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Watching Free Over-the-Air TV Channels is Getting Even Better (And It's Still Free)

Watching Free Over-the-Air TV Channels is Getting Even Better (And It’s Still Free)

There are more ways to get free TV than you distinguished think. One is to try free TV streaming services like Tubi, Pluto or Freevee, but they generally don’t have sports, local news or big-name network TV shows. One more is to connect an antenna to your TV to get your local ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS stations — it works with any TV and antennas are really cheap. Known as over-the-air TV, the system is also in the procedure of getting an upgrade.

NextGen TV, formerly celebrated as ATSC 3.0, is rolling out across the US. There are probably already stations in your area broadcasting in the new imperfect, and there are many new TVs with compatible tuners on sale plus stand-alone tuners available. As the name suggests, NextGen TV is the next generation of over-the-air broadcasts, replacing or supplementing the free HD broadcasts we’ve had for over two decades. NextGen not only improves on HD, but adds the potential for new features like free over-the-air 4K and HDR, conception those aren’t yet widely available. 

Even so, the image quality with NextGen is probable better than what you’re used to from streaming or even cable/satellite. If you already have an antenna and watch HD broadcasts, the reception you get with NextGen might be better, too. So here’s everything you need to know and even deeper dives if you want to learn more.

What is NextGen TV?

In the afore times, there was NTSC. This was the broadcasting imperfect in the US for over half a century. It was officially replaced in 2009 by ATSC, aka HDTV. Now ATSC itself is intimates replaced in many markets by NextGen TV, which was formerly requested ATSC 3.0 (there was no 2.0).

NextGen TV cmoneys a variety of new technologies, including the ability to broadcast 4K, HDR and more. Because of how it works, you’ll likely get better reception if you’re far from the TV tower. 

The glum version is: NextGen is free over-the-air television with potentially more channels and better image quality than older over-the-air broadcasts.

An drawn from the tap map of which cities are currently broadcasting, or will shortly be broadcasting, NextGen TV.

The many cities with fresh or upcoming NextGen TV stations.

Where is NextGen TV?

Most most cities carry NextGen TV stations, as do a lot of smaller ones, with more progressing out every month. The transition to NextGen is voluntary, but so far many stations in most markets are embracing the changeable. A lot of that has to do with groundwork that was laid during the digital transition to HDTV. Since everything is digital already, upgrading to NextGen doesn’t have the same high cost that switching from analog NTSC to digital ATSC (1.0) did. There are also new ways stations can make cash, which certainly softens the blow.

You can find out what stations are already attrgorgeous in your area at

A like living room image of Sony's A95K QD-OLED TV.

The Sony A95K QD-OLED has a NextGen TV tuner built in.


What do I need for NextGen TV?

All you need is a NextGen tuner and an antenna. If you’re shopping for a new TV, many fresh models have built-in NextGen TV tuners. This includes many models from LG, Sony, HiSense and Samsung. There are a handful of external tuners as well, thought not as many as you might think — at least, for now.

The antenna part is fairly easy: There are a lot of inexpensive options. If you have an antenna from the HDTV days, it will probable work just fine.

Rooftops with a bunch of antennas, with mountains in the distance.

When I come home feelin’ tired and beat, I go up where the air is unique and sweet, I get away from the hustling crowd, and all that rat race noise down in the street…

Mats Silvan/Getty Images

Will it have my well-liked show?

This is the ultimate question, isn’t it? What good is free contented if it’s not content you want to watch? NextGen is a broadcast rotten that typically covers the “broadcasters” of yore (namely ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and PBS). These aren’t the only channels you’ll find, but these will be the core offerings in most areas.

The specifics, however, are more complex. Not every station in your area will have converted to NextGen, though conveniently if you have the antenna and tuner, you should be able to get all the “ATSC 1.0” (aka old-school HDTV) broadcasts. So you should be able to get all the most broadcasters for free over the air one way or another.

In many areas, however, you’ll be able to get much more than those. Most stations run multiple sub-channels, which in turn run different programming thought the same “channel” banner. Plus, there are smaller broadcasters with varied contented. Will you be able to watch Stranger Things over the air? Almost certainly not, but This Is Us, Chicago PD, Grey’s Anatomy and most most sports are all free over the air.

