Antenna Couple

How Cord Cutters Can Distribute Over-the-Air TV Signals to Multiple TVs

Today’s post is a guest post from the great team over at TabloTV.com. Laura Slater is one of the cord cutting experts at TabloTV.com and has been blissfully cable-free since 2010. She enjoys sharing the money saving tips and tricks she’s learned to help others join the cord cutting revolution.

If you’re considering adding an Over-the-Air antenna your cord cutting setup, one of the biggest questions you might have is a logistical one. Do you need to buy an antenna for every TV set? Or is there a way to distribute OTA TV signals from a single antenna to multiple screens throughout the home?

Before you go to Costco or Sam’s Club to look for a ‘family pack’ of TV antennas, let’s review the other options for distributing Over-the-Air TV signals including re-using existing infrastructure or using your home network.

Keep reading for the pros and cons of each option…

OPTION 1 – Buy Multiple Antennas
While you can buy an Over-the-Air TV antenna for each TV, it’s far from the best choice. Not only will the costs multiply for each television in your home, but you’re unlikely to get optimal reception since most TVs aren’t in an ideal location for antenna placement.

PROS:

  • Um… *shrug*

CONS:

  • Cost multiplies for each connected TV
  • Most TVs are not located in the best location for Over-the-Air TV reception
  • Signal quality and therefore channel availability can vary between TVs
  • Not the most aesthetically pleasing choice
  • Not recommended for cord cutters living more than 35 miles from local broadcast towers

OPTION 2 – Distribute via Coaxial Cable
If your home had satellite TV or even cable TV service in the past, there may already be coaxial cable running from a main distribution point to several rooms in your home. Some former satellite subscribers have had luck removing their old dish from its mast and placing and connecting a single outdoor antenna in its place. Unfortunately, that often entails a ladder and a trip to the roof.

PROS:

  • Requires only 1 OTA antenna
  • Allows for optimal antenna placement
  • Simple and cost-effective if the coaxial cabling infrastructure already exists
  • Distributes live TV signal to multiple screens with zero lag
  • With strong signals and properly installed equipment, 4-8 televisions can access live TV at the same time

CONS

  • Not ideal for use with indoor antennas
  • Each split in the cabling and long runs (100+ feet) will reduce the overall signal strength
    (Adding a distribution amplifier and plugging any unused endpoints with ‘terminat ors’ is recommended to avoid pixelization or signal loss.)
  • Existing coax may be damaged
  • Won’t work with new ‘tunerless’ television displays from companies like Vizio
  • DIYing an outdoor antenna and cabling installation could be beyond the skills or physical ability of some homeowners
  • Exposed coaxial cable can be unsightly
  • Professional installation of a new antenna, cabling, and required accessories can cost $300-$800 USD

TIP – To find a professional Over-the-Air antenna installer in your area, Google ‘TV antenna installer + your location’.

OPTION 3 – Distribute via Ethernet or WiFi
For those using indoor antennas or hoping to avoid running coaxial cable throughout the house, there is a technology-based solution. Network-based Over-the-Air tuners and DVRs like Tablo connect to your antenna and distribute its signals over your home network via WiFi or Ethernet.

PROS:

  • Requires only 1 OTA antenna
  • Cost effective – network-based tuners and DVRs can be purchased for as little as $100 USD
  • Can be used with both indoor and outdoor antennas
  • Simple installation requires no power tools or trips to the roof
  • Allows for optimal antenna placement and eliminates the need for long cabling runs
  • Uses your existing home WiFi network versus unsightly coaxial cable
  • Provides a consistent signal strength and experience across all connected screens
  • Allows access to OTA TV via mobile and streaming TV devices for a more seamless cord cutting experience
  • Can provide an enhanced experience via on-screen TV guides and recording functionality
  • Enables viewing of antenna TV on ‘tunerless’ television displays from companies like Vizio via streaming TV devices
  • Some network-based tuners enable viewing away from home via WiFi or cellular connections

CONS:

  • Will cause some lag versus live TV delivered via direct antenna connection
  • Requires a strong home WiFi network to avoid buffering
  • May require the purchase of additional streaming TV devices to connect older televisions to the home network or a hard drive for DVR storage
  • Requires basic technology and home networking skills
  • Network-based devices with multiple tuners can reduce overall signal strength
  • Number of concurrent live TV streams is limited to the number of tuners on the network-based device (usually 2 or 4)

As you can see, there are several ways to access Over-the-Air TV on multiple televisions inside your home.

Option 1 should only be considered by urban cord cutters with 2 or fewer televisions that are located on a main or upper floor near a window or patio door.

If you have existing infrastructure to reuse, no home WiFi network, or are willing to DIY or professionally install an outdoor antenna, distributing Over-the-Air TV via coaxial cable is likely the best choice.

If you use an indoor antenna, have basic technical and home networking skills, and already use streaming TV devices like Roku, Amazon Fire TV, or Apple TV, network-based Over-the-Air TV distribution is for you.

Already distribute antenna signals throughout your home? Tell us which approach you use!

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