We chat with different types of Roku customers every day – some cord cutters who strictly stream, others who have cable, and many cord shavers who fall somewhere in between. To share his perspective and expertise on cord cutting, we’ve invited Chris Brantner for a guest blog post. Please help us welcome Chris to the Roku Blog!

As any good cord cutter knows, an excellent streaming device is an absolute must. Roku streaming devices are some of the best on the market, as they are not only small and incredibly easy to use, but they allow users access to a ton of content at the touch of a button.

Roku-Streaming-Stick-2016-featured-image

Not to mention, they’re streaming service agnostic, which means just about every streaming service out there can be found on the Roku platform (which can’t always be said for other streaming devices).

But the truth is that a Roku device is only half of the cord cutting puzzle. The other part? The antenna.

While you might think the TV antenna seems like a relic of a less advanced, bygone era, the antenna has evolved into a much sleeker, more powerful tool than ever, which is why we include it as an integral step in our cord cutting plan at CutCableToday.com. Gone are the days of ugly rabbit ears wrapped with foil. Now you can get antennas that will capture uncompressed HD TV, and look good while doing it!

Thanks to Roku, I’ve been watching my antenna content through a new 4K TCL Roku TV. The shortcut on the Roku TV home screen makes it easy to access the antenna – no more switching inputs!

Roku TV antenna home screen

What Content Can You Get Over-The-Air?

Today’s antennas can pull in broadcasts from over 50 miles away, depending on which model you choose. Generally speaking, you’ll be able to receive broadcasts from all of the major networks like ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and PBS. This means that you’ll be able to watch your local news and the majority of the top-rated primetime TV shows. Oh, and you can also use it to watch the NFL free, which is pretty important with the regular season about to begin.

I know what you’re saying… “But there are news channels available on my Roku device!” And that’s true. The NewsON channel, for example, can give you live local news. But a TV antenna will give you access to other versions of local news, so you can take your pick.

Of course the actual number of stations you’re likely to receive can vary depending on your distance from TV transmission towers. That being said, someone who lives in a metro area can often expect to receive more channels than someone who is in a more rural location.

Regardless of where you live, an online tool like TVFool will tell you what channels you are likely to receive with an antenna. It’s super easy to use–just pop in your details and let it do its thing.

What Types of Antennas Are There?

Choosing an antenna can be difficult because there are so many on the market today. But almost all of them can be broken down into two types, indoor and outdoor.

Indoor antennas are generally best suited for people who live within a 30-mile radius of a television broadcast tower. Flat antennas like the Mohu Leaf or the ReLeaf (Mohu’s newest offering made from recycled cable boxes) are some of the most popular models. For other options, I suggest you check out Antennas Direct or Winegard.

Outdoor antennas are usually the best choice for people who live 50+ miles away from broadcast towers. Some of these antennas have to be mounted to the roof in order to get the most out of them, but they are easy to install and designed to be aesthetically pleasing. Don’t want to climb up on your roof? Then research an antenna installer in your area.

A few tips to keep in mind if you install your own antenna:

  • If it’s an indoor antenna, try to get it in a window for fewer obstructions
  • The higher you can place it, the better
  • Stay away from metal as it can interfere with your signal
  • Test in multiple locations for optimal placement

Just keep in mind that reception depends on a variety of factors, so it’s best that you do your homework to choose the best antenna type for your situation.

What About Recording Over-the-Air TV?

One of the biggest draws of the cable companies is they offer DVRs, allowing you to record content to watch when it is convenient for you.

Many people believe that if they cut the cord, they’ll have to give up their recording capabilities. But this simply isn’t the case. The truth is that there are a number of different over-the-air (OTA) DVRs available.

When using a Roku device, your best bet is to go with the Tablo DVR. Tablo is an OTA DVR that not only records programming from your TV antenna, but uses your home Wi-Fi network to stream your recordings to virtually any device. Simply add the Tablo channel to your Roku player or Roku TV, and stream your recordings to any connected TV.

The Tablo also comes with an additional benefit… it creates a cable-like guide for all the channels you receive from your antenna. No more guessing what will come on what channel.

Tablo TV Roku channel guide

Roku + Antenna + OTA DVR = The Complete Cord Cutting Setup

There you have it. Get an antenna to watch local live TV. Couple it with a Tablo to record. Then stream it to your TV through your Roku player or Roku TV. If you’re looking to cut the cord, this is as good as it gets!

