If you aren’t close enough to the TV towers to use an indoor antenna you may need an outdoor solution. Furthermore, today’s digital TV signals require a TV with a digital tuner. If your TV was made before 2007, it may not have one. For solutions to these issues, check out my post How To Get Local Channels Without Cable. I also expand on this a bit in the TV Antenna section later in this guide.
Here’s a good place to experiment. Don’t look for a live TV option with Nickelodeon or Disney; instead, make use of the PBS app and YouTube’s kid-friendly channels, which are free. Get a subscription to Boomerang for some classic cartoons, and supplement that with some combination of Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, all of which have some excellent children’s shows.
Remember the days when you could watch network television for free? (those under 25, ask your parents). Well those channels are still available at no cost...if you have an antenna. And no, we're not talking about the clunky rabbit ears of old. Antennas have changed substantially in looks and performance over the last several years. Breakthroughs in technology spurred by development of the tiny but powerful digital antennas in smartphones have been adapted to the realm of TV reception. The result? "TV antennas today are 10% of the mass they were decades ago," says Richard Schneider, president of Missouri-based manufacturer Antennas Direct. "And the move to an all digital transmission that the FCC mandated back in 2009 has put those TV signals in a higher frequency which means a better signal with less noise".
If you want to take advantage of streaming services — Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and so forth — you'll need a way to display them on your TV. If you have a recent TV from a major manufacturer, you may not need to get anything at all. Smart TVs usually have these apps built in, and almost every high-end TV sold within the last two years or so has smart capabilities.
In broad strokes, the build and material quality is much more important in long HDMI cables than short. Over 15ft/3m there is a much higher chance that a mediocre cable won't work, or won't work at the resolution you want. This still doesn't mean you need to spend a fortune on a long cable, there are plenty of options for roughly the same price per-foot as the ones mentioned above. It does mean that no-name cables might be less likely to work.
Google TV is, quite literally, the Android of streaming boxes. It's available on a number of different devices from different manufacturers, in different price ranges, and with different remotes. As such, we can't talk too much about the hardware here (though the VIZIO Co-Star, shown at the right, is a great looking model available for preorder now). The software, however, is very reminiscent of an Android tablet...because that's exactly what it is. You have a wall of icons representing your media, live TV, apps like Netflix and Amazon, and others. You can download Google TV-optimized Android apps from the Google Play store and put them on your home screen.
We also recommend testing your internet speed at peak streaming hours (between 6 – 10 p.m. weekdays) to determine if your neighborhood struggles under the strain of heavy traffic. For instance, if you routinely get around 10Mbps downloads during the day, but that figure takes a dive to about 3Mbps around dinner time, you’ll want to call your internet provider to see if anything can be done. Fortunately, this is an increasingly rare problem outside of rural areas, but better to check ahead.