Q. I am outraged that I can no longer watch my channel 9 on DIRECTV. Is there anyway to keep watching it during this nonsense? — Bonnie, Arlington, Virginia.
Bonnie, as you know, Tegna, which owns WUSA-TV (your channel 9, a CBS affiliate) and roughly 60 other local TV stations last night pulled its signals from all AT&T-owned TV services because they could not reach a new carriage agreement. This includes DIRECTV, U-verse, AT&T TV Now, and AT&T TV.
It’s unclear how long the blackout will last. Both sides publicly say they are committed to reaching a settlement.
But carriage disputes sometimes last several weeks or more so you might want to consider these alternatives to watching your local channels via DIRECTV or any other pay TV provider.
1. TV Antenna
There are definitely some pros and cons to getting an indoor or outdoor antenna so allow me to offer a few here so you can determine whether this alternative will work for you.
Pro: Free Local Channels
Yes, your local channels (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, Univision, etc.) are available via a TV antenna, and they are free. Not only that, they can deliver a better HD picture over an antenna compared to cable or satellite. The latter tend to compress the signals of local (and all) channels, which tends to dilute the picture quality. The TV providers do this for several reasons, including creating more system room to deliver more channels. The signal your antenna receives directly from the local channel is purer (layman’s term, folks and therefore a better one.
Pro: Antennas Are Not Expensive
The TV antenna, whether it’s indoor or outdoor, costs less than $100 with many indoor models well under $30. With local channels free, that’s a great deal for consumers looking to cut expenses. (Note: The outdoor antenna can normally pick up more channels than the indoor one. But indoor antennas are becoming more efficient every year with new models and new technology.)
Con: The Antenna May Not Work at Your Location
Before you run off to buy an antenna (and drop your cable or satellite service), you need to know that depending upon the location of your home, your antenna may not be able to pick up the signals of all your local channels. You may live too far away from the channel’s tower to get a decent signal, or you could have a major obstacle in the signal’s path, such as a high-rise office building or mountain.
Pro: The Technology Is Improving
As noted earlier, in the last few years, the antenna companies have done a great job of beefing up their products, offering indoor antennas that can pick up signals as far away as 75 miles. Yes, indoor antennas. If you had a bad experience with an antenna several years ago, you might be pleasantly surprised at how far they have come.
Locast is a free service that delivers local channels over the Internet in 25 markets, which represents roughly 45.6 percent of U.S. population. The markets include: Atlanta, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Detroit, Chicago, Houston, Dallas, West Palm Beach, Sioux Falls, Sioux City, Tampa, Denver, Scranton, Los Angeles, Rapid City, San Francisco, Miami, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Puerto Rico, Seattle, and Baltimore and Washington, D.C. Bonnie, your local channels would be available in the Baltimore or Washington markets.
You download the Locast app on a computer, tablet or Smart TV device such as Roku, provide a name and e-mail address, and suddenly you are watching all your local channels. I can’t vouch for the reliability of the signals. I have used Locast a few times and found it to be a bit inconsistent. But it’s free so you can’t beat that.
3. Web site
Many local stations offer their news programs live and for free at their web sites. (WUSA-TV is one that does.) While this doesn’t permit you to watch the station’s primetime lineup, you can keep up with its newscasts.
4. News On
If you have trouble with the web site, News On is a streaming app that also offers local newscasts, both live and on demand. You can learn more about it here at NewsOn.
5. CBS All Access
CBS sells a streaming service called CBS All Access for $5.99 a month that includes a live feed of your local CBS channel as well as on demand programming from the network. Unfortunately, the other networks (Fox, NBC and ABC) do not have similar services, but if you are missing the local CBS station due to the dispute, this is a relatively inexpensive alternative. (And there is a seven-day free trial so if the companies settle within a week, you wouldn’t have to pay a dime.)
Bonnie, hope that helps. Happy viewing, and stay safe!
Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first name and hometown in your message.
— Phillip Swann