Experimenting with free TV in St. Petersburg

ClearStream V2 antennaLast week, my DirecTV contact expired, and I decided to undertake setting up over-the-air broadcast television in my living room. In a nutshell, the experiment was a success. I am now getting 35+ channels with very good reception using a ClearStream 2V antenna mounted on a floor lamp next to my TV.

The Tampa Bay broadcast lineup

Among the VHF/UHF lineup are all four networks, five educational stations, two movie channels, a news channel, a weather channel, and numerous other offerings such as shopping, lifestyle, and on and on. Having grown up in an era where we had five channels over the air (and this was near a major city, mind you), my expectations were quite modest. I have been stunned by the variety and quality of both the content and reception. Why pay for TV?

The ClearStream 2V antenna

I started by reading reviews on Amazon. I particularly liked what I read about the Antennas Direct C2-V-CJM ClearStream 2-V Long Range UHF/VHF Indoor/Outdoor DTV Antenna with 20-Inch Mount, and I decided to invest $85, which included a J-mount to install the antenna outside. I had originally supposed that I would need the mount, but it turned out that I did not.

Setting up the antenna

I began with dismantling the DirecTV setup and attempting to set up the antenna according to the diagram. The UHF digital channels started working right away, but it took me a second attempt to get the antenna looking like the picture. I had originally connected the VHF wrong and left one plastic molded piece off altogether.

Programming the digital channels

I programmed the channels according the directions from my television several times and after a number of attempts over a week’s time ended up getting 14 channels, all with multiple subchannels. Most of the channels are broadcast from Riverview, south of Tampa. For example, Channel 16 (WUSF) has four subchannels: WUSF TV (16-1), WUSF Kids (16-2), WUSF Create (16-3), and WUSF Knowledge (16-4). I am delighted that I will still be able to get my yoga programs in the morning on 16-1. After rotating the antenna a bit and using the add-on program feature in my television’s menu, later I was even able to pick up two additional channels.

I had originally planned to mount the antenna on the building, but since reception was outstanding, I decided not to bother. Instead I mounted it on a floor lamp next to the television.

For good reception, it is sometimes necessary to turn the antenna in one direction or the other, especially after changing channels. It had been so long since I saw broadcast TV (back in the analog days) that I’d forgotten about that, but it is a minor inconvenience.

Setting up the program guide

I found I could set up a custom guide at TitanTV by starting an account and entering my zip code. This works, but at times, I wish I had a printed guide. Overall, I’ve been really pleased with the results and can’t imagine why I was paying for television.

Till next time, stay frugal and fancy-free.

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