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September 27, 2011 8:51 AM   Subscribe

How do we get NBC/KNTV on our TV without cable in San Francisco?

I know that a lot of people have had trouble getting a signal from KNTV after KRON lost the Bay Area NBC affiliation a while back. We just got a TV after a long time without one and in our new neighborhood, I think we're effectively blocked from the KNTV transmitter in the San Bruno mountains (we're on the north slope of McLaren Park). We can barely get a lot of the broadcast channels and KNTV (11) doesn't come in at all. We have an antenna hooked up to the TV and it helps a little with other channels and means that we can occasionally tune in CBS but NBC/KNTV is still missing.

Basic cable is $23/month and that seems a little too much for the once a month or so that I'd want to watch anything. Do people still get antennas for the top of their house? Would that help? Are there other options or should we just get a Hulu Plus subscription?
posted by otherwordlyglow to Technology (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Can you try to put a cable from the cable outlet to your TV (S cable probably)?

In many places that I've lived, the cable company sends out the basic channels over the cable lines for everyone, even if they don't have cable. (I guess it's easier than turning it off completely?)
posted by k8t at 8:56 AM on September 27, 2011


In many places that I've lived, the cable company sends out the basic channels over the cable lines for everyone, even if they don't have cable. (I guess it's easier than turning it off completely?)

Just FYI, the cable companies call that "passive theft." If that turns out to be a workable option, you'll need to decide if you're ethically comfortable with it.
posted by BobbyVan at 9:08 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


What kind of antenna do you have? If you have one designed for UHF only (and a lot of those were sold around the digital switchover because the digital stations were all UHF because VHF was still taken up by the analog stations) it wouldn't be expected to help with KNTV because it's really and truly VHF.
posted by Zed at 9:17 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just FYI, the cable companies call that "passive theft."

That's as maybe, but they do put out unscrambled QAM channels.

Definitely try adding a VHF antenna to the mix, though.
posted by holgate at 9:22 AM on September 27, 2011


Check AntennaWeb to figure out what kind of Antenna you will need. In my case, I needed the big expensive roof mounted antenna with pre-amps, probably $400 plus after installation. That made basic cable seem like a much more reasonable deal.
posted by COD at 9:33 AM on September 27, 2011


Pop your address into TV Fool's signal analyzer and it will tell you what channels you can get and what kind of antenna will be required to get the channels you can receive. For what it's worth, I get KNTV just fine on the east slope of Twin Peaks with just a (always overpriced) $15 table-top antenna, so you could probably use any $2 rabbit-ears antenna they might have at Goodwill for the stations in the "green" category.
posted by rhizome at 9:35 AM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think our antenna is UHF/VHF.
I should really check around with my neighbors to see what they do. We're on the north side of the hill in the Portola district, facing Bernal Heights.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:44 AM on September 27, 2011


That TV Fool thing is very helpful. KNTV comes in at the very bottom of the supposedly able to be seen with a set-top antenna grouping.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 9:48 AM on September 27, 2011


It is nearly impossible for me to get NBC via antenna here in the East Bay. Occasionally I can get a signal if I stick my antenna on a high shelf, stand on one foot, it's not raining, etc.

Who provides your internet? Back when I had Comcast, it was actually cheaper to get an internet/super-basic cable bundle than it was to just to get internet. (It was just the broadcast stations via cable.)
posted by gnutron at 9:58 AM on September 27, 2011


Internet is AT&T but that sucks, too. Might be worth investigating the bundled service, i suppose but I watch so little tv that it just irritates me to have to pay for the service.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 10:12 AM on September 27, 2011


It is nearly impossible for me to get NBC via antenna here in the East Bay.

Your mileage may vary. I get it just fine near the Oakland-Berkeley border.
posted by madcaptenor at 10:17 AM on September 27, 2011


Who provides your internet? Back when I had Comcast, it was actually cheaper to get an internet/super-basic cable bundle than it was to just to get internet. (It was just the broadcast stations via cable.)

This is exactly our experience as well, also in the east bay.
posted by tremspeed at 11:03 AM on September 27, 2011


You could try asking this question in the AVSForum San Francisco OTA thread. They know their stuff there.
posted by zsazsa at 11:04 AM on September 27, 2011


Internet is AT&T but that sucks, too

Unless it's changed in the past few years, basic cable TV is always present for cable Internet customers. Try a splitter.
posted by rhizome at 11:08 AM on September 27, 2011


Lots of cable companies don't send out analog signals at all anymore, so the old "plug it in and hope that they forgot to turn off the signal" trick doesn't work anymore. You might be able to get unscrambled QAM but that will require a new-ish TV and can be a pain.
posted by The Lamplighter at 11:44 AM on September 27, 2011


My understanding may be from before the DTV changeover, but it was not so much that they forgot to turn off the signal than that there was really no way to distinguish between cable internet and cable TV for filtering purposes.
posted by rhizome at 2:14 PM on September 27, 2011


DIY HTDV antenna, the sort of thing that other MeFites speak of highly.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:42 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


That won't help. It's not really an HDTV antenna; there's not really such a thing as an HDTV antenna. It's a UHF fan dipole antenna and the station the OP needs help with is VHF. (I made and am using a coat hanger antenna like that; I'm in the East Bay and don't get KNTV.)
posted by Zed at 3:56 PM on September 27, 2011 [1 favorite]


Zed, thanks for the clarification! Sorry for parroting this unhelpful suggestion.
posted by filthy light thief at 4:06 PM on September 27, 2011


Yes, people do still use outdoor/on the roof antennas. One of these from radio shack might be a cheap quick fix for you. You might even get KNTV.
posted by snsranch at 4:29 PM on September 27, 2011


So there's no signal coming from the cable (not that we would have stolen the signal, I was just checking, I swear!). Basic limited Comcast cable is $23 and they want an additional $47 for internet service whereas our AT&T internet is only $30/month so there's no real reason to switch internet service. We just need to decide if $23/month is worth it to watch Dancing With the Stars and Glee.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 8:51 PM on September 27, 2011


Oh, do you have DSL through AT&T or something? If so, yeah, that wouldn't work.
posted by rhizome at 9:04 PM on September 27, 2011


Local ISP Sonic.net is contemplating offering streaming local TV service for a small fee. If they launch that, you may want to switch your DSL service over to them. (You may want to switch anyway, since their service is excellent.)
posted by zsazsa at 10:11 AM on September 28, 2011 [1 favorite]


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