Which is better, streaming locals or locals from an antenna?

When it comes to local TV you have more options than ever. You’ve always had the option of putting up a TV antenna and getting local channels. For close to 50 years, you’ve had the ability to pay a local cable company and get channels over a wire. For about 20 years, you could also choose satellite TV for your locals. And, for about the last five years, you could stream. Which option is best for you?

Antenna: The granddaddy of them all

I have a real soft spot for using a good old TV antenna to get service. The nice thing about an antenna is that once you buy it and put it up, there’s nothing more to buy. There’s nothing more to pay for. It’s all yours. That could mean thousands of dollars saved compared to cable or satellite.

Antenna TV is also the most reliable form of TV. It will work as long as you can power up a television. You don’t have to worry about a cable breaking underground or snow getting on a satellite dish.

Probably the biggest advantages of an antenna are the quality and the immediacy. If you really care about watching something live, you’ll want an antenna. Depending on which other method you use, other forms of local TV can be delayed by up to 5 seconds. You’ll also get the best quality from an antenna, since those other methods use an antenna to get the signal and then recompress it. This means a lower level of quality.

Cable and Satellite: The dependable choice

Cable and satellite have been around longer than most people have been alive. Cable television was born from the need to get local channels to people’s homes. Before there were channels like CNN and TNT, cable television just delivered locals and nothing else.

Satellite TV has been around since the mid-1990s but it’s only been in the 21st century that satellite has delivered local channels. It took a massive expansion of satellite capacity, as well as an act of Congress, to make that happen. But that’s all old news. Today’s satellite delivery is mature and works well.

Streaming locals

The history of live streaming television starts in about 2012-2013 as Intel and others created prototype hardware to make live streaming happen. Before that, it was thought to be impossible to stream live TV to millions of people.

Of course technology grows quickly, and internet speeds increase every year. Within the last five years, live streaming has been commonplace. It started with pioneers like DIRECTV NOW (which changed its name to AT&T TV) and found its perfect expression in a service called Locast.

Locast is a service that takes live TV full circle. Just like antenna-based local TV, it’s available free of charge. It’s live-only, meaning no DVR service, no pausing, etc. And that means you watch commercials and schedule your viewing around when things are available.

Which one is best?

OK, it’s going to seem like a bit of a copout but there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone has different needs. I would choose an “all-of-the-above” solution. Get an antenna and use it for emergencies, or just for when you want the best channel selection and most immediate viewing. Use cable or satellite if you want DVR, tons of live channels, and a traditional, comfortable experience. And, use streaming if you want a solution that means not dealing with the cable company. Personally, I have an antenna AND DIRECTV AND Locast. I use them in different ways. Locast is a great way to get my locals on the go. Antenna TV is always there for me if I’m tinkering with my DIRECTV setup. And, of course, DIRECTV is the gold standard of television delivery. I can’t imagine living without it.

Get the solution you need from Solid Signal

No matter how you want to get live local television, you’ll get everything you need when you shop at Solid Signal. We carry the best selection of antennas, and we’re DIRECTV and DISH dealers. We offer AT&T TV as a streaming solution. We don’t offer Locast, since it’s free and you can sign up for that yourself.

If you want professional advice on how to live your best digital life, it’s just a phone call away. Call us at 888-233-7563 or fill out the form below and we’ll get back to you.

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.