Sunday, April 09, 2006

Weekend Update (Part 2)

Ongoing with some of the stuff we've been dealing with over the past couple of days:

STO BLACKOUT DAY 2: Our current theory is that DirecTV is run by trained monkeys banging away at keyboards at random. No, we're sorry, we didn't mean to insult chimps.

For the second straight day, DirecTV customers in the Cleveland market are having trouble getting SportsTime Ohio. This time, the trouble hits home for our voracious Indians-fan relative here in suburban Akron was getting a blank screen with an authorization message on DirecTV channel 657 this afternoon.

After being told by a DirecTV CSR that "the list of ZIP codes that was published to get the games is wrong, and those are the ZIP codes that would NOT get the Indians games" (!!!!), our relative called us in search of help. We advised to keep calling DirecTV until he found a CSR with a clue. It took a couple of calls, but it was authorized, finally.

A quick call to the Indians' game day ticket phone bank (216-420-HITS) elicited tales of hundreds of calls from people well within the Cleveland/Akron/Canton market who were also shut out, including calls from as close as "5 minutes away from Jacobs Field".

We were also told that STO boss Jim Liberatore was witnessing these calls coming in, so he's certainly aware of the problem. Whether he's able to actually DO anything about the problem...well, we're not holding our breath.

There appears to be no rhyme or reason to the blackout problem. Some viewers in 442xx ZIP codes reported getting the game, some had to call. Some 441xx viewers also had to call, and that's the very same ZIP code range as Jacobs Field!

One other problem - it appears they're having difficulty with sound on the HD telecasts. Here in the Land of the Lost, er, Adelphia's territory, the sound on the HD feed (channel 798) drops out for a second about once every two to three minutes. We are also hearing that some folks in Canton may not be getting ANY sound on Time Warner's channel 523 (HD feed).

Oh, and Rumorama Department - we're hearing that DirecTV CSRs claim that HD games from SportsTime Ohio will start showing up in May...take that for what it's worth. We'll believe that when they start delivering NON-HD games reliably and on a regular basis...

NEW PHILLY-ING IT: We've done some more thinking on our item below about an apparent reference to "a sabbatical" and "contract talks" that a Dover/New Philadelphia listener heard out of WJER-FM's Bill Morgan one morning last week.

While it's impossible to predict how long the FCC will take on a particular item - just ask WBNX/55 about their digital TV application! - we don't believe there's any indication that the disposition of WJER-FM will be decided any time this year.

As noted, the "NPRM" (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) requesting a move of WJER-FM's city of license from Dover to North Canton has yet not been approved by the FCC. Even if that approval came tomorrow, Clear Channel would have to then file for a construction permit at the new tower location, and construct the facility and get the CP approved. All of this takes some time. And the NPRM has been in the files for only about a year and a half - it was filed in November 2004.

In the meantime, former WJER owner Gary Petricola continues to operate both 101.7 FM and 1450 AM in a reverse LMA with Clear Channel, and based on the above, we wouldn't be surprised to see that reverse LMA renewed for some time...perhaps with a mutually agreed upon "out" in case the above process takes place quicker than expected. But again...the FCC sometimes moves at a glacial pace...


big_al_oh said...

For what it is worth...

This morning I called and left a voice mail for Jim Liberatore. I was pleasantly surprised about 1:42 PM when I received a phone call from Jim Liberatore himself. He explained to me that there was a loophole in the contract that is allowing Direct TV to pick and choose who sees the game. He further explained that Direct TV pays a fee for each subscriber that receives the game. Apparently Direct TV decided to cut their losses by only providing the game to the Cleveland/Columbus market. Mr. Liberatore advised me that the Indians received over two thousand calls yesterday from disgruntled fans. He further stated that he has been in contact with Direct TV and let them know that the problems are unacceptable.

To Direct TV:

Monthly subscriber fee = $1.00 per month (approximate guess)

Lost Revenue when I cancel a Direct TV subscription = $136 (MY COST)

Do the math!!! It is not rocket science... If you need help call me...

Anybody wanna buy a birdbath that used to be a Direct TV satellite dish????

Ohio Media Watch said...

Thanks for the note, Al!

It appears the contract was messed up, no matter who you blame. You could pretty much blame STO just as much as DirecTV, as STO did not either A) ensure the entire Indians territory would get the games or B) didn't realize DirecTV would be able to do this.

But the problem outlined here and in the message yesterday is a different problem. It's affecting folks INSIDE the alleged STO/Indians/DirecTV territory, including people in the immediate Cleveland/Akron/Canton/Columbus areas.

It is a technical problem/operations glitch/DirecTV screwup that is blacking out the games to people in the HEART of the Indians' TV territory... people who should automatically be getting the games with ANY contract with DirecTV.

We're growing frustrated with this, and are contemplating "storming the Bastille", and doing our best to focus white hot media attention on it. OMW is read widely in local TV and radio newsrooms and by the print media, and who knows what kind of trouble we could stir up?

And with the Indians on a hot streak right now, and the team's popularity at a high...who knows?


Al said...

Well Direfct TV could fix this problem real easily...

Program STO with the same parameters used for FSN last year...

Elementary my dear Watson!

Now back to the Tigers game... it's the only game on my Direct TV!

Anonymous said...

I was not able to get the game on Saturday. I called Directv and they had me do some trouble shooting things that didn't work. Finally, the CSR told me she was going to "deactivate" my satellite box. It went completely blank and then she reactivated it. I could then get channel 657. Of course, I wasn't home today (Sunday) to see if it still worked.