Cut the cord: New HD antennas bring your monthly TV bill back to $0

Thinking of cutting the cord? High-tech antennas let you capture HD-TV signals.

Phil Marden

The average American cable bill for expanded basic service, the most popular package, more than doubled from 1995 to 2011, according to a federal study. During that time, the number of available channels tripled, but customer satisfaction dropped to record lows. How did we get here?

Not so long ago, there were no monthly cable bills. Families made one-time purchases: a television and an antenna. After that, TV was free.

Antennas never disappeared; they evolved. New antennas from Audiovox, Antennas Direct, and Aereo outgrew their rabbit-ear appearances and picked up several interesting new traits along the way.

Over-the-air television offers more than you might think. After the digital TV conversion in 2009, several networks switched to high-definition broadcasts. You need an antenna that was built in the past few years (and an HD TV) to take advantage of the sharp image quality, but the service is still free.

And some areas now get more than 40 over-the-air channels. To see what's available in your area, head to The website will ask for your ZIP Code and then list each network in your area. AntennaWeb cannot guarantee service, but it maps out the broadcast towers, so, if necessary, you can point your antenna directly at the station you want.

Indoor antennas now come in a range of shapes and prices. The Terk HDTVa ($50) boasts really strong reception, but it looks like a shard of alien technology. The Antennas Direct ClearStream Micron-R ($75), on the other hand, resembles an Internet router and blends in well with most TV equipment.

Rather than plug into a television set, the Audiovox Mobile TV ($120) connects to smart phones and tablets. With four hours of battery life and the ability to pause or rewind live TV, the pocket-sized antenna works on the go. However, make sure to visit to find out if the device works in your area.

Aereo presents another spin on network TV. The online service (starting at $8 a month) sends over-the-air channels to computers, phones, and tablets. Customers can also record as much as 60 hours of programming.

Part 1 of two parts. Tomorrow: The best devices and services for streaming TV shows online.

For more on how technology intersect daily life, follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut.

The original version of this article ran in the December 2 issue of the Christian Science Monitor magazine.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Cut the cord: New HD antennas bring your monthly TV bill back to $0
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today