Why do people pay for local channels when you can get them for free with an antenna?

I do not live in the US and am mostly just curious so this might very well be a very stupid question.

As far as I have understood, ‘locals’ refer to local affiliate channels that air local content as well as nationally scheduled content from the OTA networks like ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

Though, it seems like a lot of people care about either getting locals through cable or streaming. Now, I might just be an ignorant foreigner but I am curious. Why do people decide which live TV service to choose based on the locals.

Are the local channels not easily available everywhere because of bad antenna reception perhaps, or do people simply like to have all of their live channels under one roof.

If this is in fact a stupid question, feel free to laugh a bit at my idiocy and continue scrolling.

10 Replies to “Why do people pay for local channels when you can get them for free with an antenna?”

  1. >Are the local channels not easily available everywhere because of bad antenna reception

    Yes. The United States is very large and there are whole areas where no signals can be picked up. Worse, for some of those people who can get signals if they were to mount a large outdoor antenna it is simply unfeasible to fight against the many local restrictions on such antennas by city, HOA, etc regulations–no matter that it is illegal to prohibit such, it is too expensive to fight.

    >do people simply like to have all of their live channels under one roof.

    Yes. Most people are coming from cable and or satellite television and are used to having one common interface for all the television and of those many are older adults who simply do not like change and do not like the apps paradigm instead of a television guide or the ability to click through channels, surfing what is available.

  2. I’m lucky enough to live in an area with good reception — when the weather permits.

    Digital terrestrial television has encouraged a habit of multiplexing 3 to 5 standard definition channels on the same frequency, which grossly impairs the error correction built into MPEG-2 and makes some or all the subchannels unwatchable if the air is heavy with rain or snow.

    Your reception may be on the fritz frequently, unexpectedly, and for days on end, so many people look for ways to receive their local stations over broadband, which is hardwired in most cases and not subject to atmospheric conditions.

  3. Because it is just easier. If you want sports you need a streaming service for ESPN and other channels anyway. And a DVR for the local channels. The streaming service that one would pay for anyway has the local channels, DVR, and sports/news channels all in one.

  4. There are many situations. But I have noticed that if an outdoor antenna is needed some folks will either see if they can get someone to install it or just say they don’t have good reception with their indoor antenna, others will go attic mounted but then complain about reception. Also hills and mountains play a role, you might have a tower close but a hill in between. The east got the appalachians the west got bigger ones, that dosent help. Also the mid west is severely under populated outside big cities so no or very few towers are outside cities. So basically geography demographics and laziness play a role.

  5. I live between 2 hills and get very poor reception. When I lived on a floodplain I could pick up numerous channels even though the antennas were 50 miles away.

    I’d go back to an antenna in a flash if it could work.

  6. I live in a large city, but live next to the city’s elevated train and the signal freezes and scrambles every time a train goes by. During rush hour there was no point to turning on the TV, since trains run every few minutes.

  7. Because I can’t get them with an antenna. Lol. But, thanks to Locast, I can now get them somewhat “free”…$5.50 monthly “donation” lol
    My house is about 60 miles from the local broadcast antennas. Due to terrain (hills, trees, etc.), even a great outdoor roof-mounted antenna likely wouldn’t give me the channels I want to see clearly. And it’s not worth the expense & effort, when I can get those channels for a relatively low cost. Internet, on the other hand…I hope for the day to have options for reasonably priced internet!

  8. Not a bad question. I was amazed to discover in the UK that there is one big tower that transmits everything in one digital mux in each area. Here, each station is independent, and has an individual transmitter….now, the US, being huge, has every kind of area. Lots of folks are behind hills….or just too far away. Others are not allowed to put antennas on common areas or rental homes. I don’t get folks who have the ability but the concept of paying $200 once for antenna and hardware (for a real outdoor antenna, not those joke indoor ones) confuses them when they pay that much every month to a cable co. In europe it is easy to find a guy to put up the antenna, and everyone pretty much uses the same design. In the states, local stores that puts up TV antennas are rare, and most died out in the 70’s, when cable tv began to penetrate…and in the beginning, you suddenly got a great picture and a dozen new channels, most of which weren’t ad-heavy. Toss in a no ads movie channel or three and you were doing great in the pre internet – VHS era. Cable didn’t suck when it began-it was actually very cool.

  9. Keep in mind the US of A is really big, many US states are bigger than a lot of countries and there are lots of dead zones for antenna. That’s part of why lots of people get cable.

    That said, I know lots of people who pay for service so they have locals while we have great reception in this area (Detroit-ish area, Michigan).

    I have a DVR so I can time shift anything local and basically any other channels on-line that I might do with streaming it seems I can stream at anytime so I don’t need a DVR for that.

  10. I think it’s all of the above and then some. Some of it is just that we haven’t used OTA antennas for decades and now we’re intimidated by them. Many people have never used an OTA antenna before. The thing is that once you figure them out, it’s well worth the trouble.

    Here are a few of my personal reasons:

    1. I didn’t want to switch between tuners for the OTA signal. Smart TVS, and some DVRs, insert the signal in their guide, which eliminates this problem. I also don’t mind switching tuners now because everything is CEC HDMI, so it just requires hitting one button on the remote, whereas before I had to go through a menu with my terrible TV remote.

    2. Similarly, the channel guide was terrible on my TV, but this is also fixed by the devices I mentioned above.

    3. I mostly watch recordings, so I needed a DVR for OTA, but it’s well worth the money.

    Having an OTA antenna also freed me from needing a service that offers locals, like you said. This opens more options to save money. Plus, OTA channels have a better picture and you can skip commercials, so you get the best of everything for a monthly cost of nothing.

    I’m sure there are some people who truly can’t get the signals, because they live too far away from the towers, but I imagine many who believe that just haven’t found the right solution, yet, to receive OTA channels with an antenna.

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