out the NS. IMHO, tvfool.com rules! Start here:
http://www.tvfool.com/index.php?option= ... &Itemid=29
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby bogleraw » Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:20 pm

We have used the Mohu Leaf (http://www.gomohu.com - regular $37 version works just fine) with our 55" HDTV for the past year and we have no complaints. We get FOX, PBS, NBC, CBS, ABC, weather stations - more than enough to keep us entertained after work.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby ejvyas » Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:37 pm

Switched to antenna from basic cable. Not much in savings since the internet plan v internet + cable plan in my area are almost same price. I bought Terk HDTVa which is an indoor antenna. Its pretty powerful and catches more channels than what was shown in antennaweb. No complaints so far. We usually watch shows online (via laptop connection) & get movies from the local library (free). Only issue might be sports channels since not all games are telecasted on local channels. Only playoff games..
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Default User BR » Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:47 pm

I like cable. I like it a lot. The extra broadcast channels you can here are pretty minor, a few retro types and shopping or weather. Yes, one might be able to chase down many of the programs on cable at various websites, but I don't watch TV on my computer. I like to sit my big butt on the couch and cruise around the cable offerings.

Cable is one of those things where even inner cheap guy doesn't complain much about the expenditure.


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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby sscritic » Thu Jul 19, 2012 6:58 pm

Default User BR wrote:I like cable. I like it a lot. The extra broadcast channels you can here are pretty minor, a few retro types and shopping or weather.

It does depend on where you live and what's available. Where I live, there are some 90 channels, although some are in Armenian and Vietnamese along with the more common languages. Since I watch Chinese soap operas, I stick to the 11 channels that broadcast in Mandarin. If I had cable, I would have to pay an extra $30 a month just to get some of them on top of the cable bill. My inner cheapskate doesn't need cable.

http://www.timewarnercable.com/socal/le ... glish.html
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby auntie » Thu Jul 19, 2012 9:45 pm

I got rid of cable about 5 years ago. I ordered a nice antenna and while I waited for it to arrive I put a set of rabbit ears in the attic. I never bothered to replace the rabbit ears because they do such a nice job.

There are of course some cable channels that I'd kinda like to watch, but not enough to pay what the cable companies expect.

My picture quality is just as good as what I got through the cable.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Jay69 » Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:05 pm

Year 3 and no cable bills for us, just over the air (OTA). No plans on going back any time soon to cable.

You will find the picture most of the time better than cable and dish as you are getting the real deal that they produce as in 1080i, 720p, etc. Now take with a little grain of salt, as I said most of the time.

I think the key to going OTA only is gettting a working DVR, not much to choose from as you will find out. The best solution I found is using an HTPC running win7. As much as I hate to admit it Microsoft did a great job with win7 and Media Center for a standalone no fee DVR. Plus with an HTPC you give it an internet conection and that just opens up many more viewing options.

Good luck

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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby marstaton4 » Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:07 pm

Watching OTA (off the air) is the highest quality way to watch your local channels. There is lots of compression and other issues that come along with jamming a zillion channels on a satellite or down a piece of copper going to your home. If you are close enough to the transmitter do it! You also don't have to have one or the other and could use OTA and cable or satellite. Most new televisions have a built in tuner and depending on your location you can pick up channels with a very tiny antenna. :sharebeer
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby campy2010 » Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:37 pm

I live pretty close to a major city, and before buying an antenna I simply tried picking up the available channels using the cable cord as an antenna. The copper acts like an antenna and I found no need to buy rabbit ears. So, see what channels you get before buying a separate item.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Mudpuppy » Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:38 pm

I got one of the digital converter boxes essentially for free (combined the $40 government coupon with a sale at a big box store when the converter was on sale for $40). I dug my old amplified RCA antenna (ANT150 model) from college out of storage. I plopped those two on to my old CRT TV (also purchased from college). I tried it out and found I could get over 30 stations from just that cheap setup (more stations than even TVFool shows for my area). So I cancelled cable and set Hulu up to queue my favorite cable-only shows. I've had this setup for years with no problems. I just wish I had bought a second digital converter box when the government coupons were still around so I could watch broadcast TV in my workout room.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Mrs.Feeley » Thu Jul 19, 2012 10:51 pm

We have an old rabbit ear antenna. Things is the rabbit ears broke off years ago so we have only the base left and the cord. I've heard that the ears aren't necessary. We place the remains of the antenna on the dining room table when we want to watch TV. It's hooked to a digital converter box. We get great pictures and sound, much better than when we had cable. We get about 20-25 stations.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby shawcroft » Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:04 pm

OTA HD TV can be very directional. We got a $18 antenna from Monoprice and mounted it on a pole resting in one of those round beach umbrella stands ( the kind you put water in for weight) on our outside deck. Ran the TV coaxial cable under the deck into our porch. Works great and you can move the antenna to pick up a specific station. My wife is unimpressed by its appearance (looks like a real Rube Goldberg apparatus)- but loves the TV. Haven't killed cable yet.....but I am getting close.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby dumbmoney » Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:09 pm

campy2010 wrote:I live pretty close to a major city, and before buying an antenna I simply tried picking up the available channels using the cable cord as an antenna. The copper acts like an antenna and I found no need to buy rabbit ears. So, see what channels you get before buying a separate item.


