'Rabbit Ears' Find New Life in HDTV Age

Consumers who are spending thousands of dollars on LCD or plasma TVs are saving their money elsewhere: their TV programs. Antennas for a high-definition television may seem like a ludicrous idea but local TV channels, broadcast for free in HD over-the-air, offer superior picture quality over the often-compressed signals sent by cable and satellite TV companies. Compression involves removing some data from the digital signal in order to have enough room to send hundreds of other channels through the same cable line or satellite transmission.

Before cable and satellite existed, people relied on antennas to receive analog signals from local TV stations' broadcasting towers. Stations still send out analog signals, but most now transmit HD digital signals as well. One major difference with a digital over-the-air signal is it doesn't get snowy and fuzzy like the old analog signal. Instead, the picture will turn into tiny blocks and go black. "You either get it or you don't. Some people can receive it with rabbit ears, it depends where you are," said Dale Cripps, founder and co-publisher of HDTV Magazine. Schneider recommends indoor antennas only for customers within 25 miles of a station's broadcast tower. An outdoor antenna will grab a signal from up to 70 miles away as long as no mountains are in the way.

The disadvantage to using just an antenna is that only local channels are available. Some consumers partner an antenna with cable or satellite service. HD antenna prices range from $20 to $150 for indoor and outdoor versions. The advantage is that it's a one-time fee; you won't be paying monthly for local television channels.

Link: Forum Discussion (Thanks Hum)
News source: The New York Times

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I would consider OTA HDTV except that my cable company doesn't charge extra for 20 HDTV channels so it isn't really worth doing. Replacing Cable TV for analog television just doesn't seem worth it either because you need to worry about partial reception (i.e. "snow" ). Besides I would miss SPACE: The Imagination Station.

If more HDTV channels become available after the death of analog TV then I would consider it.

In Australia we have 2 x major cable / satelite companies Optus and Foxtel. Both are so budget they broadcast digital TV in SD. The only way to get HDTV in Australia is via Free to air.

Absolute joke really.

LOL not all cableproviders charge for hd channels.

All my hd channels are free with what ever package i have. no extra charge for them.

I have cablevision.

All I watch is SpikeTV, History Channel and Cartoon Network.... but when I finally move out I'll prolly invest in one of these for a while... and deal with basic tv

"Before cable and satellite existed, people relied on antennas to receive analog signals from local TV stations' broadcasting towers."

umm... i've always received TV with antennas.

they act like everyone has satallite or cable

The only cable TV channel I watch is The History Channel, yet they charge you a fortune just for the basic cable. I don't even watch the over-the-air channels, so HDTV doesn't do much for me either way. :P

Xenomorph said,
"Before cable and satellite existed, people relied on antennas to receive analog signals from local TV stations' broadcasting towers."

umm... i've always received TV with antennas.

they act like everyone has satallite or cable

I don't know what this is all about but I love my 200 some channels plus on demand! And sorry to break it to you, but I don't know about other countries, but USA and all the teenagers including me kind of can't live without TV, so they have either cable or satellite, around here there is more Comcast subscribers since Comcast rules! I use Comcast and its awesome!

Agreed. Here in perth, australia, we don't have media center pcs, digital tv (except foxtel), and use antennas for all tv related things... Plus our best residential internet is 24Mbps, with download limits...

cable tv here is expensive and filled with repeats (same episode might be on 3 times a day).

Was talking to a foxtel installer once (family does have it), he said it was pointless, and the only reason he watches it, is beacuse they give it to him for free.

and our free-to-air HDTV isn't much better than standard TV, one station (channel 7) transmit in 576p60 (twice as many frames as the low-def signal, that's it), and they repeat video during the day, instead of showing the shows they do on low-def, and ABC show their guide during the day as well, it like these guys are showing this stuff solely for advertising (e.g. on tv's in stores), at least the other channels keep the programming the same.

The_Decryptor said,
cable tv here is expensive and filled with repeats (same episode might be on 3 times a day).

