TV no cable
December 28, 2017 3:07 PM   Subscribe

Helping parents move. They watch TV like, once a week (dad watches the game, very rarely something else). Is it still possible to just get local TV service without cable?

I am going to ditch their giant TV/VCR/DVD player. I would like to just get them a small, wall mounted flat screen for their new very small apartment. Do I need to get anything else or will they be able to receive local channels as they do now?

They live in Sacramento, CA and are moving nearby in the same city.

FWIW, I found an oldish (90s?) Radio Shack TV-top antenna in the closet. Could this help?
posted by latkes to Technology (7 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Old Radio Shack antenna will help, but you'll probably be better off with one of these (and they're not that expensive).
posted by supercres at 3:10 PM on December 28, 2017 [3 favorites]

Put in the address of their new place on this website and it'll predict the channels you get and which direction to face the antenna.
posted by bluecore at 3:14 PM on December 28, 2017 [5 favorites]

I have this. I previously had an old-style traditional looking antenna that was pretty finicky about direction and wouldn't work well if it was raining. This new flat digital antenna is taped up to my wall, hardly visible, and works great.
posted by basalganglia at 3:15 PM on December 28, 2017

An antenna will definitely help with reception, and when we did this for my grandma, the local Best Buy was helpful in selecting the correct one for her area (and offered to exchange it if it wasn't picking things up correctly, although that was not necessary). It definitely helps to mount it higher on the wall versus just setting it on top of the TV (or at least it did in our case), so that is also something to try if you're not happy with the reception initially.

You can also look into whether there is a local cable company that will do local channels only -- my parents did this for several years, and it was super inexpensive bundled with their phone and internet. Of course, some places will only have Comcast or another big company, but it's worth looking into whether a local option exists that might do this.

That said, I'm not clear if by "the game" you mean your dad follows a specific sports team? If so, cable may be necessary if these games only air on ESPN or some other non-local channel on a regular basis. My sense is that sports is the one remaining area where the cable cord-cutting options are not very good. I would check what channels he is using now and use that as a guide as to whether getting rid of cable is practical.
posted by rainbowbrite at 3:24 PM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Here's another channel locator. Highlight colors indicate whether the channel can probably be picked up with a set-top (green), or it requires an attic-mounted (yellow) or roof-mounted (red) antenna.
posted by davcoo at 3:49 PM on December 28, 2017

Response by poster: OK great - all best answers! Thank you! I found that second channel locator especially easy to use. Looks like they'll get all the major networks. I will try the antennae they have and if not ask my local electronics store to recommend another or use the one recommended above.

Dad is used to having no cable and just watching the available games. He goes to the local pub for stuff he can't receive at home.

Checking another item off the move list; thanks metafilter!
posted by latkes at 4:02 PM on December 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Note that all of the broadcast towers in Sacramento are south of Elk Grove, so they're 20+ miles for anyone near the central city , and further if you're north of the city. If your parents are in Citrus Heights, Roseville, Rocklin, etc., they may have trouble getting channels with an indoor antenna.

Sometimes mounting on a window helps, but note that some windows have a transparent foil coating that blocks the signal. My experience is that plaster walls also block signal. You will likely have to move the antenna around the room (high on the wall) or around the house to get a good signal, while testing the common channels. PBS (KVIE) in particular is often hard to get.

You may have to resort to either mounting the antenna in the attic or using an external antenna. For an external antenna, if they've ever had DirecTV or Dish, you can use the same pole and cable. Use a compass app on your smartphone to point the external antenna the right direction.
posted by cnc at 8:53 AM on December 29, 2017

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