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Television is becoming more and more consumer friendly with the recent explosion of “build your own” packages available from streaming services like Sling, DirectTV Now and YouTube TV – to name just a few.
That’s kind of a big deal, because now consumers are in more of a position to pick and choose what they pay for instead of just paying for blanket packages. This gives us a little bit of control in an industry that is notorious for how badly they treat customers.
But you said “Free HD TV”…
Outside of those, there is another option that can get you free local HD channels! We use an antenna to get crystal clear broadcasts of NBC, Fox, CBS, PBS, ABC, CW, and more. And the best part is, there is no monthly cost – your all-in cost is the price of your antenna.
These antennas aren’t the bunny ears of years past
Even better, these antennas don’t set you up to be frustrated with fuzzy or blurry pictures – it comes in as an even more HD version than your HD cable! The reason for that is that cable HD is “compressed HD”, whereas this over the air version is “uncompressed”. That’s all I will say about it here, but if you want more technical details you can follow this link.
So, what’s the best way to figure out the details about what antenna you need to get the channels you want? That is where the government, and specifically the FCC, comes in. The FCC has a reception map that tells you the signal strength of different channels relative to your zip code. Here’s what my map looks like:
For anyone who lives in or around a city, I would recommend getting a Mohu Leaf. There are certainly cheaper antennas that have
Mohu actually has a handy HD availability map on their website. If you are looking at getting a Leaf, I’d recommend heading there to see which one they recommend and which channels they anticipate you would get.
We get probably around 15 channels at our place, but I’ve actually had my TV “forget” about 9 of those. I don’t really want to have to flip through random channels or ones that don’t work very well. We get ABC (so Sarah can get her “This Is Us” fix in), CBS, NBC
Maximize your Cord-cutting
Now if you really want to go from cable to antenna as seamlessly as possible, I would recommend getting a TiVo Bolt. The Bolt integrates with your antenna to provide you a channel guide and you get to record up to 150 hours of content. This is great
In addition to the handy channel guide/recording aspect, the Bolt also integrates with your other streaming apps like Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, and Prime Video, to name a few. This device would effectively replace your Roku, Apple TV or Amazon Fire.
Now it doesn’t have to replace your existing setup, but it certainly makes for a much more seamless experience when you don’t have to flip from input to input. If anything, just having that option is nice. The Bolt also comes with voice search and skip mode, which skips through commercials on recorded shows. Not bad, I’d say!
So looking at all this, a logical question is “What’s my cost?”. The antenna itself will cost you under $100, no matter the range you need. If you live in a city, you’ll pay $17 for the Mohu Leaf Metro. And then if you really want to upgrade your over-the-air experience, you can invest in a TiVo Bolt for $250.
Generally, you’ll be looking at an all-in cost of about $275. That might seem like a hefty price, but if you currently pay for cable, that represents 2 or 3 months of your cable bill.
If you are interested in trying this out, I would recommend getting your antenna first and seeing how it works out. If you like the experience well enough, then look into the TiVo Bolt.
The Simple Summary
Cable TV has gotten way too expensive, but fortunately affordable HD antennas have stepped up to fill in the gap. We’ve been cable-free since we left our apartment complex and our antenna has been pretty great. If you have any questions about this process, email me at [email protected] or comment below!