Hmm. Are you sure that this cable cord isn't connected to something? Like maybe a cable TV system? Because while a simple wire can certainly be used as an antenna, a shielded cable shouldn't work so well.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby paulsiu » Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:15 pm

Many years ago, before the digital switchover, I purchased a new flatscreen for my girlfriend (now wife). We were greatly surprised by the digital picture, they were good, sometimes too good (urr..you can see the makeup) and I was using a digital converter box so the picture isn't even HD. At the time, it greatly exceed the crappy cable in the area. The only issue was that we lived in a building at the time and got crappy signals, which caused the picture to break up.

Jump forward to today, we still have the same TV, same digital converter box, but we now live in the suburb of another state. The TV signal is better and we have managed to avoid cable. For alternate TV, we have netflixs. We can't get CBS for some reason, but we don't watch anything on CBS so we don't care.

My wife still wants to get cable so when our daughter is older, she won't be picked on in class. I have avoided cable since the late 80's, so I hope that cable will fade into unpopularity by the time this happens. I don't understand the cable status thing.

Why not give it a try? It's free (except for the antenna). I am using a outdoor DB2. Works well except during high wind.

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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby anonenigma » Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:23 pm

We use the converter box and an analog antenna on the rooftop that has an unobstructed view of the television transmitters.

Instead of two PBS stations, we now have six. We also have five additional stations that mostly show dramas (e.g. Criminal Minds) and vintage tv (Burns and Allen, The Saint, Batman, The Flying Nun).

We don't have much time to watch television but do see the great cable dramas on dvd - either from the library or purchased when very cheap.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby campy2010 » Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:31 pm

dumbmoney wrote:
campy2010 wrote:I live pretty close to a major city, and before buying an antenna I simply tried picking up the available channels using the cable cord as an antenna. The copper acts like an antenna and I found no need to buy rabbit ears. So, see what channels you get before buying a separate item.


Hmm. Are you sure that this cable cord isn't connected to something? Like maybe a cable TV system? Because while a simple wire can certainly be used as an antenna, a shielded cable shouldn't work so well.


Nope, not connected to the cable system. The cord is actually is only 3-4 feet long and is not connected to the wall cable outlet anymore. I wrapped it around the TV power cord and covered both cords in one of those cord hiders. I get all of the OTA stations available in the area. Like I said, I'm only a couple of fairly flat miles from the antennas.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Ilovevolleyball » Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:17 am

My story:

Bought house with Dish on roof. Took dish off, went to home depot bought pvc pipe same diameter as prior dish pole thingy. Cut to size, drilled thru it for screws. Used Antennas Direct DB2 Multi Directional HDTV Antenna that bought on Amazon for $30, cable already went to dish, used same cable inside.

Sad to say but digital signal, so better reception than cable. Only have some usable stations though. Public Brodcasting, ABC, NBC, CBS, 2 FOX channels, and 4 or more so so channels. Use wii for netflix on TV and that's it.

I miss TNT, and ESPN. But, I am thrilled it worked so well and was so easily.

Mike
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby gd » Fri Jul 20, 2012 6:56 am

I've talked to several low-income elderly in my suburban/semi-rural community 30 miles outside a major city who have said they can no longer receive broadcast TV using the converters. They can't afford cable, so it's one more connection to the outside world broken. It's not better for them.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby bungalow10 » Fri Jul 20, 2012 7:21 am

mlipps wrote:refuse to upgrade to cable internet from DSL


We have DSL and run multiple streaming devices at a time, including Roku.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby magellan » Fri Jul 20, 2012 9:12 am

paulsiu wrote:My wife still wants to get cable so when our daughter is older, she won't be picked on in class... I don't understand the cable status thing.

IMO, your wife has this exactly backwards. Your daughter will be one of the cool 'cord-cutter' kids. She's a trendsetter and thought leader, way ahead of her time, blazing the trail for the 21st century as an online streaming early adopter. Meanwhile, the not-so-cool kids are still watching their grandmother's cable TV. Cable is so last century...

Jim
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby House Blend » Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:01 am

paulsiu wrote:My wife still wants to get cable so when our daughter is older, she won't be picked on in class. I have avoided cable since the late 80's, so I hope that cable will fade into unpopularity by the time this happens. I don't understand the cable status thing.


In my socio-economic habitat, not having cable is the status thing. The highest form is to claim not to own a TV and go out of your way to make sure everyone else knows about it. Good examples of the latter include posting about your lack of TV on forum threads requesting TV show recommendations.