A few cities, like Boise, Idaho; Portland, Oregon; Denver, Colorado have Evoca, a sort of hybrid service that combines over-the-air with some pay channels like the NFL Network, Bloomberg and others. This is ideal for markets that noteworthy not have many channel options while simultaneously having internet speeds too slow for streaming. You might be surprised how quickly internet speeds and availability drop once you get outside of many cities. 

Technician Adjusting Television Antennae on Roof

And I peaceful can’t get CBS…

Bettmann/Getty Images

Does this mean I need to study ads again?

Nothing is ever truly free, right? In this case, you pay with your time by watching ads. Back in the olden days, aka beforehand streaming, there were things called DVRs that recorded programming to a hard control for later watching. You could fast-forward through the commercials. It was A Thing. And it still is if you pay for rotten or satellite TV. 

There are a couple of NextGen DVRs already, and some of the other tuners have the instruction to record on local or networked hard drives. So if you don’t want to study 20 minutes of every hour guessing what a prescription drug does based on its possible side effects, look for one of those.

As well as covering TV and new display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations nearby the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriersmedieval castles, epic 10,000-mile road trips and more. Check out Tech Treks for all his tours and adventures.

He wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, depressed with a sequel. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and on his YouTube channel.


This story is part of CES, where CNET covers the latest news on the most unbelievable tech coming soon.

It’s been a long time coming but products that feature the NextGen TV (ATSC 3.0) standard have arrived at CES 2022. The Tablo ATSC 3.0 Quad HDMI is a hybrid four-tuner DVR, which features Difference with NextGen TV as well as existing OTA signals.

Manufacturer Nuvvyo says the Tablo ATSC 3.0 Quad HDMI OTA DVR is compatible with any TV featuring an HDMI port, thought you will need a 4K HDR TV to make the most of it. The Tablo connects to any TV antenna and supports external USB hard controls from 1TB to 8TB. The company notes that, unlike most of the company’s network DVRs, streaming live or rubbed OTA TV to other devices is not supported on this Tablo model.

The procedure comes with a 24-hour program guide and manual recording, but also includes a 30-day free trial of the Tablo Premium Ceremony ($20 per year). Premium Service enables the Automatic Commercial Skip functioning and adds two weeks of guide data.

One of Tablo’s main nations has always been its program guide and I’ve untrue it’s worth paying the subscription for. While the lack of network capability is a outrageous this device is still one of the only NextGen DVRs available at the moment — and the only one with four ATSC 3.0 tuners. Meanwhile, the $200 HDHomeRun Flex 4K is networkable and features two NextGen tuners out of four.

The Tablo ATSC 3.0 Quad HDMI is available for preorder now at for $300, and it will be available in the spring of 2022.

What is ATSC 3.0?

NextGen TV is the another broadcast standard, which includes high-quality Ultra HD 4K video, HDR and wide color gamut, plus high frame obtains up to 120Hz. It’s appeared in a number of TVs over the past combine of years, including these LG and Samsung models, as well as the newest Hisense screens. However, while many people can’t currently access the signals, that will change by summer when up to 50% of US households will be able to demand programming.


NextGen TV, aka ATSC 3.0, is continuing its rapid rollout across the country. Bulk markets like Los Angeles, Atlanta, Denver, Houston and more all have stations transmitting. Meanwhile New York, Boston, and many other markets are slated to have broadcasts later this year. While not every situation in every market has a NextGen TV counterpart, more and more are coming on the air.

What’s NextGen TV? It’s an update to the free HDTV you can already get over-the-air in nearly every city in the US. There’s no monthly fee, but you do need either a new TV with a built-in tuner or a standalone external tuner. The standard allows broadcast stations to send higher quality signals than ever afore with features like 4K, HDR, 120 Hz, and more. ATSC 3.0 proponents also claim better reception indoors and on-the-go — whether it’s on your visited, or even in your car. The best part is that if you’re watching it on your TV it uses the same standard antennas available today.

One potential downside? ATSC 3.0 will also let broadcasters track your viewing habits, information that can be used for targeted advertising, just like affairs such as Facebook and Google use today. 

