Free-To-Air TV: What Even Is?

Sometime last year my TV antenna fell down.

It was one of those nights when there was a wild storm with strong winds, and you go out the next morning to clean all the debris from your garden path before you can leave the house.

A few weeks later, someone commented on my TV antenna. “Is it supposed to point down into the house like that?” they asked sarcastically. I looked up and saw that the antenna was, indeed, pointing down into the house on a precarious angle.

The simple fact is, while it no longer offered optimum reception for our television, we simply hadn’t noticed. That’s not because we live in a suburb completely saturated with television signals, but rather we no longer watch free-to-air television. I tried to remember the last time I watched free-to-air, but couldn’t recall when, what program or what network.

In our house, we just don’t watch free-to-air TV any more. It has nothing to offer us. The shows are uninteresting, the programming schedule is incompatible with our Real Lifes, the commercials are full of nonsensical commercials and the on-air technical quality is frustratingly bad.

On the 6th of January Adam Turner wrote an article in Digital Life comparing two Personal Video Recorders: the Strong STR-7000 and the Topfield TRF-2470. Although Adam says they both function as handy media players, and can both play files from a USB stick, it got me wondering why anyone would want to record free-to-air in the first place.

This doesn’t mean we don’t watch television. On the contrary, we have a media centre PC and a Sony PlayStation 3 both connected to the television and the sound system. We watch BluRay discs, DVDs, and use streaming services like YouTube, ABC iView and SBS On Demand. Tech Talk compatriots Andrew and Leena have both been tempting me to install an Apple TV, and after seeing a demo in their respective living rooms, I’m genuinely tempted. The quality is great and we can pick and choose what we watch, when we watch, for a realistic price. Free-to-air TV just doesn’t offer this.

Anecdotally, I don’t think I’m alone. People are watching more and more content over the internet, at a time and place that suits them. People are also using mobile devices more and more to consume content. Andrew wrote an interesting article here quoting a Nielsen survey from 18 months ago. The survey found that just 46% of respondents watched video content on their television at home, at least once a day. This means more than half did not watch video content on their television at home each day. In fact, 28% had watched video less than once a week on their television at home.

I’ve decided that free-to-air TV is like everything else in this world: you get what you pay for.

In the meantime, my TV antenna is staying right where it is.

TV antenna JAN13 - 1

3 thoughts on “Free-To-Air TV: What Even Is?

  1. Hey Ron
    Cant agree with you more. It has been a long time since the free to airs have offered us anything we want to watch. Their complete disregard for everyone intelligence and just pumping out the reality crap has put me off for a very long time. They have dug their own holes and instead of looking at different funding models and embracing the new technology they have snubbed it and blamed us the consumers for their rapid decline. They like to make out hey are all going good but with bigger and bigger job cuts the local tv network will soon become a thing of the past. My wife and I watch the latest of the latest shows immediately when we want to or when we can completely ad free. We stream all our media and couldnt be happier. I would love it if their was a way of paying for a subscription to a service so we can do it a little more legally but alas the big wigs up their havent cottoned on to such a strange idea yet and continue to ignore brilliant services such as netflix, hulu and the such all because they think they can win us back with another episode of crap factor and people who think they can dance! There are some fantastic shows showing at the moment and they are either not showing here yet or are so far behind it’s hardly worth waiting for them to show it not to mention they might put a current episode on one week then they show an older episode the next week and then they think lets just change the time on them. Is it any wonder noone waatches network tv anymore? If I hear another tv exec complain about people tuning out maybe Ill send them a usb stick of some of the latest eps of a few brilliant shows they are not showing!

  2. AND almost six months to the day, my TV antenna has reluctantly been restored. Fed-up with lacklustre ADSL performance, the Tour de France has finally driven me back to free-to-air. This is more an indictment of Australian “broadband” than a new-found enthusiasm for FTA television. GO JENSIE!

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