Considering an alternative to cable? Check out our picks for the best outdoor TV antennas

Trey Paul

Jun 26, 2020 — 4 min read

Today’s powerful TV antennas are eons beyond the old rabbit ears and tin foil creations of previous generations.

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Want to cut the cord, but still maintain some TV service? Getting rid of your cable doesn’t have to mean scrapping TV altogether. According to eMarketer research and forecasting, the number of households ditching cable has nearly doubled in just the last five years. A projected 44.3 million households will have cut cable by the end of 2020, up from 23.6 million in 2015. But how are all these families still able to watch TV? 

Besides the typical streaming subscriptions, one of the other excellent options out there is an outdoor TV antenna. Depending on your area and type of outdoor antenna, you can access over 100 TV channels — all for free. We’ll show you what type of antenna you need and help you find the best outdoor antennas on the market.

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What is an outdoor TV antenna?

What exactly is a long-range outdoor TV antenna and how does it work? Let’s start with the basics. Broadcast television stations — like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, PBS, The CW and others — transmit signals over the air (OTA) that contain their programming. A TV antenna receives that signal and converts it into the sound and picture displayed on your television. 

TV antennas can be either directional or omnidirectional. Directional antennas tend to pick up signals from greater distances, but only if they’re pointing in line with the broadcasting tower. 

On the other hand, omnidirectional antennas can pick up signals from various angles, but from shorter distances. Either way, with an OTA TV antenna, you can watch a number of local television stations for free. 

We know what you’re thinking, “Free is for me! What else do I need?” There are several different options for outdoor antennas, so you want to make sure you consider the features and price point you need before purchasing an outdoor antenna. Here’s some antenna pros and cons to add to your checklist.

Pros and cons of an outdoor antenna

Pros

  • No monthly cable bills or subscription fees for satellite service. Plus, no annual contract to sign or increased fees in your future means more money in your pocket and less stress on your budget.
  • Expect a high-quality picture. Typically you’ll get an improved picture with your antenna over what you would get with cable or satellite. Those signals are compressed in order to be transmitted via cable into your home. But OTA signals are uncompressed, so you should experience better picture and sound.
  • Forget about clunky contraptions on your roof. Today’s powerful outdoor TV antennas can be as small as a satellite dish, making them compliant with pesky HOA guidelines or apartment complex rules.

Cons

  • Assembly and roof installation can be a burden. Whereas satellite companies have skilled installers on call, you’ll need to find someone to install your outdoor TV antenna … and trust they know what they’re doing.
  • Trial and error. The success of the outdoor TV antenna can depend on where you live. Your proximity to the broadcast towers may determine what type of outdoor TV antenna will best suit your needs. Enter your ZIP code on AntennaWeb to get a sense of what’s available near you.
  • You find you can’t do without some pay-TV channels. Do you feel you’re missing out on your favorite Food Network cooking shows? Are you hooked on ESPN? If you feel withdrawal from channels you used to get with your cable subscription, look into streaming services to get access to the shows most important to you.

What else to consider when purchasing an outdoor antenna

Because you’ll be dependent on TV stations’ OTA signals, you’ll be vulnerable to anything that could get in the way of receiving those transmissions. Signal-blocking obstructions can include:

  • trees, hills or valleys
  • tall buildings
  • building materials such as metal 
  • power lines
  • cell towers
  • inclement weather

So, while there are indoor antennas available, an outdoor TV antenna placed up high with an unobstructed view will give you a better opportunity for an unobstructed signal. This increases the number of stations you may be able to receive, not to mention a potentially clearer picture from a less impeded signal.

Best outdoor TV antennas

As we mentioned earlier, the best antenna for someone living just outside a major metro might not be great for people in more rural areas of the country. There’s a bit of art to go with the science of finding the right outdoor TV antenna for you. Ready to make a purchase? Here are the best outdoor TV antennas for every taste.

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Convinced of the benefits of using an outdoor TV antenna? Thinking about what streaming devices to consider now that you’ve said goodbye to cable? Look to our Resource Center for all your needs and stay connected with our experts on Facebook and Twitter.

Trey Paul

Written by:

Trey Paul

Editor, Head of Content

Trey is an editor for our Allconnect team who has been creating and editing content for 20 years, working with clients like Yahoo!, Google, The New York Times and Choice Hotels. Before th… Read more