Frequently Asked Questions About Broadcast and Internet TV January 7th, 2017 By Brian Shim
I get a ton of comments on this site from folks all around the country asking me about how to cut cable TV and get free and cheap TV instead, and I answer each comment. I've finally compiled the most common ones and put them here.
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Q: Which antenna should I get?
A: Much of this site is devoted to answering that question. Go here to start. Basically, you should first check to make sure that broadcast signals are in your area by entering your zip code in the Station Finder before purchasing any antenna.
Q: How can I get more broadcast TV channels?
A: You'll get the most channels with a rooftop or attic antenna. If you are not able to set up a rooftop or attic antenna, try these tips with your indoor antenna.
Q: How so I use one antenna with multiple TVs?
A: Yes, see the options for multiple TVs in this article.
Q: Does a Roku replace cable TV?
A: No. This is a big point of misunderstanding. A Roku is not an exact replacement for cable TV. It allows you to watch free and paid content from the Internet such as YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, and many others, on your TV. You can watch, say, ESPN or The Walking Dead but you'll have to pay for a service such as Sling TV or Playstation Vue. And, you don't get the network stations on your Roku for free either. You have to pay for a service such as CBS All Access (or use an antenna connected directly to your TV). At the end of the day, many people can find content they are happy with using a Roku or other Internet-connected device, for much less than the cost of cable TV, but some there may be some shows that can only be seen live on cable/satellite.
Q: I heard about a box that gives you all of the latest TV shows and movies for free. Is that for real?
A: Yes, there are services that provide the latest movies and TV shows for free, but if it sounds too good to be true, it's probably illegal. For various reasons, I don't recommending using those services.
Q: Where can I get Fox News besides cable/satellite?
A: There are two ways that I know of for sure. You can get it on the Sony Playstation Vue service. You don't need a Playstation to use this service. You can use a Roku or other devices to watch it. You will need Internet access, and the cheapest plan is currently $39.99 per month. But, you get other channels in that package as well.
Q: How can I watch sports without cable or satellite TV?
A: If you are in or near a major city, you should be able to get free broadcast TV to see sports on the networks and local channels. ESPN (along with other channels) is available on Sling TV for $20/month. Here's more info on how to get sports without cable TV.
Q: How can I watch (insert your channel here) without cable or satellite TV?
A: See if your channel is either on Sling TV or Playstation Vue. These streaming services have a monthly fee, but they are cheaper than cable TV. Also, check the channel's website to see what free content they offer there.
Q: Can I record broadcast TV
A: Yes, see my recommended solutions for recording broadcast TV.
Q: Can I record video from the Internet?
A: Yes! Check out a service called Playon.
Q: How do I use an antenna with an old tube TV?
A: If you have an older TV, you'll need a digital receiver box to get digital broadcast signals.
Q: Does a Roku replace cable TV?
A: No, a Roku alone will not get you all of the same channels as cable TV. A Roku will let you watch content from the Internet on your TV. Some of the content is free (like YouTube, Crackle, Vimeo), but much of it has a fee. You can get a lot of good content for less than the cost of cable, but it's not an exact replacement for cable, and much of the content is recorded and not live-streaming. For more information on Roku, go here.
Q: Where can I get free Internet access?
A: This is more difficult than getting free TV. See my suggestions to lower the cost of your Internet service.
Q: Can I use my satellite dish to receive free broadcast TV signals?
A: Unfortunately, no. The satellite dish is not the correct shape, and has special electronics that make it not usable for receiving free broadcast TV. However, you can still use the coax cabling from the dish to your TV if you want to install a broadcast TV antenna where your dish was. That would save the step of running new cable from your roof to your TV.
For more technical info, check out some of these sites.
Technical Sites About Broadcast TV/Antennas/Reception
- antennapoint - see exatly what direction your TV signals are coming from. Helpful to position your antenna.
- AntennaWeb is a definitive source for antenna information with a tool that shows available channels in your area, as well as what direction they are coming from. Click on "Choose an antenna".
- DTV.gov - has general information on digital TV and a good reception map to show what channels you can get.
- DTV USA forum has a wealth of technical information on antennas, DTV, and a lot of other stuff. Some of it is advanced.
- FTAList.com - information on free satellite TV (not Dish or DirecTV, but free satellite channels from around the world). More info here.
- HDTV Antenna Labs has extensive antenna reviews and broadcast maps.
- HighDef Forum - has a section on Local HDTV Info and Reception, often focused on outdoor antennas and more advanced setups.
- Titan TV - free online TV channel guide, including broadcast TV guides for your area! (In the "Channel Lineup" area, click "ADD", then click "Broadcast" and enter your zip code).
- tvfool.com - has great TV reception maps and signal locators, and a very good but highly technical forum. If you want an attic or roof antenna, check out their reviews.
- See my section on set top boxes.
- Hand Brake - software for converting videos to play on your Apple TV.
- I've assembled all of the websites with free movies and TV on my free Internet Remote Control. Check it out!
- Kylo.tv - this is an open-source browser that runs on your computer, but is optimized for viewing on a TV screen. Fonts are bigger and there is on on-screen keyboard.
- Amazon has a good selection of antennas, streaming TV boxes, and accessories, with lots of reviews. I order from them often.
- A great online store specializing in HDTV antennas and converter boxes that I have found is Solid Signal. I ordered my new antenna from there and it arrived quickly and without any problems.
- If you need cables (HDMI, coax, etc.) check out Deep Surplus. They have amazingly inexpensive cables, adapters, and a lot of other accessories for video, audio and your computer. Don't pay the insane prices that retail stores charge for HDMI cables!!! How about a six foot HDMI cable for less than $4!! Retail stores can charge as much as $50 for these!!!
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