WABC-TV: Antennas and Digital TV Reception

Things you should know before buying your antenna!
January 25, 2010 2:00:01 PM PST
There are many ways to watch ABC7, including accessing our free, over the air digital signal. If you haven't used an antenna to get TV lately, there are some important changes you should know about. Since June 12, 2009 all full power television stations in the country have been broadcasting an all digital signal. The good news is that if you purchased your TV in last few years, it most likely already has a digital tuner. If you are still using an analog TV set, you have to connect it to a converter box to watch ABC7 over the air.

There are many types of antenna available, and there are things you should keep in mind about any antenna you may already have at home, or one you're considering buying in order to watch TV free over the air.

Antenna Issues:

  • A good antenna is essential for reliable reception!!!
  • Must be designed for VHF plus UHF (channels 7-54)
  • Outdoor antennas and their wiring can deteriorate. Important to know if you're trying to rely on a very old antenna.
  • Check the alignment (position) of the outdoor antenna.
  • The quality of the cable from the antenna to the TV is important, and the length should be kept as short as is practical. Signal splitters will reduce the strength of the signal reaching the TV or converter.
  • Attic mounted antennas will often work well (up to about 30 miles from the Empire State Building, for WABC-TV's signal).
  • Indoor antennas should be located near a window (facing the Empire State Building). If the viewer is more than 10 miles from Manhattan, reliable indoor reception may not be possible.
  • Antenna extension cables can be purchased to allow proper location.
  • Master Antenna systems in apartment or condo buildings will often not carry the DTV channels. Either the building will need to upgrade this system, or the viewer will need to try using a good quality indoor antenna (if they are close enough to Manhattan).
  • Always buy an antenna from a reputable vendor who will allow a return or exchange (with all original packaging) if it does not work in the viewer's particular situation.
  • A test for an existing antenna is to ask how well it received analog channels 7, 13, 25, 31, and 47 prior to the transition. If they were not all reasonably clear, watchable pictures, then connecting a DTV receiver to this antenna will probably not work well.
  • It is a one-time expense to purchase a good antenna, or have a new outdoor antenna installed, as compared to ongoing monthly charges for cable or satellite.
  • Repositioning the antenna and then re-scanning for DTV channels is a trial and error process. If the channel number displays (7-1), use the built-in signal meter to help position the antenna.
  • With "rabbit ear" antennas, extend the elements as far as possible.

    Other Possible Problems:

  • Terrain and trees will affect DTV reception (due to many DTV signals being broadcast on UHF channels) in suburban and rural areas.

    If you have questions about digital television, converter boxes or reception problems, visit: DTV.gov or call 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322).

    Converter boxes and antennas are available at most electronics retailers. Here are links to several places where you can pick them up:

  • Amazon.com
  • Best Buy
  • J&R
  • Radio Shack
  • Sears
  • Target
  • Walmart

    Here is an article from Consumer Reports about choosing the best DTV converter box.

    Here is an article from DTVAnswers.com on choosing an antenna.