Was talking to a foxtel installer once (family does have it), he said it was pointless, and the only reason he watches it, is beacuse they give it to him for free.

and our free-to-air HDTV isn't much better than standard TV, one station (channel 7) transmit in 576p60 (twice as many frames as the low-def signal, that's it), and they repeat video during the day, instead of showing the shows they do on low-def, and ABC show their guide during the day as well, it like these guys are showing this stuff solely for advertising (e.g. on tv's in stores), at least the other channels keep the programming the same.


What about Channel 10 with their HDTV + 5.1 AFL matches now, with more to follow. I think it's just Brisvegas that is getting screwed on HDTV. Down here ours is fine

I have an HDTV and there is no way I would pay my cable company over $100 just to have access to basic HD packages. Instead, I bought a $30 antenna and have 2 channels I watch 95% of the time...for free!

With things like Verizon FIOS, do they still compress the way that other cable companies do? I'd assume they don't with that system, but I'm just curious to find out.

Cable companies can only compress analog channels not digital ones. Digital signal is already compressed so there's no gain in re-compressing it, unless they uncompress (decode) it first, degrade the signal then re-compress it, which is re-encoding.

I have an HDTV tuner for my computer that can receive over air HD broadcasts, unfortunately I'm in a small semi-rural college town so I get basically no reception (at least not in a college dorm room) though I'm sure there are some places around here that get a good signal. I guess for now it's only really worth it if you're in a decent sized metropolitan area, but that's typical anyway.

I'm going to get FreeSat when it launches in 2008 here in the UK. I used to have Freeview in my room but even analogue signal is crap in my room (yes I have a TV Booster). No matter were I put my TV or Radio aerials I get a crap signal, but everywhere in the house it's fine. So hopefully FreeSat will be the answer to me, I also read they might provide HD channels over it as well (& I'm saving up for a HDTV) so that will be good.

http://business.techwhack.com/2415/bbc-itv-freesat/

xSuRgEx said,
you can get freesat from SKY already,
http://www.freesatfromsky.com/

unless the BBC option is on a different system and would proberly include channels like E4 that are missing from
skys freesat system.

I believe it'll exactly (or closely) duplicate the content on Freeview. I think the aim is to offer a free system that isn't dependent on a company like Sky, that can potentially cancel the "free" offer any time...

In the UK, we call this "Freeview" and for me, personally, it's giving the satellite and Cable companies a good run for their money.

In the US its just the same stations over the air HDTV no new channels except the x.2, x.3, ect... sub channels which are mostly 24 hour weather information in my area.

Unfortunatley freeview is only standard definition, and I fear it may be a while before HD content is being broadcast over the air.

Doli where do you live? in Miami my area we get like every local channel with an alternate broadcast in Digital plus we get at least 10 unique (not simulcast) extra channels that you cannot get unless you have an HDTV with an OTA antenna; I love DirecTV for this cause with the DirecTV receivers you can install your own OTA antenna and then all those extra channels are part of the Guide when you browse through channels; I can't wait for the next few months when DirecTV will be sending a lot more channels on HD.

freeview makes me cry. I'm in a good area and yet it still looks terrible. The compression on some channels is truly shocking.

It bugs me so much that providers over here are slow to move to HD broadcasting, considering you can't buy standard def TV's anymore even if you wanted to.

The BBC are experimenting with over the air HD broadcasts, somewhere around london at the moment.

Also, at DrCheese: Really? That's quite shocking because for me, the digital signal is always better and clearer than the analogue signal. Are you sure your Freeview box isn't faulty or something? maybe you need a better Ariel?
The only channel I've really noticed any problem on is ABC1, but I just assumed it was because it showed poorly converted NTSC format shows.

The BBC, ITV and C4 are campaigning to have some (a 1/3rd) of the spectrum that will be freed up when the analogue tv system is switched off in 2012 to be used for Freeview HD channels. Offcom are currently having a consultation on this, and in theory, they have to choose whatever is in the public's best interest (it could be used for mobile phones, emergency services etc too). The government is pressuring Offcom to set aside at least some for Freeview, so I think that will happen. I don't think we'll be seeing any substantial HD on freeview till then. Its possible that they could introduce it with better compression (H.264 for example), which could squeeze more channels into the existing spectrum, but its probably a bit late to switch everyone Freeview reciever over now!