“I was just kind of surprised that this is technology that exists,” says Mr. Sisco, 28 years old. “It’s been awesome. It doesn’t log out and it doesn’t skip.”
Let’s hear a round of applause for TV antennas, often called “rabbit ears,” a technology invented roughly seven decades ago, long before there was even a cord to be cut, which had been consigned to the technology trash can along with cassette tapes and VCRs.
The antenna is mounting a quiet comeback, propelled by a generation that never knew life before cable television, and who primarily watch Netflix , Hulu and HBO via the internet. Antenna sales in the U.S. are projected to rise 7% in 2017 to nearly 8 million units, according to the Consumer Technology Association, a trade group.
Mr. Sisco, an M.B.A. student in Provo, Utah, made his discovery after inviting friends over to watch the Super Bowl in 2014. The online stream he found to watch the game didn’t have regular commercials—disappointing half of his guests who were only interested in the ads.
“An antenna was not even on my radar,” he says. He went online and discovered he could buy one for $20 and watch major networks like ABC, NBC, Fox and CBS free.
There is typically no need to climb on a rooftop. While some indoor antennas still look like old-fashioned rabbit ears, many modern antennas are thin sheets that can be hidden behind a flat TV or hung like a picture frame.
But many consumers still aren’t getting the signal.
Carlos Villalobos, 21, who was selling tube-shaped digital antennas at a swap meet in San Diego recently, says customers often ask if his $20 to $25 products are legal. “They don’t trust me when I say that these are actually free local channels,” he says.
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This is no different than older people not knowing how to use a cell phone. Many younger people never grew up in a time where antennas like that were common. They had cable or plugged directly into the wall before the digital switch over. Even now a typical antenna won't work. It has to be one of the new digital antennas which aren't very common or advertised much anymore.
probably fewer people realize that this sort of thing exists too
Every single one of those small indoor antenna things I've tried has never worked. Last one got me exactly one channel with a clear picture and it was choppier than streaming netflix on dial up. I could watch a bunch of blurry spanish channels, though.
Antennas work best when they have a direct line of sight to the tower.
Digital antennas f***ing blow if you don't live in the right place. Before they did away with analog broadcasting, I could get all my channels in a fuzzy but consistently watchable quality. With the digital antennas, if the signal dips low enough, the signal cuts out altogether or even worse, does this godawful stutter that's 100x worse than a CD skipping. Even high quality antennas mounted on the roof didn't do jack s***. Had a basic cable package for years because it was just easier for my dad to watch his shows than f***ing with one of those dumbass antennas.