How to save money on cable TV, Part III

bill_coins_186671Welcome back to our cord-cutting series, articles that can help you cut ties with your local cable company. Now, you might say “Hold on there, Eric, all the options you’ve presented so far still leave me paying the cable company for Internet access,” and you would be right. We may still be tied to a cable, cellular or landline DSL bill, but that’s certain to change in the days to come.

I’m sure you’ve remember the hub-bub caused by the transition to digital television in 2009. It was a mess, really only affecting those without a paid cable subscription. One of the later beneficial effects, though, was the ability to receive clear digital reception from your local television broadcasters like CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX and a host of other local programing. These were the same free offerings you remember from the pre-cable days. Oh, the hours I spent getting those rabbit ears just right then getting the reward of a mostly clear picture! Buckle up and fast forward, it’s time to go back to the future. The rules are pretty much the same and, if you’re close enough to the transmitting tower, your old rabbit ears actually still work. The same rules apply: antenna height, distance and geographical location play a big role in determining how many channels you can or cannot receive. For instance, using a small amplified antenna at the store on Third Street in California I can only pull in WTAE. When I move that same antenna less than one block to the roof of the Dollar store I can see all four major networks; ABC, CBS, NBC and FOX. By relocating this experiment to nearly High Point restaurant, I can pick up over 20 stations from Pittsburgh to Johnstown to Cheat Lake and more, all that with a $50 antenna.

Earlier, I mentioned three important factors that helped determined how successful one might be at picking up free broadcast TV. The right antenna also plays an important role. Some are meant to be used in the cities or nearby suburbs while others can be used to pull in signals over 100 miles away. The aforementioned ones are usually placed in a window or hung on the wall and act very much like rabbit ears; if you’re close enough,  the ears will pick up channels.

The latter are most certainly placed outside the home like a traditional antenna, and they even look very similar to the ones from days gone by. To determine what type of receiver you would require I suggest going to antennaweb.org, palgear.com or tvfool.com. Using the calculators and mapping forms you can see just how effective an OTA (over the air) setup would be for you.

Suffice it to say, there are still ways to cut the cord for little to no investment. Will there be sacrifices? Most assuredly. But do we really need 200 channels?

The ability to watch live is are the number one reason I hear from friends as to why they don’t dump cable. However, with a Sling.tv account sports package and an HD antenna, it’s possible to watch sports as well.

By Eric J. Worton for Pennsylvania Bridges