Thursday, January 08, 2009

Time Warner HD

Here at OMW, it's definitely one of our most Frequently Asked Questions:

When is the local Time Warner Cable operation in Northeast Ohio going to add more HD channels?

OMW readers are a well-informed bunch, as a rule. They know that satellite providers have added a number of HD channels over the past year or so. They know other cable systems - even those owned by Time Warner, like the Columbus-based Mid-Ohio system - have added many more channels.

(To be fair, not only is the Mid-Ohio system mostly the company's original system - give or taken some Adelphia pieces, we think - but it has many less bandwidth-stealing analog "must carry" channels than the company's Northeast Ohio systems.)

On a recent visit to our long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush's home in Rochester NY, we saw a Time Warner Cable HD lineup with about three or four times more channels than we get in Northeast Ohio.

Why not us?

There's plenty of speculation behind the delay in addition of HD channels on Time Warner's Northeast Ohio system, but we decided to go for the facts...and TWC local spokesman Bill Jasso was very forthcoming.

Jasso tells OMW the base reason for the delay in adding HD channels, and it's basically what we thought:

It's all about switched digital video. The problem is the former Adelphia and Comcast systems are still not compatible with the legacy Time Warner system from a switched perspective. The need to introduce OCAP -- the open systems platform, also threw a monkey wrench into the works.

For those not familiar, "Switched Digital Video" or SDV is the main driver that allows cable systems to add large numbers of new channels.

SDV means that cable companies can move lesser used channels off the main feed. When your digital cable box tunes to one of those channels, with SDV, it'll go out and grab that feed and send it to your home directly. If no one is watching the channel, it doesn't "sit there" and take bandwidth.

And that means cable operators can free up that bandwidth...for HD channels, and other digital services.

The explanation is kind of simplistic, and we probably got a detail or two wrong, but that's basically how it works.

The complexity of Time Warner Cable's giant Northeast Ohio system, which was brought together from the Time Warner "legacy" system, the former Adelphia system and the former Comcast system, all with different equipment types, is one reason SDV hasn't been fully implemented yet, which would pave the way for more HD channels.

TWC's Jasso tells OMW:

What we don't want to do is treat our Akron and Cleveland systems differently, so we won't move to a "switched" system until we can do it area wide.

As such, Jasso says though he's hesitant to make any projections, the SDV work in Northeast Ohio could be done "by early/mid March".

We'll help Bill out here, and warn that ANY such projected dates for any complex television/technology project could pretty much be written in pencil.

We've run into this before at OMW...with the tower construction that eventually gave Clear Channel Canton market AC WHOF/101.7 and rock WRQK/106.9 their new home, and currently, with the tower work for Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3 and PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 at WKYC's Parma site.

You can give a projected date, and Things Happen Beyond Your Control. Any complex project sees it.

So, don't come back here in April if the TWC SDV project isn't complete yet, and shout stuff like "HE TOLD US IT WOULD BE DONE IN MARCH!"...because it's just a projected date. They ARE working on it, and Mr. Jasso was kind enough to give us a very general expected timeline.

We don't know, at this time, how long it'd be between the completion of the SDV project and the addition of new channels, but we suspect it wouldn't be that long. TWC clearly feels the pressure from competitors like DirecTV and Dish Network, AT&T U-verse, WOW Cable, etc...and many of the company's HD channel carriage deals are already done with the company nationwide.

Jasso tells us that the SDV project will, when completed, not only provide more room for HDTV channels and other digital'll also allow the company's "StartOver" feature to be implemented here in Northeast Ohio.

"StartOver" will allow TWC digital cable subscribers to "go back" to the start of a show they joined in progress, even if their cable box wasn't tuned to the channel at the start. We've seen it in action in Rochester, at the Fybush Media World Headquarters, and it's actually a good feature.

Finally, TWC's Bill Jasso tells us that he's looking for input on HD channels, and which ones our readership would like to see.

Jasso is actually a new HD set owner himself, and says he's personally sensitive to "fake HD" channels - which stretch or otherwise manipulate non-HD programming to fill the screen as a bulk of their programming.

