How to Tune a TV to High Definition Channels

Written by robert vaux
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Cable companies and satellite companies often offer "high-definition" channels corresponding to major networks such as ABC and HBO. Such stations carry the same shows as the network ordinarily would, except that some of them are broadcast in HD--making them much sharper and clearer on your screen. In addition, basic networks will broadcast certain shows in high definition as well, which you can receive even if you don't have cable. Depending on what you hope to watch and what kind of television you have, receiving an HD channel can be as easy as turning on the set.

Skill level:


  1. 1

    Check the capabilities of your television set. Any set built after March, 2007 is HD-ready, which means it can receive high-definition signals with no added equipment. Many earlier sets have these capabilities too, though sets that are more than a decade old require an HD tuner to receive high-definition signals (and depending on the model, may not be HD-capable at all). Your owner's manual should tell you if your TV set can receive HD signals, and you can also look for an HDMI outlet (a thin rectangular outlet labelled as such) on the back of the TV.

  2. 2

    Examine your cable box, satellite box or DVR for an HDMI outlet, or call your cable provider and ask them if your equipment is HD-ready.

  3. 3

    Look up TV listings for your favourite shows. Those broadcast in high definition will have an "HD" label on the listing. Prime-time shows, sports programs and shows on high-end cable stations such as HBO are often broadcast in HD. Daytime shows, syndicated shows and shows on basic cable stations are not yet broadcast in HD--at least not very often.

  4. 4

    Determine what kind of station broadcasts the show you want to watch. If it comes from a free station (a locally broadcast station or one of the "big five" networks of CBS, NBC, ABC, Fox or the CW), you only need an HD-compatible TV. The high-definition signal goes out with the rest of the broadcast, and you can get it just by turning on your set. If it is from a cable or pay-time station, you need to use an HD-compatible cable/satellite receiver and/or a DVR. Cable companies will list which stations you can pick up in high definition; you then simply turn to them as you would any other channel.

Tips and warnings

  • High-definition cable or satellite TV depends on an HD signal from your provider. Just because you have cable or satellite, it doesn't mean you receive high-definition programming. Give your company a call and ask for your status; they can upgrade your package and provide you with a high-definition tuner very easily if you wish (they usually charge a few extra dollars per month for HD service).
  • Make sure you use an HDMI cable to connect cable boxes, satellite boxes and DVRs to the TV. Standard A/V cables do not carry high-definition signals nearly as well, and while you will still receive programming, it won't be as sharp or as clear as it could be.

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