Why a Digital Antenna Can't Compete with Cable

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Category: Internet
Posted on: 12/15/2020
a man disconnecting the cables on the back of his TV at home

If you are looking to save some money on television, you might be considering cutting your cable service. With a sometimes-pricey bill, it seems like a good place to cut costs. Before you decide anything, you need to explore all of your options. Some of those alternatives to cable include paid subscription services like Netflix or Hulu or over-the-air services through an antenna and a converter box. 

Let’s explore the differences between two of these choices: using a digital antenna or subscribing to a cable television service.

Digital Antennas

To receive the best over-the-air channels in your area, you will want to investigate digital antennas. 

Cable channels do not carry all of the channels in your area, and a digital antenna might be able to unlock new options. Broadcast channels often offer additional regional programming absolutely free. 

Good antenna placement might be able to capture those frequencies.

Antennas come in all shapes and sizes, and some are labeled HD or HDTV. HD stands for High Definition, and many stations broadcast in this technology. It displays a very crisp, detailed picture with great sound. In reality, all digital antennas receive the same picture and sound quality – the name is often used for marketing purposes. Some antenna styles might be better for your particular situation. HD signals are a bit trickier to capture, so the difference in whether you get a channel or not often depends on the ability to capture a signal.

Suppose you have your television provided by digital antenna alone. In that case, you will need a TV with a built-in digital tuner (or a converter box designed to scan for channels), the right antenna for your area, and the ability to place your antenna in the best location to receive signals. Digital antennas need to be in direct line of sight to where the signal originates. 

Factors such as hills, trees, and buildings tend to impede or weaken the signal. The higher you can get the antenna, the clearest picture you can capture.

Cable television is not available in all areas, so a digital antenna may be an option in certain locations for watching ANY television unless you opt for satellite service. If you do have a choice, read on.


Cable television offers a multitude of viewing options. The possibilities are endless from regular broadcast channels, movies, sports, cooking, and educational channels. With packages that offer over 200 channels that are broadcast in HD, plus many more standard definition channels, you can’t beat the variety.

Cable tends to be reliable. 

Once the cable to installed in your home, you don’t have to do much. Cable is less subject to outages. If something does go wrong, a technician will be out to fix it with a phone call.

Cable can often be bundled with internet and phone service. If you opt for a digital antenna to capture signals, you are getting television signals only. If your objective is cost savings, be sure to factor in the price of paying for these services separately. It might be cheaper to purchase an integrated cable package.

You can’t pick up cable channels with an antenna. Cable providers have exclusive rights to specialty channels and other premium channels and distribution rights of many digital broadcasts being sent over the air. 

The cable company owns certain sporting events and shows, and unless you subscribe to their service, you will not be able to watch them from your couch.

Cable offers flexibility in being able to watch shows when you want. Having a DVR means that you are not tied to the television’s schedule. 

You can watch your favorite show at 2 AM. You also don’t have to be home to watch cable shows. Some cable packages offer viewing on mobile devices so that you can watch shows anywhere.

Advantages of Cable over an Antenna

While an antenna seems like a great idea, there are things you may miss out on. Antenna can’t give you all of the options of cable. Antenna can’t offer you crisp HD pictures and on-demand viewing. Antenna can’t add internet and phone service. Antenna can’t capture certain channels no matter how hard you try. Even if you subscribe to subscription services for movies and shows, you are not getting the latest broadcasts. Antenna installation can be difficult, and you may need to hire a professional to get on your roof or up in the tree. If you have difficulties with your antenna or tuners, you are on your own. If you have difficulties with the cable or any of their equipment, you can pick up the phone, and a technician will be out to your house quickly.

Why Not Choose Both?

One option for the best of both worlds is to choose both cable service and an antenna. The antenna will capture channels that cable might not carry. If cable has a problem or outage, you will still have viewing options. You will be able to take advantage of bundled internet and phone service with the cable. You will have endless channels to choose from. You will have television on the go.

For your television viewing pleasure, you have options. Cable, antenna, satellite, and subscription services all offer their advantages and disadvantages. Look at all of the hidden costs and benefits and decide which one works for you.


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