Monday, June 27, 2005

"The Tube" Invades Northeast Ohio Digital TV

Nearly all of the Cleveland/Akron market's TV stations have digital signals up and running. (The exceptions include WB affiliate WBNX/55 and PAX's WVPX/23, for technical reasons involving Canadian stations.) In addition to providing high definition versions of network programming - or even local news, in the case of Cleveland's WJW/8 (FOX) - they can also deliver second and even third programming services not seen on the main analog channel.

Among the digital pioneers is Raycom's WUAB/43 (UPN), which is co-owned with CBS affiliate WOIO/19. Raycom recently signed a deal to put something called "The Tube", a music video network, on a secondary digital channel for WUAB.

It's up. And it's bad. Really, really, bad. (This is the part of the blog where we descend into "musings", in case you're keeping track.) We're not in the target audience, so we may not be the best to judge the quality of the music or artists being played on "The Tube". We're talking about the technical quality. The video signal on WUAB-DT 43.2 suffers from Low Bandwidth Syndrome.

To fit a new channel into the main digital signal, they have to balance the bandwidth between the main signal (43.1, a simulcast of WUAB's analog signal during the day, and the location of UPN HDTV programming in prime time) and the new channel. The balance can't be too much in favor of the secondary channel, but in this case, it's even less than expected. I'm sure they'll tweak it from time to time, but a recent Robert Plant video deteriorated into pixel blocks more than once...and any fast moving or changing music video is likely to do the same.

We can be thankful at least for one thing - they aren't using the DT version of "CBS 19", which has a much larger slate of HD programming than "UPN 43". Heaven knows how this thing would affect the picture quality of Cleveland Browns games this fall!

The only other major network DT signal in this market carrying a secondary program is the digital side of WKYC Channel 3 -WKYC-DT 3.2 - which broadcasts "NBC Weather Plus" with local inserts from Channel 3's meteorologists. You can watch it online via WKYC's website if you don't have a digital TV, and it's slowly showing up in the digital tiers of some area cable systems. Considering WKYC's painfully-bad low digital channel number (DT 2), picking up "Weather Plus" over the air is a challenge for many.

WEAO/49 Akron carries the separate PBS HD feed 24/7 on its WEAO-DT 50.1. 50.2 is a simulcast of their analog signal - which, in itself, is simulcast both in analog and digital on WNEO/45 Alliance and its DT 46, not to mention little Youngstown analog translator W58AM.

And Trinity Broadcasting Network O&O WDLI/17 Canton carries four non-HD digital feeds... one of its main analog signal, and three of other TBN services aimed at different audiences (kids, Spanish-language viewers, etc.). Despite the presence of WDLI's big analog tower off of U.S. 62 in Louisville, the digital version of this religious broadcaster beams out of Copley Township, Summit County, just up the road from Rolling Acres Mall. They're in the same complex as WVPX/23 and its future DT antenna, not to mention WONE-FM/97.5 and WAPS/91.3, with WEAO/49 and WEAO-DT/50 nearby.

Whenever it manages to settle the technical issues with Canada, WVPX-DT (30) will likely have the usual PAX TV complement of east and west feeds, the Worship network and another religious channel known as FamilyNet. This, of course, assumes someone doesn't pick the carcass of the ailing 7th network apart by then.

Over in Youngstown/Warren, NBC affiliate WFMJ/21 uses its digital signal to transmit a second full channel, WB affiliate "WBCB"...which has some cable carriage in the market.

2 comments:

Radiofreewill said...

If it's that bad on 43, I can only imagine how terrible it is on WNWO in Toledo, an NBC station that also carries Weather Plus on another of its digital channels.

MJL said...

I've always had an interest in Cleveland television, particularly since we get WUAB up here on cable on the other side of Lake Erie. You should post some stuff about the station and its independent (pre-UPN) years. It seems like it was an okay station back then!