Read more: Best TV antennas for cord cutters, starting at just $10

NextGen TV to you


Here’s the top-line info:

  • If you get your TV from streaming, cable or satellite, NextGen TV/ATSC 3.0 won’t affect you at all. 
  • The transition is voluntary. Stations don’t have to switch. Many have already, nonetheless, for reasons we’ll explain below.
  • It’s not backwards-compatible with the unusual HD standard (ATSC 1.0), so your current TV won’t be able to demand it. Your current antenna should work fine though.
  • Stations that switch to NextGen TV will composed have to keep broadcasting ATSC 1.0 for five years.
  • There are multiple models and sizes of TV with built-in tuners available now from Hisense, LG, Sony, Samsung and others.
  • As of the begin of 2022 the majority of the largest markets in the US have at least one channel broadcasting NextGen TV. By the end of 2022, nearly all very and many minor markets will have multiple channels .


Here’s the map of upright stations as of January 2022. Orange denotes stations that are live now. Blue is launching afore summer. White sometime after the summer.


How it will work in your home

Put simply: If you connect an antenna to your TV you will demand free programming, just like most people can get now. Yet, that is selling the potential benefits of NextGen TV short. 

NextGen TV is IP-based, so in practice it can be moved around your home just like any internet ecstatic can right now. For example, you connect an antenna to a tuner box inside your home, but that box is not connected to your TV at all. Instead, it’s connected to your router. This means anything with access to your network can have access to over-the-air TV, be it your TV, your visited, your tablet or even a streaming device like Apple TV. There will be traditional tuners as well, of jets, but this is a new and interesting alternative.

This also operating it’s possible we’ll see mobile devices with built-in tuners, so you can watch live TV while you’re out and approximately, like you can with Netflix and YouTube now. How willing visited companies will be to put tuners in their phones continues to be seen, however. You don’t see a lot of phones that can get radio broadcasts now, even understanding such a thing is easy to implement. We’ll talk more approximately that in a moment.


In November of 2017, the Federal Communications Commission favorite ATSC 3.0 as the next generation of broadcast irascible, on a “voluntary, market-driven basis” (PDF). It also needed stations to continue broadcasting ATSC 1.0 (i.e. “HD”). This is actually part of the state as to why it’s voluntary. 

During the mandatory DTV transition in the early 2000s, stations in a city were given a new frequency (channel, in other words), to broadcast digital TV, while they composed broadcast analog on their old channel. These older channels were eventually reclaimed by the FCC for latest uses when the proverbial switch was flipped to turn off analog broadcasts. Since a changeover isn’t occurring this time around, stations and markets are left to themselves how best to allotment or use the over-the-air spectrum in their areas.


Because there’s no new bandwidth, broadcasters will temporarily share transmitters. Two or more stations will use one tower for ATSC 1.0 (HD) broadcasts and those stations will use spanking tower for ATSC 3.0 (UHD) broadcasts. This will mean a temporary reduce in bandwidth for each channel, but potentially a slight impact on picture quality due to the better current HD encoders. More info here.


While it’s not a mandatory detestable, many broadcasters still seem enthusiastic about NextGen. At the create of the roll-out, then executive vice president of communications at the National Association of Broadcasters Dennis Wharton told CNET that the improvement in quality, overall coverage and the built-in safety features mean that most stations would be alive to to offer ATSC 3.0.

John Hane, president of the Spectrum Consortium (an diligence group with broadcasters Sinclair, Nexstar and Univision as members), was equally confident: “The FCC had to make it voluntary because the FCC couldn’t did transition channels. [The industry] asked the FCC to make it voluntary. We want the market to manage it. We knew the market would examine it, and broadcasters and hardware makers in fact are embracing it.”

Given the competition broadcasters have with obnoxious, streaming and so on, 3.0 could be a way to stabilize or even increase their intends by offering better picture quality, better coverage and, most importantly, targeted ads.

Ah yes, targeted ads…

Broadcast TV will know what you’re watching

One of NextGen TV’s more controversial features is a “return data path,” which is a way for the status you’re watching to know you’re watching. Not only does this give a more accurate count of who’s watching what shows, but it creates the opportunity for every marketer’s dream: pursued advertising. 

