HDTV: Not as Free as I Thought it Would Be

Mel and I have been feeling like a couple of suckers for the past few years because we pay Comcast $15 each month for the basic cable package.  That’s the package that gets us about 7 channels that are worth anything: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, TBS, and a couple others we watch just because we’re bored.  Most of these channels, you’re supposed to be able to get over-the-air for free in HD.

So we went to Target, and bought a $40 HD antenna, and plugged it in to see what we’d get:.



Ok, fine, we sort of got ABC, but it kept shorting out on us, and wasn’t anywhere near a picture quality we would be happy with..

Oh, Great Internet – what are we doing wrong here?  Do we just need a better antenna?  (before you ask, yes, I’m like 70% sure our TV has a built-in digital tuner)..

P.S. – have y’all seen those commercials for the Amish-made movable fireplace things?  Mel and I may be suckers for paying Comcast for basic cable, but at least we’re not buying THOSE things…

12 thoughts on “HDTV: Not as Free as I Thought it Would Be”

  1. Lame! That is so disappointing. I have no advice and make Don figure out any of our gadget stuff. But, I don't understand why you wouldn't want the movable fireplace? Now that sounds way better and more useful than bogus HDTV. Almost as good as having a snuggie 🙂

  2. First step: go to antennaweb.org. They have a jobby on their site that you can fill out and it will tell you what is actually available and what sort of antenna you should get. Really though, this is just to make sure that there are actually channels being broadcast in your neighborhood.

    Second step: If you want decent reception overall, regardless of what antennaweb says buy a nice outdoor antenna and set that bad boy up on your roof. If you have an older house you may already have one of these and just need to run the cable.

    Note: Don't be fooled by products that say "HDTV Antenna" and charge a ton of extra money. $8 rabbit ears will pick this crap up so long as the signal to your house is strong enough. That's all we have.

    If the signal is not great though, that's when you need to step up to the big outdoor antenna.

  3. I think signal quality is compromised in south Minneapolis due to reflections off of the downtown skyline. Most of the local channels are broadcast north of downtown. We never could get reliable reception from an indoor antenna. So, I installed an antenna in our attic a few years ago, and nbc is still spotty for us. Otherwise, pretty excellent reception outside of inclement weather.

  4. Interesting comments. When I used to live just west of downtown Minneapolis, I could get all the signals perfectly with a cheap set of rabbit ears.

    Try bringing your antenna in to the attic and running a coax cable down to your TV.

  5. I'm happy to pay the $15 a month just so I don't have to deal with the antenna and for the PBS channels. HD versions of Antiques Roadshow FTW 🙂

  6. I also canceled cable and have antennas on three different sets. I had to change the settings on each tv from "cable" to "antenna" then do a channel scan. I had to do the scan a couple times after moving the antenna to a different spot to get better reception. Sometimes moving the antenna just a foot or so made all the difference. Don't give up. I love having 4 PBS channels, didn't get that with cable.

  7. I use an antenna and get 25 channels and about 2 are worth watching. No, wait, more like 0.

    In addition to the excellent antennaweb.com suggestion, you will also need to tell you fancy new HDTV to resync — basically make it go out and find all the signals. See your owner's manual — it should be in the setup instructions because you have to do it when you first connect it.

  8. Hi, Reuben! Here is a link to the antenna that I bought…

    It comes in a kit that allows for tabletop, wall, or attic mounting and is designed for a 30-mile range. I pointed the antenna toward the transmitters in Shoreview (toward the 694/35W junction) and picked up numnerous channels – many more than my previous antenna with amplification. This one also has some gain but does not require a plug in – another benefit. So, if you do not mind spending a little extra money than your previous disappointing purchase, perhaps you will find the same success I did with the Clearstream antenna.

  9. @everybody – thanks for the tips! According to Antennaweb, there are about a dozen channels broadcasting from within 10 miles of my house. It says I need a "small multidirectional antenna," which I thought is exactly what I bought… Maybe I just didn't try rotating the thing around enough, huh? Maybe I didn't have some setting correct on the tv?? Maybe I'll try buying the one bf recommends and see if that works out a little better.

    If it is a reflection problem off the Minneapolis skyline, I will be forced to knock down downtown so I can save $15/month.

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