An antenna not only gives a viewer the ability to receive all their local stations, but, with the right Antennas Direct digital antenna and location, some viewers may even be able to receive out-of-town channels, carrying blacked out sports programs or network broadcasts not available in their home town.

What’s Up With Off-Air Antennas

Richard Schneider | Antennas Direct

What’s Up With Off-Air Antennas Besides Sales?

Author: Richard Schneider, President Antennas Direct

An antenna not only gives a viewer the ability to receive all their local stations, but, with the right Antennas Direct digital antenna and location, some viewers may even be able to receive out-of-town channels, carrying blacked out sports programs or network broadcasts not available in their home town. As an added benefit, an OTA antenna provides back-up reception options for local cable or satellite signal loss due to equipment failure or rain, snow and ice fade and to smaller TVs and second sets in homes not wired for whole-house signal distribution.

Antenna sales continue to increase dramatically as consumer electronics, particularly HDTV becomes the new necessity. More sophisticated antennas are required for digital Off-Air signal reception by consumers with older antennas for 117 million TV sets not connected to cable or satellite video networks. As spending tightens in these uncertain economic times, discretionary purchasing has shifted away from other key market categories, to consumer electronics and particularly to digital TV and HD. High Definition Televisions bumped digital cameras out of the top spot for the most desired CE product for 2007.

Several dynamics effecting millions of households now relying on analog signals for reception of their broadcast TV signals, with antennas older than 3 years, who need to upgrade to the new antenna technology, along with cable and satellite customers looking for alternatives, have resulted in tremendous sales increases of OTA antennas for Antennas Direct. Although cable and satellite program providers will continue to serve the great majority of homes as the primary signal source, missing HD local reception, higher costs, billing add-ons, service outages, contact difficulties, in-home service waits and no shows have left many subscribers looking to OTA antennas as alternatives and backup.

Antennas Direct sales for the first two months of 2008 are nearly double over this time last year, a year that in itself that was up 60% over 2006. The simple fact is that not all antennas are equal, some are better and some are the best for particular reception situations. This shift in consumer spending could not have come at a better time for Antennas Direct, because of the tremendous improvements in their Off-Air antenna technology and design that have taken place in the last few years, allowing us to offer the best OTA antennas for the HD revolution.

According to an article in Ad Age “As Giant Retailers Reel, Marketers Gird for Worst”, as to one key marketing category, Consumer Electronics, the news appears very positive. “Consumers seem to have designated technology as a new necessity, along with food, gasoline and home-heating oil" said the Consumer Electronics Association’s group economist, Shawn DuBravac. Ad Age continued “Forecasts for 2008 from the CEA and other CE researchers such as iSuppli bear that out, with predictions of overall electronics growth.” "Last year, when oil prices were going through the roof, we saw that people said, 'Since we're not traveling, let's spend some of that money on buying a flat-panel TV,'" said iSuppli analyst Riddih Patel.

There are more than 40 million households currently receiving over-the-air analog signals in the U.S., according to new proprietary research just released by Centris (www.centris.com), a leading market research firm. They said this number represents a “large opportunity for cable, satellite and telecom video service providers as well as for manufacturers and distributors of "smart" television antennas…requir(ing) the use of more sophisticated (OTA) antennas.” Centris surveys reveal that 75% or more of over-the-air households have only set-top antennas. “ The effect (of the present number of set-top antennas) will have extensive ramifications, not only among consumers, but also electronics retailers and manufacturers who can expect an influx of costly returns when it is realized that the converter boxes and new digital TV's don't work," says Barry Goodstadt, Senior Vice President of Centris.

We’ve found ourselves right in the middle of a thriving resurgence of Over-The-Air (OTA) antennas. Our business is doubling about every 180 days. And HDTV sales have had a great deal to do with our sales increases, along with our 90 day “No Fault” guarantee. If our antenna doesn’t do for you what we say it will, send it back and get a refund.

We just announced the introduction of our ClearStream™ series of HDTV antennas, starting with the ClearSteam2, our newest antenna design. ClearStream antennas represent a new breakthrough in size and unmatched ultra efficient design and directionality. Advanced antenna design software allow these 10” by 20” antennas to be smaller than ever thought possible. They are powerful across the entire DTV spectrum offering consistent high gain. This advancement in antenna efficiency allows up to 98% of the available broadcast signal to actually reach the incoming antenna cable rather than being lost to impedance mismatches. With other compact antennas, as little as 10% of the signal may actually reach the tuner. The ClearStream2 Dual Loop design receives all UHF channels available and higher level VHF frequencies with a range of about 55 miles.

And if that’s not enough, the ClearStream2 delivers TV signals from widely located (spaced) broadcast towers. Normally, when TV towers are spaced more than 30 degrees apart, looking from a viewer’s home, an antenna rotor is recommended. This new antenna has an extremely wide 90 degree beamwidth pattern (front signal searching area). Working with the newest generation 4 and 5 ATSC (Advanced Television Systems Committee) chip sets incorporated in newer digital and HDTV tuners, that mitigate multi-path (bounced signals that confuse the tuner), the ClearStream2 delivers digitally perfect multiple station signals. A mid-range and ultra long-range design in this series will follow shortly thereafter.

To viewers already receiving a cable or satellite network, the benefits of Off-Air antennas are compelling. There is only so much room on cable or satellite bandwidth in which to squeeze signal, so data is compressed to fit, resulting in a somewhat "soft" picture. An OTA signal is the gold standard in digital reception because it's almost completely uncompressed and also FREE. Local digital TV broadcasts are everywhere. But bandwidth limitations force cable and satellite providers not carry all local channels in many areas, or may not offer all of them in high definition. Contract disagreements between local cable operators and local broadcasters mean that major networks may not be available in several areas. DISH Network® offers local HD coverage to about 47 percent of U.S. markets, while DIRECTV® reaches about 76 percent, but for an additional monthly fee and, according to some, may be running out of bandwidth for additional HD.

What about those other millions of viewers who want to see their favorite local shows and in HD? The answer is to add an OTA antenna to other signal reception sources. This not only gives a viewer the ability to receive all their local stations, but, with the right Antennas Direct digital antenna and location, some viewers may even be able to receive out-of-town channels, carrying blacked out sports programs or network broadcasts not available in their home town. As an added benefit, an OTA antenna provides back-up reception options for local cable or satellite signal loss due to equipment failure or rain, snow and ice fade and to smaller TVs and second sets in homes not wired for whole-house signal distribution.

And finally, and perhaps most importantly, (as pointed out by Larry Hiney in a letter to the editor of the Retail Bridge), DISH and DTV appear to be fighting the idea of HD "must carry" for obvious cost reasons. Even if these operators make the decision to support must carry it would only apply to the prime channel of each local broadcaster. Secondary channels that make up the multicasts would be unsupported.  Multicast channels are growing in this age where bandwidth is a challenge for satellite and cable operators.


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