Do I Need a Separate Antenna For Each TV?

One antenna to multiple TVs

I get a lot of questions from folks who want to get free broadcast TV using an antenna, but who have multiple TVs. There are several ways I know of to get an antenna signal to all of the TVs in your home.  I cover them below.

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Method #1: A Separate Antenna for Each TV

The easiest thing to do is to just have a separate indoor antenna (like the Mohu Leaf) for each TV. The problem with this is that some of your TVs might be on the side of the house that is away from the TV stations. Perhaps one of your TVs is in the basement, where reception might be bad. If you have strong signals in your area (enter your zip code into the Station Finder to see), you still might be able to get all of the channels you want everywhere in your home, so maybe it won’t matter. But chances are, some of your TVs will get worse reception than others due to the location in your home.

So, don’t go out and buy a whole bunch of antennas. Just get one, and confirm that it works with all of your TVs before getting an antenna for each TV. I recommend the Mohu Leaf.

Method #2: One Antenna Using Your Home’s Existing Cable TV Wiring

This is the most elegant solution. If you’ve ever had cable or satellite TV, your home has the wiring it needs to distribute free broadcast TV signals from an antenna! If you can find out where it connects to the cable company’s line and disconnect it, you can connect your antenna to this cable and use it to distribute free TV throughout your home!

This will require a little detective work. Look in your garage, basement, and outside of your home to see where the cable company’s cable connects to your home.  There should be a junction box where it connects.  If you had satellite, look where the cable from the satellite dish comes into your home.  Note, you might need special tools to disconnect it, and it might be a violation of the cable / satellite company rules to mess with their equipment, just be aware.

If you are able to disconnect the signal from the cable company, you can now connect your antenna anywhere you see a cable TV outlet in your home.  Probably the best place would be at an upper story, i.e., the highest point in your home.

Also, if you do this, I would recommend adding an amplifier (see below).

Note, you cannot use this method if you are using your coax cabling for Internet access.  The cable has to be completely disconnected from any satellite or cable, whether it is for TV or Internet.

Method #3: One Antenna to Many TVs Using New Cabling

If your home does not already have coax cable running through it, you’ll have to cable it up yourself. If you only have one TV, and your cable run is short (say, 30 feet or less), you can get away with connecting your antenna cable directly to your TV.

If you have multiple TVs, and your cable run is short, you can use a splitter like this one:

coax cable splitter

But, most of the time you’ll want to add an amplifier, and so you’ll want to use a distribution amplifier to split your signal to all of your TVs:

The distribution amplifier should be close to the antenna, so that the signal is amplified as soon as possible:

Antenna with amp

If you have a lot of cabling to run, you might want to invest in a spool of cable and a special kit that enables you to cut custom lengths and attach connectors at each end. Here is my set of tools and supplies for doing this:

Coax cable tools

Starting from the upper left, we have a cable stripper, cable crimper, and spool of cable.  In the second row from the left we have an all-in-one tool that cuts, strips, and attaches the connectors, and finally the splitter.

This might cost less than buying pre-cut cable, and you’ll be able to make the lengths perfectly right instead of having a lot of slack (which is ugly and degrades the signal). Just be sure to get “RG6” cable! Cheaper cable will degrade your TV signal.

If you are going through all of this trouble, you should consider just going with a rooftop or attic antenna, if that is possible in your dwelling. A rooftop or attic antenna will get you the best signal quality and the most channels. An outdoor or attic antenna will be better than an indoor antenna.

Before doing any of this, I recommend buying a single antenna and trying it out at each TV location.

Here are my recommended tools and supplies if you want to run your own cable:

Method #4: One Antenna with Tablo – Wireless!

Since originally writing this article, I’ve discovered another way to use a single antenna with all of your TVs: a product called Tablo.

Basically, you hook up your one antenna to Tablo and it streams the signal to all of the Roku boxes in your home.  Now, this requires that you have a Roku box or stick or each TV, which you may or may not want to do. Check out this video which explains it:

But, the bonus is that Tablo TV offers recording to a hard disk drive that you attach to it. So, if you want recording capability, Tablo may be for you.

