Do Digital TVs Need an Antenna?

By Jennifer Underwood

Antennas pick up free local channels.
i antenna image by Madrider from

Digital television owners can benefit from using an antenna. If you already receive your local channels from a cable or satellite service, adding an antenna is not necessary. However, if you want to save money by eliminating these services, you would continue to receive free local news, sports and movies with an installed antenna.

Digital vs. Analog

In 2009, all major broadcast stations were required to switch from analog to digital signal output, reports the Consumer Electronics Association's website. Digital signals provide clearer picture and sound than its analog predecessors. It also enables the use of "multicasting," which allows stations to broadcast multiple channels at once. This provides consumers with more local channels. Consumers who already own a digital television or receive cable or satellite services will continue to receive their local channels.

Antenna Signal Types

Broadcasters use either Very High Frequency or Ultra High Frequency signals. VHF signals are designated for use on channels 2 through 13, while UHF is used for channels 14 through 51, according to Crutchfield's website. Knowing the type of frequency your local broadcasters use is important when selecting an antenna because antennas are frequency specific.

Find the Right Antenna

Antenna Web offers a free antenna selector program on its website. It uses your address and zip code to locate available local stations, their frequencies and the distance between your home and the broadcast towers. It gives you a color-coded list of channels that you match to a label on new antenna packaging. If you already own an antenna that functioned before the switch to digital, it should still pick up stations. Although some of the stations you previously received may have switched frequencies or channel assignments since early 2009.