Sunday, April 24, 2011

Revenge of the Rabbit Ears - Introduction

Broadcast television is back – and it’s better than ever.

You all remember watching broadcast television. Perhaps it was how you watched TV before you switched to cable. You remember the snow, the ghosts, the jumpy picture, fine tuning each channel and a whopping six stations to choose from. Maybe you were the unlucky kid that had to adjust the rabbit ears each time your parents changed the channel. Or, like myself, you grew up having “cable envy” when you visited your friends who had all those cool cartoon channels and MTV. Even the younger generation probably wonders why grandma and grandpa can only get four fuzzy channels at their house.

Fact of the matter is that a long time ago broadcast (or OTA for “over-the-air”) television quietly slipped to the bottom of the list behind cable and satellite. In fact, only 15% of homes across Canada still use OTA as their primary means for watching television. So whatever happened to those OTA channels and all those broadcast towers stretching country wide? It turns out a lot has been happening. While cable and satellite companies have been raising prices, imposing expensive contracts and costly receivers, OTA television has retooled and upgraded the way it broadcasts TV (for free) and is poised to make a roaring comeback.

Say What??

I think my first wake-up call that something had definitely changed in the TVscape was when my tech buddy announced that he cancelled his cable as he didn’t need it anymore to watch TV.

“Let me guess – you’re using torrents to download shows or are you trying Free-To-Air satellite again? You know those boxes never stay up for more than a month…”

“Nope – I put an HD antenna I got online on my balcony and I have Netflix through my PS3 … realized I was paying for nothing so I cancelled and put the money towards my internet package.”

The next shocker was when my father watched the SuperBowl on Fox in HD and with the right commercials using his outdoor antenna he had put up over 20 years ago … while the guests at my party were treated to substituted commercials courtesy of my satellite provider’s expensive HD sports package.

Finally, the last straw came when the new family moved in down the street. At one point I saw the new homeowner and his son installing what looked to be a shiny new BBQ grill on the eaves. Turns out it was a digital TV antenna – installed right next to the existing satellite dish. And it wasn’t the last antenna that has gone up in my neighbourhood.

The Digital Transition

Fact of the matter is that those old snowy analog stations have gone (or are in the process of going) … digital! In the States they are already there. In Canada, networks are replacing their old analog equipment with new digital transmitters. Think of replacing a scratchy analog 33 LP record (kids, ask your granddad) with the digital quality of a CD (kids, ask you dad). Say goodbye to free, snowy, jumpy and ghosting TV shows and say hello to free, crystal clear 1080i-capable TV shows, program guides, 5.1 surround and bonus content.

The best part is you probably already have everything you need to benefit from this OTA industry upgrade and don’t even know it.

Over the next year I’ll be explaining what OTA is, who can benefit, what the options are and how you can see if an OTA setup is right for you. I’ll go over the how-to’s, some DIY tips, give links to useful sites and review different equipment and setups.

YOUR Average Joe is Here to Guide You!

If you love watching TV, you won’t want to miss this. Stay tuned (pun intended) - those rabbit ears are back baby, and they’re better than ever.

Next episode: The Digital Transition and DTV Revolution