The current "state" of over-the-air television


Staff member
Figured I'd start a conversation to talk specifically about what's going on with over-the-air television.

Been a while since I've been on here, and I haven't been able to keep up with what's been happening with OTA. I've seen a few news articles lately about congress taking parts of bandwidth and auctioning off to the highest bidder (like to cell phone providers).

Since I started this thread, I'll ask a few questions and maybe we can keep this as an ongoing discussion?

1. What is the current state of OTA TV?
2. Is OTA TV in any danger of not being free to US viewers anymore?


Moderator, , Webmaster of Cache Free TV
Staff member
1. What is the current state of OTA TV?

I would say it is good to very good, and improving. Empty subchannels are being filled, and content is becoming more diverse. There are few broadcasters that are still operating only their primary channel. Broadcasters are also learning to get the best quality out of their multi-casting; for example, one local channel has 2 subchannels that had excessive artifacts, but recently the quality of their 2 SD subs took a small leap in quality. It's taken some time, but broadcasters are quickly using this new digital medium to the fullest. Remember, it's been little more than 2 years since the transition to digital, and mobile DTV devices are just starting to hit the market. And more people than ever are discovering that DTV is not their grandfather's fuzzy 3 channels of analog antenna TV. In fact, many are surprised to learn that not only can you STILL get TV with an antenna, but it's great quality and there are around 30 channels in most areas. OTA TV has become the new basic TV.

And as before, HD quality is phenomenal.

2. Is OTA TV in any danger of not being free to US viewers anymore?

Yea, that.
In the middle of the worst economic downturn sice the great depression, the US government and the FCC, along with the CEA (Consumer Electronics Association) and CTIA (The Wireless Association) have openly declared war on free OTA TV, "The average Joe six pack's" new basic cable package, and Grandma's connection to the outside world. They are determined to take back TV spectrum and sell it to wireless providers to solve some imaginary "spectrum crisis" in the wireless industry. The government is also hoping that bringing in money from these sales will provide the appearance of helping solve both the deficit and the lack of accessible and affordable broadband in the USA. Never mind that the proper solution to the problem is more landlines, resorting to wireless only for "last mile" applications in hard to reach rural areas. The truth is that internet providers want an "Easy Out" that costs less, but in the end those same under served rural customers they ignore now will remain poorly served AND they will lose their free OTA TV, and all that reclaimed spectrum will be deployed in major cities, while the spectrum that once carried TV in will sit unused in the rural areas.

The pay TV industry has been silent on the issue of spectrum auctions, but we all know it's in their best interest to kill off their competition. It's hard for them to compete with a product that's both free and of superior quality. I fully expect them to remain publicly silent on the matter, while privately, and in government dealings, push the sale of spectrum that could very well lead to the demise of free OTA TV in the USA. The cable and satellite companies are counting on the government, wireless and consumer electronics industry to do their bidding for them - they won't have to say a word. They will continue to lead consumers to believe that you have to pay for TV - aided and abetted by places like Best Buy that push pay TV on to purchasers of new HD TV sets, with the line "Of course, you'll also need an HD TV provider, like DirecTV, to watch HDTV on your new TV."

In the meantime, the "new generation" of cord cutters believes they can outsmart the cable companies by getting all their content online. You know, the same companies where they get their internet from. And that will work, for a while. Until the cable companies starts charging by the gigabyte, institutes caps, and raise prices even more to compensate for the lack of cable subscribers.

And when the Zombie Apocalypse comes and the power goes out, and there's no free local TV stations with local news and backup power generators, they can all enjoy sitting in the dark watching their blank iPads while the zombies are at their door lamenting how small the brains of the idiots on the inside are.
Last edited:


Staff member
The pay TV industry has been silent on the issue of spectrum auctions
That isn't completely true. The two MVPDs that are still growing are AT&T (U-verse) and Verizon (FiOS). Both of which publicly support the spectrum grab. AT&T is the most vocal with all of their whining about needing more spectrum even though they aren't using the spectrum they have now and aren't efficiently using the spectrum they are using. (We must remember that the old AT&T used the lie in the early 1980s that their monopoly was necessary for national defence to argue against breaking their monopoly up.) On the other hand the former CEO of Verizon (retired in August) Ivan Seidenberg has said that he believes that broadcasters will end up keeping their spectrum, and that the multichannel video industry is in denial if they don't think that "cord cutting" will happen.

It should also be noted that Cox Communications owns cell phone spectrum and offers cell phone/wireless broadband service in some of their local service areas. I'm sure that they are repesented by one or more of the trade associations pushing for the spectrum grab.

It should be noted that Charlie Ergan of Dish Network has said that his children can't understand why he is still in the pay-TV industry since they don't pay for TV and can't understand why other people continue to do so. It should be noted that Dish's acquisition of the bankrupt Blockbuster was in part to add web streaming to their revenue stream as their satellite video subscriber numbers have been dropping in recent quarters.
Last edited:


, Blogger: Orry's Orations
The spectrum thing is beyond me as I'm not that technical about it all. All I know is that a lot more people are choosing OTA, and I do know that cable is required to provide 8 channels for free if you don't actually subscribe to cable. I do think the networks are going to start fighting back against streaming by delaying release of new shows, but I don't know if anyone will actually care.


OTA has a lot of hurdles to overcome to stay alive.
1.It is perceive by some in power as old media and some not in power. Living in a rural area, I find most people are sick of paying for TV, but the idea of hanging an antenna makes them think of snow, so they don't generally consider OTA as an option. I have been involved in helping two different friends put up antennas, both were shock that they got any over air signals and then amaze by the crystal clear picture, one pointed out he never see such a clear picture form an antenna, and I suspect he was right.
2.The younger generation views Streaming video as their media. Most of the younger generation are more comfortable with computers or Ipads then TV's. Many young people have never watch TV via an antenna and the idea is completely foreign to them.


Staff member
Thanks for the breakdown Pogi and others.

I certainly hope that OTA is here to stay. We almost need to start a consumer OTA coalition of some sort.

Kind of off topic, but I wonder when we're going to see the first streaming only TV network. It has to be soon. Even if it's a classic TV network, I'd still log on and watch if it were free.