How to Make your Own TV Antenna

In the US, television signals are transmitted over the air via a system called ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee). These signals are unencrypted digital television signals. They can be picked up with an HD Antenna and fed into an ATSC Tuner (such as the one built into your TV). You are probably in range of many over-the-air broadcast channels, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW, PBS, and other smaller networks like ION or PBS. If might be an affordable option to build your own antenna.

 

What supplies do you need to make your own TV Antenna?

  • Coax cable, for your TV.
  • 6 wire hangars, preferably with some kind of plastic coating that you can remove in sections with relative ease.
  • 10 wood screws, not too long so they don’t punch through your wood.
  • 10 fender washers – about an inch in diameter and with a hole wide enough to be secured by the wood screws. Grab a handful at Home Depot for a dime a piece.
  • Wood – I used a single 2×4 about 2.5 feet long, a wider piece might work better for spacing but mine worked fine. You can find suitable wood scraps at Home Depot for free if you’re polite.
  • UHF/VHF transformer. Also called a balun, I found mine at Radioshack, labeled as a 75-ohm 300-ohm transformer for 6 bucks.
  • Drill – for the wood screws
  • Pliers – to make shaping the hangars easier
  • Basic wire cutter/stripper – to strip the hangars in appropriate sections. I just used the wire cutter region on my pliers.
  • Tape measure

http://www.antennaweb.org/aw/welcome.aspx – Check here before getting started to verify that you have some stations nearby. Make sure to note that your house has multiple stories available (whether it does or not), because if I don’t check that box then the site only shows one available station listed for my location. For reference, I am able to pick up channels at a listed blue antenna type.

 

Directions to Make Your Own TV Antenna

1) Watch this video to get a visual of what we’ll be doing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EWQhlmJTMzw I think mine ended up slightly different from this guys’ but they both should work comparably well.

2) Clip the top portion of 8 of your hangars on both sides of where the hook begins.

3) Use the pliers to straighten out the hangars into long wires.

4) Take four of your long wires and cut them into eight, 14 inch pieces.

5) Use your wire strippers to strip the last inch on each end and middle 1.5 inches of each short wire.

6) Bend the short wires at their center, until each end is about 3 inches from each other. Set these short wires aside for a bit

7) Take your board and make a mark at the following lengths from the top of the board: 2”, 8”, 14”, and 20”.

8) Make two new marks at each of these lengths, about ¾ of an inch from the edge of the board. This will be where your screws/washers go in.

9) Take your two remaining long hangar wires and line them up against your dots. Using the pliers, bend one hangar wire so that it stretches from the very top left dot, to the dots on the right at 8”, straight down to the dot at the right at 14”, and finally down to the dot at the bottom left at 20”. The final shape will be __/. Do the opposite with the remaining hangar, so that it fills the top right, middle lefts, and bottom right.

10) Clip excess wire from the bottom of these long ones, then remove a generous section of insulation around each wire near each dot, making sure that they remain covered where they cross. Last, remove a section of insulation in the very middle of each wire. This is where your transformer will attach.

11) LOOSELY fasten 8 of your washers to each of your 8 dots using your wood screws. Make sure that they are loose enough to slip two wires in easily.

12) Place one of your short wires on each screw so that they stick out the sides, and line your long wires up on their respective dots.

13) Fasten down all those screws! You’re almost done!

14) Take your transformer, and fasten one metal prong to each side of the very middle portion of the long wires. You should have a male coax attachment hanging out in the middle, flaccid.

15) Hook up your TV and search for channels! Good luck.

 

Cordcutting Guide to Watching Sports

Here is a guide to streaming sports I’ve been working on to cut down on the number of FAQs in here. I’d appreciate any changes/additions you might have. If you like to watch a lot of sports it can be challenging to be a cord cutter. While some major games are available OTA, many are not. The major sports leagues (NFL, MLB, NHL) have streaming sites which allow you to stream games for a fee, but unfortunately they black out your local games in a effort to stop cord cutting. If you want to stream your local team’s games you will be forced to delve into some questionably legal territory, either working around black out restrictions or using pirate streams.

Streaming sites created by the leagues themselves are reliable and show high quality feeds for roughly $100-$250 per year, depending on the league. Were it not for the blackout restrictions, these would be the ideal solution for the cord cutter. Fortunately getting around the blackouts with technical means is not too hard. You can use a VPN service which will route your traffic through a 3rd party to make it appear to the league that you are located in a different location. The down side to doing this is that decent VPN services cost money (usually around $10/mo), and routing traffic through a 3rd party often slows it down. Typically users report that they can start watching a game via the VPN, then turn off the VPN once the initial blackout location check has been done, thus getting full bandwidth for the remainder of the game. An alternate to using a VPN service is using a DNS service. These are sites which use a DNS trick to confuse the streaming site into thinking you are coming from a different location. This is faster than using VPN and often cheaper too, but doesn’t always work with all services. Some popular DNS services are Stealthy (a browser plugin), unblock-us.com, and unotelly.com.

