Over-the-air antennas are reliable when it really matters

I’m told that more Americans than ever streamed the Super Bowl a few weeks ago, rather than watching it on cable, satellite, or off-air. The game was free on the CBS All Access app as well as the CBS Sports app. And you know what? More Americans than ever were disappointed when those apps didn’t work at the beginning of the game.

It turns out that the issues were pretty minor and all it took was quitting and relaunching the app to fix them. But who ever bothers to quit apps on a streaming device? Most of us don’t even know how to do it. So this wasn’t a simple move. Instead, it took research and time to figure out what needed to happen. Spoiler alert — the game wasn’t super interesting in the first quarter anyway — but that’s not really the point, is it?

It’s hardly an isolated incident

Every year that the Super Bowl has been streamed, there have been problems. Sometimes it’s just too much congestion on the lines, and sometimes it’s been an issue with the commercials not working as expected. No matter, one thing is obvious: streaming television simply isn’t ready for the country’s most popular broadcast.

Satellite is better…

The last time I had any problem with the Super Bowl on satellite was 2004. I had paused my then-new TiVo to get some snacks before the halftime show. Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson were scheduled to perform. Well, folks, you know how that one went. (If you don’t, if you’re too young, google it.)

For whatever reason, my TiVo froze up just moments (in real time) after the infamous incident. I was behind by a few minutes so I didn’t get to see it live. Back then it took about 10 minutes for a DVR to reboot, so I missed the whole halftime show. YouTube wasn’t “a thing” yet so it would be years before I was able to actually see it, in fact.

For years I was convinced it was evidence of some sort of “kill switch” that DIRECTV could use on its DVRs, but there was no widespread report of this happening so I’ll call it bad luck. My point is that in all the years since I have never had a problem with satellite TV while watching the Super Bowl.

Antenna is best

Antenna TV gives you the best quality. It also gives you a live picture that’s about three seconds ahead of cable or satellite. Cable and satellite channels are bounced up and down to space before getting to you. Antenna TV is too, because all network TV is. But it’s not sent up and down twice the way that cable and satellite are.

That means you’ll get the plays before anyone else does. Only the folks in the stadium are seeing it sooner. And let’s be honest, isn’t that kind of bragging right just what you’re looking for on Super Bowl Sunday?

What about 4K?

Surprisingly, the Super Bowl wasn’t in 4K this year. Fox has been ahead of the curve, converting its HD broadcasts to 4K. But Fox and CBS have a sharing arrangement. They switch off providing Super Bowl coverage. This year it was CBS’ turn, and surprisingly they didn’t provide a 4K feed. Not to broadcasters, not to streamers, not to anyone.

In the future, 4K broadcasts will (hopefully) be more routine. I know I say that every year. But eventually it will happen. When it does, 4K over-the-air will still be the best way to watch that big game. As great as streaming is, it will never be as reliable as digital, over-the-air television.

Get the antenna you need

A one-time purchase of an antenna is the only thing stopping you from getting dozens of free live channels. About 95% of the US population can get free live TV channels with just an antenna. Chances are you’re one of them.

If you don’t know which antenna you want, fill out this form and a technician will let you know exactly what it will take. If you want personal help, call us at 877-312-4547. Or, if you’re ready to buy, shop the great selection at Solid Signal.

About the Author

Stuart Sweet
Stuart Sweet is the editor-in-chief of The Solid Signal Blog and a "master plumber" at Signal Group, LLC. He is the author of over 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.