You can, of course, use the usual ways to give feedback to TWC. If you'd like to weigh in directly here, either add comments to this item, or E-Mail us, and we'll pass your wishes along to Mr. Jasso.

By tbe way, about the comments feature here...a few months ago, we changed it so you can use "OpenID" to log in so you can add comments. You don't have to sign up for Blogger.

If you have another blog account (LiveJournal, WordPress and the like), or have an AOL/AIM ID, you can use that instead...


Bill said...

This is truly depressing news. TWCNEO has such bad public relations, I'm shocked any information came out of them at all. directv is looking better and better. There are other areas of the country in a similar situation with sdv who already have 100's of HD channels. For what we are paying, we should see TWC trucks upgrading lines like we see orange barrels!

orders said...

The reason for the lack of HD channels in NEO is the amount of bandwidth wasted on carrying wobbly analog channels, SDV is a red herring. I for one am tired of seeing constant reminders that SciFi and The Weather Channel are available in HD and not being able to get them, they'd be top of my list for requesting from TWC.

n-dizzle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n-dizzle said...

What I'd like to know is why we are not getting USA HD. We had USA HD as a part of the "temporary Olympic package" back in August, along with two other special Olympics channels. These channels were on the "legacy" TWC along with the former Adelphia systems. That means that TW NE Ohio has the ability to add at least 3 more HDTV channels. Why haven't they added something? Something other than BTN HD. Also, a few analog channels have vanished around the time of the realignment, meaning free bandwidth. It shows HORRENDOUS management on TWC's part that they are not even trying to throw the customer a bone while we are forced to wait for the technology upgrade.

Back to USA HD. Now that TWC has an agreement to carry these networks, and local TWC apparently has some capacity, there's no excuse to NOT have "Cable's #1 Network" on TWC.

I also find it especially funny that this Mr. Jasso is "sensitive" to networks that stretch SD content. ALL of the national HD offerings on TWC, except for ESPN/2, BTN and the HD Tier/Premium services, stretch SD content.

If Mr. Jasso truly cares about the content offered by the networks TWC carries, why are we forced to endure unwatchable stretched channels while ones with TRUE HD content, such as USA, Scifi, F/X, CNN, National Geographic, MHD are NOT carried here?

Also, I understand the bandwidth limitations with analog and the implications of "must carry" with locals, but why in 2009(when even cable systems are slowly transitioning to almost all-digital systems) are there still at least 50-60 analog basic tier channels beyond locals? Is it truly necessary to have 3 shopping channels, 2 faith channels, several flavors of Discovery and Music channels on the analog tier? With HDTV growing exponentially today, along with no shortage of other providers, I woulds think that TWC would be more concerned about losing the high spenders who have HDTV services plus multiple cable boxes rather than appeasing the lowest common denominator who wants an equipment free alternative to satellite. I'm honestly insulted when I see two flavors of MTV and VH1 as well as several Discovery networks and Jewelry TV, all on the analog tier, while the HD lineup is one of the puniest in the nation.

And as far as HD channel input, tell Mr. Jasso that the most popular demanded channels are USA HD, F/X HD and Scifi HD. Those are the ones I've heard the most when people gripe about TWC HD. Also, please let him know that there would be tons of happy, satisfied customers in NE Ohio if TWC could get these channels on as soon as possible, even before SDV is finished in all areas. They have to be able to squeeze these three channels in on the bandwidth they already have, the customers know that since we had THREE channels added for the Olympics!!

hookworm said...

I am very happy with the service and offerings that I receive with TWC. The number of HD channels available
currently are fine. I am willing to wait patiently for the upgrade. Moreover, the analog channels and SD channels that currently exist are more than adequate.

hookbill said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
hookbill said...

How can anyone simply say they are happy with this service. n-dizzle got it right. TW is ripping us off. It's not like they are out of bandwith, we know that.

I appreciate Mr. Jasso for being honest as to why there is no SDV in our area, but come on there still should be more of it.

If I didn't have a TiVo and line of sight issues, I'd be gone.

n-dizzle said...

I have a question or two for Mr. Jasso. I'd really appreciate it if they were forwarded directly to TWC.

