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Do You Need an Aerial for a Smart TV? A Comprehensive Guide for 2023

Written by, Nikola Dimovski

Updated June, 17, 2023

In the world of modern technology, one question often arises: “Do you need an aerial for a smart tv?”.

This query is more than just a simple yes or no, as it delves into the intricate workings of Smart TVs and aerials. This article aims to provide a comprehensive answer, exploring the role of aerials in television broadcasting, the benefits and limitations of Smart TVs without aerials, and the alternatives available for watching TV without an aerial.

Does a Smart TV Need an Aerial?

Yes. You cannot watch live TV via Freeview without an aerial in the UK. 

What is Freeview?

Freeview is the UK’s digital terrestrial TV service

A joint venture between the biggest TV operators in the country, Freeview provides free access to 70 standard definition channels, including BBC One, BBC Two, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, 15 HD channels, such as BBC One HD, and 30 radio stations.

To be able to watch TV via Freeview you need a device (regular TV or Smart TV) and a working aerial. 

Is having an aerial worth it?

Even though we live in an era dominated by on-demand and streaming services, live television is still a relevant source of entertainment, news and information. In fact, data shows that 91% of British TV viewers watch live TV at least once a week

Can I Watch TV Without an Aerial?

Technically you cannot watch live TV with no aerial, however, there are several ways you can still enjoy TV shows, films and sports on your TV without one. 

1. Use streaming apps and services 

If you have a subscription to internet TV services such as Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu or Disney+, you can stream content on your smart TV without an aerial. 

These streaming services are a great option to watch popular documentaries, TV shows (including the best American Netflix serials) and award-winning films on your TV without an aerial. Even better, you can watch them whenever you like as you are not limited by regularly scheduled programming. 

2. Use on-demand services

You could also use catch-up and on-demand services, including BBC iPlayer, ITV Hub, All 4 and My5. 

You don’t need an aerial, however, you still need a TV licence to watch live TV through BBC iPlayer or on-demand television via other apps. 

3. Watch satellite or cable TV

If there is no aerial connected to your TV, you can opt for satellite or cable television.

Freesat TV is a free TV service that only requires the installation of a Freesat Box and satellite dish.  It provides 20 HD channels and works similarly to Freeview—the biggest difference being that it is connected to a satellite dish enabling you to watch live TV without an aerial. 

Another option is to subscribe to cable television, like Virgin Media. Since Virgin Media is a broadband and TV provider, you do not need an aerial to use its services. Plus you could get a bundle deal on digital TV, broadband and a landline service at an affordable price. 

4. Subscribe to Sky TV

Sky TV is one of the most popular TV and broadband providers in the country and has recently introduced Sky Glass, the company’s new streaming TV service that does not require a satellite dish or an aerial. Like other Sky TV services and products, though, fees can run high, which is why many people in the UK are considering Sky TV alternatives.  

What Else Can You Do With a Smart TV With No Aerial?

  • You can use a web browser to search the net for information or check social media—just as you would on a PC. Even though mobile phones are still the most popular device to connect to the internet, 21% of UK adults use their smart TVs to go online. 
  • You can connect your laptop or game console to your smart TV and play your favourite game or do your work on a bigger screen. 
  • Listen to radio and music. Most music streaming services in the UK, like BBC Sounds and TuneIn Radio, are free to use, or come with a free trial, like YouTube Music or Apple Music. 
  • You can use voice assistants provided your smart TV has a built-in Alexa or Google Assistant. 

What Is The Difference Between Streaming And Terrestrial TV?

There are several pros and cons to both options, but the key difference between streaming and terrestrial TV lies in the equipment used. 

While streaming requires no equipment at all, except for a smart TV with an internet connection, you will need an aerial to be able to access terrestrial TV signals. 