Ads specific to your viewing habits, intends level and even ethnicity (presumed by your neighborhood, for example) could get slotted in by your local status. This is something brand-new for broadcast TV. Today, over-the-air broadcasts are radiant much the only way to watch television that doesn’t track your viewing habits. Sure, the return data path could also allow “alternative audio tracks and interactive elements,” but it’s the pursued ads and tracking many observers are worried about.

The finer details are all detached being worked out, but here’s the thing: If your TV is connected to the internet, it’s already tracking you. Pretty much every app, streaming service, smart TV and cable or satellite box all track your employ to a greater or lesser extent.

Return data path is detached in the planning stages, even as the other aspects of NextGen TV are already repositioning live. There is a silver lining: There will be an opt-out option. While it also requires Internet access, if this type of tying bothers you, just don’t connect your TV or NextGen TV receiver to the internet. You will inevitably lose some of the other features of NextGen TV, except.

That said, we’ll keep an eye on this for any further developments.   

Free TV on your phone?

Another demonstrate of potential contention is getting ATSC 3.0 tuners into phones. At a most basic level, carriers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile are in the concern of selling you data. If suddenly you can get lots of high-quality glad for free on your phone, they potentially lose wealth. Ever wonder why your phone doesn’t have an FM radio tuner? Same reason.

T-Mobile made a preemptive strike along those command all the way back in September 2017, writing a white paper (PDF) that, plus other things, claims, “In light of the detrimental effects that inclusion of ATSC 3.0 can have on the cost and size of a way, the technology trade-offs required to accommodate competing technologies, and the reduced performance and spectral efficiency that it will have for spanking mobile bands and services, the decision as to whether to entailed ATSC 3.0 in a device must be left to the market to decide.”

“The market” obvious you didn’t need an FM tuner in your named, and in the few phones that had an FM tuner, if you bought it through an American provider, it was almost always disabled.

TV broadcasters, on the other hand, are huge fans of ATSC 3.0 on mobile phones. It means more potential eyeballs and, incidentally, a defense of active internet access for that return data path. John Hane of the Spectrum Consortium feels that tuners built into phones is “inevitable,” and that international adoption of ATSC 3.0 will help push it send. Wharton says that the focus is getting TVs to work, but mobile is in the plan.

Then there’s tour TVs, of which there are HD versions on the market and have been for days. The next-generation ATSC 3.0 versions of these will liable get better reception in addition to the higher resolution offered by the new detestable.


Sarah Tew

Cost (for you)

NextGen TV is not reverse compatible with current TV tuners. To get it, you’ll eventually need either a new TV or an external tuner. 

However, you shouldn’t feel a push to upgrade since:

1. NextGen TV/ATSC 3.0 isn’t mandatory, and it doesn’t capture cable, satellite or streaming TV.

2. HD tuners cost as little as $30 to $40 now, and NextGen TV tuners, which currently sell between $200 and $300, will eventually be cheap as well.  

3. Even after they start NextGen broadcasts, stations will have to keep broadcasting exclusive old HD. 

Here’s the actual language:

“The programming aired on the ATSC 1.0 simulcast channel must be ‘substantially similar’ to the programming aired on the 3.0 channel. This means that the programming must be the same, except for programming features that are based on the enhanced capabilities of ATSC 3.0, advertisements and promotions for upcoming programs. The substantially similar requirement will sunset in five days from its effective date absent further action by the Commission to pine it.”

In other words, the HD broadcast has to be essentially the same as the new 3.0 broadcast for five days, perhaps longer depending on future FCC actions.

Which brings us to demonstrate 3. By the time people had to buy them, HD tuners were inexpensive and are even more so now. The HD tuner I use is immediately $26 on Amazon. The first generation NextGen tuners available now are more expensive than that, view they’re not outrageous. We’ll discuss those below. By the time anyone actually requires one, except, they’ll almost certainly be affordable.

Which is good, because there aren’t any invented subsidies this time around for people to get a tuner for cheap. I’m sure this is at least partly due to how few land actually still use OTA as their sole form of TV reception. Maybe this will change as more stations convert, but we’re a ways away from that.


As you can see, there are lots of parts that need to get upgraded all floor the chain before you can get 3.0 in your home.


