By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man –@tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, the blackout of the Disney channels on Spectrum TV has us considering cutting the cord. My cousin did it and he says it’s a doable thing. Our question for you is if we get an antenna, would that allow us to watch our missing channels? We don’t have ABC and ESPN and some of the kids’ channels. — Betty, Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Betty, Charter’s Spectrum TV lost 26 Disney-owned channels last Thursday night due to a disagreement over fees and how channels are offered to the Spectrum subscribers. The missing channels include ESPN, ABC affiliates in seven markets, and several Disney-named children’s nets, among others. We don’t know how long the dispute will last. Sports Business Journal reports that sources say it could be settled in days or a few weeks, but qualifies that with the troubling news that Charter has contemplated exiting the video business. That could mean the cable operator might never settle with Disney unless the programmer met every major demand, which is unlikely. So, in case this goes awhile, should you get an antenna to replace your missing channels? Here are the pros and cons.

Click Amazon: Today’s Best-Selling TV Antennas!

Pro: Free Local Channels
Yes, your local channels (ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, PBS, The CW, Univision, etc.) are available via a TV antenna, and they are free. And that would include your local ABC affiliate in the Raleigh area, Betty. Not only that, but they can also deliver a better HD picture over an antenna compared to cable or satellite. The latter tends 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.

Click Amazon: Today’s Best-Selling TV Antennas!

Con: No Basic Cable or Premium Channels
If you get an antenna, you won’t be able to watch ESPN or the other Disney-owned channels such as The Disney Channel, SEC Network, ACC Network, Longhorn Network, FX, FX Movie Channel, FXX, Freeform, National Geographic and so on. You would need another pay TV service that carries them to watch them. The TV antenna will only pick up signals that are distributed locally, and that does not include the basic cable or premium channels that are on many viewers’ list of favorites.
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, 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. Also, since the nation’s transition to Digital TV in 2008, many antenna owners complain that it’s been more difficult to capture local signals. Unlike the old analog signal, you need a perfect connection to capture the digital signal or it will not display on your set. There is no middle ground. You either get a digital signal or you don’t.

So how can you tell if an antenna at your home will receive all your local channels?, a web site co-sponsored by the Consumer Technology Association and the National Broadcasting Association, offers an easy-to-use guide to determining what kind of antenna you would need — and how many channels that antenna will pick up. You type in your address, zip code and whether the antenna will be 30 feet or higher above ground level and then will display a list of stations that you probably will be able to receive. I say ‘probably’ because until you actually test it at home, you can’t be 100 percent sure. might say your address can pick up all four major broadcast networks, but the site isn’t aware of that group of large trees that surround your home, or that high-rise building that sits all too inconveniently across the way. The good news here is that antennas are inexpensive so you could buy one to test without spending much.

Pro: You May Get Some Bonus Channels
In addition to the major networks (ABC, etc.), there are numerous independent channels that broadcast locally. Some feature old movies and TV shows while others specialize in niche categories such as religion. If your antenna signal is strong, you’ll get more programming than you might have expected.
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.

Betty, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

Need to buy something today? Please buy it using this link. This site receives a small portion of each purchase, which helps us continue to provide these articles.

Have a question about new TV technologies? Send it to The TV Answer Man at Please include your first name and hometown in your message.

— Phillip Swann