There are several more differences that you need to consider:

  1. Streaming requires a fast internet connection, unlike terrestrial TV which you can watch even if your TV is not connected to the internet. Bear in mind though that streaming services can use up a lot of data—for instance watching a Netflix programme in high-definition can use up to 3 GB per hour per device.
  2. There is less variety in programming on terrestrial TV as you are limited to the channels provided by Freeview and the time slots in which your programme is on. 
  3. Steaming services are available on multiple devices in addition to a smart TV, which means you can watch films and football matches on mobile, tablets, or any other device. 
  4. If you want to subscribe to multiple streaming services, costs could add up. Freeview, on the other hand, is completely free. You only need to pay once for the equipment. 
  5. The popularity of streaming services is declining. In 2021 Netflix attracted just 800,000 new users, the lowest since the company came on the market. The number seems even lower considering that 13 million UK households had a Netflix account just one year earlier

How to Connect an Aerial to a Smart TV?

Connecting an aerial to a smart TV is no different than connecting a regular television box to one. 

What type of aerial does a smart TV need?

Smart TVs use an RF coaxial cable (the same type of aerial cable as regular televisions). This cable comes in sizes up to 300 metres so it should be more than enough for an average-sized home. 

Keep in mind that the aerial and Smart TV have female sockets so you will need a cable with male adaptors on both ends. 

How to connect the aerial to your smart TV?

You can connect the aerial to your TV by yourself by following this step-by-step guide:

  1. Choose the ideal location for your aerial
  2. Connect one end of the coaxial cable to the aerial or to the aerial socket (if you’re using a loft or roof antenna)
  3. Connect the other end to the aerial input in your smart TV
  4. Make sure that the aerial is turned on
  5. Go to the Settings menu on your smart TV and find Channels
  6. Select the Channel Scan option and wait for the TV to scan for channels

What Types of Aerials Are There?

You might think that all aerials are the same, but you would be mistaken. In fact, there are many different types of smart TV aerials you can choose from depending on your location, budget and esthetic appeal. 

Here is a brief overview to help you pick the right aerial for your smart TV:

Typically, there are two types of aerials, indoor and outdoor. 

If you choose an indoor aerial, make sure you get one that is basically a mini version of an outdoor aerial as these tend to perform the best. For instance, if you need to pick up a weaker signal, log periodic aerials or flat-panel aerials would be the best option.

Loop aerials, which sit on top of the TV, are light and compact but are not suitable for picking up weaker signals. 

Other types of aerials include: 

  • Yagi TV aerials, one of the most affordable and popular types of TV aerials in the UK and Ireland.
  • High gain aerials. These contain extra elements, making them longer but also stronger than other types of TV aerials. They’re typically used at locations with a weak signal and are great if you want to connect them to multiple TV sets. 
  • Loft aerials, which, as the name suggests, are placed in the loft. These are most common in new homes where owners don’t want a clunky aerial interfering with their decor, but the aerial itself is too flimsy to be placed outside. 

The Environmental Impact of Using Aerials

TV aerials, like all electronic devices, have an environmental impact. This impact is not just from their use, but also from their production and disposal. Here are some key points to consider:

  • Manufacturing Process: The production of TV aerials involves the use of various materials and energy. This process results in greenhouse gas emissions, contributing to climate change.
  • Energy Consumption: While TV aerials themselves do not consume energy, the televisions they are connected to do. The more channels and services you access through your aerial, the more energy your TV uses.
  • Electronic Waste: Old or broken TV aerials often end up as electronic waste. If not properly disposed of, they can contribute to landfill waste. This waste can leach harmful substances into the environment.
  • Recycling Challenges: TV aerials are made from a mix of materials. This makes them difficult to recycle. As a result, many old aerials end up in landfills.

To minimize the environmental impact of using TV aerials, consider the following:

  • Buy Second-Hand: Purchasing used aerials can reduce the demand for new ones, thereby reducing the environmental impact from manufacturing.
  • Proper Disposal: When your aerial reaches the end of its life, dispose of it properly. Many areas have electronic waste recycling programs that can handle TV aerials.
  • Energy-Efficient Viewing: Be mindful of your TV usage. Turning off the TV when not in use or reducing the brightness can lower energy consumption.

