Antenna Vs. Cable Television

By Beth Bartlett

The entire family will want a say in how you receive television signals.
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Television is an essential part of our lives. It provides us with news, entertainment and education. We also have more choices than ever, including how we receive those distant signals. Antennas receive over-the-air (OTA) signals, and may be perfect if you’re strapped for cash or just want a few channels. Cable television can be the way to go if you’re looking for plenty of diverse programming.

Watching the Wallet

If you’re pinching pennies, an antenna will save you money. After an initial investment in the antenna, your TV viewing is free, even for High Definition (HD) channels. Cable television does require a monthly fee, but may also offer discounts if you bundle your television service with other services like phone and Internet. Also, cable companies offer different levels of service, from basic channels to a premium selection with hundreds of channels.

Setting Up

Cable installation requires professional help, and a cable installer sent by the company does all the work. If you choose to forgo cable service in favor of free TV, you’ll need to purchase an antenna, any needed cables and a digital decoder if you have an older television set. Home theater products like DVRs are also available for OTA signals, and you’ll need to set all these products up yourself or pay someone to do it for you.

Getting the Most Channels

Many channels are available only through cable television, including paid movie channels like HBO or Cinemax. Antennas can pick up broadcast networks such as ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and a few others, plus any independently operated stations without network affiliation. Depending on your location, your antenna can receive anywhere from one to dozens of local stations, and many of those will offer the same prime time programming through their network. Cable television offers hundreds of different national channels.

Supplementing TV with Other Services

Both antenna signals and basic cable service can be supplemented with additional services. These on-demand services provide shows online any time you want them. Some, like the basic Hulu service, are free, while others, such as Netflix, iTunes and Hulu Plus, require a monthly subscription. The main broadcast networks also offer selected shows on their websites. On-demand services are popular with people who prefer an “a la carte” television experience, choosing only the channels and shows they like instead of paying for cable channels they don’t want.