Hello, rabbit ears! Americans give free antenna TV a new look

In telling the Los Angeles Timesthat his sales are going "through the roof," Richard Schneider might make cable TV providers hit the roof.

That's because Schneider's company makes antennas to watch television the old-fashioned way -- for free over the airwaves.

Schneider's St. Louis-based Antennas Direct cranks out 100,000 antennas every month, adding to the ranks of the 13 million American households that already watch over-the-air TV, the Nielsen survey company said in the Times article. In Southern California alone, at least 30,000 households returned to antenna viewing in the last year, and the trend will likely continue nationwide as the recession hangover lingers, according to the story.

How about that? At the dawning of another tech-muscled decade, a Rockwell portrait of throwback domesticity is emerging: the family gathered in front of the TV with rabbit ears on top!

Dozens of channels are available and the picture is surprisingly clear, the story said. And did we mention it's FREE?

Nancy Lam paid a dollar for rabbit ears at the 99-cent store, then bid goodbye to her cable bill. Her family gets all the English and Chinese programming they need. "Now we have it forever, instead of paying every single month," she said in the story.

Mike Mahan put two antennas in his attic and attached a device that can tape shows directly off one of the antennas. "I just got tired of paying for hundreds of channels I don't watch," he told the Times.

Of course cable companies were dismissive in the article, saying that airwave transmission is not as reliable. One Time Warner spokesman said that digital is more sensitive than analog, so obstacles like hills and high-rises can be more disruptive.

Hey, cable companies, writing you a monthly check for $60 for more can also create static for families on a budget.

The Times also included tips for buying and using an antenna, and we've gleaned the important points for you:
  • First check which channels you can get by entering your zip code at rabbitears.info.
  • When buying your antenna (from $1 for indoors to $200 for outdoors), you might need to sample a few to get the right one.
  • Consider a plug-in antenna booster to enhance the signal.
  • In placing your antenna, the old rules apply. Rooftop works best but indoor antennas can work just fine. It all depends on terrain and whether there is severe weather or other interference around.
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