Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: Richmond, Texas, USA
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I can tell you that in the Houston area, OTA is generally better than satellite. The local broadcasters have plenty of bandwidth so compression artifacts only become objectionable when they multicast several channels at one time, as NBC usually does. The satellite broadcasters have a much bigger problem -- they can't just hang another antenna and fire up their new transmitter. They have to launch a satellite. In the case of the local PBS affiliate, they were able to diplex their digital signal on their existing antenna. I'm not suggesting that it was simple, but much more practical than modifying an existing satellite.
If the satellite guys would not try to cram so much programming into the available bandwidth, it could be just as good as OTA, but due to the aforementioned up-front expenses, it seems unlikely that they will ever take that route. It seems more likely that they will continue to add more and more special interest channels, which will continue to erode the quality of their transmissions.
Speaking for myself, I have both DirecTV and Dish Network systems, and I watch them both because they both have unique programming, but I don't watch them because they look better than OTA -- they don't.
My home is in a native forest setting. I am surrounded by trees that are four times as high as my antenna. My antenna points into a stand of trees about 30 feet away. Sometimes the leaves actually touch my antenna. I'm not a long way from the transmitters, but multi-path has always been a problem with analog television. With digital, it's flawless. My feeling is that the broadcast system is robust enough that almost anyone will be able to receive it if they really want to. Folks that are used to watching analog television pictures that are deep in the snow, with lots of ghosts, shadows, and multipath artifacts might have trouble getting a reliable digital picture, but anyone who gets a good analog picture should be able to get a good digital picture.
Bottom line: OTA can and often does look better than DBS satellite. Of course, there is content to consider...:D