HDTV Basic FAQs
What options are there to get HDTV?
There are currently three ways to get HDTV signal to
your brand spanking new HDTV. Cable, Satellite,
and over-the-air (OTA) using old fashioned antennas.
Of the three, the OTA broadcast is the only free public
service available locally to anyone within the broadcast
What is available free on OTA?
A. National broadcast
networks ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS as well as new
broadcasters like Ion and other small local and ethnic
Q. What do I need to get free HDTV?
A. Often, just an antenna.
Most HDTVs marketed today have a
tuner/receiver built in, so the
simple answer is to connect an
antenna to the "F" coaxial
connection and you're ready to
go. The more complex
answer, it depends on where you
are and how far the
nearest TV transmitter is in relation to your location. Visit
or Antennaweb to find if you're within range of
local broadcast stations.
Q. What type of antenna do I need?
A. If you already have an older antenna on your
roof, you're should be set once you point your antenna
in the proper direction. Many cities have TV
stations broadcasting in VHF, though most stations
broadcast in UHF. If your city is all UHF, buying
and installing the right antenna is simpler than if you
need both VHF and UHF (refer to TitanTV and Antennaweb).
Do free OTA stations broadcast in true HD?
A. Yes, most have one major channel in HD, and
subsequent sub-channels broadcasting SD (standard
definition). The main channel feed of the OTA
broadcasts are often even better in image quality and
resolution than on pay service (cable/satellite)
Q. What will I miss on OTA compared to cable or
A. For most viewers, sports will be the broadcast
that spurs subscribers towards cable/satellite, though
of course the lack of national pay service movie
broadcasters like HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, etc. is only
available on subscription services. For most light
viewers that watch the local and national public
broadcasts (ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, PBS), there's no need to
go with subscription services if you live within range
of a broadcast station.
Q. Is there a way to record the free OTA HDTV?
A. Yes, there are several ways. Most
popular option is TiVO which requires monthly/lifetime
subscription fee to use their robust guide service to
schedule recording. There are few OTA
tuner/receivers that can record using a time schedule
with no fees involved. The latter recorders are
often hard to find and may only be available from an
online retailer, such as us. (See
Dual Tuner/DVR Media Player).
complete the discussion about HDTV connectivity, below are the paid
service options to obtain HDTV.
Satellite services install a small dish outside of your
home and offer set-top-boxes which can be bought or
leased with or without recording capabilities.
There are additional charges for the ability to record
shows on a DVR.
a little more complex. Below are several options to receive cable
Cable tuners called QAM tuners are often built into the HDTVs marketed
today. Some may even offer cable card slots so you don't have to
lease the set-top-box from the cable service. There are even PC
based cable card compatible receivers that allow recording on the PC
hard drive. The free tuner built into an HDTV that tunes QAM
signals can often only receive and decode "Clear QAM" or the local
station feeds often provided free on cable services. For other
content, a cable set-top-box lease/purchase is necessary to receive
premium stations. Cable
Set-top-Box lease or purchase. As often is the case, your cable
company will offer to sell or lease you the cable box to receive premium
services. Cable operators also offer DVR devices at additional
tuners with Cable Card. These days, there are PC
based cards that can receive premium cable services with the use of Cable Card
that is provided by the cable operator. Using a PC allows you to
schedule and record your shows often on multiple channels and store the
signal on your own hard drive along with all the other video, music, and
photos files for viewing at a later time. With advances made on a PC platform using Windows Media
Center, today's HTPCs can offer a simple interface that's robust and
multi-faceted for use as a whole home library, but there are
pre-requisites for this performance. A good place to start your
research is Wikipedia
Cable Card info.
More on free-broadcast OTA