Monday, July 21, 2014

Your Federal Right to Install an Outdoor TV Antenna

Posted By: Shelley O'Connell

In the United States, you have a federal right to install an outdoor TV antenna. That's right, it's the law. More Americans are re-discovering the value of broadcast TV programming with the use of a television antenna. What most people don't know is that in 1996, congress directed the FCC to adopt what is referred to as the OTARD Rule - that stands for Over-the-Air Reception Devices - which governs the consumer's right to install an antenna at their place of residence.

In 1996 the OTARD rule had a lot of significance for satellite dish antennas specifically, since direct-to-home satellite television services DirecTV and DISH were becoming very popular. Fast forward to today, nearly 20 years later, and television antenna sales are booming as more people elect to cancel cable or satellite TV services in an effort to save money. Here's the great news: OTARD also applies to broadcast television antennas!

What is OTARD?

In October 1996, the Federal Communications Commission adopted the Over-the-Air Reception Devices (OTARD) rule concerning governmental and nongovernmental restrictions on viewers' ability to receive video programming signals from direct broadcast satellites, broadband transmitters, and television broadcast stations. The rule specifically prohibits restrictions that would impair the installation, maintenance or use of antennas used to receive video programming (with the caveat that dish-style antennas be no larger than one meter in diameter everywhere except Alaska).

In essence, OTARD guarantees your right to install an outdoor TV antenna. It prevents government agencies, home owner associations and/or landlords from restricting your antenna installation and use. You have the right to select over-the-air broadcast signals as your video service of choice, and you cannot be forced to choose a different type of service such as cable or satellite. The rule applies to property that you own or rent, and requires that your installation be in an area in which you have exclusive use or control. This includes single family homes, condominiums, cooperatives, apartments and mobile homes.

Are there restrictions that can be enforced?

Yes. OTARD provides for some specific instances in which restrictions can be enforced. For broadcast television antennas, here are the main guidelines to ensure your legal right:

  • For multiple-dwelling units, a governing body may restrict the installation of a broadcast television antenna if a central television broadcast antenna is already in use at the property and you have access to those video signals.
  • For multiple-dwelling units, a governing body may restrict the installation of a broadcast television antenna if your installation is not within an area that is considered to be your exclusive use, such as indoors, a balcony or patio. For example, installing your antenna on the roof of a leased multiple-dwelling unit, or in an area that is considered to be for common use, such as the side of a laundry room, will likely be restricted.
  • A governing body may restrict the installation of a broadcast television antenna if it is deemed to be a safety concern. However, the burden is on the governing body to prove there is a reasonable safety issue with your installation.
  • In keeping with the safety rule, a governing body may restrict the installation of a broadcast television antenna if the antenna mast extends more than 12 ft. above the roof line.
  • A governing body may restrict the installation of a broadcast television antenna if the antenna mast extends into an area that is not within your exclusive use, such as crossing your property line into your neighbor's exclusive use space.

What's the best way to avoid conflict?

Today's television broadcast signals are digital. While older antennas will still work great with digital signals and will certainly do the job, digital broadcast signals allowed for the design of new, sleeker and smaller broadcast television antennas. If you are purchasing a new broadcast television antenna for outdoor installation, the best guideline is to select the smallest model to fit your needs.

For the vast majority of metro and suburban dwellers in the United States, a small, sleek antenna such as Channel Master's SMARTenna will be the only television antenna you will ever need. These smaller antennas that were specifically designed for the digital age are capable of being installed either indoors or outdoors and will pick up television broadcast signals from up to 50 miles away or even more.

In some cases, due to variables such as a mountain range or treeline, it will be necessary to install a rooftop antenna to get all of the channels available in your area, but try the smaller antenna first because in most cases a 12 ft.-high rooftop antenna will be overkill for your needs.

Where can I find more information or address a conflict with a governing body?

You can visit the FCC's OTARD page for a thorough explanation of the rule, as well as locate instructions and contact information for conflict resolution.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup without cable? Answer: Channel Master

Hey World Cup fans! You don't need a pay-TV subscription to watch all the action of the FIFA World Cup. Here's how to get every game for free in crystal clear HD:

Channel Master SMARTenna

All of the 2014 FIFA World Cup games are available for free via over-the-air broadcast. For US viewers you will get 10 games in English on ABC (including the final) and ALL games are available in Spanish via Univision. For a complete broadcast schedule of the games, click here

Our SMARTenna is the best choice for metro and suburban viewing. This compact, flat antenna is multi-directional and won't require pointing it towards broadcast towers. If used indoors it will pick up signals from up to 35 miles and if used outdoors it will pick up signals from up to 50 miles away. For the vast majority of metro and suburban viewers in the US and Canada, this is the only antenna you will ever need. Nicely priced at $59.99.

