Got DIRECTV NOW? Get an antenna!

It’s launch day for DIRECTV’s long-anticipated streaming service and I’m just as excited as you are. DIRECTV and AT&T seek to deliver a high-quality viewing experience for cord-cutters with no contracts and no equipment to buy (other than your phone or streaming box which you probably already have.) It’s exciting, I’ll admit.

There’s only one problem: you’ll be missing out on pretty much all local broadcasts.

There are a few markets where a few local channels can be viewed, but if you’re not in an area where the network (like NBC or Fox) also owns the local station, you won’t get any locals at all. The following graphic has been floating around the internet showing the channels that are available, market by market.

As you can see there are very few places where you’ll get ABC, NBC, Fox, and Telemundo. It’s basically very large cities. And notice one other thing? No CBS. Not anywhere. AT&T says they’re working hard to get CBS on board and I believe them, but if you want to use DIRECTV NOW today you’ll need some other way to see CBS programming.

Really, you need an antenna.

Even if you’re getting four local channels, that’s nothing compared to what you could be getting. Most markets have over 20 different program sources all available for free with an antenna, and in large markets like New York and Los Angeles, there are well over 100 different programs available for FREE every day. Getting only four of them seems like kind of a copout, right?

The good news is that you can watch local programming on your TV or even on your computer. Start with an antenna — shop for one or use our free, personalized recommendation service — and then decide for yourself what you need next.

All televisions sold today have a built-in TV tuner that connects to your antenna. There are a few monitors sold as “tunerless TVs” but they are rare. If your TV has a coaxial connection like this one somewhere on the back, you can connect an antenna to it. (It doesn’t have to be gold.)

If it doesn’t, you’ll need a converter box like this one. Even if you do have the ability to connect straight to the TV, you might want to use something like this because with the addition of a flash drive, it becomes a simple DVR allowing you to pause live TV and record programs on a timer.

If you watch TV through your computer, you’re in luck. This little stick lets you connect an antenna to your TV and watch live or record what you want. It connects easily and is compatible with nearly every PC. Not only that you can save the recordings and transfer them to most phones with third-party software.

At this point I wouldn’t blame you for feeling a little put off by the cost of all of these things. You’re probably considering DIRECTV NOW in order to save money, and here I am telling you that you’ll need an antenna, and potentially some other accessories. But remember all the antenna stuff is a one-time purchase with no fees. Once you have it, it’s good forever (at least as long as it lasts… consumer electronics do eventually break) and there are no additional fees. Even spending $100 to get up and running will pay for itself in a month or two when you’re not paying a massive cable bill.

So, if DIRECTV NOW seems like the way to go, I would absolutely recommend you trying it. It seems pretty cool, from the little bit I’ve used it. However, you’ll find yourself missing those local channels pretty quickly, and for those you’re going to want an antenna. Luckily, your friends at Solid Signal have you covered.

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 6,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.