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Home / Tips and Tricks / Watching Free TV: How to Install an Over-the-Air Indoor Antenna

Watching Free TV: How to Install an Over-the-Air Indoor Antenna


Sarah Tew / CNET

Over-the-air TV has been around for years, and it is built into your TV ̵

1; all you need is an antenna. Local channels broadcast in your area offer sports, news and TV shows from ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS and more with excellent HD picture quality. It’s no wonder that OTA is one of the first stops for anyone looking for it cut the wire or supplement them streaming diet

The best part is the price: completely free. Unlike cable or live TV streaming services, for antenna broadcasts you don’t have to pay any running costs, and if you live in an area with decent reception you can get OTA TV with an indoor antenna for less than $ 20. In other parts of the country, you may have to spend more on an outdoor antenna.

Antenna TV is easy to set up. Here’s where to start.

Read more: Best Streaming Deals: Save on Netflix, Disney Plus, HBO Max, Paramount Plus, Hulu, and more

It’s cheap. Why not give it a try?


Sarah Tew / CNET

Indoor antennas are so cheap that my best advice is to just buy one, connect it to your TV and see what channels you get in. I have reviewed the best Amazon indoor antenna models and found that the best in an urban environment the Channel master FlatennaIn my testing, I found that the number and strength of channels did not increase in a poor coverage area when replaced with a more expensive model, even with a gain amplifier. In other words, if the cheaper internal antennas don’t work, there’s probably nothing like it. That’s because your location is the biggest factor in whether or not to receive reception – your antenna engineering is a distant second at best.

If you are having trouble getting reception, you may experience some improvement with an outdoor antenna. However, they cost more and are considerably more difficult to install as they usually require access to a roof or attic and you may need professional help.

We haven’t tested external antennas at CNET, but high-rated antennas from Amazon and tech site Tech Hive start from $ 60. from digital broadcasts, some older stations still use VHF.

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How to Cut the Cord for $ 10: Installing an Indoor Antenna


Tips for installing an antenna

Given the complexity (and potential dangers) of installing a roof antenna, we’ll stick to internal antennas for this article. You need this:

Most modern indoor antennas are flat and designed to be installed high on a window, preferably in the direction of a broadcast antenna. How do you determine which way that is?

In addition to selling off its namesakes, Antennas Direct is also an excellent resource for cutting cables and offers maps based on your location as well as the direction of the closest antennas. Hold your compass or Google Maps app useful!


Antennas Direct provides a map showing where your nearest cell towers are.

Screenshot by Ty Pendlebury / CNET

Some antennas include adhesive strips for mounting, but if yours doesn’t, you’ll need masking tape or poster putty. Don’t try to use duct tape as it can mark your walls or windows.

Install the antenna as high as possible as neighboring houses and buildings may block TV signals. Experiment with placement – if a window doesn’t work, try a wall as it may give you better reception. If possible, try to keep the antenna away from magnetic metals such as security bars and radiators.

Many indoor antennas have a long, detachable coaxial cable, but if your TV and best reception are too far away, you may need a longer cable. Once you have enough slack in the cable, plug the spare end of the coaxial cable into the back of your TV or DVR. Tighten it nice and tight. Finally you can now set up your tuner to search for available channels.

How many channels can you get?

Air TV 2

Local TV shows and stations, seen here in Sling TV’s OTA interface via AirTV 2.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Whether you use the tuner built into your TV or an external box such as TiVo, you still receive OTA TV as a digital signal: analog signals were retired in 2009In the Settings menu of your device you should find a channel or tuning section and from there you should be able to activate an automatic setting. The tuner on the TV or DVR will then find all the available channels, and if it has a program guide, it will arrange all the upcoming shows in a schedule for you.

If you live in an area with good reception, you can at least get the major network channels and their affiliates, including your local PBS station. Depending on where your home is, you may experience problems due to natural or man-made obstacles, and if you search for a problem channel on Google, you can see if it is a common channel.

In addition to the Antennas Direct site mentioned above, the FCC maintains a DTV reception maps page where you can enter your address and find the channels available in your area. It rates each station based on frequency and signal strength, but it won’t tell you which direction the antenna is in.

If you live in an area with poor reception, try a model with a built-in amplifier. But keep in mind that this can overload your tuner and you could end up with far fewer channels. If you have a model with an amplifier, try without it first.

Because you receive digital signals, instead of analog signals, you will not get snow with sub-optimal reception. If you have poor to no reception, you will get a jumpy or grainy image or nothing at all, just black.

When you finally get a good picture and decide that you want to use antenna TV, you may want to invest in an antenna DVR. It lets you schedule and record shows for later play, skip commercials, and even stream your aerial TV outside the house.

Read more: Best Antenna DVRs for Cord Cutters

08-amazon-fire-TV recast

The Amazon Fire TV recast is our favorite antenna DVR.

Sarah Tew / CNET

Do I need a new antenna for Next Gen TV?

Next Gen TV, also known as ATSC 3.0, is the next generation version of free OTA TV, rolling out in selected parts of the country now and in the coming years. Among other enhancements, it supports 4K HDR video and an internet back channel used for on-demand video and usage data.

You don’t need a new antenna to get Next Gen TV. That is the good news.

The bad news is you need a new TV or external tuner box. TVs with next-generation TV tuners are just starting to appear and they are usually expensive, and only a few tuner boxes are available now.

In other words, your cheap antenna will come in handy for a long time.

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