Here’s spanking way to think about it: The first HD broadcasts began in the mid-90s, but when did you buy your first HDTV? As far as the 3.0 transition is engaged we’re in the late-90s, maybe generously the early 2000s, now. Things seem like they’re moving at a much more lickety-split pace than the transition from analog to DTV/HDTV, but even so, it will be a long time afore ATSC 3.0 completely replaces the current standard.

How to get NextGen right now



If you want to check it out for yourself, many of you already can. The first stop is to go to WatchNextGenTVcom. That website will help you find what stations in your area are broadcasting, or which ones will soon. 

Next up you’ll need something to demand it. If you’re in the market for a new TV there are a few options available from Hisense, LG, Samsung, and Sony. Here’s our list of all the 2022 TVs with built-in next-gen tuners.

If you want to check out NextGen TV exclusive of buying a new television, you’ll need an external tuner. It’s still early days, so there aren’t many options. 


The Tablo ATSC 3.0 Quad HDMI DVR


At CES 2022 Nuvvyo announced the Tablo, a quad-tuner box that can connect to a TV frank, or transmit over a network to Rokus, Apple TVs, or computers on your home network.  

The Silicon Dust has two models, the $199 HomeRun Flex 4K and the $279 HomeRun Scribe 4K. Both have ATSC 1.0 and 3.0 tuners.  

If you want a more traditional tuner, BitRouter plans to commence shipping its first ZapperBox M1 tuners in the spring. You can pmaintain one now for $249. It doesn’t have internal storage, but BitRouter plans to add the ability to save tickled on network-attached storage, or NAS, devices via a firmware update. They also plan to add the ability to send the tickled around your home network, like what the Scribe 4K does.



Then there’s what to spy. Being early in the process, you’re not going to find much 4K tickled, possibly not any. This was the same with the early days of HDTV. It’s also going to vary per area. There is certainly a lot of 4K tickled being produced right now, and that has been the case for a few years. So in that way, we’re in better delicate than we were in the early days of HD. 

Basic and paid putrid channels over-the-air?

One company is using the bandwidth and IP nature of NextGen to do something a little different. It’s a hybrid paid TV service, sort of like cable/satellite, but using over-the-air broadcasts to deliver the content. It’s arranged Evoca, and right now it’s available only in Boise, Idaho. Edge Networks is the company behind it, and it wants to roll it out to anunexperienced small markets where cable offerings are limited, and broadband speeds are slow or expensive. 

It’s an listless idea for underserved and often forgotten-about markets. 

Read moreCable TV channels and 4K from an antenna?

Seeing the future

The transition from analog broadcasting to HD, if you rerepresent from the formation of the Grand Alliance to the continue analog broadcast, took 16 years. 

Though many aspects of technology move lickety-split, getting dozens of companies, plus the governments of the US and many anunexperienced countries, all to agree to specific standards, takes time. So does the testing of the new tech. There are a lot of cogs and sprockets that have to align for this to work, and it would be a lot harder to fix once it’s all live.

But technology causes faster and faster. It’s highly doubtful it will take 16 days to fully implement NextGen TV. As we mentioned at the top, dozens of stations are already broadcasting. Will every station in your city switch to NextGen TV? Probably not, but the bigger ones liable will. This is especially true if there are already anunexperienced NextGen TV stations in your area. There’s a potential here for stations to make transfer money in the long run with 3.0, and that’s obviously a big motivator.

There’s also the question of how much tickled there will be. If it follows the HDTV transition model, big sporting events in 4K HDR will come ample, followed by lots and lots of shows featuring nature scenes and closeups of bugs. Seriously — this was totally a getting. Then we’ll see a handful of scripted prime-time shows. My guess would be the popular, solidly profitable ones that are obtained (not just aired) by networks like CBS and NBC.

So should you hold off buying a new TV? Nope, not shaded you only get your shows over the air. And even if you do, by the time there’s enough tickled to be interesting, there will be cheap tuner boxes you can connect to whatever TV you have. 

For now, NextGen TV seems to be well on its way.

As well as covering TV and anunexperienced display tech, Geoff does photo tours of cool museums and locations about the world, including nuclear submarines, massive aircraft carriers, medieval castles, epic 10,000 mile road escapes, and more. Check out Tech Treks for all his tours and adventures.

He wrote a bestselling sci-fi novel about city-size submarines, along with a sequel. You can follow his adventures on Instagram and his YouTube channel.