No Cable? No Problem!

BY PETER KRAWETZKY

Recently Morningstar Marinas at Golden Isles announced it was discontinuing cable TV. This is also known as cord cutting. So, you might be asking yourself “what are my options now?”

This is part 1 of a multi-part series that will help you figure out how to get local TV stations as well as the cable TV stations you used to have on your boat. Of course, you can do one or both options based on your needs.

Several years ago, the federal government mandated that all television stations transmitting a signal must convert to a digital format. This is very different from what you might have known in the past with older televisions. The new digital signals cannot be received on older TV receivers. There are conversion boxes, but you might be better off investing in a new TV.

Here are some terms to become familiar with:

  • Digital TV – signals are broadcast by televisions stations in digital format giving you high definition images
  • Over-the-Air TV – sometimes known as OTA, these are the signals broadcast by the TV stations in our area
  • Wifi – wireless internet
  • Streaming – the method of watching video over a hard-wired internet connection, or in our case, the OnSpot wifi system
  • Apps – you might be familiar with this term if you have a smartphone, tablet, or even a windows computer that are programs you might use to get email, calendars, Pandora, etc.
  • Smart TV – television sets that have the ability to install apps

What TV stations are available at our marina?

First of all, they are FREE!

We have the distinct advantage of getting several local TV stations since we don’t have many obstructions to deal with, other than the condos. Now, the actual stations you will receive on your TV(s) will depend on where you are located in the marina. Believe it or not, a few inches can make a difference between what you get and what your neighbor gets. This might sound strange, but it’s because of the newer digital signals and how they are sent over the air (OTA).

The type of antenna, its height and location can also make a difference. More expensive antennas don’t necessarily mean better pictures or more stations. Marine TV antennas and residential home antennas are not that much different. In my case, the residential home antenna that I installed is good for receiving stations up to 120 miles away and receives signals from all directions. There are antennas that allow you to “aim” toward a signal using a motor and control device, but if you want to use more than one TV at the same time, this might not be practical depending on what station someone else is watching.

Weather can also be a factor when watching OTA channels. A perfect day doesn’t mean you will get all the channels you normally do. Same goes for rainy weather. Night time is better for watching than daytime – sometimes! Day to day reception can be very different as well. Confusing? You will get used to it, we did.

In our case, where Lady Jean is docked, I get the following channels, each of which have subchannels (i.e. 21.1, 21.2, 21.3) that broadcast different networks:

  • Brunswick – 21
  • Savannah – 3, 11, 22
  • Jacksonville – 4, 12, 17, 21, 22, 28, 30, 47, 59

So, you’ve decided you want local network television stations and now need to purchase an OTA antenna. AntennaDeals.com can help you decide what type of antenna you may need. It uses your zip code to help identify which antenna might be a good choice. Disclaimer: neither Morningstar Marinas or myself are endorsing this website or its products. There are many other websites where you can purchase an OTA antenna and you can find them using Google (keywords such as OTA antenna, residential television antenna, marine television antenna, etc.).

I purchased the Lava HD8000 and mounted it on an unused marine antenna mount with extension. It’s been up for over a year now and has worked flawlessly.

Here are some other names you might want to consider:

  • Winegard
  • Channelmaster
  • Shakespeare
  • You can even make up your own with instructions from the internet

One note: I would stay away from indoor or back-of-the-set mounted antennas. These would not work based on our location and distance from local television stations.

I hope the information I’ve provided above helps you make a choice on local television or OTA reception. Keep an eye out for part 2 that will focus on streaming services to replace cable TV stations that are no longer available.

If you have any questions, feel free to stop by Lady Jean!