Switch to HDTV Antenna

The “A HA” Moment
Like many others, I had no intention of letting television costs get so out of hand. But, over the years with one special offer after another I had ended up with a combined Cable TV plus Internet service that it was costing me $143 a month! Besides Internet with “the extra fast option”, I had the “digital TV package”. So, for television I was getting basics plus extras like the History Channel, Science Channel and stuff like that, no special movie channels. Then came the “A HA” moment! I happened to observe an HD television receiving local telecasts over an antenna! The quality was fantastic! The more I thought about what I was spending for cable TV, the more I decided enough was enough. I decided to put an antenna in my home and make the switch from Cable TV. There were a couple concerns and things that I had to work out.

Digital Video Recorder (DVR)
Recording shows and watching them later is the only way to go. Afterall, that’s what makes the Fast Forward feature so wonderful. I had to figure out a way to keep DVR functionality. The answer was TiVo! They have 2 versions (as of this writing) and I chose the more expensive $300 TiVo Premiere XL. It is capable of recording up to 150 hours of HD and a few other high end features not available in the lesser unit. There are two more things that I bought from TiVo which were options, but I am glad that I purchased them. Rather than pay $20 per month for TiVo service (forever), I purchased the Lifetime TiVo Service for a one-time fee of $500. Basically, I paid for 25 months of service at one time and after that I get free service thereafter for the life of the TiVo unit. And to help ensure the life of the unit, I also purchased a three year extended warranty for $15. So, my total cost for my TiVo with options was about $815. But, then I needed a great HD antenna.

HDTV Antenna
Thanks to so many online User Reviews, it took me very little time to find one of the most popular HD antenna manufacturers, Antennas Direct. They had several models and I wanted nothing less than the best since this is one purchase that should never need to be replaced. I phoned them and in less than 2 minutes I was speaking to one of the best tech support people ever. Using Google Earth with my home address and www.antennapoint.com he was able to know precisely which antenna would work best for me. It was one that could mount inside my attic (my choice) using an optional mounting pole and a small amplifier. The ClearStream4 antenna ($150), the 40″ STM1000 J-mounting pole ($28) and the ClearStream CPA-19 pre-amplifier ($80) were purchased. Combined with shipping costs the total was about $220. I purchased antenna and assessories directly from the St. Louis based manufacturer. But, you can find these same components online for less. It took less than a 5 days for everything to arrive at my door. I assembled everything before returning the Cable TV equipment and changing my service to Internet ONLY. But, next was the assembly.

Assembling Everything
The antenna J-mounting pole bolted perfectly to a rafter in the attic. I used my cheap wireless drill for pilot holes and to install the bolts and install the mounting pole. The antenna took me about 15-20 minutes to assemble and another 5 minutes to attach it onto the J-mounting pole along with the pre-amplifier. I had purchased a good 20-foot 75-ohm cable and drilled a 3/4 inch hole so that I could lower the cable into a wall below. It was easy to cut out a small square-opening in the wall and fish out the cable. I attached the cable to a wall-plate and mounted it over the hole. I attached the electrical part of the pre-amplifier and hooked the cable into the TiVo unit. I ran a high quality Internet cable (cat6) from my router to the TiVo unit. With everything plugged in and powered I only had to follow the TiVo instructions to complete the installation. It was very easy and straightforward.

Analyzing the Cost and Savings
All things considered, I spent about $1,100 for an HDTV antenna and a premiere XL TiVo with lifetime service. How long would it take to offset this cost after cancelling my cable TV completely? When I made my decision at the beginning of this process it was based on keeping only the cable Internet service and reducing my bill by $78 per month. So, I made my purchases assuming it would take about 14 months to offset my expenditures. Once the purchases were offset by savings, I would have only the $65 monthly Internet fee. The HDTV using the antenna with TiVo would cost me nothing from then on. But, here’s the big surprise to me. When I returned my 2 cable boxes and cancelled all except my Internet, the cable office clerk let me have a current “Internet Special Offer” which was $35 per month for a whole year! (It would be one whole year before my cost would go back to the normal $65 rate.) So, instead of a 14 month pay-back period I found that it would only take about 10 months to offset all of my purchases for this switch!!!

Conclusion
If you live in a location with reasonably good reception from television stations (under 50 miles) SWITCH TO HDTV ANTENNA and dump your cable (or DSL) television service. Only keep your cable or DSL Internet service. Not only will you be able to offset your equipment purchases in a reasonable amount of time, but you will actually IMPROVE your HD picture quality. That’s right! HD signals delivered direct over the airwaves from your television station to your home are better than the compressed HD signals received over cable or DSL. And as far as TiVo, it is much better than your cable DVR. And it “pulls together into a manageable system” your television stations from the antenna and all Internet delivered services. Yes, TiVo often is used to simply replace a normal cable TV DVR box. And you can just insert what is called a “Cable Card” into the TiVo so that it will access the stations you are paying for from your cable TV company. But WHY do that? DROP CABLE TV!!! Then, attach your antenna AND your Internet cable (from your router) to your TiVo. TiVo will give you all the menus and recordings that you thought you would lose without a cable DVR. AND – I kept my NetFlix service and TiVo has a menu interface directly into NetFlix. Granted, you cannot record the NetFlix material. But, you can play it quickly and easily from the choices you have assigned to your NetFlix Instant Queue.

One last thing that surprised me when I found out about it. The TiVo unit actually has a “Signal Strength – Antenna” visual feature. When you use that menu option it shows the signal strength of each channel as you click through them. Using this feature along with a printout of the map that you can get from www.antennapoint.com you can rotate your antenna to the most optimal direction possible!

How else can I say it? I love this HDTV antenna and my TiVo. Not every decision in my life has worked out this well. But, this one is something that I would recommend to anyone! DUMP YOUR CABLE or DSL TV and get an HDTV Antenna! As far as the History Channel, Science Channel and things like that, you will be pleasantly surprised at how many of those things are available through either NetFlix or Hulu-Plus. Either one of those over-the-Internet services costs about $8 per month. So, it still makes the decision to use Antenna + cable Internet a very sensible change indeed.