A key factor in understanding whether OTA TV is for you is discovering the location of local broadcast towers. Free Over-The-Air (OTA) HDTV is distributed by local broadcasters via radio waves from massive broadcast transmitter towers. These towers are located in most major cities and towns across North America. The closer you live to these towers, the better your OTA HDTV reception will be.
OTA TV radio signals from towers work via the concept of line-of-sight. This means ideal HDTV reception occurs when your home HDTV antenna can ‘see’ the TV tower in a direct line, with no obstructions.
As you get further away from towers, the curvature of the earth actually blocks the signal from towers, which is why ideal reception areas are between zero and 35 miles away. Depending on your antenna equipment, placement and other factors though, you may be able to receive signals from towers further afield.
Channel Selection and Location:
The selection of channels you receive depends on whether or not a broadcaster in your area distributes the signal for that channel in your area.
For example, in California’s San Francisco Bay Area you could receive over 100 stations, whereas if you live in the middle of the Nevada desert, near the famed Area 51, you’ll be more likely to find an alien than an OTA signal.
Those living in urban areas near the US/Canada border, like in Detroit, are likely to receive signals from both countries, providing a much larger channel selection for increased cord cutting delight.
In most cities you’ll be able to receive signals from the main national broadcasters (in the US that would be NBC, CBS, ABC and Fox and in Canada it’s CBC, CTV, CITYTV and Global). To find out exactly what OTA channels are available in your area, check out our TV channel locator service.
In the next post in this series, we’ll talk about how obstructions can impact your OTA reception, even in areas near broadcast towers.