Cordcutting and Watching NFL American Football

Compared to other sports, Football is better covered by OTA broadcasts. The NFL also has a service called NFL Game Pass which streams all of their games in HD to people outside the USA. NFL Game Pass costs $250/year, however some posters say that if you set your VPN to the Netherlands you can get it for free (YMMV). See http://www.nfl.com/watch-nfl-live

NBC has also been streaming Sunday Night football and NBC/CBS has been streaming the Super Bowl in recent years. These are available free to anyone.

 

NBA Basketball and Cordcutting

The NBA has a service called NBA League Pass which broadcasts all NBA games, with blackouts. NBA League Pass costs $100/year. See http://www.nba.com/leaguepass/index.html

 

NCAA Basketball March Madness and Cordcutting

CBSsports.com streams the NCAA basketball tournament for free every year.

 

MLB Baseball and Cordcutting

The MLB has a service called MLB.tv which broadcasts all MLB games, with blackouts. MLB.tv costs $110/year. Seehttp://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/subscriptions/index.jsp

NHL Hockey and Cordcutting

The NHL has a service called NHL Game Center Live which broadcasts all NHL games, with blackouts. NHL Game Center Live costs $160/year. People report success using VPN and DNS services to avoid blackouts on Game Center Live. See https://gamecenter.nhl.com/nhlgc/help.htm

There is also a rather elaborate pirate hockey stream site called hockeystreams.com. It streams all NHL games, as well as KHL, AHL, and other leagues in high quality (720p for NHL) with no blackouts. Hockeystreams.com users have complained about buffering and other reliability issues in the past, and the admins claim they have strengthened their infrastructure for the 2012-13 season. YMMV. Hockeystreams.com costs $100/year, and you can purchases for shorter amounts of time if you want to try them out.

 

Soccer and Cordcutting

The MLS has a service called MLS Live which broadcasts all MLS games, with blackouts. Seehttp://live.mlssoccer.com/mlsmdl/

Dish offers beIN Sport and some lesser known sport channels for $10 a month. No satellite dish needed. No contract. beIN Sport shows La Liga, Serie A, and Ligue 1 soccer. It’s available on Roku, Android, Mac, and PC. Seehttp://www.dishworld.com/sports.

Watching Other Sports Live and Cordcutting

Golf

Golf is not well supported for streaming. Your best bet is OTA.

Olympics

The Olympics are broadcast OTA and are also usually streamed, most recently by NBC and the BBC.

Miscellaneous

If you have access to a cable subscriber login for any of the major providers, ESPN streams a variety of sports via http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index from NCAA basketball to international soccer. Local games are subject to blackout rules. Even without a cable subscriber login, ESPN3 streaming may be available to you depending on your ISP.

Best Set Top Box for Cordcutters

Cordcutting will require some hardware. Below are some of the most popular set top boxes that people using when cordcutting. Whether this is your first time being a cord-cutter or have been doing this for a long time, the following list should provide a good idea of what kind of cordcutting hardware you will need to buy.

 

Android Boxes and Android Stocks for Cordcutting

There are a variety of Android Boxes and Android Sticks that are available from an ever increasing number of manufacturers. If you are well versed in using an Android Phone then you will catch on very quickly on how to setup and use these devices. When shopping for a device you should look for one with the latest version of Android and it should include Google Play. Some devices offer Amazon as an Android Store but you will never be able to install Google Play unless the Manufacturer installs it which will limit you in many ways. Networking can be by WiFi (especially for sticks) or for better HD Streaming choose Wired. Once you hook it to your TV you will be able to stream content from standard Android Apps including: Hulu, YouTube, Netflix or Kodi.tv which can also play content from a local server or a directly connected hard drive. You can also watch content from a SiliconDust or other Shared TV Tuner. Some of the best unsaid features include the ability to use a standard keyboard and mouse to turn your TV into a basic gaming device, run office applications or browse the web(a cheap computer for the kids). The best part about Android Devices is that you are not locked into a propitiatory device. Adding Features or Streaming Providers is as easy as downloading an App from the Play Store. Entry devices can start at $25 for an Android Stick, $50 for a basic Android Box or up to about $100 for an Android box with advanced features such as multiple USB3.0 Ports, Android 5.1(at time of writing), Faster Processors and GPUs, More Ram and Storage which makes things run faster. Some models include webcams for teleconferencing and VOIP Phone Services. Picking an exact device requires research of Reviews and selecting a Retailer you can Trust to accept a return if there is a problem.

