NFL streaming outage is a reminder that antenna backups are …

Channel tuning section on LG televisions.
Your television almost certainly has a built-in tuner for receiving over-the-air signals from an antenna. Phil Nickinson/

Being able to stream any Sunday NFL game is a first-world luxury. But when the stream goes down it immediately becomes a first-world problem – especially if you subscribe to NFL Sunday Ticket, which is only available on YouTube and YouTube TV. (Which, for all intents and purposes, are pretty much the same thing.)

This became abundantly clear on October 29, when the Google-owned units suffered a slight malfunction, causing buffering and low resolution for most of the early and afternoon games. (And started crying for a refund or credit. But don’t hold your breath for anyone.)

There’s not much that can be done when it comes to NFL Sunday Ticket. You are left to dance with the one who brought you. But if you only want to watch sports that are being broadcast in your area, you have a relatively inexpensive option in terms of a backup method of viewing: an old-fashioned (yet still very modern) over-the-air antenna. .

Those of us of a certain age can remember when antennas were the only way we could watch television. Perhaps this was the era of “rabbit ears”, in which the antenna was attached to the television itself. Or you may have a large aerial installed in your home with a coaxial cable running through it to connect to the tuner on your television.

Things have changed a lot since then. But the old ways still work, and when the (relative) worst happens when it comes to being able to watch something and your streaming service of choice goes down, they’re wonderful for giving you a little backup and a little piece of mind. Are there. ,

How to use an antenna as a backup

There are two main types of antenna available today – indoor and outdoor. The former are smaller and can often be attached to a window or wall. The latter can be larger and mounted on the side of your house, or a chimney.

Clearstream Fusion over-the-air antenna.
When it comes to over-the-air antennas, outdoor and higher is best. Phil Nickinson/

It doesn’t matter which way you go, the basic principle is this: higher is better. Outdoors is better. Things can work indoors and at a relatively ground level. But we’re talking about pulling signals through the air, so you can get close to them without interference – whether it’s pipes in the wall if you’re indoors, or entire houses, buildings or trees or hills and Mountain. You’re out – the better.

An indoor antenna in a window.
If you must use an indoor antenna, try placing it in a window facing the direction of the TV towers. Phil Nickinson/

Another thing you need to figure out at the same time is which direction your antenna should point. There are all kinds of online tools for this – just search something like “TV antenna direction”. But for our example here, we’ll point you to the FCC’s DTV Reception Map tool. I type in my zip code and click on the broadcast channel, and the tool shows me where the towers are located. Most of my area is west-northwest, so I want to point my antenna in that direction. This doesn’t mean you won’t find a channel if it’s not possible to line things up – it will also depend on signal strength – but it’s definitely recommended to aim as close as possible.

A screenshot showing the location of TV towers relative to the antenna they are trying to receive.
This screenshot shows the location of TV towers relative to my location. So I want my antenna to point in this direction. screenshot

Also, note that you might want to experiment a bit before setting things permanently. Once you have everything connected, run a channel scan and note how many channels you are receiving. Then maybe take things in a different direction and repeat the process, and make sure you are getting everything you want or need to get. I had an instance where I was getting my local ABC, NBC and CBS channels fine, but Fox was not coming on. I adjusted things a bit and suddenly Fox appeared. (This is also an example in which you might find a big difference between an indoor and outdoor antenna.)

What will all this cost?

You can spend as much or as little as you want here. But the good news is that, unlike a streaming subscription, this will likely be a one-time expense.

Coax cable plugged into HDHomeRun
An HDHomeRun box lets you watch the feed from a single antenna on multiple devices in your home. Phil Nickinson/

At a minimum, you will need an antenna. You can find some for indoors on Amazon for as little as $20. There’s nothing wrong with that – especially if it gives you the channels you want. There are a lot of antennas, but clearstream eclipse That’s what I’ve used indoors in the past. You’ll probably spend a little more money for a good outdoor antenna – I’ve used this clearstream 2max In that case. Still, these are one-time costs that can be amortized over how long you use them. (And my current antenna has been in place for years.)

Depending on your setup and where your TV lives, you may need to invest in a little extra coax cable. But any good antenna should come with an amplifier.

And if that’s all you want to do, you can simply lift up the antenna and plug it into your TV, scan the channels, and call it a day.

Channel app as seen on TV.
The Channels app is much better than the one that comes with HDHomeRun and is available on Apple, Android, and Fire TV devices. Phil Nickinson/

But if you want to be a little conscious, you can plug your antenna into a box hdhomerun Or table, and then use their apps to allow any modern device in your home to view the feed from that single antenna. This applies to TVs as well as mobile devices. So you’re not limited to your single antenna feed on just one television. Again, this is a one-time cost (I never use any subscription options that might apply to those products, like extended live guides), so you can pretend to spread it out over months and years. And there are options to record the show locally or in the cloud.

Wait – why am I doing this?

Look, none of this is easier than streaming. I’ve used YouTube TV for as long as I can. But for some reason I also have an antenna-based backup solution. One thing is that sometimes the streaming slows down. (Welcome to the future.) The second reason is that I live in an area where hurricanes are a real threat. And while we haven’t had one in a few years (knock on wood), I want a way to get information that doesn’t depend on an Internet connection.

And so far, old-school broadcast TV – received via an over-the-air antenna – still works great via the old ATSC 1.0 standard. Yes, the industry is trying to push people towards ATSC 3.0, which can support 4K resolution (assuming the wider network also does 4K), and can also support more data in the stream, including advertising . But for now, there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple.

it is not hard to do. And it doesn’t take much time to set up.

And you’ll thank yourself the next time your streaming solution stops working when your team is about to score.

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