Over The Air TV

Over The Air TV

Feb 11, 2019


In 2009, the FCC mandated that all TV stations that broadcast over the air switch their antennas to broadcast digitally in High Definition. Because most TV’s manufactured since 2006 are equipped with a QAM (digital) tuner, this meant that many people could receive their location stations with just a digital antenna.

When TV was originally popularized in the 1950’s, this was the only way to receive TV signals. You would have an antenna either located in your attic, on your roof, or on the TV itself (“rabbit ears”). Typically, there were only 3 or 4 channels available this way.

In the 70’s, the first “cable” channels arrived, including HBO, CSPAN, Nickelodeon and ESPN. By the late 70’s, 21 major markets were wired with at least some cable. The only way these channels could be accessed is with a wired cable connected to the home.

Over time, the number of cable subscribers and cable channels proliferated, with subscribers reaching a peak of 65 million in 2000 and over 200 channels of content. Since then, although the number channels has continued to increase, the number of cable subscribers has begun to drop.

In order to receive signals OTA (Over The Air), you will need:

  1. A TV with a QAM Tuner. Most, but not all, TVs made after 2006 have a QAM tuner built in. Most Samsung, Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, Toshiba, and Visio models have a built in QAM tuner. Brands like Westinghouse, Colby, Element, or other lower end brands often do not have the QAM tuner. If you are unsure, please check your manufacturer’s website for information.
  2. A digital Antenna. Depending on signal strength, these can be either simple, inexpensive units that can be placed near your TV, or larger units, sometimes powered and located on a roof or even on a second floor window.

If you don’t have a current model TV with a QAM tuner, you can also buy a piece of external equipment that will provide the Tuner for you. This will be discussed in a future part.

To find out what channels are available in your area, there are several web sites that will allow you to determine this. One we use is ANTENNAWEB.ORG. If you input your street address, it will show you the location of the broadcast antennas that cover various stations in your area, the direction for a future antenna, and the type of antenna you will need.

Most of the channels that are useful are the NBC, CBS, ABC, Fox and PBS affiliates. Most of the other channels you will see are full of older content and are loaded with advertising, so they won’t really be much help.

If you have any questions about Cord Cutting, or any other Home Automation advice, feel free to give us a call at 303-665-2238.