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About Chris Brantner

CutCableToday.com
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63 Comments
  • Dan Ouellette

    Yes, and those of us paid members that went along with Roku’s recommendation of the My Cloud PR2100 & 4100 NAS still have not received an update and cannot access the most recent Member’s perks!!!!!

  • JeffK

    One VERY important thing to know is the difference between VHF and UHF frequencies. Most television stations don’t transmit on the same channels they are known by anymore. For example, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, KDFW Ch.4 (FOX4) actually transmits on UHF channel 35. KXAS Ch. 5 (NBC5) transmits on UHF channel 41, and so on. Of all the stations in the DFW area, only ONE (WFAA Ch. 8) actually transmits their signal on VHF. Everyone else is transmitting on UHF. When looking at TVFool or any other guide pay attention to the “Real Channel” and NOT the “Virtual Channel”. If most of all of the stations you are going to watch are broadcasting on UHF, don’t waste your money on a big, expensive VHF antenna. UHF ones are much smaller and much cheaper.

  • Gerry Allen

    The Tablo lacks an HDMI output. Thus, even the TV that is next to the Tablo must unnecessarily use Wi-Fi bandwidth. A deal-killer for me.

    • Jon

      Install a Gigabit switch in your entertainment center and be done with it.

    • CozyTech

      Why would you stream wirelessly through wifi? Doesn’t the Tablo have an ethernet port? That’s a deal breaker for me.

      Also, is it true what I read that you have to pay a monthly fee for the channel guide on the Tablo?

      • Bob Bagnall

        The Tablo guide is $5 Mo vs $15 for the Roamio

      • Yes, Tablo also has an ethernet port.

        Yes, there is an (optional) subscription for guide data (for a rolling two week period). It’s available as a monthly, annual, or lifetime fee. However, a subscription is not required to use Tablo. Without a subscription you can set manual recordings and see 24 hours of guide data. For most people, paying extra for the subscription will be worth the improved experience.

    • Bob Bagnall

      The Tablo app on the Roku provides the HDMI connection.

      One Tablo (+ antenna) connects multiple TVs over your Ethernet (either wired or WiFi ) via a Roku at each TV.

  • JeffK

    Just be sure that whatever antenna you get works with the REAL or ACTUAL channel. Don’t go by the DISPLAY or VIRTUAL channel.

    • DYKWIA

      Hi, Can you explain this a little more? What do you mean by REAL, ACTUAL vs. DISPLAY, VIRTUAL?

      Thanks

      • JeffK

        Ever since the switch to digital, most stations no longer transmit on the same channel they used to. In Dallas, for example, “Fox4” which used to transmit on VHF ch 4 is now actually broadcasting on UHF ch 35. “CBS11” which used to transmit on VHF ch 11 pre-digital is now broadcasting on UHF ch. 19. Of all the main and independent stations in the DFW area, only WFAA Ch 8 is still actually broadcasting on VHF ch. 8. Everyone else has gone to UHF but don’t want to change the name of what they have been known for for decades (Fox4, CBS11, etc.). Since VHF antennas are large and expensive, and UHF antennas are small and cheap, there is no need to spend the time and effort to get a VHF antenna when the small, cheap, easy to mount UHF one is all you need. Go to http://www.rabbitears.info and look at your television market to see how the stations in your area broadcast, and pay attention to the “PHYSICAL CHANNEL” and not the “DISPLAY CHANNEL” to see what I mean.

        • bglipsitz

          Good description, Jeff. However, the major reason why most broadcast stations are now transmitting in the UHF spectrum is because there’s too much interference in the VHF band, especially inthe low-VHF portion (channels 2-6).

          • JeffK

            Very true, but the layman doesn’t know this. I can’t tell you the number of people who went out and bought a big, expensive VHF band TV antenna because the salesman told them they needed a VHF antenna (a “digital” one at that) if they wanted to see channels 4, 5, 8, 11 and 13 here in the DFW area. Only Ch. 8 still broadcasts on VHF 8 and their signal is strong enough that I still get it 50 miles away from the transmitter using a UHF antenna.

  • Heather Melchior

    Question on getting the Antenna channel so you don’t have to switch inputs. Can you only do it if you have a Roku TV? I have a roku streaming stick and a Mohu Leaf on a Toshiba TV. Can I do this to make it easier?

    • Hi Heather, that’s a feature of Roku TV! Learn more about Roku TV here: https://www.roku.com/roku-tv?utm_source=organic_social&utm_medium=rokublog&utm_campaign=rokutv.

