Should you stream it or should you watch it over-the-air?

More and more, we have a choice to make. Do we head over to our reliable over-the-air antenna, or do we seek out the same content online? Let’s take a look at both and see which really makes sense for daily viewing.

The advantages of over-the-air

I think that over-the-air antenna TV has an advantage in many cases. If you’re at home, and you have an antenna that gets a channel, using the antenna is a real winner. There are so many reasons, let’s just name a few.

Immediacy

Over-the-air reception is as close to “live” as you’re going to get. There’s no measurable delay between the time it leaves the broadcast tower and the time it gets to you. At most it’s a fraction of a second. If you want to be the first one to know, over-the-air has the clear advantage. Next time you’re watching a live sporting event, check out the difference between antenna, cable/satellite, and streaming. There can be a difference of several seconds between the antenna and the streaming version. This is often due to the need to receive the signal and reprocess it before sending it out to streamers.

Quality

There’s no doubt that over-the-air antenna viewing will give you the best possible experience, all other things being equal. Yeah, if the streaming version is being produced in 4K, or it’s being shown in 1080i while the over-the-air version is 720p, the streaming version will win. But again most of the time, streamers will simply receive an over-the-air signal and reprocess it before they stream it. The amount of quality loss is sometimes pretty small, and sometimes it’s super-obvious.

Power savings

Not everyone is incredibly keyed into power savings, especially when they’re not the one paying the bill. But compared to antenna viewing, the power used by a streaming setup is pretty high. It’s not just the cost of the energy for your streaming device. It’s the cost of the servers and the backbone that gets it to you. If saving the planet is your deal, you’re going to want to stay with that antenna.

Buying local

If you watch local TV using your antenna, you’re watching the commercials that the station actually sold. This isn’t true with streaming and it’s not usually true with cable or satellite. By choosing to watch over an antenna, you are supporting local jobs. Most streaming services insert their own commercials. Only Locast leaves the local signal mostly untouched.

The advantages of streaming

Streaming has one clear advantage and that’s portability. It’s practically impossible these days to get a good quality portable TV. They’re just not made any more. You can find inexpensive ones but the quality of the tuner and the battery life are going to vary.

With streaming, you can watch anywhere, literally anywhere. Antennas only work when you’re going under 15 miles per hour, while streaming works no matter how fast you’re going.

Streaming may also give you the ability to pause and restart the program you’re watching. It depends on the app you’re using to watch. We’re all so used to this, we don’t even think about it anymore. It can be pretty jarring when you don’t have that capability all of a sudden.

It’s not just local channels we’re talking about here

Increasingly, we’re seeing national channels move over to streaming. With your satellite subscription, you can watch well over 100 channels live using a combination of your provider’s app and the content provider’s apps. Even some subchannels are now available as streaming live channels. In a pinch, you can usually go to the provider’s web site and watch there.

Verdict: get an antenna

You can see that watching over-the-air is a much better choice especially if you’re at home. And, so many of us are still spending all of our time safely at home. With spring coming, it’s going to be easy to install any sort of over-the-air antenna, even one that needs to be on the roof.

Finding the antenna you need is easy. Fill out this form if you have questions, or shop the great selection you’ll find 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 7,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.