Earlier this week, hundreds of TV channels across the United States were blacked out for customers of DirecTV and Dish Network, due to a pair of carriage disputes with, respectively, Tegna and Nexstar, which are owners of TV stations.
The Dish blackout, which is the largest of its kind in history, affects more than 160 local channels, while the DirecTV dispute affects more than 60. However, these include some big channels in big cities, and there’s no telling how long the disputes will last.
The channels affected are owned not by the networks but by Tegna and Nexstar, which means the networks with which they are affiliated differ when it comes to each channel. If you’re a customer of one of the satellite services and the area NBC affiliate is affected by the disputes, that means you can no longer watch “The Voice,” “This is Us,” or Sunday Night Football through your satellite services.
There are, however, a few workarounds available for those who want to continue to reach their favorite channels while waiting for the dispute to be resolved.
-Buy an antenna. Not everyone knows this, but it’s very easy to buy an HD antenna, connect it to your television, and receive free over-the-air signals of all local channels, just like everyone did with their old rabbit-aired TVs in the pre-cable era. The cheapest ones run as low as $15, with more expensive ones stretching into the hundreds, but the good news is, once you have the antenna, the signals are free to receive. No, you won’t be able to DVR shows, but you can still watch network programming, whether it’s sports or sitcoms or dramas.
-Go all-in on streaming. This won’t work for sports, for the most part, but you can watch a lot of current network programming on streaming services. The current season of “This is Us” is available on Peacock, albeit not on the free tier, and many current network shows can be watched on Hulu, although most of them don’t debut there until the day after their network airing. If you lost your local CBS channel, CBS All Access has those shows, including football. And if news is what you want, there are numerous ways to catch broadcasts, from Roku to Peacock.
-Take the vMVPD plunge. If you sign up for Hulu + Live TV, you can get most local TV channels, as well as sports, likely for less than you’re currently paying for your satellite service, the Hulu service’s recent price hike notwithstanding. This is a switch that could be permanent, even after satellite service comes back. There are also such services as YouTube TV, Fubo TV, and others.
-Switch to cable. There’s also the option of getting rid of DirecTV and switching to a cable provider. It’s not the money-saving option that the others on this list are, but if you want all the channels you’re used to without a workaround, it’s always there. If you do this, look for special deals for those switching.
Stephen Silver, a technology writer for The National Interest, is a journalist, essayist and film critic, who is also a contributor to Philly Voice, Philadelphia Weekly, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, Living Life Fearless, Backstage magazine, Broad Street Review and Splice Today. The co-founder of the Philadelphia Film Critics Circle, Stephen lives in suburban Philadelphia with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenSilver.