How to Get Free HDTV Without Cable or Satellite: Secrets They Don't Want You To Know

By Techwalla Contributor

Recently cable and satellite television companies have upped their high definition (HD) television offerings to include more HD channels. Their TV commercials are convincing: you need a pricey cable or satellite plan (or in the case of Verizon FIOS, fiber optic service) to take advantage of your local HD channels. The truth is, you don't; all you need is the proper antenna and you're good to go. You won't get CNN Headline News or The Weather Channel, but you'll get all your local channels, real time weather reports, and some surprising additional channels, all free of charge. Here's how:

Things You'll Need

  • A high definition television (HDTV) set or an older analog TV that has been converted for use as an HDTV via a digital converter box
  • An indoor or outdoor digital antenna
  • 75ohm digital coaxial cabling (if mounting an outdoor rooftop digital antenna)

Step 1

When to Purchase Your HDTV Digital Antenna. While you are in the store purchasing that amazing new 52-inch plasma HDTV, you'll also want to pick up a new HDTV digital antenna. Your old analog antenna won't pick up digital signals.

Step 2

Choose Indoor vs. Outdoor. First, where will you be placing your new digital antenna? Do you want a rabbit ears-type digital antenna sitting next to your HDTV, or would you rather have the increased reception capability of a larger roof-mounted digital antenna? While the indoor digital antenna is the cleanest and easiest option, many people still choose an outdoor digital antenna and run the cable down into the living areas and/or bedrooms. Some people mount their new outdoor digital antenna in the attic, although the signals are weaker than a traditional roof-mount.

Step 3

Choose Directional vs. Multi-Directional. In a metropolitan area, a directional digital antenna is standard. Directional digital antennas point to the nearest high-definition transmitter broadcasting HDTV signals. If you live in rural areas or you own a boat or an RV, a multi-directional digital antenna is preferred because you can rotate the digital antenna to point it toward the nearest HDTV broadcasting transmitter.

Step 4

Choose Gain. Gain is a term used for amplification of digital broadcast signals in order to bring in more digital channels and those that are further away. For indoor digital antennas, look for a 45dB (decibel) or greater gain. For outdoor digital antennas, gain is a nice feature for those in the far suburbs and more rural areas but not really necessary for city dwellers. Look for a gain of around 13dB.

Step 5

Hook Up Your New HDTV Digital Antenna to Your HDTV. As previously mentioned, outdoor HDTV digital antennas can be mounted in an attic; but the reception won't be as strong as if were mounted directly on the rooftop. Furthermore, outdoor digital antennas require running cabling down through the attic and into rooms where your HDTVs reside. For indoor digital antennas, hookup is very simple and requires only a space to place the digital antenna and a nearby A/C wall outlet for indoor digital antennas with gain.

Step 6

Program Your New HDTV for Off-Air Broadcasting. After you've hooked up your antenna to your new HDTV, you must program the HDTV to pick up what are called Off-Air broadcast signals. Failure to take this measure will result in copious head-scratching and trying to figure out why the picture is no clearer or sharper than your last TV. See your HDTV's instruction manual for further details.

Tips & Warnings

  • Receiving HDTV broadcast signals via a digital antenna as opposed to cable or satellite programming is referred to as Off-Air broadcasting.
  • Amplified HDTV digital antennas require an additional power source.
  • Indoor antennas come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. They are not limited to rabbit-ears either; you can purchase antenna panels, small antenna arrays, and even a digital antenna hidden in a photo frame. You can also choose a standing digital antenna or one that hangs on the wall.
  • If you have an old analog television for which you have purchased and hooked up a digital converter box, you don't need a special digital antenna. This is why many people are taking advantage of the U.S. Government's offer for $40-off coupons for digital converter boxes. See for more information.
  • When you hook up your HDTV digital antenna to your new high-definition television set, you must program the HDTV to register Off-Air HDTV signals. Otherwise you'll see a snowy picture or no picture at all.