Whether you’re a die-hard cable-watcher or you cut the cord and never looked back, you might think you already have access to everything you could possibly need on TV. But if you don’t have an antenna, you are missing out on free over-the-air (OTA) television, and in some cases, it’s hands-down the best way to watch.
Why do you need an antenna? If you’ve ever searched through your streaming options to figure out how to watch a big event such as the Olympics, Grammys or Super Bowl, you know it can be an exercise in frustration. Want to watch local news? Track a big storm moving in on your local stations? Your streaming services might not offer a good way to watch what you want, and the weather could knock out your dish, cable or internet. An antenna is good security when your other modes of getting information aren’t working well.
Having a TV antenna is a simple solution that has the added benefit of giving you more options that you only have to pay for once — when you buy the antenna. That’s it.
Here are just a few reasons why you should go ahead and invest in an antenna.
You’ll Get More Channels
Once you set up your antenna, you’ll do a search for digital signals coming into it. Depending on where you live, you might be surprised to discover that you now have access not only to the main networks but also subchannels of your local PBS, NBC, ABC, CBS and Fox stations. (I get three PBS channels on my antenna. It’s amazing!)
If you don’t live in a city, you might really be in luck here. Those who live between TV markets might get the most out of an antenna, because you can probably pick up local stations from multiple markets — and perhaps multiple subchannels as well.
It’s Free TV
After the initial purchase of an antenna, you won’t pay a dime to watch anything that comes in over the airwaves. If you’re used to adding a streaming service to get what you want — only to be asked to pay even more to watch “premium” content — this free TV can seem like a revelation.
This is also likely the case if you have cable. Cable companies sometimes charge customers extra for local stations — though check with yours to make sure. However, an antenna will pull in your local ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and Fox stations, all for free.
Plus, depending on where you live, you might have multiple options for each. The Federal Communications Commission has a digital TV reception map that will show you what stations you’ll get where you live. Just enter your location and the map will let you know which stations should come in on a strong, moderate or weak signal.
Once your antenna is set up and your channels are set in your TV remote, Consumer Reports recommends rescanning for new channels on a regular basis. New channels and subchannels pop up from time to time, and now that you have an antenna, there’s no reason to miss out on any of the channels — after all, they’re free.
Better Image Quality
This is going to sound counterintuitive, but you’ll get a better picture when you watch TV with an antenna than with streaming or cable.
To manage all those channels, cable companies compress video and audio before delivering it to your television. The signal network TV sends doesn’t have that extra layer of compression, so what’s coming into your antenna could be a much clearer picture than what you’re getting via cable. And as televisions get bigger and definition gets higher, you’re more likely to notice that difference!
Access To Information In Bad Weather
Here’s another surprising reason you need an antenna: safety. When storms come through, it’s easy to lose your dish signal, and cable and internet can both go out on you. What’s left? So long as the electricity is still on (or your generator is running), an antenna will deliver local weather from your local stations directly to your television — which is exactly what you’ll want to see in this scenario.
Even if your cable always holds steady through the worst storms, it might not be giving you the info you need if you don’t have access to your local news stations.
More Free Sports Coverage
Every family seems to have at least one sports fanatic. Paying extra for a premium sports package on cable or bonus streaming services might seem like the only option for covering all of your game-day bases, but if you have an antenna, you know that local stations tend to broadcast college football all day on Saturdays and NFL games all day on Sundays. Network television also runs plenty of NBA, MLB and NHL games, plus PGA and NASCAR.
If you are relying on streaming services alone, you’ll definitely have to pay extra for all of that content. But so much of it is coming over the airwaves for free. An antenna is a great way to save money you’d otherwise spend on those pricey premium packages.