 

Amazon Fire TV for Cordcutters

The Amazon Fire TV is the new kid on the block. Its claims to fame are powerful hardware, voice search (currently working with Amazon content, Vevo, and Hulu Plus), quick play of shows once they are selected (called ASAP, works with Amazon content), and select Android games. It also is a great choice for an XBMC box. Its downsides are lack of content channels (mostly relative to Roku, it is already superior to Apple TV), and an additional $40 expense if you would like to game on the system (although other controllers with USB or bluetooth connections work). The general consensus seems to be that the device will get better in time with software updates. A solid choice for Prime users, casual gamers who don’t already own a gaming system, and people whose content needs aren’t robust enough to require a Roku or HTPC.

 

Apple TV for cord cutting

The Apple TV, long considered a niche device, has taken to the forefront. If you’re very invested in the Apple ecosystem, it’s a great choice. You have access to many streaming options like Netflix and Hulu, as well as the ability to purchase episodes and movies for streaming. The problem here is the walled garden: if you live within the Apple ecosystem, it’s a great choice, but you’re going to have to buy your episodes if your stuff isn’t available via streaming services

 

Roku for Cordcutters

The Roku is kind of the grandaddy of the streaming boxes. It has a very simplistic interface and a channel store with wide network adoption. Netflix, Hulu Plus, Crackle, Amazon (On Demand / Prime) are all available, as well as some paid specialty channels. Plex also has a client that runs solidly well, using the Roku UI Experience. This device is easy to setup, uses very little power, cheap ($50-$100) and simple for use. Easily the Honda Civic of the bunch – the cheap little car that works for almost everyone. Also, Roku has a PLEX plugin, see below.

 

Cordcutting with Boxee Box

The first Boxee Box was amazing, the new one not so much. Boxee is an interesting concept with a subpar function. The older Boxee Box functioned a lot like the WD Live Hub – ability to stream as well as play external content. The premise is simple: OTA channels and a cloud PVR feature, as well as streaming services. The Cloud PVR service costs an extra $9.99 per month. However, the newer Boxee TV (according to recent reviews as of 12/2012) leaves a lot to be desired – reviewers claim it is buggy, unfinished and won’t even recommend buying it. If you’re feeling like a challenge, be my guest – but I would probably stay away if I were you.

 

Game Consoles can help cordcut

Consoles are extremely common for streaming and often have the basic services on board (Netflix, Hulu, various other streaming services). The downsides: high cost to entry (a new Xbox 360 is around $200, so around this price point), may require a separate subscription (Xbox Live Gold @ $59 per year) and high power usage. However, you are still able to use Plex via the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, as the Media Server software will still stream content to the console without having to use the Plex Client. This is a good choice if you’re going to have a console (with a subscription to Xbox Live, if on Xbox) already and just need to yank the plug – and don’t mind that you’re not getting the same bells and whistles.

Last generation consoles (i.e. Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3) are typically a safer bet at this point since their app libraries are more robust than current generation devices (i.e. Xbox One and PlayStation 4).

 

Google TV and Cordcutters

The cool thing about Google TV/Android TV boxes is that they come in varying shapes, sizes, colors, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. A good example of one of these boxes is the Vizio CoStar: you will have access to many Android apps, such as Netflix and Amazon, as well as the GoogleTV versions of Plex. However, your mileage may vary. HBO Go and Hulu Plus seem to not currently work with the CoStar, but you may have luck with other Android boxes with these apps – I would recommend this for the tech oriented folk, rather than a mainstream consumer.

Cordcutting Starter Guide: How to Become a Cordcutter

Cord cutting, cutting the cord, and cord shaving refers to people cutting their  subscription television services, dropping expensive pay television channels or reducing the number of hours of subscription TV viewed in response to competition from rival media.

There are many different ways to cord cut. This cordcutters starter guide will show you some ways to save money and stop paying for expensive cable or satellite TV subscriptions.  A revolution has begun. Fed up with high prices, endless fees and taxes, and programming packages with 40 channels you don’t want for every one that you do, cable and satellite customers across the U.S. are kicking service providers to the curb by cutting the cord and sourcing their TV programming elsewhere.

 

Picking an Over the Air Antenna When Cordcutting

In the US, television signals are transmitted over the air via a system called ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee). These signals are unencrypted digital television signals. They can be picked up with an HD Antenna and fed into an ATSC Tuner (such as the one built into your TV). You are probably in range of many over-the-air broadcast channels, such as ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW, PBS, and other smaller networks like ION or PBS. You can get most local sports games (depending on your market), local news, and some more popular shows like American Idol, Family Guy, Parks and Rec, and Saturday Night Live. Antennas are often quite affordable and the picture quality – since you’re getting an unprocessed signal, rather than one processed over a cable box – tends to be pristine.

Enter your address on TVFool and see what’s in range. If the channels you want are “green” – congratulations! You can buy almost any antenna and it will work. If you don’t have “green” rated channels, you will have to delve deeper into understanding and implementing an antenna solution (e.g. roof installation, costing more than $70).