      • David Gabel

        But if you guys would make a TiVo competitor that would be better

      • April

        I also have a Roku Streaming stick and can not find the antenna app or channel. I check the link you provided above but it does not say how to add it if you do not have it. Is it possible to add the antenna on the streaming stick? If so, how? And if not, that’s a big downfall and oversite.

        • bglipsitz

          You will find the antenna icon only on TVs with BUILT-IN Roku, such as TCL.

          There’s no oversight on downfall on Roku’s part. You plug your streaming stick into an HDMI port on your TV. You plug your antenna into the coax port on your TV. You use your TV remote to switch between the antenna and the Roku box.

  • Colin

    The reviews on Tablo are really mixed. For some people it works well. Others complain about lag to start viewing recordings, or even look at the channel guide, even when hard wired to ethernet. Also some say the tuner is somewhat weak, and the infant mortality seems a little high. Does Roku test the app with Tablo hardware and get good results?

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    • Tinger12

      I have been using a Tablo for about 4 months and it is exactly what I wanted. Because the Tablo allows for a variety of streaming devices, they need to get the stream in compatible formats for them (Roku, Apple TV, FireTv, Android, etc). To accomplish this it need to transcode the the native video you receive over the air to a format supported by the device your are viewing on. This is the delay your are experiencing when you select a channel. The Tablo transcodes and then buffers some to the hard drive you attach for storage.

      As for the channel guide, yeah this is a place where Tablo could improve. Since the device you are using to stream handles guide data differently the Tablo has to handle it. It doesn’t appear the Tablo has much local memory for storing guide data. Each time you start up it needs to fetch the guide data from the service and then format it for the Tablo and then it syncs the guide to the device you are watching on. If the Tablo had a local storage for the guide info, you would still need a sync to update as like the video, each device handles that data differently within apps. So it still needs to sync the entire guide. I wish they could find a way to store the guide to your account and only do an update to the data as needed when you connect with that device. Like a “cloud” based guide storage. But that could cause issues if the “cloud” server is not accessible.

      As a DVR it works well. Playback of recorded content is just like other DVRs. And isn’t one of the main purposes of a DVR is to record a show and watch it one your own time and not watch live programming?

      There are also third party programs that allow you to pull your recordings to a computer/server such as a PLEX server. The one I use pulls the shows directly into Plex in the background during a schedule I set. Works great.

      All in all Tablo works well for what it is. To some it can be painful as it has its quirks at times. But the support is really responsive and helpful.

  • Shelia Tolar

    I have a Channel Master DVR+ for use with my Winegard antenna. It has HDMI output and an ethernet port that I connected to my router. The two-week guide is free.

  • darrell hardee

    Can I get antenna on my Roku 4

    • bglipsitz

      No. You connect your Roku 4 to your TV. You connect your antenna to the TV as well.

  • Nina3

    The DVR was one of the biggest things we missed when watching live TV with an antenna. We now use an HDHomeRun Network tuner to record HD Antenna signals to a small Mac mini hooked to our TV with an HDMI cable. Using EyeTV software, it works just like a VCR to record HD TV shows for no monthly fee. Picture quality is amazing and the pause, play, fast forward and rewind live TV feature works just as well as TiVo.

  • Alex

    I have the same setup. I use a 50 mile antenna that I threw up in the attic but I have to switch tv inputs to get those free local channels. However, when it comes to the roku, how do I stream cable/sat channels like ESPN, hgtv, food network, Disney, etc, without using paid cable/sat subscription logins? That would complete the entire experience!

  • Randy

    Another great option if you have an Xbox One is to get an antenna adapter for it. That’s what I use for OTA. You don’t get DVR, but you do get a guide and can pause live TV.

  • Dawnie

    I’ve been looking for a way to contact Roku about a free channel that has not been working for the past week. It is SBN SonLife Broadcasting Network. If the powers that be see this, please address this issue. Thank you in advance!

  • Anthony Pasquini

    I am missing something here. How do you hook the antenna up to the Roku? There is no coaxial input in the Roku 4. I have a antenna adapter for my XBOX so I tried that into the Roku’s USB input but nothing happened, no signal, no “antenna” channel.

    • cleveland weeden

      I have a Roku 4 on one TV and two Roku TV’s the Roku tv have an antenna icon that works very well. I have not found the icon on the Roku 4. I have to use two remotes one to control the TV and the other to control the Roku 4. It would also be nice to have an off / on button.