By considering these points, you can enjoy your TV viewing experience while also being mindful of the environment.

Legal Aspects of Using TV Aerials

When it comes to using TV aerials, there are several legal aspects to consider. Here’s a more detailed look:

  • Installation: In the UK, you are generally allowed to install a TV aerial on your property. However, if the aerial is outside and particularly large, or if your property is in a conservation area, you may need to seek planning permission from your local authority.
  • TV License: If you’re watching or recording live TV broadcasts or using BBC iPlayer, you need a TV License in the UK, regardless of the device you’re using, including a TV with an aerial. This is a legal requirement and failure to have a license could result in a fine.
  • Shared Buildings: If you live in a shared building, such as a block of flats, you may need to get permission from the building owner or management company to install an aerial.
  • Health and Safety: When installing an aerial, especially an outdoor one, you must ensure that the installation follows health and safety regulations. This includes securing the aerial properly to prevent it from falling and causing injury or damage.
  • Interference: Your aerial should not cause interference with other devices or signals. If it does, you may be required to fix the issue or face potential legal consequences.

By understanding and following these legal aspects, you can enjoy your TV viewing experience without any legal concerns. Always check with the relevant authorities if you’re unsure about any legal requirements related to TV aerials.

The Future of Smart TVs and Aerials

The future of Smart TVs and aerials is likely to be influenced by advancements in technology and changes in viewing habits. With the rise of streaming services, the need for aerials may decrease. However, for live TV and local channels, aerials are likely to remain relevant.

The Bottom Line: Is Watching TV Without an Aerial Possible?

Yes and no. If you want to watch live TV via Freeview, you must have a working aerial. However, you don’t need one if you want to stream online content on your smart TV or use a satellite or cable provider. 

Frequently Asked Questions And Their Answers

Can a smart TV work with an indoor aerial?

Though indoor aerials are the most affordable option, they are not that great at picking up weaker signals and therefore not a good choice if you have poor reception. 

Can you get Freeview without an aerial?

No, you cannot get live TV without an aerial. To get Freeview on your TV, you must have a working aerial. There is an option to use the Freeview mobile app on Amazon’s Fire TV Stick, but you would have to sideload the app so it works on this streaming device. 

Can I put my TV in a room without an aerial socket?

One option to get your TV in a room without an aerial socket is to purchase a portable indoor aerial, though if the reception in that room is bad this may not be a suitable solution. An alternative is to call an electrician to install an aerial socket in the room and connect it to your existing outdoor aerial.

Can I buy a non-smart TV?

Typically, no. Most of the TVs sold in the last 5 years have smart features. However, a smart TV can function as a regular TV if you don’t connect it to the internet. If you are considering upgrading to a new, smart TV and can’t think of what to do with your old TV set, here are a few ideas

Can I buy a smart TV with a built-in aerial?

No, smart TVs do not have aerials built-in. Even if your TV has Freeview built-in, you will still need a working aerial to watch live television. 

Do you need an aerial for a Smart TV if you are using BBC iPlayer?

You can use the BBC iPlayer or the BBC Sounds app on your smart TV, no aerial needed, only an internet connection. Bear in mind that this way, you won’t have access to local stations and channels and you would still have to pay for a TV licence.

My name is Nikola, and I’m an SEO Specialist and a tech enthusiast. I graduated from the Faculty of Economics, the department of E-Business Management. My experiences go from implementing ERP Solutions, CRM practices, and finally, on-page and off-page SEO. I take pride in staying ahead of the curve when it comes to SEO and keeping up with the latest changes to search algorithms. I love experimenting with new strategies and testing the results to see what works best. Outside of work, I enjoy tinkering with new tech gadgets and exploring the latest apps and software programs.