Channel Master DVR+

The DVR+ by Channel Master is the only subscription-free DVR for broadcast programming. It also happens to be the world's slimmest DVR! You can pause live TV, skip back to replay something you missed, and record all of your favorite broadcast programming. The DVR+ comes with two digital tuners so you can watch one program while recording another or record two programs at the same time. $249.99.

That's it! Just get yourself a Channel Master antenna and get ready to watch ALL of the exciting live World Cup action for free in pure, uncompressed HD.

If you're a current pay-TV subscriber, check out Channel Master to learn more about TV Freedom and how you can put the monthly cable bill behind you once and for all.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

ATTN Cord Cutters: There's No Such Thing As An HD Antenna...But We Still Call Them That

As a potential or current cord cutter, you've likely been down the path of researching over-the-air (OTA) broadcast TV antennas. Let's just say this - OTA antennas are awesome. They are inexpensive items that provide access to free live TV programming from all of the big broadcast networks - ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS and The CW - just to name a few. Every household should have one.

So you've made the decision to look into purchasing an antenna. Good for you! Did you know that TV programming from free broadcast networks represents the vast majority of what we watch on TV? Seriously. For most North Americans, the networks listed above, available for free with an antenna, are the bulk of our TV viewing - upwards of 80% - with a few cable network shows sprinkled in.

Prior to about 1980 (the advent of Cable TV), every household had a TV antenna. Perhaps it was a big array on the roof, a hidden array in the attic, or maybe a simple tin-foil-lined contraption on top of the console TV set. That would all depend on how far away you were from broadcast towers. Today, the very same rules apply. If you're close to broadcast towers (within 25 miles), you could still do the tin-foil thing. If you are further away, you'll need something with a little more range.

A very cool thing happened to broadcast TV in 2009 - it went digital. That means amazing HD digital signals as opposed to the prior SD analog broadcast signals. The broadcast technology behind the signals may have changed, but the TV antennas for receiving the signals are exactly the same. Exactly the same! For example, it's not uncommon to purchase an older home and discover a TV antenna mounted in the attic. That older TV antenna is going to pick up the same pristine HD TV signals as any new antenna you would purchase today. So why the confusion, you ask? Answer:  Marketers.

For TV antenna manufacturers, the switch-over to digital broadcast technology in 2009 seemed like a gift from above. Households would certainly now buy antennas to get the best HD (and free) programming rather than pay for inferior compressed HD signals through their TV providers, right? Of course! And to help promote antennas for the digital broadcast age, here's a great idea - let's call them "HD" or "Digital" TV antennas!

Yes, today's TV antennas have cool new designs - the flat look, the spidery look, the spaceship look, etc. But from a technology/reception standpoint, they are the exact same antennas that hit the market in the late 1940s. So when you're shopping for a TV antenna, pay no attention to verbiage such as "HD" or "Digital". ALL TV ANTENNAS ARE HD/DIGITAL. If they weren't, they couldn't pick up broadcast TV signals, which are now digital. The only thing the consumer needs to consider when shopping for a TV antenna is range. Check out to enter your address and discover how much range you need from a TV antenna.

As a TV antenna manufacturer, Channel Master is also guilty of using that "HD" and "Digital" nomenclature when it comes to antenna product descriptions. Five years ago it seemed like a great idea, just to help people understand that over-the-air broadcast had made an amazing transition that was of great value to consumers. Fast forward to today, when everyone understands what HD is, and the nomenclature is more likely to get in the way and cause confusion than to serve it's purpose of promoting broadcast TV.

Folks - a TV antenna is a TV antenna. Period. Just know your required range and you're good to go.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Cord Cutting Reality: How Many Channels Do We Actually Watch?

In today's issue of Variety, Todd Spangler cites a new report from Nielsen that claims consumers watch only about 9% of the pay-TV channels that they are actually paying for. You can read the full article here. That ratio is based on subscribing to an average of 189 channels and watching only 17-18 channels. Hmm. If you are a pay-TV industry insider, you will know that this "average" ratio reported by Nielsen is a little high.

In reality, pay-TV customers watch an average maximum of 15 channels and subscribe to over 200. We're not questioning Nielsen's data per se, but would just like to point out that their track record for reporting tends to favor "the industry". Pay-TV execs are fully aware that this reported data is a bit off.

