Since June of 2009, U.S. TV viewers have had the option to receive
channels from local broadcasting stations via a more efficient digital format. This
digital format replaced the previous analog transmission method and
also added the enhanced capability of receiving
the signal in high-definition resolution.
Even though a single digital channel utilizes less bandwidth of the
frequency spectrum than an analog channel, broadcasters were allowed to keep their original
overall allocation of bandwidth. Over-the-air broadcasters are now able to include
multiple digital channels on bandwidth previously utilized by a single
analog channel. Best of all, this wide bandwidth maintained by each individual station
is capable of broadcasting the station's primary signal in high-definition resolution
alongside the additional standard-definition channels.
This over-the-air HD signal has often been described in many user reviews as noticeably
better than that of cable or satellite, and is likely due to the ability of the over-the-air
broadcaster to transmit the bit-heavy HD signal with minimum compression. As with cable
and satellite, the actual composition of content delivered from the station
is an ongoing mixture of standard-definition and high-definition, depending
on whether the content was produced and broadcast in SD or HD.
Each viewer of television differs somewhat in demand. Some
subscribe to all channels available, while others choose minimal viewing.
Most are likely to fall somewhere in between. There are many viewers who could
probably be content with a robust and reliable over-the-air system, especially
considering the ongoing monthly fee of zero dollars. Even if the viewer already receives
network programming via cable or satellite, there may be some additional local channels
transmitted and received exclusively over the air.
There are companies in all medium to large cities that are licensed by the FCC to broadcast
free TV channels. The most common broadcast signals are those originating from the larger networks,
such as ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, and PBS. Most markets are likely to have broadcasting affiliates
for a couple of other networks, as well as possibly a second PBS station. The additional
one or two standard-definition channels added alongside each primary HD channel for each station
are likely to also provide the viewer with content such as local weather, retro programming, and recorded sports.
The PBS affiliate may add the family-friendly IQ channel and/or CREATE on the station's subchannels.
Also, most of the media streaming players are available at a surprisingly low cost. The box itself is a
one-time purchase and facilitates the wired or wireless transmission of
video content from the modem/router to the larger screen of the television. Although several companies offer
content subscriptions for under $10 monthly, there is a rapidly expanding amount of free streaming content.
C-SPAN provides realtime streaming for its
three channels. NasaTV also provides realtime streaming for its
three channels as well as a fourth stream from the international space station.
Yesterday's news may have diminished value, but information in the broader context can prove
useful whether viewed a day or a week later than the original releases, such as options from
The availability of useful current content is well illustrated by the TV stations in several major
markets that stream most or all of their local news programs. The news content is identical to the
over-the-air broadcast signal, and may vary only in the advertisements. A link on their homepage will
either appear at the precise starting time of the newscast, or the link will display continuously,
with some other content streaming outside of the precise times for the live news programs.
Live news programming can total several hours per day for a typical station.
Whenever viewing content on your laptop, desktop, or TV, remember to click the full-screen option if so desired.
The full-screen option will appear near the bottom of the video
as soon as the initial streaming has stabilized.
Once you are in full-screen mode, return to the original page dimensions by tapping the "Escape" key, usually at the top left of your keyboard. Another option is to hover the mouse near the bottom portion of the full screen, which will display
an option to return to the original screen.
The reasons for installing an over-the-air antenna vary. Some viewers simply insist on a-la-carte
selection in regard to digital content, and are somewhat dismayed with the prospect of paying for
A viewer anticipating an upcoming change of residence might wish to avoid a term contract, and
the possible misunderstanding that can arise when lifestyle changes don't completely coincide
and comply with the
clearly defined terms of a contract. Others may simply be too busy to justify a recurring expense for TV.
Many of the older televisions with analog tuners are still around and simply need a converter box in order
to convert the free digital signals into a usable analog format.
In addition to the video content itself, stations also transmit an
ongoing program guide within the digital stream. Most TV receivers display EPG information for at least
the current program being viewed, and many receivers are capable of listing
upcoming programs for the current channel. More advanced recievers can scan all
available local channels and compile a comprehensive EPG for the viewer. Ongoing production
of EPG content by the stations is mandated by the FCC, and the guide is usually produced
for the remainder of any particular day.
DVR use is not limited to cable subscribers with TiVo, or satellite subscribers
with proprietary digital video recorders. There is a hard-drive recorder ideally
suited for over-the-air signals, with pause and replay capability. Although most viewers
would prefer the time-shifting capabilities of the DVR, there is also the option of
using a DVD recorder.
The ideal over-the-air installation should meet the quality expectations of the viewer,
providing the most channels available, with ongoing signal strength levels consistent enough to ensure
A useful channel locator is available to gauge
signal strengths from all available stations broadcasting into your zip code.