Thursday, April 11, 2013

Free TV blogging -- suspicion confirmed

This was an AV club day. A musician friend needed some help digitizing various videos in various formats so we picked up an adapter at Fry's (after being told by four different salespeople that they didn't have it) and spent the rest of the afternoon cannibalizing cables and rearranging equipment. (Worked great, by the way.)

The adapter came with a very small antenna that allowed you to watch broadcast television on your PC (I tried it my laptop and got almost 100 channels). After we'd captured the video clips he needed, we decided to hook up the antenna to his new big screen TV and check out the results. There was a dedicated connection for over the air so you could switch back and forth two versions of the same network feed, one coming over the antenna, the other coming through the Time Warner digital cable box.

I had expected the picture quality to be indistinguishable but we both immediately noticed the difference. The broadcast signal, picked up through a small, cheap antenna that basically came as a extra with a hybrid TV stick, was clearly better than the picture Time Warner charged hundreds of dollars a year for.

This anecdote would be a good stepping-off point if you wanted to address some big questions like media consolidation, bundling (both of services and content), the hard lot of orphan technologies or the wretched state consumer reporting. For now though, I'm just going to leave it as an experiment for our viewers at home: if you have a television set made in the last five years and a set of rabbit ears made in the last fifty, plug the antenna coaxial into the jack marked AIR and see what you get. It takes very little time and it might end up saving you a few hundred dollars a year.


  1. I tried plugging in an antenna to my computer and all I could get was some crap channels. The best antenna in the world won't work if you're in an apartment with a few buildings between you and the broadcasting antennas.

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