To Sum Up

Which solution you choose depends on your situation. The simplest thing to do is to get a separate antenna for each TV. But, each TV may not get equally good reception. If you have existing cable TV cabling in your home, you might be able to use that and just have one antenna. Finally, if you want recording ability, consider Tablo TV with one antenna.

Hope this helps! – Brian

  • Ginger

    Brian – if I go with the Tablo – what antenna would you recommend? I am buying today :) Thank you. Hubby says we have an HD antenna.

  • Barb

    Hi: I located an old TWC connection which is already cut. When I had new TWC, it was necessary to get a new cable from the outdoor cable box. Evidently, the installer cut the old cable when he installed the new one. Can I leave it just hang there? Also, how do you connect the antenna to the cable jack. The antenna has a plug that goes into the wall jack. My highest point does not have a jack, but had a spliter and the end of the cable would plug right into the tv. Is there any way, I could use this.

    • Barb

      Tried attaching the antenna to the old in-house wiring–wouldn’t work. The only high jack I have is a splitter and I can’t see any way to attach the antenna. I assume you need to attach the the in-wall cable to the tv in order to get the signal. If I do this, then how do I get the antenna in the system. Totally confused… Barb

      • Hi Barb,

        It’s hard to debug this over email. Basically, you need to make sure the cabling is completely disconnected from any cable TV equipment, then pick one end to attach the antenna to and another to attach your TVs. There are many adapters available if the connectors are not right.

        Best,
        Brian

  • anonymous

    Hi, for years we have had Directv satellite for cable and Comcast for our internet. We just recently cancelled Directv, but still have Comcast for our internet. And we have bought an attic antenna, that I would like to be able to use for all TVs, by using the existing cable jacks in all the rooms (ie. the same jacks that Directv used to hook into the satellite boxes). I know above it says “you cannot use this method if you are using your coax cabling for Internet access. The cable has to be completely disconnected from any satellite or cable, whether it is for TV or Internet.” But is there no way to use the existing cable jacks to bring in antenna signal, while not affecting our Comcast internet? I don’t understand how Directv was able to get their signal into our house without affecting our Comcast internet. Thanks for any help!

    • anonymous

      Quite possibly the DTV satellite cord is going into our house some other way, and not through the outside cable junction box. I guess we need to follow the coax cord from our DTV satellite on the roof and find out where it enters the house.

      • Yes, you should trace the cables and see where they go/come from.

        If your Directv and Comcast were distributed throughout your house using separate cables, you might be in luck!

        Brian

        • anonymous

          It worked!! I traced the satellite coax cord from the roof, down the side of the house, down to the lower level where it went inside the house (and another cord went in at the same point, which had to be Comcast cable). On the other side of the wall, inside our basement, was some kind of cable box with TONS of cords. I could see both cords going to different splitters. I unhooked one coax cable from one splitter…and promptly lost internet in the house (and got it back as soon as I reattached that cord). So next I unhooked the other cable from the other splitter and hooked up the coax from our HD antenna which I positioned just outside the basement sliding glass doors and pointed it to the best signal. Then took a short coax cable and used it to connect our TV to the cable jack in the wall, scanned for channels, and it WORKED! I am so glad we don’t have to run a bunch of ugly cables throughout our house!! I think I’ll return this attic antenna and get an outdoor antenna to mount on the roof, right beside the DTV satellite, and just plug the satellite coax into the HD antenna. We’ll get the best signal there anyway. Thanks for letting me talk myself through all this, haha :) I can’t wait to tell my husband when he gets home!

          • You are awesome!!!! Congratulations and thank you for sharing your story!!!!

