What is OTA and How Does it Work?

AirTV Blog
AirTV Blog January 31, 2019 • 2 minute read

Whether you are already a cord cutter or thinking about cutting the cord soon, by now you have probably heard the term OTA tossed around a lot. But what exactly is OTA TV and how does it work? 

Prior to Cable and Satellite TV, there was only OTA – your first TV or your family’s TV probably had what we called bunny or rabbit ears, sometimes an outdoor antenna, maybe a remote control and oftentimes not. OTA or Over-the-Air channels are simply the channels you get for free with just your television box and an indoor or outdoor antenna. 

Enabled by an antenna and tuner, OTA TV makes use of television signals transferred by radio waves from local television stations. This allows you to view channels like ABC, CBS, FOX, CW and more depending on the factors we cover below. These signals are often crisp and in High Definition, and have been this way since 2009.

Local broadcasters use OTA to deliver content directly to you without a monthly subscription cost. This means you can typically access between 20 and 70 channels depending on your distance from a broadcast center and other environmental factors. With OTA, your household can watch all its favorite programs including major network shows and the local news, entirely for free. 

Quick note: We’ll address antennas and other OTA tech in upcoming posts, but here’s a quick resource for finding which channels appear free in your area – AirTV – Locals  or FCC – DTV Reception Maps.

What else about OTA?

Your OTA experience can be boosted with devices like AirTV that take those free channels, and put them into an interface or setup with a free TV guide and DVR service, enhancing your TV viewing. This allows you to pause, rewind or fast-forward your recorded local channel content with no monthly fees. 

These devices can also stream free live TV to your phone, tablet, or other compatible devices like a Roku, FireTV, Android TV, iOS and more for a true “TV anywhere” experience. Some systems like the AirTV Player also allow you to keep all your favorite apps like NETFLIX, HULU and more all in one place for easy entertainment access when you want to mix your free local channels with a streaming service. 

Watch this space:

Our next blog posts will provide details on the basics of getting started with OTA devices like AirTV and a checklist to help figure out if OTA is right for you. We’ll also provide guidance on choosing the right cord cutter setup including mixing in streaming video on-demand options or upgrading with a service like Sling TV for access to more live content.

Have a question? Let us know in the comments section below.

5 Comments

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    1. Hi Barry – You definitely need to purchase an AirTV Box, and then download the app. The Box is the physical device which pulls the signals, integrates and distributes them. The software controls the experience on your tablet, phone etc.

  1. We encountered a problem on Sunday during the Grammy Awards. Every few minutes, the TV would freeze and buffer, then after a minute or so, would return to normal. It’s been doing that on the local channels since then. I decided maybe a hard reset was in order. I followed the instructions for a hard reset, but now when I try to rescan my local channels again, I get a message stating “AirTV is currently inaccessible, ie, offline or on a different network.”

    Where do I go from here?

    1. Thank you for reaching out Gregory! That kind of frustrating experience is not one we aim to provide, and we would like the opportunity to work with you to find a fix. Due to the number of variables that may be causing the issue, we would invite you to call in so that we can do our best to earn your satisfaction. Our customer service agents can be reached at 1-866-974-1354 from 7:30 AM – 10 PM MT (7 days a week). We look forward to speaking with you!

      Thank you,
      The AirTV Blog Team

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