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Monday, June 15, 2009

How good was the DTV transition for you?: Winners & losers in the transition

The television broadcasters have completed the transition from analog broadcasts to digital broadcasts, by the end of Friday, June 12, 2009.

Some of the stations without very powerful transmitters will suffer a loss of audience.
Two glaring problems that DTV poses: no signal or interrupted signal. In the old days of analog broadcasting, if one received a weak signal the shows came in with visual fuzz (white spots upon the image). Now the problem is more stark: the image does not even come in at all. Factors behind these reduced signals include hills and tall buildings. These problems arise not only in rural areas with stark valleys, but they also arise in urban areas such as New York City, with modest hills and modest valleys.

The second problem is signal interruption. If one is near an elevated train, the image goes into a frozen position while the train passes. Once the train has passed, the signal is restored.
Stations are going to lose a significant fraction of their audience if they cannot reach people receiving free, over the air service. Sure, this portion of the public is 10% nationally, but broadcasters cannot afford to lose this amount. A ten percent reduction of audience does not look good for advertisers. In areas with concentrations of poverty, the proportions that receive free over the air broadcasts will exceed the national average of ten percent.

Now let's consider my situation and see how this impacts the commercial broadcasters.
I am a viewer in Queens, New York. I cannot receive channel 7, WABC, the ABC affiliate for the city, or 41, the Univision affiliate, or 47, the Telemundo affiliate. Of course, it behooves the broadcasters to have more powerful signals. Channel 7 would do well to consider broadcasting from a taller tower. And the Telemundo and Univision stations should contract to broadcast from the Empire State Building. The Spanish language market in Queens is too large and important for these stations to write off.
I am in a low height apartment building, with trees nearby. I had far fewer stations with the transition, compared to before, with my RCA antenna (1500 model indoor/outdoor antenna) in a hanging position. I only received 4 (NBC), 25 (public), 41 (UNI) and 68 (FUT). Then, I repositioned the antenna, to lay flat, atop a bracket, near the ceiling. Now, I receive 2 (CBS), 4, 5 (FOX), 9 (MY), 11 (CW), 13 (PBS), 21 (PBS), 25, 68. The reception is PERFECTLY crisp. If one only wants the basic stations, who needs cable? My only beef: WABC-TV, get a better transmitter. For the time being, I can live without it. Sure I miss Nightline and Jimmy Kimmel; but that is not a huge loss. Charlie Rose and David Letterman come in with phenomenally crisp clarity. Also, a nice plus of getting the digital stations is the collection of bonus stations (or "sub-channels"). 4, 5, 7 (if I could receive it), 9, 11, 13, 21, 41 (again, if I could receive it), 68 offer bonus stations focusing on New York themes, live sports, weather, nature.

I am able to get the stations because I bought a modest priced ($40) antenna, and I had patience to adjust the antenna. Yet, the broadcasters must project this message in in-store informational advertisements or radio ads, to inform viewers of how to cope with the new signals. Or they must raise transmitters higher or consider pooling in building additional transmitters.

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