      • bglipsitz

        You will find the antenna icon only on TVs with BUILT-IN Roku, e.g., TCL.

        Roku 4 and all other straight Roku boxes are connected to your TV via cabling (most likely HDMI). You connect your TV antenna to the TV via cabling as well (coax).
        Your TV remote will have a button labeled “sources” or some such. Roku will be one of those sources. The antenna will be another.

    • Durz0Blint123

      The antenna capability is ONLY available on those TCL Roku TV’s – not the standalone roku boxes like the 4 and the new premiere series. I wish they would put an antenna port on the boxes, but they don’t.

  • Jake

    I live in apartment with only one window and there are mountain ranges

  • Matthew1471!

    Just wanted to add this is not for the UK market and the hardware will not work in the UK
    https://community.tablotv.com/t/tablo-uk-european-release/8395

    Would be interested if there’s a UK rival that plays nice with Roku.

    • Tom Tunstill

      Not that I’ve been able to find.
      Irritatingly, it seems the updated nowTV box (made by Roku) does exactly this, but of course no Netflix, Amazon etc. :

      http://www.nowtv.com/tv-smart-box

      • Matthew1471!

        Thanks Tom, nowTV is if you want to watch your satellite subscription (skyTV) not really just the free-to-air stuff. There’s more apps and things you can do on the Roku as nowTV lock them down to not be able to install anything that competes with their business model.

        • Tom Tunstill

          Yep, I have roku and nowTV boxes. Since the latest nowTV box includes an OTA tuner, it’d be nice if Roku released a non-locked-down version but guess that’s unlikely…

  • Wayne Carey

    The only issue I’ve seen lately is that ISPs are placing data caps which is making cord cutting impossible again. In the Memphis, TN area, Xfinity has a 300 gig data cap. The only other option we have is AT&T U-Verse internet but if you don’t have DirecTV, then you have a 1 tb data cap (better but still a cap). I cut the cord for about two years before having to cave in and get regular service because of the data caps. This is a major issue in all of the major markets from what I’ve been reading lately. I’m tired of the terribly expensive tv services and want to cut my cord again. We need a HUGE group of people to come together to petition the FCC and the federal government to stop data caps.

    • mudkicker7812

      You must never turn your TV off. I had comcast 25mbps service and never hit the 300GB cap

      • Wayne Carey

        I’ve got a family who uses it, too.

    • SonoranSeeker

      I switched to a business Internet plan with my ISP to get rid of data caps. If several people in your family are watching HD TV, you can easily burn through 40 or 50 GB in a single day, so the 300 GB cap is a huge problem. The cap is designed to protect the cable TV part of the cable company’s business obviously.
      I am paying $80/mo for uncapped 50/10 Internet which is plenty good enough for HD TV, even 4K. This allowed me to finally cut the cord. Problem solved! 🙂

  • Andy

    Where is the antenna channel? I would love to get rid of my digital receiver box and have one unit.

    I don’t want to purchase a Tablo ( or whatever it’s called. That would defeat the purpose of attempting to eliminate a device. I see Amazon fire TV has the capability. Might have to go that route.

    • Durz0Blint123

      The antenna channel / capability is only available on the TCL Roku TV’s – not the standalone boxes like the 4 and the new premiere line. I wish they would put the antenna port on the boxes but they don’t. I have a the Roku TV in my bedroom and I like it a lot.

      • bglipsitz

        Why should Roku put an antenna port on their box when you already have one on your TV?

  • Jim Krajenta

    Frustrated…We purchased a Roku TV to get rid of cable. Purchased an antenna that high high customer reviews. The antenna picks up local channels of NBC,CBS however, we cannot get ABC! All TV Station locations are out of Austin and we live approx. 25 miles outside Austin. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

    • mudkicker7812

      Getting an antenna is only the start. How far you are away from your stations plays a giant role in reception. The other factor is direction. Antennas are directional, no matter how omni-directional a company says antenna is. It still receives it’s best signal from front and rear side.

      So indoor antennas are generally good for metro areas where signals are strong. Outdoor antennas are good for rural areas where signal is weak. But your antenna probably splits off to multiple TV sets. Every splitter reduces signal, long cable runs can accept interference and db loss. To combat this you should buy a antenna amplifier to go on the main run, this does 2 things. It amplifies and filters signals to clean up distortion out of the actual signal going in. The next is a signal db amplifier to boost the signal, if it’s a 5 way splutter, each leg steals 3db from the input. 5×3=15db. Your signal booster should be 25db amplifier to compensate this loss.
      I guarantee you will receive more channels with this set up.