There's plenty of time to train your daughter in the jiu-jitsu of reverse snobbery.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby tat2ng » Fri Jul 20, 2012 10:11 am

I'm having trouble finding the site where I read this.... but - I recall reading a article that showed that the OTA signal strength is MUCH higher than the signal strength you will get through your cable line. I think it was on the order of 6 times the signal strength.

I've never had cable, and highly enjoy the new digital TV broadcast. I still have an analog TV, but the picture is still quite crisp. I bought a DVR that works with OTA signal, and that has greatly improved my TV watching experience - I record the very few shows I like to watch, and then sit down whenever I want to watch them.

I find I can't hardly watch a sports game live anymore - I'll purposely delay starting a game for 20 or 30 minutes so that I can skip commercials and catch up with live TV by the end of the game.

I personally used http://www.antennaweb.org/ and was happy with its results. I then found the antenna I wanted on Antennas Direct (http://www.antennasdirect.com/) - but I would buy it through Amazon... usually quite a bit cheaper. I think I have their older DB2 model, I'm sure there have been updates.

Cheers,
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Hawkeye5 » Fri Jul 20, 2012 12:18 pm

We converted to an antenna over Memorial Day weekend.

I needed a VHF/UHF antenna and found a RCA model on Amazon for $22 (I've seen the same antenna at Lowes for three times that). I mounted it on the same pole the dish had been mounted, ran the cable, and had 37 channels. I've culled them down as three were Spanish Language, several were religious, and one was nothing but infomercials. The antenna is not as ugly as the dish was and you hardly see it.

All three major networks (plus the local sub-channels), Fox, Public TV (three channels), ION, and several others I didn't know were there. So far I'm a happy camper and sometimes watch the old series such as Peter Gunn, Route 66, The George Burns Show, etc. TV sure has gone to pot since those shows broadcast originally. The old commercials are a real hoot!

Digital pictures are better as the over-the-air signal is not compressed as with cable.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Mudpuppy » Fri Jul 20, 2012 2:19 pm

gd wrote:I've talked to several low-income elderly in my suburban/semi-rural community 30 miles outside a major city who have said they can no longer receive broadcast TV using the converters. They can't afford cable, so it's one more connection to the outside world broken. It's not better for them.

It may just be a matter of not using the right antenna for that situation. As noted previously, digital is either "strong enough to get the channel" or "nothing at all", whereas analog had the fuzzy, snowy in-between zone that might have been enough for the folks you're talking to. All the converter box does is take that digital signal and convert it back to an analog signal that old TVs can recognize. The best way to get the strongest signal is to use the right antenna for the job.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby SSSS » Fri Jul 20, 2012 2:27 pm

Frugaldude wrote:and there are like 30 local channels


Where do you live? In most areas, the only over-the-air broadcasts are the big 4 networks (sometimes multiple versions from different markets), PBS, CW, some generic stations with syndicated+local content, and maybe some Hispanic and/or Christian stations depending on what part of the country you're in.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby ilmartello » Fri Jul 20, 2012 2:28 pm

I suspect most of the people who have ditched cable are not sports fans.
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Mudpuppy » Fri Jul 20, 2012 2:54 pm

SSSS wrote:
Frugaldude wrote:and there are like 30 local channels


Where do you live? In most areas, the only over-the-air broadcasts are the big 4 networks (sometimes multiple versions from different markets), PBS, CW, some generic stations with syndicated+local content, and maybe some Hispanic and/or Christian stations depending on what part of the country you're in.

Every one of our local "big 4" network owners (actually only 3 owners because some networks are co-owned by the same local group) has at least one additional subchannel devoted to non-network programming. Digital channels can carry one HD and 1-2 SD subchannels (or they can skip the HD subchannel and just go with a half dozen SD subchannels), and our local stations take advantage of that. One has music videos, one has classic movies/TV shows and two have additional Spanish programming. The local PBS station has three subchannels (PBS, home improvement/cooking/crafts/etc, Spanish) and a PBS station from farther away that I can still receive has four subchannels (PBS, kids shows, Spanish, international news/films).

There's also the local independent station that rebroadcasts syndicated shows from NBC Universal (particularly USA Network) and a few other studios. One independent channel has 6 SD subchannels, some of which are available for local lease. And there is the standard array of Spanish networks found in California, which often broadcast the same content on the HD and SD subchannel simultaneously (the Fox channel is configured the same way).
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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby Default User BR » Fri Jul 20, 2012 3:20 pm

The fact that there may be many programs available free doesn't much matter if they aren't THE programs I want. If I want to watch Chopped or Warehouse 13, it doesn't do me any good having RTV available for vintage shows.


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Re: Is free TV (with rabbit ears) a lot better these days?

Postby ataloss » Sat Jul 21, 2012 1:56 pm

I used antennaweb and tried a couple of good indoor antenna before paying $200 for a small outdoor antenna. Works great, Using a magnavox DVR. Glad to be free of cable.
ataloss
 
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