The return of the antenna: How to buy, setup, and enjoy free television

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(WFRV) — As the mountain of streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO Now, Amazon Prime, and others keep building up, so do the bills of many viewers. And though it seems like TV is more complicated than ever, in reality, things have never been easier.

Television entertainment began as a 100% free service with viewers needing an antenna to pull content from broadcast towers over the air.

Over time, cable providers began providing national content that antennas weren’t powerful enough to receive, in addition to the same great local content, so viewers starting switching.

But what is old is new again.

As the cost of cable and satellite services begin to rise, and new streaming platforms are regularly introduced, free great local content is back in fashion in the form of optimized, albeit prettier, antennas.

Local 5’s Digital Manager Josh Rose spent an afternoon with the Geek Squad at Best Buy breaking down just how easy it is to get free TV.

Setting up free TV

A top-end antenna is priced around the rate of one month of cable services. But after that initial cost, your local content and network programming are free.

This is how you do it:

  • Buy an antenna
  • Install the antenna and aim it towards the broadcast tower (map and link below)
  • Scan your TV to receive the free channels (how-to in the video above)

Buying an antenna

When it comes to picking up an antenna there are a few things to consider.

First and foremost, find out where your home is in relation to the broadcast tower (map and link later in this article).

Most residents within about a 60-mile range of a broadcast tower will be able to use a modern indoor antenna. Any further out and you may need to look into a traditional outdoor antenna.

When looking for an indoor antenna, it’s important to know the difference between an amplified and non-amplified antenna.

Simply, an amplified antenna will help boost the signal for viewers that live towards the edge of the antenna’s range.

Conversely, if you live close to the broadcast tower an amplified antenna will actually hurt the signal coming into your home.

According to Geek Squad (video above), the brand of an antenna will make little difference to your viewing experience.

Many indoor and outdoor antennas range in price anywhere from $19.99 to $69.99 depending on range and amplification.

You can find examples on Amazon here or Best Buy here

Installing your new antenna

Installation is simple.

Non-amplified antennas will only need to screw the coaxial cable into the back of the TV and then aim their antenna.

Those with amplified antennas will do the same as above with the added step of plugging in the power source.

Where to aim the antenna?

The key is to place your antenna in the direction of a broadcast tower, not the TV station itself.

Below is a map of where the WFRV Local 5 broadcast tower is located:

For those not in the Green Bay area, another great option is to enter your zip code into for the exact location of the broadcast towers nearest you.

NOTE: Each local station (CBS, NBC, ABC, etc,) has their own broadcast tower.

Scanning your TV

Scanning your TV is perhaps the most important part of the entire installation.

Simply installing your antenna isn’t enough to get the broadcast channels in your area. You’ll need to “teach” your antenna what frequencies are available to be received from over the air.

To scan, select the menu option from your remote, scroll to the option that resembles Broadcast or Channels, and follow the on-screen steps to officially scan.

The scanning process will pull any television signal in your area to your device.

It’s a good practice to rescan at least every six months.

Switching between antenna and a set-top box/streaming stick

What about switching between your free local programming and your streaming services?

That’s easy too, just change your video source with the input button (example in the video above).

Antenna TV will be under the TV or Antenna input and your set-top box (i.e. Apple TV, X-Box, Playstation, etc.) or streaming stick (i.e Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire Stick) just switch the HDMI input.

Last step: Enjoy!

It only takes three or four steps to get free local programming, the rest is up to you and your own viewing interests.

NOTE: The Green Bay/Fox Valley Area gets on average of 20-25 free channels.

DISCLAIMER: This is not a sponsored story. All interviews were conducted journalistically. Any recommendations are strictly meant to inform viewers on how to use TV antennas.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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