One of the first things most think about when cutting the cord with cable is the transition to an antenna once they realize that most streaming services do not offer your local channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, etc.) Those of us who are a bit older remember when there were giant antennas on every house in the neighborhood. Some people had the fancy ones that had the ability to be adjusted from inside the house with a little dial next to your TV. Others were using the famous rabbit ears that you would bend one way and another trying to get a clear picture. The problem being that once you touched them, you became part of the antenna, so you’d get a crystal clear picture and as soon as you let go, it was gone.
Well, we’re now using digital signals, and antennas have come a long way in terms of functionality and design. There are a few things to consider before running out and purchasing one.
How many TV’s do you have?
Back in the old days, we were lucky if we had one TV in the home, let alone numbers like today where people have 3, 4, 5+. If you’re coming from cable where you just ran the wire from your TV to the convenient connector on the wall, now you have to consider that each TV needs to have a connection to an antenna.
Do you want your antenna to be indoor or outdoor?
Again, things have changed, though the old style roof antennas still exist, there are now hundreds of options for both indoor and outdoor antennas. The benefits of outdoor antennas are they provide better range and clarity, however, you need to have them installed on your roof or somewhere similar and they only provide one input into the home. Indoor antennas are much easier to install and cost less, however, their range isn’t as good as the outdoor. Though keep in mind, the indoor models still have surprisingly good range.
One thing you might notice when searching around, is that even the looks of antennas today range from simplistic to futuristic to some that try to look like part of your every day decor.
Today’s antennas, both indoor and outdoor come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Where and how far are the TV Towers from your location?
This is a fairly important question since it will determine what type of antenna you will need (they are rated in terms of distance) and also what direction you need to point it at in order to get the best reception.
I’m guessing you don’t keep the location of your local towers written down and hung on your refrigerator, so to find out this information, my friends at Antennas Direct have a locator tool (along with a bunch of information on cutting the cord) under their Learning Center menu item. You’ll probably notice that towers are located all over and only if you’re lucky will they be all in one direction from your location.
Now, I can’t tell you what antenna to get or which one will work best in your situation. I can tell you that I use and indoor antenna, a flat square one like pictured above, placed in a window in front of my home. I get all the local channels, though one (CBS) is a little flaky because its tower is, of course, completely in the opposite direction as every other tower.
I also have multiple TVs that are all being served off of that single antenna all throughout my home AND I have the ability to watch my shows on any web device, mobile phone, etc in addition to record them onto a DVR with commercial skip!
What kind of voodoo or witchcraft can I be speaking about, you ask? Well I finally get to the point of this whole post, to introduce you to what I think is a must have device if you’re going from cable to antenna and streaming. It’s called TabloTV. (For the record, I have no affiliation with TabloTV, nor do I receive any compensation from them)
This little device, which you can purchase for between $150 and $240 depending on how big of a storage device you want and how many tuners you’d like. I personally would recommend getting the 4-tuner so that you can watch and record multiple shows at one time. That one goes for around $200.
The setup is very easy, you simply plug your antenna into it and connect the Tablo to your network via Ethernet cable or WiFi. Once connected, you can now view your OTA shows and recordings over any WiFi enabled device in or out of your home (you have to setup the devices in your home first). To watch them on your TV, you will need to have a service such as Roku, FireStick, etc which you’ll need for other streaming services as well.
What this means is once your TVs are “online” or if they are smart-TVs, you can watch OTA shows throughout your home without having to get multiple antennas. For a small fee, something like $2 a month, you get an updated channel guide for the channels you receive as well as a commercial skip feature (which I love) for your recordings.
Here’s a video overview of the product.
We’ve been using one of the first versions of Tablo for several years now and they continue to improve upon the design and the functionality. It seems like an expensive purchase at first, but the added benefits it provides, savings on antennas, commercial skip and DVR, plus the ability to watch it from just about anywhere, is more than worth it.
I know this is a high level overview, so if you have any questions or comments, please leave them in the comment section below!