Many (most?) folks aren’t aware that there’s a lot of free, over the air (as in, not cable) broadcast content these days available in HDTV. Most folks also aren’t aware that over the air broadcasts for HDTV work tons better than the old rabbit ears from the 1970′s we all remember from our youth. If you’ve been eyeing those Time Warner or other cable company ads where they’re trying to sell you a new cable box and additional monthly services, consider trying a small antenna and trying the broadcast stuff first – football, a lot of the main primetime broadcast tv shows (CSI, for example, not that I am a fan), and a lot of PBS programming is already out there for you too see, for free. And if you think you’re too remote for these broadcasts to reach you, consider this: I’m totally in the boonies and I get 6 channels. Then use antennaweb.org (note that you don’t have to tell them any of the info they ask for – just use your zip and you are all set) to check your location and see what channels you can get. You don’t even need an HDTV set, you just need a tuner and a computer with DVI-in and you can watch and record the content.
If you don’t yet have a tuner, consider picking one up before June of 2005. That’s when the FCC has mandated that HDTV tuners must have Broadcast Flag support built in, meaning any devices sold after this June will be crippled – HBO can, for example, set their programming such that you can’t record the Sopranos if you’re tuning it using a Broadcast Flag-enabled device. So buy your tuners now (they start at around $200) as a hedge against the shenanigans you are going to see later this year. Not that I don’t think we’ll see hacks to get around this bullshit, but they won’t be for the average consumer, you’re better off just buying a tuner now.