It’s just around the corner- that magical time of the year when family and friends gather together in a common celebration from coast to coast. When decorations are hung and tables across the country are lined with enough food to feed an army. It’s that one day of the year when we take the time to reflect on the past, anticipate the future and truly appreciate the present. There really is no other day like Super Bowl Sunday.
And for those who have enjoyed a Super Bowl in High Definition, there’s really no other way to watch the game. Hi-Def and sporting events go hand in hand. Ever since HD began to make its first initial push into the mainstream market, big ticket sporting events like the World Series and Super Bowl have put up Christmas-like numbers for retailers selling HDTV sets and accessories. And with HD set prices reaching all time lows this winter, you can expect sales to be at record highs for HD products.
If you’re planning to make the leap to HD in time for the big game this year, you’ll probably be tempted to get on the horn to your local cable provider and get him out to your house some day next week, some time between 8 and 5 to do the hook up. Before you do, you may be wise to consider a different route. A new breed of digitally tuned television antennas is taking a growing share of the HD market. And sports fans are leading the charge. In this article, I’ll cover the facts about the OTA HD signal, and explain why so many are tuning in and turning on to yesterday’s technology for today’s home entertainment.
When HD isn’t HD
Picture this scenario. You’ve purchased an HDTV set for Super Bowl Sunday. You’ve invited all of your friends over for the game, and you’ve been bragging about how they’ll be blown away by the picture and the overall experience of enjoying the Super Bowl in HD. Everyone gathers around for the big game and that’s when you realize your cable company isn’t carrying the game in HD!
That’s not a pretty picture, but it is was the reality for HD cable customers in cities like St. Louis, San Antonio, and Columbus, Ohio in January 2006. In these markets, the company who owns the network affiliate refused to give away the signal for free, since they had made considerable investments to provide it. Cable companies expected to get the OTA channels for free, and charge for them as part of the HD cable package. It’s an unfortunate situation, but in the end the cable customers got the raw deal. Last season the game was broadcast on ABC. This year, it will be shown on CBS, alienating a whole new batch of cable customers in different cities.
But do you know who did get to see the game in HD last season? People who received their HD signal with an HDTV antenna. And it’s not just football. HD programming throughout the day, throughout the year goes unseen in a number of markets because the cable companies won’t agree to pay for the HD signal they sell.
Get the Picture
The first, almost immediate argument that long-time cable customers have against purchasing an HD antenna is technology. They can’t fathom buying an $800 television set and then skimping on the signal. What they don’t realize is that paying more for something doesn’t make it better- just more expensive.
The biggest and clearest advantage of antennas over cable and satellite is clear. Antennas provide the best HD picture possible, period. It is the only medium that doesn’t require signal compression to arrive at your home. The signal is broadcast over the air, your antenna accesses it and delivers it in crystal clear HD purity. And that’s exactly how your cable company gets the national network channels as well. Except once they receive them, they have to be compressed to fit in the cable lines that will run them to your house. So they compress the signal, reducing the quality and charge you $50 or more per month for the “service.”
So the real question is: why would you spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on a brand new television set and ten settle for anything other than the highest quality picture possible? Isn’t that why you bought an HD set in the first place?
Hedge your Bets
In most markets, more OTA HD channels are available than OTA analog channels. Most local networks that have made the investment to go HD also broadcast a few other supplementary HD channels as well. Given the relatively low number of cable networks broadcasting in HD at the moment, you’re really not giving up too much by dropping cable- except the monthly bill.
Switching from cable to an antenna could save you enough money to completely cover the cost of your HDTV set in the first couple years you own it. Consider this- you buy a nice 27″ HDTV set for about $1,000, and you spend another $100 on an antenna. So for a grand total of $1,100 and some change for sales tax, you are set to enjoy HDTV quality for many years to come. But you’ve also cancelled your cable. So each month, you save an average of $50 in cable dues. And all of a sudden the set has paid for itself in less than two years and you have an extra fifty dollars in your pocket each month for the life of the set.
The point is, antennas are the affordable way to enjoy HD. Beyond the cost of the antenna itself, there are no additional expenses. So as long as the signals are being broadcast, they’re yours and they’re free.
You Have Options
So if an HDTV set is in your Super Bowl plans this year, remember you have options when it comes to receiving your HD signal. Start your research at www.antennaweb.org to learn more and identify some models that will get the job done for you and your team this year.
Richard Schneider is the President of Terrestrial Digital and Antennas Direct. He founded the companies in 2003, and currently has over 265 dealers nationwide. Terrestrial Digital’s DB2, DB4 and Lacrosse HDTV antennas have all been honored among the strongest in their class. For more information on Terrestrial Digital and for a complete list of products and dealers, visit www.terrestrial-digital.com.