Digital TV antenna 101

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Find out what a Digital TV Antenna is and more important what it will give you.

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Even with a very minimal flat/film stick-on wall antenna, you will probably get at least a couple channels (may pixel considerably) that you can watch for local news.. Some remember those old days of rabbit ear antennas , a common trick was to wad aluminum foil over the tips and it would sometimes help reception. I’ve seen it work on grandma’s old tv’s but thank goodness there’s much better available now.

film tv antenna


   Flat sheet or film antennas are a fair ‘sqeeze-by’ antenna by virue of being cheap, easy to mount and somwhat adjustable  depending on where you are willing to put them. They simply do not work well stuck to the back of your TV though.
In a large city like Knoxville, expect maybe 6-8 usable stations . 15 miles away , maybe a couple, 25 miles out pretty much zilch unless you are sitting on top of a mountain and in a wood frame home.


   A ‘Cut above’ the flat sheet antennas …but not by much . Amplifiers do not make ‘already bad’ signals better. They only ‘push’ it over a longer distance of coax wire. This makes the amplified antenna better as you can add a long length of coax wire to it and mount it say in an upstairs bedroom window…or in a window on the TV transmitter side of an aluminum skinned mobile home.


   These are the antennas you want when you get 15+ miles out. Most have top features like amplified, two TV output, powered rotator and some even include the pole/wall mount. Being amplified, one output goes to controller/main TV and other CAN BE SPLIT with a common splitter to drive up to 4 more TV’s. and additional splitter can create enough signal for many more tv’s (hook up all tv’s at your house splitter and all those TV’s now have all local channels.

Extreme TV antenna


    This type of antenna will pickup far away signals…however if that signal is going through lots of trees, a mountain or lareg building, you simply will not get good reception. Proper mounting and wiring will also get you that super clear (no pixeling) picture on ALL the TV’s in your home. If no heavy woods, buildings or monutains in the way, expect 15-20 Channels  out of places like Knoxville TN up to 90 miles out.

Just remember… amps do not make an unusable signal usable..They just allow you to run longer coax lines and place antenna in a much better location

   Better antennas, and/or antenna rotors allow you to point the antenna precisely at the TV station antenna whose channel you are watching. This makes for maximum signal strength ( using an amp can drive the signal over a longer cable and/or be split to more tv’s)

TV transmitter antenna pointer interactive

    Higher gain antennas require more precise pointing. Multi element/panel arrays (Like the one on the right above) have higher gains  (which translates in the real world as higher range)

    Higher gains and a good pointing rotator are high priority for distant rural Digital TV reception.
Years ago (circa 70’s and 80’s) people would invest hundreds of dollars into huge analouge (different signal frequency) TV antenna arrays mounted on tall 40′ plus telescoping poles with guy wires to keep them vertical and stable (a smaller one is pictured in our background image)….just to make sure that picture on their Curtis Mathis  console TV was best it could be. (Your author installed many of those in the day in the Athens/Sweetwater/Etowah/Clevland area for Sliger’s Electronics)

   Do remember , hundreds of dollars then would equal thousands now….so a professionally installed system with a ticket of $400 to drive crystal clear near perfect 1080P video on muttiple TV sets  is quite a bargain considering it now costs $-0- per month with all the channels completely free/month.

    Not long after this period  the C-band satellite systems were born with the eventual Digicypher descrambler boxes to get all the channels you wanted to watch. Those systems cost from a couple thousand to tens of thousands (remember in 1980’s dollars) to set up , install and maintain. When the DSS satellites was debuted (1993 at the Chicago Consumer Electronics show , and I was there!) and came online in mid 90’s people were ready for the clear satellite signals and HD a bit later. TV tech was getting a bit better as well. 

    After the satellite heydays of the 2000’s and the eventual raising of prices due to profit addicted  shareholders, Ceo’s etc… the monthly (not installation) costs of having a great satellite system is now becoming cost-prohibitive.
    Later 2018 /early 2019 we find AT&T (who bought Directv) having to do a LOT of explaining to the shareholders why raising rates (and buying all those companies) is not tuning out like they had thought.

People will only take so much monthly price increase and many times ends in “I’ve had enough”. 

    Unfortunately, many also found out that just switching back and forth from one provider to another when the promo ran out is not working so well either……so there you have it , The Digital TV antenna is a way to get a considerable number of crystal clear 1080P HD  channels on most of your TV’s for only a small investment of money and/or time  all ad- supported and did I mention Free for the watching!