Thousand TV Antennas Given Away in Washington D.C.

People began lining up six hours before the giveaway began.

WASHINGTON—Eastern Market is a local institution in Washington, D.C., with dozens of open-air food and craft stands drawing thousands of locals every weekend. But the venue also attracted a huge number of local citizens recently, interested in something a bit more technology-oriented.

For those who are still skeptical about the American consumer’s interest in free over-the-air TV, the long lines at Eastern Market on Nov. 23 should help dispel those doubts. Local residents began lining up at dawn to receive free TV antennas given away by Antennas Direct in St. Louis, in a coordinated campaign with TVFreedom, a consortium of stations, small businesses and other groups interested in preserving over-the-air TV broadcasting in the United States. In addition to the giveaway, LG Electronics displayed a dozen UHDTV sets in a nearby building, and visitors were also encouraged to participate in a drawing for a free 42-inch LED HDTV.

Antennas Direct President Richard Schneider

According to Richard Schneider, president of Antennas Direct, the company has given away more than 15,000 DTV antennas in mid-sized markets over the past two and a half years, with Washington D.C. by far the largest market yet to participate in the giveaway. The company is financing the cost of the giveaways, with some help from TVFreedom in the D.C. market. The campaign will pick up again after the first of the year, with plans to visit up to 25 more cities starting in the spring.

Schneider doesn’t deny that politics plays a role in the effort. “There’s a skepticism that broadcast TV isn’t growing and it’s the whole rationale behind the spectrum auctions and that it’s underutilized,” he said. “That’s 180 degrees from reality. If I can get 1,000 people to camp out and stand in line for four hours, what better visual proof is there that over the air is back and more popular than ever.”

A proud owner of a new DTV antenna

What brought consumers out? According to Robert C. Kenny, PR director for TVFreedom, it was a combination of several things. “A lot of folks in line don’t have pay TV, but they may have an older antenna and thought this would be a good opportunity to get a more digitally savvy and smart TV antenna,” he said. “Then there are some who said they are basically fed up with their pay-TV service.”

The 1,000 antennas were gone in an hour. 

Tom has covered the broadcast technology market for the past 25 years, including three years handling member communications for the National Association of Broadcasters followed by a year as editor of Video Technology News and DTV Business executive newsletters for Phillips Publishing. In 1999 he launched for internet B2B portal Verticalnet. He is also a charter member of the CTA's Academy of Digital TV Pioneers. Since 2001, he has been editor-in-chief of TV Tech (, the leading source of news and information on broadcast and related media technology and is a frequent contributor and moderator to the brand’s Tech Leadership events.