            Brian

          • AppalachianMomma

            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a0cbfd5ac57ef9e4f7bf682667a72f7a34691655e5eb24aae48910f58bfcc0db.jpg
            FYI this is what the panel box in the basement looks like. It was spaghetti cords, and it turned out that the splitter with tons of cords coming off of it was used by DirecTV (the splitter with a single cable was our Comcast internet).
            I didn’t know how to post a picture with my previous update.
            Anyway, we were in luck given that DirecTV had already done the hard part to wire in the satellite cord to this box, which routes to all of our cable wall jacks. Others that have Dish or DirecTV, separate from their cable internet, should also be in luck and be able to use the existing hookups. But if you’re using a cable company for both internet and cable TV, and you want to “cut the cable cord”, you’ll have to figure out another way to eloquently get the antenna coaxial cables to your TVs.

  • Robert Mccall

    I have 4 TVs in my home so I decided to try an amplified antenna in the attic using the existing cable runs and distribution box after cancelling my cable. I purchased an RCA amplified antenna on sale from Walmart and a Mohu Metro Leaf. I connected the RCA to an existing cable in the attic for the antenna and the other end to my interior box, my splitter and then to each TV. Not good, I lost a lot of local stations that should not be a problem.I removed the RCA and I connected the Mohu Leaf to the long cable in the attic, put it in the same place the amplified antenna was located. All of the stations appeared, good reception and no problem, even with the extra long cable from the attic to the interior box. The RCA will go back to Walmart and I will keep the leaf. Just an FYI, Walmart has the Mohu Metro Leaf for $ 19.00 and easy return if it does not work.
    The info in this site is priceless when trying to figure out how to get the best reception and no cable……..

    • Hi Robert,

      So glad it worked well for you! Thank you for sharing!

      Best,
      Brian

  • Chaney

    Brian,
    So I found where the former cable came into my home (a box in the closet underneath my stairs-so on first floor)–looks like there is already an amp/splitter there as well. My question is that I want to use the idea of one antenna to the whole house system (which would be two t.v.s on the first floor as well)…but are you saying that I actually need to hook the actual antenna to that box which is located underneath my stairs?? I just can’t see that that would get the best signal…and, if not, what is my next option? Right now I have tried hooking the antenna cable into the amp/splitter and have one antenna hooked into one of the former cable outlets by one of the t.v.s and then have both t.v.s connected via coax cables to the “former” cable outlets. I get pretty nice pictures but inconsistent channel viewing (particularly with the ABC/CBS channels)…so not sure what I’m missing–if I should try to put an antenna in the attic space? But then that is so far from the antenna/cable hook up located underneath the stairs, etc. etc. etc….thoughts??

    • Hi Chaney,

      Yes, you’ll get best results by putting an antenna on the roof or attic.

      Don’t use the cable hookup in your basement for anything. It’s of little use now. Unplug the amp there.

      Just like you did, run your antenna into an unused cable outlet as close to the antenna as possible. If you want to use an amp, you’ll have to move it up to the attic or wherever your antenna is.

      Best,
      Brian

      • Chaney

        Brian,
        Just to clarify—the cable hookup—box underneath the stairs–is the stairs going up to the second floor–so the main cable box into the house is located on the first floor–just in a closet underneath the second floor stairs on the very interior side of the house….Same floor/first floor where the 2 t.v.s that I am wanting to use. Obviously I am tech-challenged, so bear with me:) I can see where the box is outside of my garage area where comcast comes into the house (a public area)—should I assume that there is “something” in the attic as far as being able to put an antenna up there and having something for it to power and coax/cable plug into? and then, from your answer, If I do get an antenna in the attic, will it still be as effective if I then attach coax cables/antennas into my tvs from unused cable outlets that are two floors down (on the main floor)? Sorry for all of the questions but I really appreciate your help!

        • HI Chaney,

          No, there is nothing in the attic unless you put it there. You’ll have to route power and whatever cables you need up there for the antenna, plus some way to mount the antenna.

          Long cables do degrade the TV signal, but having the antenna high up is more important. If you have an amp attached to the cable right near the antenna, then the long cable run won’t be a problem.

          Best,
          Brian

  • Debbie

    Brian, I got the RCA antenna hooked up and with the help of your video on scanning for channels i get about 35.I’m only about 20 minutes from Philadelphia and think I should get more channels. I think I’ll get a spliter/ amplifier do you think that will help me get more channels, or should I get that plus the Mohu Leaf antenna ?