YOU’LL THANK ME LATER: Do a channel scan now, before new TV comes

Finally, we’re about to see some new TV shows on the major networks in the next couple of weeks. It does seem like it’s been a long time since some of our favorites have had a new episode. Summer TV is great, but it’s time to get caught up with the stories we left behind in fall.

Free TV is the best TV

Even with hundreds of channels and streaming opportunities, the highest rated shows are still on broadcast TV. And the best part about broadcast TV is that it’s totally free. Put up a TV antenna, hook in up to your TV and you’re all set. There’s just one more step you really need to take right now… scan for channels.

“How come we have to scan for channels now? We didn’t have to do that when I was a kid.”

I hear that from Solid Signal customers all the time. When TV went digital about ten years ago, a new system called PSIP was put in place. This system came about because TV stations that had always been on the same channel wanted to keep that channel number even though they were switching frequencies.

PSIP lets your TV tune to the right frequency when you say you want “channel 2.” Even if Channel 2 is actually broadcasting on channel 36, you’ll get the right programming. All it takes is a simple channel scan, something your TV can do automatically in under 5 minutes.

The system works well but occasionally there’s a need for a station to change frequencies. When that happens, you scan again so your TV knows where the channels are.

Why would a station change frequencies?

We’re in the middle of a big change in the world of television. Two of them, actually.

The first is referred to as the “repack.” Channels 37-51 are being taken away from broadcasters and given to cell phone providers. This will allow for faster data service on your phone. Stations that were on those channels will have to either move or close up shop. Most have chosen to move.

There’s a schedule here which will give you some idea when you will be affected. But, it’s kind of simplified. Your channels could move at any time. Sure, they’re obviously going to tell you when it happens. But what if you haven’t watched that channel for months?

Another reason a channel could move is ATSC 3.0, the next generation television standard. Television could possibly be changing in the next decade. If it does, the next generation of televisions could get 4K over the air, have access to on-demand features, and deliver customized commercials to you. That’s the plan right now. The FCC is letting station owners do some experiments right now and some of those experiments mean that channel allocations are changing.

When (or if) ATSC 3.0 is fully implemented you’ll probably need to rescan for channels again.  But in the best case scenario that’s maybe six years away. Not something you have to worry about.

How to scan for channels

Channel scanning is different for every TV. However, it usually starts with the TV’s remote (not the cable box or satellite remote.) First, find the TV remote, as you may have not touched it in a while. Then, press its MENU button. Look for a “Setup” or “Settings” menu and within that, look for something that says “Off-Air Setup” or “Antenna Setup.” Within there, you’ll usually find an option to scan for channels.

I wish I could be more definite but it really is different for every different TV manufacturer. But I think you have the basic idea.

With a quick channel scan, you’ll be ready for all those season premieres next week. It only takes a few minutes and you’ll be glad you did.

Don’t have an antenna yet? There’s still time to get one from 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 8,000 articles and longform tutorials including many posted here. Reach him by clicking on "Contact the Editor" at the bottom of this page.