Comcast vs. Over-The-Air Television

TV compare 5

This week I stopped into my local Comcast office to try to negotiate a better price for our family internet service. For the past four years, I have been quite successful, talking the customer service rep into a much better deal (usually about half the price). This year’s negotiation did not go as well. I have apparently used up every advertised deal, as well as every individualized special deal. I was only able to bring our internet bill down by 25%. But we’ll have the same internet speed for the next 12 months, and we now have a small package of TV channels.

I have resisting their sales pitch for TV service for the past four years. We don’t need TV, I always told them. We just watch Netflix online. Who needs cable TV? But now we have it, about 40 channels, mostly channels that we were already getting OTA (over-the-air) with our wonderful outdoor Clearstream 4 roof antenna.

After my son set up the Comcast TV box, we fired up the TV. Hmm, not impressed. I hauled out the spare TV and set it next to the Comcast TV for comparison. We noticed three things:

1.Comcast TV lagged behind the OTA TV signal by about five seconds. That made it hard to compare the exact picture quality since the scene was always changing.

2.The Comcast TV channels were broadcasting in a lower resolution. High definition was now standard definition, and even standard definition was degraded.  In the picture above, Robert DeNiro is seen on the low-resolution channel Bounce, and he definitely looks sharper on the TV using the roof antenna.

3.The color on the Comcast channels was off, veering into red and purplish tones. The OTA TV needed no picture adjustment, as every color was perfect.

So there you have it. The free over-the-air TV looks way better than Comcast’s watered-down TV service. I imagine if we coughed up money for a high-definition TV box, the picture would look better, but we’re not doing that. We’ll just keep enjoying our high-speed internet and Netflix, watch over-the-air tv with our roof antenna, and occasionally turn on the Comcast TV. Oh well…


A Budget You Can Live With: TV (2017)


Yesterday I wrote about a necessity in everyone’s budget – food. Today I’m focusing on a non-necessity: entertainment. That covers tons of things, depending on your tastes – concerts, golf, amusement parks, etc. But the entertainment almost everyone has is TV. According to an NBC News story, Americans shelled out an average of $99 a month in 2016.’s website listed the average at $103 a month. That comes out to about $1,200 a year!

Last year, I really dug into the cost of all the TV options in our area:

This year’s options are pretty much the same, albeit with higher prices. Last year I really put in a good plug for using OTA (over-the-air) television, and mentioned the indoor style antenna (mohu leaf for as little as $40, winegard for a little more). They work well if you don’t have a lot of trees or buildings to block the tv station signals, and have tv stations fairly close. This summer we decided to go one better, and bolted a Clearstream-4 antenna with a 70-mile range to our roof. We were astonished to see that we could get 37 channels on a clear day, up from 20 channels on our indoor antenna. Obviously, some of them are what I call “junk channels”, so I blocked those on our TV settings. The antenna costs $123 online at Amazon as of today’s date:
(Note: don’t get the one that is only $99, as it doesn’t have the parts to bolt it to your roof.)

Every network has a main channel that is broadcast in 1080 high resolution:
plus two sub-channels in standard definition that air older tv shows and movies. Here are some examples:
Comet (classic sci-fi)
Laff (comedy)
Justice (crime shows)
Cozi (family shows from the ’70s)
Escape (forensics, FBI)
Antenna tv (60’s shows)
Worldview (news from around the world)
Grit (westerns)

So my recommendations for home entertainment are about the same as last year:

Get rid of cable/satellite tv!
Subscription tv will just keep bleeding your wallet. Try an outdoor antenna or maybe even no tv at all.

Check out DVDs from your local library.
Most libraries have at least some movies and tv shows on DVD available to check out free. Just don’t bring them back late.

Re-watch the DVDs that you already own.
Most people have them stashed about the house, watched once and then forgotten.

Swap DVDs with family and friends.
Just remember to return them as soon as possible and in good condition.

Branch out into other forms of entertainment that are free.
Writing, board games, listening to free podcasts, walking/jogging, etc.