How to get free HDTV in Canada

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    SensGirl11
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    How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by SensGirl11 on Wed May 27, 2009 10:59 am

    If you haven't already heard or read this article...
    By Jennifer Ditchburn, The Canadian Press


    OTTAWA — A spiny pack of near-extinct, multi-limbed creatures are turning up in cities across Canada, creeping up the sides of buildings and settling on urban rooftops.

    TV antennas are making a tentative comeback in this country.
    Nobody in the broadcasting industry or the government seems to have a handle on how many Canadians are scrapping cable and satellite in favour of the old-school technology, but there is anecdotal evidence that a mini-boom is under way.

    Ironically, it’s all being fuelled by the high-tech switch by broadcasters from analog to digital and high-definition channels.
    Viewers are discovering that they can get over-the-air, digital television stations that proponents say come through even better than on cable and satellite, where signals are compressed.

    “And the magic word is free,” says Jon LeBlanc, Canada’s antenna guru.









    LeBlanc began an “over-the-air” discussion board on www.digitalhome.ca five years ago, where a few diehard antenna fans would pop by.
    Now he’s the most popular forum on the site, with dozens of new people logging on every month to find out about getting hooked up.
    LeBlanc himself gets 14 digital stations, including six from the United States, with his rooftop antenna in Delta, B.C..

    “If a person weeds through what they’re actually watching, does the value-added provided by a cable company or a satellite company make any sense? In this financial environment, more and more people are saying No,” says LeBlanc, a former high-tech worker.

    “To my way of thinking, this is a renaissance of the over-the-air type of broadcasting, and I think the broadcasters, especially the private networks, are missing something here.”

    Conventional TV broadcasters say they’re struggling to survive in a multi-channel universe with dwindling ad revenues. They are pushing the government to provide some regulatory and financial relief, particularly when it comes to the costs of converting their transmitters to digital by 2011.

    But the industry has not publicly discussed the phenomenon of Canadians willingly rejecting the 500-channel universe in favour of the signals they can catch locally.

    The Canadian Association of Broadcasters says it’s not something they have noted at all.

    Only one would-be TV broadcaster, Toronto businessman John Bitove, had been pushing the CRTC last year to allow him to start up a new Canadian HD network with over-the-air viewers in mind.

    He was unsuccessful.

    The number of Canadians who rely on over-the-air TV is repeatedly pegged at nine per cent nationally, 16 per cent in Quebec.
    David Purdy, vice-president of video product management for Rogers Communications, predicts those numbers will continue to decline once all Canadian stations convert to digital by August 2011.

    He points to the range of specialty channels, and now video-on-demand, that cable companies offer and Canadians are lapping up.

    “The notion that a linear television offering, whether through rabbit ears or a digital receiver, is somehow going to meet the customer’s needs is completely not reflective of the world we live in,” Purdy said.

    “People want to be able to watch what they want, where they want, when they want.”

    LeBlanc says the over-the-air audience numbers are outdated, and points to antenna dealers who are seeing a surge in business.
    Karim Sunderani, co-owner of Toronto’s Save and Replay store, says he’s been selling 1,000 antennas a month, and he feels he’s at the cusp of something big.

    Sunderani’s been getting orders from condominiums, motels, nursing homes and boarding houses to put up antennas.

    “It’s hard to believe, we’re in 2009 and it’s something you expect your grandfather to have,” says Sunderani, who gets a dozen channels in his store with a $50 set-top antenna.

    “It’s mainly the picture quality. If you look at the difference between the old VHF, the UHF is stunning, we’re actually getting high-definition and obviously no monthly bills once you put the antenna up.”

    Sunderani describes the Greater Toronto Area as a “hotspot,” where some viewers can get up to 25 channels.

    Winnipeg, parts of the B.C. lower mainland and large swaths around Montreal have been cited as prime over-the-air viewing spots.
    Hooking up to an antenna is a different recipe for every viewer, Sunderani and LeBlanc note.

    Some high-rise dwellers in Toronto can plug a coaxial cable from their TV into a small interior antenna, place it on a shelf or even on top of their TV, run a channel scan, and bob’s your uncle.

    Their TV must have an ATSC tuner built in, as most new models do, but a digital converter box will do the trick otherwise.

    The investment there could be in the range of $50-$150.
    Others, however, must go to greater lengths, putting larger sized antennas in their attics, or up on their roofs. Depending on the topography of where Canadians lives, they can get TV reception easily or with more effort. Rooftop installations can go up to $500 or more.

