Customers with a modern television manufactured after 2007 and an antenna can receive all of the big national broadcast channels for free, including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox, CW and PBS. Users with televisions that were made before 2007 may need a digital converter box in order to receive broadcast television signals from their local transmission towers. Nonbroadcast channels are not legally available without a paid cable subscription.
Antennas are a common cost-saving measure for consumers who either cannot afford cable or do not watch enough television to justify the cost. Indoor antennas can be used if households are within 30 miles of a transmitting tower, but households that are relatively isolated or in heavily forested areas are generally encouraged to use outdoor antennas. A basic antenna can be purchased for $28 to $30, as of 2015, making this type of television channel acquisition much cheaper than traditional cable.
The FCC's website provides detailed information on area signal strength and the type of antenna needed to receive broadcast television channels in different locations. It also features a local signal strength guide map where users can plug in their home address and determine which type of antenna they need to purchase to view particular channels.