For whatever reason, today's items all have a fresh, new technology bent to them...
WNEO/WEAO HD LIT UP AGAIN: Kent-based public broadcasters WNEO/45 Alliance-WEAO/49 Akron ("PBS 45 & 49") have turned on PBS HD programming again, as of Tuesday, on their digital outlets.
The stations had been running the 24/7 PBS HD feed for some time, until various equipment and financial issues got in the way and forced the end of the feed. Then, until Tuesday, the digital versions of 45/49 ran the PBS "Create" channel on 45-1/49-2, the analog simulcast on 45-2/49-2, and the public affairs channel "The Ohio Channel" on the third subchannel.
We've heard from 45/49's engineering/IT manager Bill O'Neil, who tells OMW that the FCC regulation requiring stations to continue to air analog simulcasts on the digital channel "went away" in 2005:
We do continue to program the converted analog as a convenience to our viewers and many cable systems/satellite providers are using that digital feed and converting it back to analog on their basic tier.
It does make sense, when you consider that viewers camped out on WNEO-DT/WEAO-DT wouldn't get regular PBS programming otherwise. Unlike the commercial networks, a simple upconversion of SD material on the HD channel outside prime-time doesn't work - since PBS HD is a separate feed.
The two other SD channels go away with the new configuration, though one or both may return at some point.
PBS HD and The Ohio Channel already air via the digital feed of Cleveland's PBS outlet, ideastream's WVIZ/25.
But unless you get it on cable (Time Warner Cable's Cleveland-based system carries it), good luck.
Since its inception, WVIZ-DT has operated with what's charitably been called "lightbulb power" - a very low power signal from a small antenna on top of the station's former studios on Brookpark Road in Parma. We know people who live in Parma itself, a short drive from the former studios, who can't pick it up.
At some point, some day, some how, the digital signal will move to the station's current analog transmitter site in North Royalton. We've long heard rumors about some sort of legal dispute between CBS Radio - which has WNCX/98.5's site there and is WVIZ's host - and ideastream over the use of the site for digital TV. But we don't know when, or if, this will be resolved.
So, for over-air HD viewers without cable in much of the Cleveland market, WEAO-DT is the only way to get HD PBS programming.
By the way, WNEO/WEAO is encouraging cable viewers to contact their cable company to add the digital/HD signal.
WEAO has been listed in Time Warner Cable's Cleveland lineup since nearly the day the company took over from Adelphia in Cleveland, but it hasn't been put up. We wonder if they'll add it, even considering that the very same 24/7 PBS HD feed is available on WVIZ's digital channel on the TWC system, only with a constant WVIZ bug onscreen...
ANOTHER OPTION: For those who are looking for "another video option" to cable and satellite, it's here in Northeast Ohio. Well, sort of.
This week, the folks at AT&T - you know, what was long ago AT&T-subsidiary Ohio Bell, the phone company - unveiled "U-verse", a new combination high-speed Internet/video delivery service, in a couple of dozen Northeast Ohio communities, suburbs of both Cleveland and Akron.
Notice we said "a couple of dozen". They are local cities which have already reached agreements with AT&T to provide the video part of the U-verse service.
Cleveland suburbs, from the U-verse press release, include: Bay Village, Berea, Broadview Heights, Brooklyn, Euclid, Fairview Park, Lakewood, Lyndhurst, Mayfield Heights, Mentor, North Royalton, Orange, Solon, South Euclid, Warrensville Heights, Westlake, Willoughby Hills and Willowick.
In the Akron area: Cuyahoga Falls, Fairlawn, Kent, Munroe Falls, Silver Lake, and Stow.
The appropriate press releases are here for Cleveland and here for Akron.
AT&T says it'll increase availability on an "ongoing basis", but the new system's footprint will likely increase dramatically when a new law takes effect in a couple of months. That's the much-talked-about statewide video services bill, which will allow the company to start expanding without having to reach franchise agreements in individual cities or areas.
Governor Ted Strickland signed the measure on Monday, and it's set to take effect in late September.
Interested in what channels U-verse is offering? Someone uncovered this channel lineup card (PDF file) online.
A quick glance shows us that all the full-power Cleveland locals are included, along with HD versions of WKYC/3, WEWS/5, WJW/8 and WOIO/19 and as far as we can tell, only the SD versions of SportsTime Ohio and FSN Ohio.
Other than that...it's a whole host of other channels well into the hundreds, including your usual components of multiple feeds of all the pay cable channels and many "channels" we haven't even heard of before.
What might be interesting: AT&T's lineup card lists any number of regional sports networks from all over the country, with the notation that the networks have programming "subject to blackout" - i.e. we presume most of the professional and college sports they carry.
These networks are on a higher "U400" tier - as it appears the service has at least four distinct tiers and then some. We have no idea what the pricing is, though.
If you're not sure if you can get the new service, check around your neighborhood for a brand new refrigerator-sized box. AT&T has been putting them in over the past year or so under the "Project Lightspeed" moniker.
And our next question - will this service prompt a strong response from incumbent cable companies like Time Warner Cable?
TWC already has some competition on the ground in parts of Northeast Ohio, in areas serviced by the WOW Cable folks...
WJW'S NEW SET: A topic of much discussion here on OMW, and a very popular E-Mail topic, is the upcoming new news set for WJW/8, the currently-FOX O&O station in Cleveland known as "FOX 8".
The talk has moved onto the station's own website, where "FOX 8 News In The Morning" feature reporter Kenny Crumpton's video blog has been exploring the work on the set with video clips.
The update linked above is from Friday, which describes the set as "almost complete". An OMW reader noted to us that a glimpse of the set - without full lighting - showed up on the air by accident on a news segment late last week.
Anyway, we don't know when they'll be done, but from the looks of that update, we wouldn't be surprised if they debut the new set at South Marginal Road as soon as this weekend...