WSJ: Millennials Unaware of Antennas and Free OTA TV

In this fake news era, it’s difficult to tell what’s tongue-in-cheek and what’s not. But, it’s always fun to read a sensational article. The Wall Street Journal published a piece (subscription required) that highlights the apparent discovery by clueless twentysomethings that televisions are built to receive OTA signals you can scoop out of thin air using this goofy device called an antenna.

This OTA (over-the-air) capability that TVs offer so amazed one 28-year-old, the following words came out of his mouth: “It’s been awesome. It doesn’t log out, and it doesn’t skip.” The article even digs up an antenna seller who claims his customers are skeptical the product is even legal and doesn’t amount to piracy.

I prefer to believe, perhaps naively, that these are isolated instances of ignorance regarding OTA TV, or perhaps plucky youth providing the Wall Street Journal with the sort of quotes they imagine will make it into print, and rightly so.

In a related article, the San Francisco Gate notes that the Wall Street Journal’s article fails to mention how many people—millennial’s included—buy TV antennas because they have a basic understanding of how televisions work and know of the fact that local channels broadcast an OTA signal. But it begs one question: Is there no way to integrate an antenna within a modern flat-panel television? After all, phone makers seem to have that figured out.

If the era of cable TV is coming to an end, maybe it’s time to work that one out so future TVs can be OTA-capable right out of the box, like it used to be back in the day.

The article notes that antenna sales in the US are expected to grow 7% this year. With more and more people “cutting the cord” from onerous cable- and satellite-TV contracts, OTA fills the need for a way to get live TV from local channels. Indeed, in many cases, the HD signal coming from the antenna is superior to what you get from cable, thanks to the higher bandwidth of the OTA signal.

Anyhow, the WSJ article makes a good point, which is that people continue to discover that a streaming box plus an OTA antenna can offer a lot of flexibility and value compared to cable. Heavy-duty sports fans will likely need to continue to pay for cable to get a complete buffet of options. But, for other uses, it looks like TV technology from the past—the humble antenna—is part of the cord-cutting future.

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