Lets look at this a little differently. Based on the reported Nielsen data, pay-TV customers are essentially making a monthly car payment for a vehicle that they only drive about three days per month. If you go by the accepted industry data it's even worse. Now we're down to being allowed to drive the car only two days per month.

When it comes to leasing or financing a vehicle, none of us in our right minds would pay full price for a car that we were only allowed to drive three days per month. What would we do instead? We would ditch the car and find alternative transportation for those three days. So why on earth are consumers sitting still for this bloated, broken, archaic TV delivery business model that has us paying for bundles of channels and expensive sports networks whether we ask for them or not? The answer is simple: It's what we know.

Let's take a look at the "average" pay-TV cost for Americans in comparison to our European friends across the pond: Great Britain, France, Germany and Spain:

You will notice that our pay-TV penetration is much higher, in addition to being much more expensive. The reason our pay-TV penetration is so high is because Europe has a very robust over-the-air TV market, meaning people get their TV programming from antennas. But guess what? North America has the highest quality over-the-air TV market in the entire world, with beautiful, pristine digital broadcast. The problem is that consumers just don't know about it.

Broadcasters (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, The CW) don't promote this fact because they want us to get these channels from our pay-TV providers so they can charge a LOT of money for it. Pay-TV providers don't promote this fact because they need us to pay for local channels so they can in turn pay the ridiculously hefty re-transmission fees to the broadcasters.

It's a big catch-22 and consumers are caught in the middle. What can we do? How can we make our voices heard within this travesty of a TV delivery system? Well, we can cut the cord. We can purchase a simple antenna and get all of these broadcast channels for free (even record them with an over-the-air DVR), and then simply stream our favorite cable shows and movies via online services (Netflix, Amazon, VUDU), paying for only what we want to watch - not being forced to pay for a myriad of channels and sports networks that many of us don't even know exist. And we don't have to give up live broadcast TV. We'll still get all of the major networks, local news and the Super Bowl.

If enough consumers cut the cord, the TV industry (pay-TV providers, broadcasters and content owners) may finally stop battling each other, figure out a sustainable business model, and do something to show that they actually care about the customers they serve.

Stop paying for a car that you drive only 2-3 days per month. Buy your own equipment - an antenna, a DVR, and maybe a streaming device such as Roku, and let the TV industry know that you're done with the power-hungry corporate nonsense that is draining your pocketbook.

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Facts About Cord Cutting for Consumers: Debunking the Myths and Misinformation

Cord Cutting has become a prevalent term that may have innocently started out as an expression for the TV industry crowd to describe a declining trend in video subscriber acquisition, but the moniker has now spilled over into consumer vocabulary and is being widely reported by the media as a growing trend in consumer behavior. This in itself would not be a bad thing except for the fact that the term is being defined differently by just about everyone who talks about it (not always being fully informed of the facts), causing confusion for consumers.

Personally, we hate the phrase for many reasons, but that's a topic for a different post. For our purposes here we will define Cord Cutting in its simplest, truest form: the act of cancelling your subscription TV service. So, for the consumer, we have compiled this list of Cord Cutting fallacies and provided what we believe to be helpful and factual enlightenment to assist you in your Cord Cutting pursuits.

Myth vs. Fact

Myth:  Cord Cutting means having to get all of my content via the Internet.
Fact:  A huge chunk of your content is available through free over-the-air broadcast, no Internet required.

Myth:  Cord Cutting means having to watch TV on a laptop or mobile device.
Fact:  You can still watch both live TV and your favorite streaming services on your TV.

Myth:  If you Cut the Cord you have to give up live TV, including local news and sports.
Fact:  Free live broadcast TV has been around since the early 1950s, is still  available free through the use of a simple antenna, underwent a transition to digital format in amazing, crystal-clear HD in 2009, and includes all of the major broadcast networks including ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, The CW and many more networks and sub-channels that your pay-TV service may not carry.

This particular myth happens to be one of our biggest pet peeves when it comes to defining Cord Cutting. The more than 20% of Americans who receive their broadcast TV programming solely from a digital antenna today can certainly attest to this, and it doesn't help when members of the media get it wrong.

This little clip is one of our favorites, although we feel a bit sorry for the newscaster. But if you are going to talk about Cord Cutting, especially with the man who is in charge of business development for Comcast, you should do your homework. To preface, The Grammy's aired on CBS, which is free broadcast TV! (Source: Bloomberg)


Myth:  If you get your broadcast TV content over-the-air through a digital antenna, you can't record it, pause live TV, or have a DVR experience.
Fact:  Nonsense. Get yourself a DVR for over-the-air broadcast programming. Channel Master happens to make one that is subscription-free, the DVR+.

