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Raleigh company brings free HDTV into homes

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A Mohu employee assembles a Leaf at the company's North Raleigh warehouse. A Mohu employee assembles a Leaf at the company's North Raleigh warehouse.
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Everyone likes "free." And now a Raleigh company has created a way for you to get free HDTV.

Catherine Woodard loves watching television, but hates paying for cable. Thanks to the Mohu, Woodard gets the best of both worlds.

"My cable bill was right about $102 a month, so I'm saving that right off the bat," said Woodard, who picks up 32 stations with her low-profile antenna.

The gadget review gives the Mohu Leaf an "excellent" rating, and Mohu founder Mark Buff says the paper-thin antenna is the number-one selling antenna on Amazon.com, having sold more than a half million.

The Leaf --which is assembled, tested and packaged in a North Raleigh warehouse -- works fairly simply: plug it in, hang it on a wall, receive free HD television from stations that send out a free HD signal.

"It allows you to plug it into the back of your TV, perform a channel scan and be able to pick up free, over-the-air, high definition broadcasts," Buff said.

Buff initially dabbled with creating a modern antenna while attending North Carolina State University, but he said the final tweaking was done when he designed a similar device for the military.

The original Mohu Leaf is modeled after a discrete mud flap antenna designed for the military.

"We can translate some of this work we did for the Navy and turn it into a consumer electronics product," Buff explained.

The effectiveness of the Leaf is dependent on your distance from a transmitter. For example, people who live within the 27601 zip code receive 24 channels with a standard Mohu Leaf, which has a 35-mile range.

If you want even more channels, Mohu offers an "ultimate," amplified antenna with a 50-mile range and an outdoor antenna with a 60-mile range.

"If you are 60 miles away from a transmitting tower, you can put this up in your attic or on the side of your house and you can receive the same broadcast," Buff pointed out.

Using the three-pound outdoor antenna, someone living within the 27601 zip code would receive27 television channels, including WNCN 17.1 and 17.2 (Antenna TV).

While the one-time purchase of a Mohu will save you money on a monthly cable bill, it is not a substitution for premium channels like ESPN, Discovery or movie channels like HBO and Showtime.

"You'll get your basic channels -- NBC, ABC, CBS -- for free and in high definition," Buff said.

Woodard has her Mohu Sky HDTV Outdoor Antenna mounted on her roof and says he relies on Netflix for the premium channels. She said the combination ensures that she's never missing out.

"I can't imagine why I didn't do it sooner," Woodard said. "It's money in my pocket."

The outside antenna sells for about $170, and the indoor antennas are between $40 and $80 at Walmart, Sam's and Amazon.com.

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