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As the NFL season begins, millions of us will firmly affix our butts in front of the TV every Sunday. But which games we get to see is a complicated question. The NFL rules dictating how the games are broadcast is a convoluted mess that only a lawyer could understand. Under normal situations, most of us can expect 3 games on Sunday afternoon (on FOX and CBS) and one game Sunday night (NBC). Sometimes, we only get 2 afternoon games, and on a few occasions, we get 4. ESPN Monday nights and NFL Network Thursday nights are nice, but cost money. Sundays are FREE.

Sunday afternoons, when FOX and CBS are showing games, there is a potential for some of us to gain additional games through the use of an OTA antenna. By tapping into the FOX and CBS affiliates of adjoining TV markets, you can access games that are not on in your home market. I call it Poor Mans NFL Sunday Ticket.

I first discovered this about 20 years ago, when I was a cable customer. My cable head-end had major problems receiving WBBM-2 CBS (Chicago) reliably, so they added the CBS affiliates from Rockford (WIFR-23) and Milwaukee (at that time, WITI-6) as a backup. I found that I was getting bonus games from 23 and 6, games that werent on in Chicago, and it was nice because sometimes you get stuck with a snoozer and would like an alternative. This lasted for 2 years, when the cable head-end established a direct link for WBBM and dropped the out-of-town stations.

Fast forward to present day. I have embraced the DTV era heartily, as I am fortunate enough to be able to receive 4 television markets. Last season (2010), I had the CBS and FOX affiliates from 3 of those (Chicago, Milwaukee, Rockford) firmly within my grasp, and I was able to get at least 14 bonus games that werent on in Chicago (see attached table).

This table is a reconstruction, using archive data from the website www.the506.com , which details each week the games that will be on. There were at least 4 or 5 more games I was able to get that were added at the last minute and did not get onto the 506 site, and there were also several games that I gained due to slaughter rule game switches.

As you can see on the table, I was able to get all of the Packer games that were not on in Chicago (because Milwaukee is a primary Packers market). I also gained games when Milwaukees CBS had AFC games that were not on in Chicago. In addition, I got a few games from Rockfords CBS (secondary Bears market) when a home Bears game blocked the airing of a second CBS game in Chicago.

So Im lucky, because I live in just the right spot to be able to do this. But it turns out that a lot of us are in such spots. Attached is a map I made using the DTV signal contours from the FCC. I intersected the FOX contours with each other, creating areas where 2 or more FOX affiliates overlap, and then did the same with the CBS stations. I also overlapped the FOX and CBS overlaps themselves, to show where both networks have overlapping affiliates.

Now, it should be noted that these FCC contours are not gospel. Local conditions like buildings and landforms can affect reception greatly, and being in an overlap area is no guarantee that you will get those stations. But certainly the potential to get multiple markets is higher in these overlap areas. You can see a lot of green in my home area of Northern Illinois, as well as the Carolinas, the Maryland Area, and in Michigan. Some of you might be able to get the other stations even though you arent in one of my overlap areas; I know that huge chunks of San Diego can get the LA stations from Mt. Wilson, for example.

It makes a difference how the stations you can get relate to NFL markets. For some of you, you will be able to get another citys stations, but will not gain any NFL games. This would happen if the two cities you get always show the same games, a situation that is likely if you live in between two small TV markets that are both in the same NFL teams territory. If you are in a primary NFL market and can get a secondary market of the same team, you could gain games when your team is at home and blocks a second game on the other network. If you can get another teams stations, that will get you all of that teams games (like how I get all of the Packers games). The best position is when you can get the stations from a team from the other conference than your own team, which looks to be the situation that could give you the biggest bonus.

There are three sources to find out what games are on: the 506 website is great, but does not always catch all of the changes. The EPG data imbedded in the DTV signal, and the listings from Tribune Media Services (used by D*, E*, and TitanTV) are not always right either. Local stations have some latitude in choosing which games they air, and usually you can see the pattern after a few weeks. Primary NFL markets like to air games featuring division rivals, or games for a team that is in a different division or conference but is close geographically. Secondary markets usually follow suit, but some will choose games based on the quality of the matchup (NE/BAL would be a lot more fun to watch than CAR/AZ, for example).

Then there are the College States, places where there is no clear-cut NFL loyalty. These areas tend to have huge College football followings, and the local stations there will choose NFL games based on where local alumni play in the pros. Kentucky, Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Nevada are prime examples.

But even with all of this information, I have found that the only way to be sure of what youre getting is to tune in to the stations at kickoff time. Sometimes a game shows up that wasnt published on any of the schedule databases.

So the benefits of this technique are not just more games, but more choice. You may find that you need to add a second monitor to your living room, just to keep up. You might end up with your neighbor-who-loves-that-other-team showing up with a 12-pack every Sunday. You might also get a mouthful from your wife, who may not appreciate the aesthetics of a 16-foot-long Channel Master 3671 looming over your house like Putins head. But you also will not have to spend a huge amount of money to get the real NFL Sunday Ticket (I know they are offering it free right now, but believe me, they will get their money from you eventually).

So whats the first step? If you are new to OTA Antenna TV, go to www.tvfool.com and enter your address. This awesome tool will tell you if the CBS and FOX affiliate stations are within reach. After that, consult your local experts on the AVS Local forums, and dont forget to go to the forums for your nearby cities, too. There you will find tons of great advice on how to join the Antenna revolution.

If you already have OTA but only use it for the local stations, I would encourage you to investigate whether a rotator or second antenna system could bring you additional stations from other cities. While some people think this is crazy (like you are a traitor or something), the fact is that you will find programming that will appeal to you, or at least you may find your favorites on at more convenient times.

With quality equipment and a solid installation, it is possible to get stations that are very far away. This year, I upgraded my antenna, and this NFL season I will be able to access Madisons FOX (WMSN) at 85 miles away. I know that last season, this station aired a few Vikings games because there are a lot of Vikes fans in the western part of Madisons territory. I am now also able to receive Madisons CBS (WISC) starting about an hour before sunset; as fall marches on and sunset moves earlier into the day, I will be able to catch most of a 3pm game on that station by November.

So the system says, Here are your 3 games, take it as is or pay money to get more, and I say, Oh, yeah? and stick it to the man.


Go Bears!

 

NFL Market Overlaps reduced.pdf 199.1708984375k . file

 

2010 SEASON Table.pdf 24.1943359375k . file
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by rrainwater /forum/post/20890439


All of those words to say you might can use an antenna to pick up CBS and FOX affiliates in neighboring markets? That could of been summed up much quicker.

Indeed.
 
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