Cutting the paid TV cord


Last week I only covered a few of the many many free TV streaming services. If you have a Samsung TV, smartphone or tablet you can download Samsung TV Plus ( or you can watch on the web at It has over 100 channels. The list for U.S. customers is at and it includes CBS and ABC news, Bloomberg TV, HSN, QVC and “Hell’s Kitchen”.

Crackle TV at is another free streaming service. It has older TV series like “Alf” and “Barney Miller” and some British series like “Sherlock” and older as well as lesser known movies.

Roku, the streaming device maker, even has a free channel you can watch on the web at Like these other free services, you’re not gonna get the latest and greatest content but they have a decent selection of the older stuff for free.

This week I’m writing about probably the least expensive ways to watch not only your local channels, but quite a selection of other channels. How? With an antenna! I’m serious! Stop laughing! Since June 13, 2009, TV stations have been required to switch to digital broadcasts. And if your TV was made in 2006 or later, you can probably pick up those digital broadcasts right there on your TV. Digital has the benefit of not degrading quality as you get further from the broadcast tower. If you can receive the signal it should be just as good for you as for someone living much closer to the tower. You may need to invest in an antenna and, often, an indoor antenna is all that’s required. But if you want to get fancy and maybe pick up more stations you can install an outdoor antenna.

Why do I say you can get a selection of channels besides your usual local stations? Digital broadcasts require less of their allotted frequencies so many stations use that extra space to broadcast additional channels on from 1 to 18 virtual channels or subchannels. So, in addition to WKRC from Cincinnati, you will also get The CW, Antenna TV, and Comet TV as they’re all broadcast by WKRC on subchannels. They’re typically shown as <channel>-<subchannel> or <channel>.>subchannel>. WKRC is channel 12, the CW is 12-2, Antenna TV is 64-2 (WKRC provides some services to WSTR which is on channel 64 which might explain why Antenna TV shows up there).

What stations can you pick up? There are several sites where you can enter your address and it will tell you what you can likely receive, often along with a signal strength and antenna recommendation. AntennaWeb at can do it as can OTADTV at Just enter your street address and the site will do all the work for you and even include a map. Note that TV stations list as their address the location of their studio, not the location of the tower they use to broadcast their signal. Here in the San Francisco bay area, the towers for some stations in San Francisco and Oakland are actually on top of a small mountain well outside of San Francisco and Oakland so don’t dismiss broadcast TV just because you think you’re too far from the station. Use one of the websites I’ve listed and see what it says.

Your TV can’t pick up digital signals? No worries. You can get a digital tuner that plugs in to your TV for not a lot of money. Magnavox makes one for just under $70 at, but there are many that cost half that. Just search for digital TV converter. Some even have recording capabilities so you can record your favorite show and watch it later. If you don’t want to plug it into your TV you can get adapters for your PC ( and even your Android phone (see I’ve just ordered the Android item and will try to give a brief rundown on its usefulness next week. For fun, here’s a review of that phone accessory Also, AARP has a decent article on digital TV including some antenna recommendations. See

If you’re really interested in getting rid of cable/paid TV and you don’t mind dealing with nerds, I suggest you give a look. Reddit is a good place to follow lots of topics including tech. I follow quite a few “subreddits” which is what they call the areas devoted to specific topics like “cordcutters.” Of course, it’s an online community and like all online communities, they have their share of disruptive individuals, commonly called trolls, but each subreddit has people who have volunteered to act as moderators and eject the trolls.

Going back to the question I asked at the end of last week’s column, can you replace your paid cable or satellite service with totally free services? Being able to pick up your local broadcast channels for free certainly helps. I still give it a qualified “yes,” but with broadcast digital it becomes easier.

That’s it for this week. Note that my intent with these columns is to spark your curiosity, give you enough information to get started, and arm you with the necessary keywords (or buzzwords) so you’ll understand the basics and are equipped to search for more detailed information.

Email me with questions, comments, suggestions, requests for future columns, whatever at and don’t forget that I maintain links to the original columns with live, clickable links to all the references at or It should be updated shortly after this column appears online. My links tell me that I’m getting some international readers — France, Belgium and Germany in particular. If you’re an international reader, drop me a quick note and say hi!

Tony Sumrall, a Hillsboro native whose parents ran the former Highland Lanes bowling alley, is a maker with both leadership and technical skills. He’s been in the computing arena since his graduation from Miami University with a bachelor’s degree in systems analysis, working for and with companies ranging in size from five to hundreds of thousands of employees. He holds five patents and lives and thrives in Silicon Valley which feeds his love for all things tech.

Tony Sumrall Contributing columnist Sumrall Contributing columnist

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