    • Durz0Blint123

      Your post was 2 months ago so this may not be a factor anymore – but also positioning is HUGE. I can’t remember which, but it was either UHF or VHF was much more picky on positioning. I have my clear stream antenna in the attic and there is a separate bar for one of those frequencies. I had to detach that bar and move it 3 – 4 feet away from the rest of the antenna to get all of my stations. I probably wouldn’t have as much of an issue if my antenna was on the roof instead of in the attic, but who wants to climb way up there.
      My antenna is a ClearStream 4 – and I emailed clearstream support for help when my stations wouldn’t come in. The suggested a combination of both the positioning mentioned above, AND I also got a 5 way booster/splitter for my basement since it feeds my entire house.
      Now most of my stations come in just fine. Every once and a while one (i think it was ABC) will get some artifacts and hiccups. But for the most part, it’s all good.

    • bglipsitz

      Visit http://www.tvfool.com and http://www.dennysantennaservice.com/ for info. There’s a lot of good info at Dennys’ site, whether or not you buy an antenna.

  • andy wood

    So I use an antenna how do you sign up for say the history app that requires a t.v. subscription?

    • Dave

      You can sign up for services like psvue, sling tv or directv now to get the cable only channels

  • JJGlyph

    How do you get the Antenna shortcut on Roku? I searched in channels and couldn’t find anything.

    • Durz0Blint123

      If you are trying on a roku device (like the 4, or the premiere line), you won’t find it because those devices don’t have an antenna port.
      You will only see the Antenna shortcut on a Roku TV (the TCL TV that has the roku operating system built in).
      I purchased the 42″ 1080p TCL Roku TV for our bedroom JUST before the 4k versions came out (DOH!). I can’t remember if the app was there by default, or if I had to go through the setup options (not the “app channels”) to have the TV scan for available stations.

      • JerryRSanders

        I wonder why the Roku TV does not have a good channel guide like the tablo. I believe that the channel guide info is part of the over the air signals so it should be possible.

  • Durz0Blint123

    To Roku Mods – this posting is old enough that you probably aren’t going to respond – but are there any plans to add an antenna port to the standalone devices like the 4 and the Premiere? We love our roku TV in bedroom for it’s simplicity. And I would really like to replace the Roku 2 in our living room with a new 4k box, but it would be even better if it had an antenna jack.

    • bglipsitz

      Why not attach the antenna cable directly to the TV?

  • Devin Serpa

    Well this sucks. Won’t someone come up with a solution to have a channel that connects to an antenna hooked up to a PC or a networked purpose-built device?

    • Iptv Guy

      I know of a private channel where you can get 200+ live USA channel, 80 Spanish channels, popular TV shows, and 800 + movies for a small monthly fee all you need is a Roku and internet connection if your interested email me at 1iptvguy@gmail.com. I’m not directing anyone to a website so I don’t get kicked off here so of you want to know email me.

      • Macy’s Mom

        If I have to pay a monthly fee to get local channels it is not worth it. It would be better for me to just buy another “regular” 32 inch TV. I had no idea that Roku meant that I COULD NOT GET ANY OF MY LOCAL CHANNELS ANYWAY.

    • An alternative to Tablo is the Plex DVR. It’s a new premium feature of the Plex media server that allows you to watch and record content from a HDHomeRun network-attached tuner via Plex. https://www.plex.tv/features/dvr/

  • Macy’s Mom

    I wish I had never bought this stupid Roku TV. I just wanted a 32 inch TV for my bedroom and unfortunately let the salesman talk me into buying a 32 inch Roku TV. The “bells and whistles” that I can get on this TV are already available on my Comcast subscription anyway. Now I cannot get any of my local channels and now I am told I need to buy an antenna. If I have to pay $60 for an antenna I would just give the Roku TV away and just purchase another 32 inch TV that works. When I purchased the TV I listened to the lie that the salesman told me “You can get any channel that you want on this TV, even your local channels.”

    • bglipsitz

      Why not just drop Comcast cable (we did last year)? How much per month are you paying for cable vs a one-time antenna purchase?

    • T Spencer

      I have a sub $10 antenna that works amazingly well. I am also one who “cut the cord” several months back. Cut our TV bill by more than half and we have more than we can ever have time to watch. As the other reply pointed out… an antenna would cost way less for a one time purchase than a continuing monthly cable bill.