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Free Digital TV

Say Goodbye to Cable and Hello to Free Digital TV!
Are you tired of paying for cable or satellite TV?
For those cable and satellite customers that would like to stop paying the TV each month, this article will walk through each step of the process. Here's what we'll cover:
  1. Cable versus free digital TV picture quality
  2. Reception quality
  3. Access to cable TV shows
  4. Alternatives to the digital video recorder (DVR) provided by cable companies

 Cable versus free digital TV picture quality

Free digital TV picture quality is as good or better than cable and satellite. One of the reasons is that over-the-air digital TV is less compressed than cable, which often results in better picture quality. Keep in mind that there are three types of digital TV:

  • Standard Definition TV (SDTV) - SDTV is the basic level of quality display and resolution for both analog and digital. Transmission of SDTV may be in either the traditional (4:3) or widescreen (16:9) format.
  • Enhanced Definition TV (EDTV) - EDTV is a step up from Analog Television. EDTV comes in 480p widescreen (16:9) or traditional (4:3) format and provides better picture quality than SDTV, but not as high as HDTV. Enhanced Definition Television
  • High Definition TV (HDTV) - HDTV in widescreen format (16:9) provides the highest resolution and picture quality of all digital broadcast formats. Combined with digitally enhanced sound technology, HDTV sets new standards for sound and picture quality in television. (Note: HDTV and digital TV are not the same thing — HDTV is one format of digital TV.)

Free digital TV can transmit each of these types of digital TV.

 Reception with Digital TV

Reception will vary depending on your location and antenna. In urban areas, a set-top antenna will likely be sufficient. There are tools to determine the reception quality in your area. The place to start is This website will tell you which TV stations have switched to digital TV, what the signal strength is, and the type of antenna needed to get a clear reception. You can also go to  to find signal strength.

 Getting Free Cable Channels

There are now several ways to get cable channels without cable. These options are via the Internet, so you'll need to connect your computer to your TV or get a special device (like TiVo). But if there are cable shows you can't live without, check out these resources to see if they are available without cable:
NetFlix: This is my first choice, and what we are going to use as soon as I get our antenna set up. With the NetFlix unlimited plan ($8.99/month), you also get over 12,000 movies and TV shows (including current season episodes) to watch instantly on TV. You can connect your computer to your TV to stream these shows.
There are several really good features with NetFlix.

  1. Instant TV + DVD rentals: With instant movies and TV from Netflix's unlimited plan, you can still check out up to three DVDs at a time throughout the month. So you get the best of both worlds, and the instant TV/movie feature doesn't cost anything extra.
  2. Set-top device options: If you don't want to connect a computer to your TV, there are several alternative devices (NetFlix calls them Instant Devices) that can stream the TV/movies. These Instant Devices include the following:

TiVo HD DVR: With TiVo, not only can you stream NetFlix, but you can also record TV shows for playback later. While Tivo has long been associated with DirecTV satellite you can still record and save programming, independent of the satellite service. If you chose this option, make sure you get the HD DVR version which is required for digital TV.  you can still record and save programming, independent of the satellite service.   If you chose this option, make sure you get the HD DVR version which is required for digital TV.

Xbox and PS3: If you have a gamer in the house, Xbox or PS3 can also steam Neflix video.
Roku: The Roku digital video player is designed specifically to stream NetFlix video. The box costs $99.
Blu-Ray Players: Both LG and Samsung blue-ray players can stream NetFlix video. According to NetFlix, look for LG models LG BD370LG BD390 and Samsung models BD-P1600, BD-2500, BD-P3600, BD-P4600.
or Through Hulu you can watch hundreds of shows and movies for free. Shows include:

  • The Daily Show
  • The Colbert Report
  • The Office
  • House
  • 30 Rock
  • The Simpsons
There are other options as well, such as iTunes or Amazon Video.

 TiVo or DVR without Cable

Rent a DVR from a cable company and pay a monthly fee. Total monthly cost is $20. Without cable, there are two good options--TiVo and MythTV. I have chosen TiVo for several reasons, but MythTV is an interesting option, particularly if you like to build things.

TiVo: The TiVo box comes in three different models: TiVo Series2™ DT DVR, TiVo HD DVR, and TiVo HD XL DVR. For those that want high definition TV or to record over-the-air transmissions (which we do), the TiVo Series2™ DT DVR is not an option. I have decided to go with the TiVo HD DVR because it offers everything I need at a reasonable price:

  • Save up to 20 hours of HD programming (or 180 hours of standard definition) at one time
  • Record two shows at once
  • Works with cable and antenna; does NOT support satellite
  • Use CableCARD decoders from your cable company to replace your cable box
  • Supports high definition TV
Click here to see TechRowe’s recommendation for a DTV antenna.

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