Over at the AVS Forums, we've been talking about bandwidth and analog channels. It's been said before that eliminating one analog channel could free up enough bandwidth for 2 or even 3 HDTV channels. But the Time Warner Cable that is supposedly out of bandwidth is actually wasting bandwidth. On the "legacy" TW Akron system, 3 channels are wasted. Channel 47 is showing just color bars on TVs without cable boxes, channel 66 is showing a message than VERSUS has moved to Digital Tier and channel 99 is the TV Guide channel again, even though it is already on channel 16. The problem with this is channels 47 and 66 are using the same bandwidth as an actual channel, just to show color bars and a Power Point slide respectively. Also, channel 99 is a copy of channel 16. Why is it necessary to have TV Guide channel in two places? And also, why haven't channels that ended been shut off yet? I know there are legal issues with notification of service changes, but Versus was moved back in October or November. And I'm sure there are similar issues on Adelphia and Comcast systems as well. And depending on how much bandwidth is used, reclaiming channels 47, 66 and 99 could mean at least 6 to 9 new channels without SDV.

Also, I'd like to know why anything hasn't been added since Big Ten Network HD. Over at AVS, we have a decent sample of the various parts of "Time Warner NE Ohio" and for the Olympics, we all had USA HD along with two special HD channels added. So it seems that there is capacity out there somewhere since TWC was able to add those channels, but now no new channels have been added even though there is some capacity there. I'd like to know why. Is it some marketing thing such as waiting until they can add a large number of channels or is it just out of not caring about the customers?

What I'd really like to say is, throw us a bone! Give us something. We have about 14 national HD channels. If you can add three or four now, please do. Considering the project is supposed to be done in March, that means at the least April, May or later until we see new channels. I won't leave TWC since I dislike satellite, but I know there are many more disgruntled customers who will drop TWC for this reason. But the current TWC policy of feet dragging on HDTV channels will not get them many fans. I don't care that much about having 100+ channels of HD, but having around 18-20 HD channels before SDV would be nice. Thank You.

g said...

I am really getting tired of waiting for HD Channels on TW too. Almost ready to switch to Dish or Direct TV. I always thought when I lived in the Columbus area that TW was slow, but they are really slow around here. So a person spends thousands for a HD TV and then gets limited channels. I really want TW to ad The Golf Channel HD, The Weather Channel HD, Sci-FI HD, FoxNews HD, Fox Business HD.

Jeffrey said...

I just got an HD TV, so I am just now realizing the discrepancy in HD channels between TWC and the dish systems (not to mention other cable providers around the country). It was also beyond ridiculous when I tried to figure out why Versus (Ch. 66) had disappeared from my system in Oct/Nov., just after moving to the area. It took about two weeks and a technician coming out to my apartment, since the channel wasn't coming in on 323 for me. It's just one of many problems I've had with the company in about four months, and it honestly doesn't make a person want to stick with them for long.

Something that could help to make up for it? Getting the Golf Channel and Versus in HD by late spring/summer! Bravo would be a good choice as well.

Bill said...

I think "Hookworm" is really Mr. Jasso!

hookworm said...

The HD channels that people are
requesting are available on analog channels or in SD form. These are sufficient until changes occur in the future. It's not like other people have other original channels that don't exist in our area. Things like Dolby 5.1 or stretched SD should not even be part of the equation. Patience throughout 2009 is

MaximusMMIV said...

I've just signed up for Time Warner NEO service in my new apartment. My previous house had Dish Network and the HD was incredible. There were around 100 channels and they were crystal clear. I'm shocked now that I'm a Time Warner customer at just how awful the HD content is. I counted a pathetic 19 channels, and the picture quality is far worse than what Dish offered. It's grainy, ghosty, and blocky (especially with fast motion). No wonder Time Warner touts "free" HD. You get what you pay for.

The channel selection also doesn't make any sense at all. Why are ESPNu and ESPNnews offered in HD while critical channels such as USA and CNN left out? It's asinine.

I'm looking into U-verse already. I've got 60 days to bail on my contract, and I fully intend to.