Last year, I wrote a post illustrating that while most people spend a lot of money on cable or satellite TV, the most popular shows are broadcast over-the-air (OTA) for free.
That is still true today as indicated by last week’s ratings. The top 10 over-the-air shows each had over 13 million viewers, while the most watched cable program (Nickelodeon’s 2009 Kids’ Choice Awards) had less than 8 million viewers:
The Best Shows
To be fair, I should point out that the most popular shows are not necessarily the best shows. I was surprised my favorite program, 24, did not make the Top 10.
In my opinion, 24, which is broadcast for free over-the-air on FOX, is the best show airing today by far. While it is mostly a hi-tech show, there was an episode recently that featured a low-tech technique. When the White House was under siege, the president’s daughter attempted to signal the FBI outside using Morse code with a flashlight. Unfortunately, she was stopped before the message could be fully transmitted.
I just started watching 24 this season. Unlike Lost, a show that does not make any sense as far as I can tell, 24 is easy to catch up with and jump right into. Each episode begins with previous scenes setting up the current week’s episode. The action-packed plots are outrageous, but in a good way. The exciting far-fetched storylines remind me of Clive Cussler books.
The ongoing conversion to digital television is another reason to switch to free TV. New televisions or converter boxes include Info or EPG (electronic program guide) buttons that provide program information and/or schedules similar to what can be seen with cable and satellite paid subscription services.
Additionally, there are now many more channels available via free, over-the-air television. While some friends used to like to joke about how I only got a handful of stations, I now receive 48 digital stations free of charge.
There is some duplication of channels in different markets, but that sometimes offers more viewing flexibility. For example, Baltimore NBC 11 shows Ellen at 3:00p, whereas DC NBC 4 broadcasts Ellen at 2:00p.
I also now get extra PBS channels (4 WETA channels + 3 MPT channels), International channels (10 MHz Worldview channels), several weather channels, a couple cartoon channels, a couple classic TV channels (Retro Television Network and ThisTV nostalgia network), and NBC’s Universal Sports channel.
The cable companies and FIOS companies have been spending a lot of money on advertisements competing for subscribers. They may need to worry less about each other and more about free TV. Free digital television should appeal to many people, especially during a severe recession.
Yahoo.com has a good television listing site which you can customize to see what is airing on free OTA channels in your area. 08/19 Update: I’ve found this antenna from Terk to be a great antenna for DTV:by