Myth:  Potential Cord Cutters just want to stream video on mobile devices.
Fact:  Potential Cord Cutters are current pay-TV subscribers who are seeking a home TV solution that gives them an experience very similar to what they have in the home today - without having to be a tech guru and build their own DVR system using a home computer (and we shudder to think of the power consumption required in such a solution). This includes a familiar user interface, program guide, DVR functionality and the simple ability to watch TV on the big screen without having to use a mobile device to open an App and port or transfer content to the TV - again, probably not much of a concern to you tech gurus but definitely not a great solution for the bulk of TV viewers.

Myth:  Internet streaming methods and services are a viable solution for getting live TV programming.
Fact:  There are currently several solutions that provide access to live broadcast TV programming through the use of an Internet connection either for receiving the content or for viewing the content once received. These are all very cool and innovative solutions. However, each of these solutions requires a monthly subscription fee. And your recorded content may be stored in their cloud in some cases, requiring an Internet connection for access, rather than on your own hard drive.

In addition, you must also consider the ramifications of broadband usage on your home network. In today’s market in particular, we feel very strongly that consumers should not have to suck up bandwidth to get local programming that is already conveniently available over-the-air through a basic antenna. With everything going on in the broadband industry today – Net Neutrality battles, massive consolidation of ISPs, implementation of data caps, reinterpretation of copyright laws – why would you want to go that route if you don’t have to? If you can get that big chunk of your entertainment without having to tap your home network, it’s just the smart way to go. Then you can allocate bandwidth for all of those awesome On Demand streaming services.

While some broadcast networks will still allow you to view their content through their websites or On Demand apps, that content is not live and is often restricted in episode choice. In most cases the content is not provided to you on the same day as the live broadcast. ABC has already restricted their streaming app and their Hulu content to an eight-day broadcast delay unless you have a pay-TV subscription, and the remaining networks will likely follow suit.

We love Hulu, it's a great service, but it's not live TV and every broadcaster has a different deal with Hulu regarding what content they post and for how long, which can be very frustrating. And you can't zoom through commercials like you can with your DVR!

Myth:  People don't watch broadcast TV nearly as much as they watch cable network programming.
Fact:  Programming from the major broadcast networks actually represents what we believe to be the majority of what people watch on TV. TiVo’s website states that 85% of the content people store on their DVRs comes from local broadcast networks. DISH claims that a majority of the content on their DVRs is from the “big four” broadcast networks alone (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC).

If you are a current pay-TV subscriber, go look at the screen that shows the timers that are set on your DVR. How many of those are for shows available on broadcast networks as opposed to cable networks? Obviously some people are going to be heavy on the cable network side, but for the majority of North American households we think you will find the ratio to be 50/50 at best if not a bit heavier on the broadcast network side.

Myth:  If I'm a sports fanatic I can Cut the Cord and be happy.
Fact:  If you can't live without ESPN or other popular sports networks, you are going to require pay-TV for what looks like a long haul. ESPN recently stated that they are doing everything they can to continue to support the traditional pay-TV delivery model. Do you need access to every NFL game, not just what's provided on your local broadcast networks? If your answer is yes, you're going to need DirecTV.

Sports programming is by far the most expensive content in the pay-TV package and it seems that things will continue to get worse before they get better. Just ask Dodgers fans, who will no longer have access to games on broadcast networks.

Myth:  Cord Cutting is not a real movement, is only media hype, and people are not ditching their pay-TV services.
Fact:  Service providers, as a net total, continue to lose video subscribers. Is it some kind of landslide phenomenon that has the TV industry running scared? Absolutely not. Cord Cutting is not for everyone. But yes, it is real. Our customers are not supplementing their pay-TV services with our products, they are cancelling their services altogether and relying on an economic mixture of subscription-free broadcast TV and On Demand streaming services.

In Conclusion

If you are considering cancelling your pay-TV service we hope that we have provided you with some useful information to help you with your decision. There are many changes happening in the TV industry today that are a direct result of the inevitable clash between outdated business models and new technologies. For the most part, the consumer remains blissfully unaware of the storms going on behind the scenes in the TV industry - until it shows up in their bill, which is what's happening today.

And let's make one thing perfectly clear: if you are getting your content through file-sharing sites or using someone else's pay-TV login information, that is called Piracy. Piracy is BAD. Not only is Piracy illegal and cheats hard-working Creatives out of their due revenues, it only serves to exacerbate the existing problems in the TV industry and make things worse in the long run for one and all... so by all means Cut the Cord, but please do so responsibly!