Why TV antennas are making a comeback in the age of streaming



Elizabeth Roy gave up her cable plan years ago. But the 40-year-old can still watch the 2021 Emmy Awards on her local CBS affiliate – for free – with the help of a $ 19 antenna she bought from Amazon. “I’m honestly surprised it’s legal,” said Ms. Roy, who works in marketing in Nashville, Tenn.

In the United States, streaming-only homes are expected to eclipse the number of homes with cable by 2024, according to market research firm eMarketer. As Americans increasingly decide to cut the cord – tired of paying for cable on top of the various Netflix and Hulus – more than 70-year-old technology is taking the place of cable. Antennas, or “bunny ears” provide completely free access to local network affiliates including ABC, NBC, Fox, and others. Fueled largely by millennials who have long shunned cable, antenna sales in the United States have grown 4% in the past year. , according to the Consumer Technology Association, a trade group.

If your memory is marred by the horrific mess of metal bunny ears that sat atop TVs from the 1970s and 1980s, you might be pleasantly surprised by the modern, clean versions, some of which are virtually invisible according to the where you install them.

Anthony Leyba, owner of Digital Concepts, an A / V installation service in Denver, always tells his customers to add an antenna if they don’t have a cable subscription. “An antenna lays the foundation because you will never have to pay for your local channels,” he said.

Indoor antennas are the cheapest (some cost less than $ 15) and the easiest to install. Simply attach the device to the TV or nearby surface and plug it into the back of your TV. If the signal is scrambled, try relocating the antenna closer to a window.

If you live outside of an urban area or further from a broadcast tower, a professionally installed outdoor or attic antenna can significantly improve reception. “I’ve seen people buy four different antennas to try and get the perfect signal. The further away you are from the suburbs, the more indoor antennas tend to work just as well, ”said Ed Carson, owner of Atlanta Digital TV. To identify the optimal type of antenna for your location, Carson recommends using antennaweb.org. Simply enter your address and the site will tell you the ideal type of antenna and the wattage you need to receive stations in your area. A professional can still optimize the installation, especially on difficult places like the highest point of your roof. Keep in mind that topography matters: Mountains, dense forests, and tall buildings can all jam reception, decreasing the range of the nearest broadcast towers.

Here, three of our favorites.


Our choices, whether you are close enough to broadcast towers for an indoor (or home theater) antenna, or need an outdoor antenna

For home theaters

GE Enlighten HD antenna with polarization LED lighting

Who doesn’t like multitasking? This 4K compatible antenna has a broadcast signal range of 45 miles and a built-in LED backlight to illuminate the wall behind your TV. The light helps reduce eye strain and creates an optical illusion that makes the colors on the screen more vibrant. $ 38, byjasco.com

For any flat indoor spot

Amplified TV antenna FLATenna +

Mount this paper-thin omnidirectional antenna just about anywhere with its built-in adhesive tabs. Designed to accommodate towers up to 80 km, the reversible black and white sides can be painted to match your decor. $ 39, channelmaster.com

For your roof or attic

ClearStream 4MAX Complete Amplified Antenna

Designed to pick up broadcast signals from towers over 70 miles away, this antenna allows you to split the signal between up to three TVs at a time. The swivel base allows installation on vertical, inclined or horizontal surfaces. $ 250, antennesdirect.com

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