I am ditching cable -- rabbit ear suggestions?
November 23, 2006 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I am seriously considering ditching cable but I need some help/advice...

Right now I am spending about $100 a month on cable and internet. But I can pick up free wi-fi from the hotel I live next door to (it's not password protected and the signal is strong) and I barely watch TV as is.

So I am planning on cancelling both services (they are bundled). I have gone without cable before but I do want to purchase a set of "rabbit ears" so I can get local news, etc.

What's the difference between amplifed and passive indoor TV antennas?

Which is better for someone with a regular colour TV (not HDTV) living in a downtown urban area with lots of tall buildings?

Also does anyone have any recommendations (links would be great) of "rabbit ears" that peform particularly well? (I don't want to spend alot)

If it matters, I am in Winnipeg, Canada.

thanks in advance.
posted by ninefour to Home & Garden (17 answers total)
Living in Calgary, using bunny ears, the only channel that comes through is CBC. And any given $20 - $40 set of bunny ears from Circuit City will make that particular channel come through bright and shiny.
posted by Milkman Dan at 8:37 AM on November 23, 2006

*Sticks head out window, waves*

I use the craptastic bunny ears that came with my television, and get all the channels.

Picture quality varies and occasionally some adjusting is needed, but CBC and CTV's signals (I don't think A-Channel/CITY even has local news anymore, pathetic) are usually decent to very good.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:00 AM on November 23, 2006

I've never had cable, and years ago I bought a relatively pricey antenna so I could watch a little TV occasionally. It was a lot like this one. I was very pleased with it -- I got about 7-9 channels pretty clearly (in the Boston area). Well, one day, I lent it to someone else and then realized there was a show I'd meant to see, and all I had was a cheapo thing that just looked like a length of wire with a connector on the end of it. (I think it had come with my radio). I hooked it up, and lo and behold, same exact amount of reception on the same exact channels. So, unless others' experience varies, go the cheap route.
posted by daisyace at 9:41 AM on November 23, 2006

Always good to see Winnipegers on here. I don't have directly relevant advice, but I can tell you that Shaw will cut your prices drastically at the merest suggestion that you're going to MTS for TV. You should be able to get your monthly bill reduced by at least $20-$30 just by calling them up and saying you're thinking about switching your TV and Internet away. If that influences your serious consideration to ditch cable, there you go.
posted by pocams at 9:41 AM on November 23, 2006

Similar to daisyace ... last winter I wanted to watch the Olympic hockey games at work, where there was a small tv but no cable or rabbit ears. I found a big loop of wire that a colleague uses to hang pictures for display. I stuck one end of it in the antenna input on the TV and got better reception than I've ever got with rabbit ears. CBC and CTV were both very clear (I'm in Ottawa) and I think a few other channels were available. The loop was about a foot across and about 25-30 loops of wire.

You don't say, but I'm assuming you're not in a basement apartment. We have our tv at home in the basement and even amplified rabbit ears had a hard time getting a decent picture ... eventually we switched to satellite.
posted by valleys at 10:07 AM on November 23, 2006

thanks everyone for the advice.. and yes -- go Winnipeg :)

pocams, I think I will try your "I'm switching to MTS suggestion," as I have heard that from several other people as well.

Ideally though, I would like to give up the bill completely... so I appreciate the rabbit ears advice.
posted by ninefour at 10:14 AM on November 23, 2006

Annecdote: We had a cheap TV with a coax jack on the back. Through experimenting, I was able to discover that if I stuck a fork in the coax jack (one tine in the hole, one on the outside threads) I could get most TV stations pretty clear. For added reception, jam an empty pop can on the fork. That was in Edmonton.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:48 AM on November 23, 2006

I can't give you any advice about various antennas, but I will say that these days, most of the TV show on broadcast channels are streamed for free almost immediately after their air time, so you can always watch things online.

As for news, you're better off without TV news (at least in the states). I opt for NPR. And again you can listen to radio streams on line.

