Without HD content, a high-definition television is just an expensive electronic device. While you can watch standard definition on an HDTV, you won't get the benefit of the higher resolution you'd see with high-definition programming. Simply plugging a cable into your television won't be enough.
You can get access to over-the-air HDTV programming using an antenna if your television has an HDTV tuner in it. Many HDTV sets on the market today have their own tuners. But if your set is HDTV-ready, that means it doesn't have its own tuner and you won't be able to access high-definition programming simply by using an antenna. The biggest advantage of using an antenna to get HDTV programming is that the programming is free! You don't have to pay a subscription for the content. But you also won't have access to the same variety of programming you'd receive through cable or satellite.
The debate between cable and satellite service is complicated. Depending upon the market you live in, you may have only a couple of choices or no choice at all. Cable and satellite service providers perpetually compete against each other -- if you have the luxury of choice you should look at the various plans each provides.
If you're already a cable or satellite service customer you'll probably need to upgrade some equipment before you can get HDTV content. If you're a cable customer, this may mean a new set-top box for the entertainment center -- depending upon the cable company, you may be able to connect the cable directly to the television set. If you're using satellite service, you'll need a special HD satellite dish as well as the right set-top box. Connecting your HDTV to one of these sources is usually pretty straightforward -- you connect a cable from your set-top box's output port to one of your television's input ports.
Whether you choose an antenna, cable connection, satellite dish or some combination, you'll want to make sure you're actually receiving HD content to make your investment worthwhile. Let's say you've got the HD feeds coming in. What's next?