How to Get Free HDTV Channels
When I say free, I don’t mean free with your paid cable or satellite package. I mean 100% free without paying for any service.
When television broadcasting began in North America, the broadcasts were completely free. The costs associated with producing TV were covered by program sponsors (advertisers). TV signals were received over the air, so all you needed was a television and an antenna (aka “rabbit ears”). This worked great at the time because TV was new and nobody knew if it was going to be successful; laying cable to distribute signals didn’t make any sense and satellites weren’t an option yet.
Once television was a proven success, viewers wanted more content on bigger and better televisions. Today, those demands haven’t changed, but the technology has.
Receiving signals over the air was not perfect, there were a limited number of channels that could fit in the airwaves. Reception was spotty, but Cable and Satellite services came along with more channels and reliable signals that didn’t require any adjustments.
The technology has changed again. The development of digital signals has allowed broadcasters to fit many channels in the same space that used to only fit one channel. Although it caused a lot of disruptions in June of 2009, the United States ceased all analog TV signals within a specific frequency range. That means the once crowded airwaves are much more useful with digital signals that can stuff more channels in the same space.
Some broadcasters have been distributing their television signal over-the-air for more than 50 years and they continue to do so, now in digital. The secret to picking up these free channels: rabbit ears.
To many people, this will sound like a huge step back, and in some ways it is. You’re not going to find John and Kate or Jersey Shore on the free channels, but it could be worse: you might find John and Kate or Jersey Shore on the free channels.
If you’re on a budget; or you only watch the most popular network shows; or you want to stick it to the cable-man; or you want to pickup really good HD signals on a TV without a cable box or satellite receiver, then this is an option to consider. In many cases, digital over-the-air signal quality rivals cable and satellite signals, where signals are highly compressed because of bandwidth limitations.
Digital rabbit ears are much better than the coat hangers of the past — if you’ve upgrade to a digital cordless phone in the past couple years, you’ll understand the difference in reception, reliability and clarity that digital signals offer.
Depending on where you live, your channel selection will vary. In some places, you can get 10+ HD channels and dozens of standard digital channels, all for FREE! If you live in the United States, you can enter your zipcode in AntennaWeb’s search engine to see a list of the channels you should receive. In many places, you should get most (or all) of your favorite prime time shows in free HD. All you need is an HDTV, an ATSC tuner (most HDTVs have one built in) and an antenna. Here are some examples of affordable indoor and outdoor antennas that you can buy.
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