While TV Fool gives a very thorough analysis of what OTA reception one can receive from one’s location, sometimes it’s too technical for beginners, especially when it comes to differentiating between UHF and VHF channels. Try the FCC’s website for digital TV transmission maps. Also try Antenna Web – everything you wanted to know about OTA antennas.

 

Should you get a Personal Video Recorders (PVR)?

Personal Video Recorders can be used, assuming you get good antenna reception, to record (PVR) OTA television. Here are the most popular ones:

  • ChannelMaster DVR+ – no monthly subscription, 2 tuners, requires additional hardware (storage like an HDD)
  • HomeWorx HW-150PVR – no monthly subscription (programming schedule doesn’t extend far into the future), 1 tuner
  • Simple.tv – $5/month or $150/lifetime, 2 tuners, requires additional hardware (an STB like a Roku and storage like an HDD)
  • TabloTV – $5/month, $50/year or $150/lifetime, 2 OR 4 tuners, requires additional hardware (an STB like a Roku and storage like an HDD)
  • Tivo Roamio – $15/month or $500/lifetime, 4 tuners

As an aside, the reason most PVR solutions cost a monthly subscription is because they require electronic program guide (EPG) data, which is constantly getting sent to the set top box. This data allows you to schedule recording for upcoming shows in a series automatically.

 

What Hardware do Cordcutters Need to Stream TV?

Streaming is the act of sending video/audio content over the internet to your TV. This requires some form hardware box, unless you have a “Smart” TV which has built in streaming applications. For a list of different hardware options, go to the Which Set Top Box (STB) Should I Get? section below. Set top boxes vary in what streaming services they offer, so be sure to check out each before buying. For example, the Tivo Roamio can ONLY access Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Instant Video, so if you like Amazon Prime Video, don’t purchase a Tivo Roamio. Services

 

Look at the guide for the best set top boxes for cordcutting

 

Best Cordcutting TV Streaming Services in 2016

Streaming content to a TV requires services. A few free ones:

A few pay ones:

Not all streaming services offer the same content, so be aware of what shows you like, research which streaming services offer them, and subscribe accordingly. It is generally well accepted that Netflix has the largest content library, but is stronger in movies, while Hulu has a small library but is the strongest in television. Interestingly, Amazon Prime videos has a large library as well, with unique shows that neither Netflix or Hulu have. AndroidPolice.com did a comparison of the most popular streaming services that is worth a read.

 

Best Online Television Providers in 2016

There are a few internet services that provide television without an antenna:

NimbleTV

  • NimbleTV limits access to traditional broadcast channels to people with a New York City address (all other channels are available to anyone in the U.S. or India)
  • The basic $30/month plan offers 51 channels with 20 hrs of PVR storage with unlimited tuners
  • Other plans are available, but the costs rise dramatically

Sling TV

  • SlingTV doesn’t offers traditional broadcast channels, but does offer cable channels
  • The basic $20/month plan offers 15 channels (ESPN is the big draw) with no PVR
  • The $25/month plan provides 24 channels (the 9 additional are all sports related)

USTVNow

  • USTVNow provides traditional broadcast channel programming from central Pennsylvania
  • The free plan provides 6 low-resolution channels that can be viewed on a PC or Mac
  • The $29/month plan provides 28 high-resolution channels that can be viewed on a device with a browser (PC, tablet, or smartphone) or Roku
  • The $39/month plan provides everything that the above plan offers, but with “unlimited” PVR storage and tuners that removes recordings after 4 weeks

Playstation Vue

  • Playstation Vue offers traditional broadcast channels in a handful of markets (Chicago, Dallas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, Philadelphia and San Francisco, specifically), and cable channels nationwide
  • The basic Access Slim plan is $30 a month and includes 55 channels. The Core Slim plan is $35 per month for 70 channels, and the Elite Slim plan is $45 for 100+ channels. Some additional channels are available as add-ons. A full list of available channels by plan can be found here
  • The non-Slim plans, which include local channels in the aforementioned markets, are $10 more per month. Note that, at present, if you live in a market that has local channels available, you can not opt for a Slim plan. You will have to pay the increased cost for the plan that includes local channels
  • All plans can be viewed on Playstation 4, Playstation 3, Amazon Fire TV devices, iPhone, and iPad
  • All plans include “unlimited” PVR storage and tuners, but remove recordings after 30 days
  • All plans include access to the various “TV Anywhere” websites and apps run by most of the networks. You can activate this by selecting Playstation Vue as your “cable operator” when accessing the app.

Before pulling the trigger, compare the price of the proposed service against what television services your ISP can provide bundled. Many cordcutters are happy with these services because of the transparent pricing and how easy it is to cancel compared to traditional pay television providers.