People say they get TV stations from 120 miles away. Are they lying?

Astute readers of this blog know that I’m pretty skeptical of anyone who says they get TV stations from over 100 miles away. I even wrote an article explaining it. Yet every so often I read a glowing review on Solid Signal saying “This antenna gets great reception even from 120 miles!” When you think of the science of the thing, it’s hard to take something like that seriously. On the other hand, I don’t want to say someone is lying, I don’t know what they’re doing over there and maybe they do get reception from that distance. All I know is that I still won’t recommend it, because your average person is not going to have those results.

So, what are people doing when they think they’re getting reception from 120 miles? Let’s take a look.

Maybe you’re putting the antenna on a tower.
Laugh if you will, but there are some people who are really serious about over-the-air antennas. At Solid Signal we sell towers that can go up 100 feet. When you’re putting an antenna up there, you’re going to avoid most of the obstructions that are a problem with regular roof-mounted antennas, and there’s a chance that you’ll get better reception. In a case like that, a preamp is more or less required, just to make up for the extra cable you’d need to run.

Maybe the signal is bouncing off something.
At that distance, the curvature of the earth actually comes into play, and a TV signal might not reach you at all. However, it might reach a neighboring mountain range and bounce back to you. In some smoggy areas, the signal might bounce off the smog and back down to you. (That’s rare these days, as it needs to be pretty smoggy for that to work.) So it’s not really likely, but it’s possible that your environment could be helping you.

Maybe you have naturally good line of sight.
You’ll get better reception if you’re up on the tallest hill or mountain for 100 miles with a clear view of the towers. Again, this is a pretty limited scenario but it could happen.

Maybe the towers aren’t as far as you think, or there’s a repeater. Just because the TV station says it’s licensed to a major city doesn’t mean the transmitters are at the center of that city. They could be close to you, or in some cases there could be a repeater that’s close to you. You can be sure about the repeater if you look at our ever growing listing of transmitters by city. So maybe that miraculous reception isn’t actually as miraculous as you say.

Maybe you’re willing to accept “sometimes” reception.Most of the time digital TV either works or it doesn’t, but in some really fringe situations, you could be getting TV for 15 minutes followed by 30 seconds of garbled mush, followed by another 15 minutes of TV. If this qualifies as “reception” for you, that’s great, but I won’t recommend it to our customers.

Maybe you’re actually not telling the truth.
And then there’s the possibility that people on the internet sometimes exaggerate. I don’t want to accuse anyone but it does happen.

Folks, you have to make up your own mind. I personally don’t recommend that anyone use an over-the-air antenna more that 75 miles from the towers unless they are willing to put in a lot of work and still have it fail. But hey, I won’t stop you from trying.

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.