    And then there are those handy Canadians who have found a dollar-store solution to getting TV — Internet tales and Youtube tips abound.

    “Blake W,” a contributor to LeBlanc’s online forum, recently recounted a harrowing tale of nearly missing the third period of a Canucks playoff game because nobody could find the satellite converter in a community centre.

    MacGyver-style, Blake took the FM antenna wire off a nearby radio, stripped one of the ends, and stuck it into the back of the high-end flat-screen TV. After a channel scan, they turned up CBC “in glorious HD.”

    “The group of 20 collectively gasped and clapped to show their thanks,” Blake, of Richmond, B.C., writes. “By this time tho’, there was only three mins left in the game. The Canucks won, and I had 20 brand new digital TV believers. It was a good night.”

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    Re: How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by SensFan71 on Wed May 27, 2009 11:09 am

    I still have one of those air antenna's in my attic from the previous owners, I got to get to work since this is all true he he. thank ye SG11
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    Re: How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by shabbs on Wed May 27, 2009 11:10 am

    This is a great way to get free OTA HD signals. You get a clean, un-simsubbed broadcast...

    Lots of great stuff over at Digital Home:

    http://www.digitalhome.ca/

    Prags and I frequent those boards too...
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    Re: How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by Cap'n Clutch on Wed May 27, 2009 11:13 am

    Interesting article but I'm still not giving up my Cable box.


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    Re: How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by SeawaySensFan on Wed May 27, 2009 11:16 am

    Just another example of how we're being lied to (by omission) and forcefed "newer is better".

    This says it all: But the industry has not publicly discussed the phenomenon of Canadians willingly rejecting the 500-channel universe in favour of the signals they can catch locally.
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    Re: How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by shabbs on Thu May 28, 2009 9:16 am

    Cap'n Clutch wrote:Interesting article but I'm still not giving up my Cable box.
    Or PVR...

    Love the PVR.

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    Re: How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by Guest on Thu May 28, 2009 9:30 am

    shabbs wrote:
    Cap'n Clutch wrote:Interesting article but I'm still not giving up my Cable box.
    Or PVR...

    Love the PVR.

    OH YEAH...

    HD PVR is life changing... I watch every Sens game in about an hour and a half. Spend focused time with the family. Even if you are watching something live and the kids need your attention, you just hit pause or wait and rewind. It is a beautiful thing...
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    Re: How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by shabbs on Thu May 28, 2009 9:35 am

    Life changing indeed.
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    Re: How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by wprager on Thu May 28, 2009 9:46 am

    You don't have to give up the PVR. Just get an ATSC tuner card for your PC and a honking big drive. Most of these cards come bundled with s/w to turn your PC into a HTPC with recording capabilities. You set it up to download Guide info from several free sites that are available and that will get you better service than, say, Rogers. The Guide data on zap2it, for example, goes out 2 weeks instead of just the 1 that Rogers gives you. It also includes flags that indicate whether the show is new or a repeat, so you can choose to record *only* first-run episodes. It also lets you record based on the unique program identifier, rather the not-entirely-foolproof method of matching the program title (google "inconcistent program titles" and the DigitalHome.ca link should be up front and center).

    I am not 100% certain if PC-based tuner/recorders will record HD content. That could be a deal-breaker for me. As much as I love my PVR, that's how much I love HD.

    You also would probably need to co-locate your PC with your main TV, or string wires for the video/audio and remote -- some remotes use RF). Or you can go with a wireless solution, but the one that handles HD will not be cheap and I don't know if the current tech gives you flawless HD video and excellent quality audio.

    It doesn't work very well if you are in a non-metro area. For example, here in Ottawa, I could pick up the CBC transmitter in Camp Fortune, and if my antenna was mounted high-enough I might be able to pick up a PBS station. Forget about picking up pretty much everything else.

    Lastly, you won't get the premium cable content like Showcase, the specialty channels, premium sports (TSN, SNet, Setanta) and foreing language channels.
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    Re: How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by wprager on Thu May 28, 2009 1:33 pm

    An interesting development being discussed on DigitalHome.ca (no, not the Betty/Veronica situation).
    http://www.digitalhome.ca/forum/showthread.php?p=932617#post932617

    "Canadian television networks may get the right to pull their feed from
    cable and satellite services, and possibly black out shows on U.S.
    channels, if the broadcasters can't reach a deal with distributors on
    compensation for their signals"
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    Re: How to get free HDTV in Canada

    Post by shabbs on Thu May 28, 2009 2:53 pm

    It may be time to setup a big antenna on the roof....

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