And finally, with premium cable shows. I just wait for them to come out on DVD. I'm a patient person.
posted by brookeb at 10:53 AM on November 23, 2006

There's another approach, although some question it's morality and legality.

Most (all?) current TV shows are available online via torrents within minutes of the show being over. Another possibility for you.
posted by aeighty at 11:59 AM on November 23, 2006

Yay winnipeggers!

I just moved into a new apartment in Winnipeg and got cable internet and tv installed. During the installation, the guy discovered that we had a cable hook up to a roof antenna to get "farmer vision". He also told me that within a few years, there will no longer be TV broadcast over the air and farmer vision will be a thing of the past :/ I can't back this up with any links so this is just heresay.

Assuming this is true... go cheap.
posted by utsutsu at 1:48 PM on November 23, 2006

I don't think you'd want to be downloading torrents on a "borrowed" wifi connection.
posted by sleslie at 2:10 PM on November 23, 2006

why would you not want to download torrents on a borrowed wifi connection out of curiousity?

do u think it would bog down their network so much that they would notice?
posted by ninefour at 2:48 PM on November 23, 2006

The cable TV wire in your building may act as a better antenna than a pair of rabbit ears. After you cancel service try keepingthe cable connected anyway. They may be slow in actually getting a service man to your box too....
posted by pgoes at 3:01 PM on November 23, 2006

Pgoes has the right idea; an amplified antenna is really useless if you live in an urban center. Generally your issues will be with multi-path interference, not a lack of signal, so amplifying a bunch of contradictory signals doesn't end up helping.
posted by nomisxid at 5:44 PM on November 23, 2006

I've lived in 3 different apartments where I just plugged the cable into the TV and had a whole lot of channels for free. I usually got most of the regular cable channels,but not the premium ones (HBO, etc.) I think in a multi-apartment building, there is a lot of leakover.

I am hooked into the rooftop antenna of my apartment building now, and get about 20 different channels, reception is very good most of the time. Much better reception than my last apartment about 1km away where I used rabbit ears. It has a coaxial cable coming into the livingroom wall just like cable would.

Both worth a try.
posted by Cranialtorque at 7:49 PM on November 23, 2006

I live in a house, in the suburbs of Houston. I use an this antenna. Without the antenna, I don't even get interesting snow - I get no sound and no picture. With the antenna, I get 15 channels (all the public channels). The picture and sound is really clear, and I don't have to wiggle the rabbit ears around except for one channel. And, since I have a TV with a tube (not a flat screen), I rest the antenna on the back part, so it isn't even visible.

As a side note, I am so glad you asked this question, because I don't know anyone else using an antenna - I thought I was the only one! (Yes, really!)
posted by Houstonian at 9:45 PM on November 23, 2006

I think the real key is avoiding obstructions. Get it outside, get it high, stuff like that. The benefits of actual rabbit ears are that they are designed to be easily adjusted, for direction and length. However, there is no substantial difference between one set of rabbit ears and another, so get something at a garage sale for $.50 or a surplus store for $5.00, don't go spending $35.00 in a mall.

Here is a pretty interesting article on receiving over the air TV in Toronto. Sure, it isn't Winnipeg, but we are the centre of the universe!

What's the difference between amplified and passive indoor TV antennas?

An amplifier reduces the effect of downstream noise. So, if the antenna is sitting right next to (or on top of) the TV, an amplifier won't do much (might even be worse than without). If you have a long run between antenna and TV, an amplifier at the antenna end could be helpful.

Also, there are some previous questions about using antennas to receive TV:
Ditching DirecTV for Broadcast?
November 14, 2006 10:04 PM

What do I need to know to plug my TV into my neighbour's antenna?
July 25, 2006 7:39 AM

How do I save money on television?
February 28, 2006 6:42 PM

Broadcast HDTV reception problems
February 15, 2006 12:28 PM

Where do you get those TV antenna towers
February 10, 2006 4:25 PM

How to pick an HDTV antenna?
December 6, 2005 1:43 PM

Western Canadian TV delivery
May 23, 2005 1:30 PM
posted by Chuckles at 4:23 PM on November 25, 2006

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