Free HDTV broadcasts using an antenna are a great complement to all of the free streaming content posted here at bitWHICH. Although the networks have made a lot of sports and TV shows free online in recent years, there is still a lot of great content you can only get by watching live television.
Many of the biggest sporting events, political debates, awards shows, and TV shows are available for free in high definition and surround sound if you have the right equipment. The vast majority of Americans can get access to at least a few free HDTV stations, and if you live near a city you may have access to 20 or more channels. To see what channels are available ‘over the air’ in your area go to an online TV guide, enter your zip code, and select ‘Broadcast Antenna’ as your provider.
If this sounds like it might be for you, then follow these steps to make sure you have the necessary equipment and get your antenna and free HDTV up and running:
1. make sure you have a high-def TV tuner
Before you go out and buy an antenna, make sure your TV has a tuner that is capable of receiving the free HDTV signals being broadcast. If you have a flatscreen HDTV then it almost certainly has a built-in high definition tuner. Remember the digital TV transition a few years ago where you could send in for a free digital tuner from the government if you wanted? That’s because all of the old tube TV’s only had analog tuners and the government wanted to transition to digital broadcasts to help clear up spectrum for other uses. So all of the new TV’s (which at the time were pretty much only HDTVs in the US) had digital tuners built into them.
2. buy a standalone tuner if you need to
If you have an older TV or a computer monitor without a built-in digital tuner, you can still get free HDTV broadcasts if you buy a standalone tuner like one of these from Amazon or Best Buy. There are also tuners you can use to watch free HDTV on your computer or iPad.
3. get an antenna
You’ll need an antenna to pick up the free HDTV signals. There are many different types of antennas to choose from. The type of antenna you will require is determined by the proximity of your house to the various transmitters, as well as anything that may interfere with the signal – such as large buildings or geographical features. Antennas Direct has great resources for finding and buying antennas.
If you live in a metro area without anything blocking you, some rabbit-ears may be all you need. However, a newer antenna may get you better reception and more channels. Some of these are powered to amplify weak signals. The Mohu Leaf and Terk HDTVa are two very popular and affordable options.
If you live in a somewhat remote area, or you really want to get crazy and try to pick up signals from a different city, you can buy a larger indoor antenna or mount an antenna on your roof. Amazon has several affordable models available.
I recommend starting with something inexpensive and trying it out. If that doesn’t work you can always return it and buy a more expensive unit. I’ve been lucky enough to use a simple $10 antenna with good reception in different metro areas all over the country. You can find antennas online at Antennas Direct and Amazon or at your local Best Buy or Radioshack.
4. set up your TV and antenna
To set up your antenna and TV, go through the following steps or watch the video at the beginning of the post.
- Plug the antenna into your TV
- open the settings on your TV and make sure the TV input is set to Antenna or ANT, and not cable or satellite
- have the TV scan for available channels
- you may want to run a digital audio cable from your TV into your surround sound system, if you have one
Sit back and enjoy free HDTV
You should now be good to go. Hopefully you have good reception and lots of channels to choose from like the 720p HD signal from Fox below. Enjoy!