Thursday, March 19, 2009

Time Warner Northeast Ohio HDTV Plans

It's consistently one of our "most asked" questions here at the Mighty Blog of Fun(tm): When will Time Warner Cable upgrade its HDTV lineup in Northeast Ohio?

The answer appears to be "starting soon, over the next few months".

Local TWC executive Bill Jasso has been kind enough to put a lot of the information that's already out there together, along with some new information, about channels coming to the TWC Northeast Ohio lineup.

Without further ado, here's the list we have from Mr. Jasso, quoting him directly...with specifics about channels already slotted to be added to the TWC NEO lineup between now and the end of April:

On March 31 we will be adding the following new HD channels to our entire footprint:
Palladia (MTV's music channel) Channel 470
Discovery Channel 449
USA Channel 443
Sci Fi Channel 476
Disney Channel 456

On April 29, we will add the following new HD channels:
Bravo Channel 466
CNBC Channel 486
TLC Channel 450
Animal Planet Channel 452
ABC Family Channel 460
ESPN News (customer must have Digital Basic Tier) Channel 432
MLB (customer must have Digital Basic Tier) Channel 438

We then plan to add at least five additional HD channels each month in 2009. We should end the year with about 100 HD channels.

Two notes: Some of these channels are already listed in TWC NEO's legal programming notices. And as per usual, they are listed to start "on or after" the dates in question...though it sounds like the local arm of the cable giant is planning for those dates, judging from the list above.

One reason that these additions will be possible is "Switched Digital Video" (SDV). Jasso confirms to OMW that the technology - which allows the company to shuffle channels off the main bandwidth unless requested by the user - is already in place:

Right now we have over 60 channels in the platform and it is totally un-noticeable to the customer, unless you are one of the 50-60 customers in Northeast Ohio with a Cablecard TV. We're working on a solution for those folks, and will announce it soon.

Oh, and yes, the HD TiVo boxes (HD/Series 3) also use cable cards, but TiVo customers tell us that the company is ready to send out those tuning adapters which allow the HD TiVos to use cable SDV. TiVo uses cable cards internally for its HD units.

We hear from customers who have cable cards in one form or another that they are getting letters explaining the channels affected, and TWC is communicating with TiVo HD/S3 users about the tuning adapters.

But hold on, says TWC's Bill Jasso...it appears there's some customer confusion on the TiVo/tuning adapter front:

We have over 100 people on the waiting list. But as we start calling these folks, we find that don't have the specific TiVo device that requires the adapter. Oh well, they call us anyway.

We're assuming that those mistaken calls are coming from folks with non-HD TiVos, such as the Series 2 sitting a few feet away from us right here in the OMW World Headquarters.

The tuning adapters aren't needed for the older TiVos, which don't record in HD. Those (Series 1, Series 2, DVD recorders) do not use cable cards, and the SDV tuning will be handled directly by the digital cable box that feeds the TiVo. (If we've saved your CSRs some calls, Bill...you're welcome. Heh.)

In an unrelated note, Jasso also tells us about changes for the "On Demand" service in the territories formerly owned by Adelphia:

We will be moving all of our VOD content channels in the Greater Cleveland (read: former Adelphia) area (systems) from the current Channel 1 portal, to their own separate channels. This is planned for the first week of May. This should make all VOD easier to navigate and reach.

Again, much of this information is "already out there", from the letters being sent to customers, to the legal "Programming Notices" page on Time Warner Northeast Ohio's website. We hope we were able to tie it all together for you, with official confirmation.

The legal notices page also notes some other changes, like the exit of West Virginia Media CBS affiliate WTRF/7 Wheeling from the TWC systems in the Dover/New Philadelphia/Newcomerstown region on April 1...as TWC continues to pare duplicate network affiliates from their local lineups...

UPDATE 3/19/09 9:25 AM: An OMW reader in the Dover/New Philadelphia area tells us WTRF has already been pulled, dating back to last week...with a slate explaining that TWC "is no longer permitted" to retransmit WTRF programming. WTRF is listed in the legal notices among stations and networks with contracts expiring...

3 comments:

n-dizzle said...

I'd like to know a few things: Why is the lineup so "scattered"? Right now it seems like all the HD channels are clustered around the 430s/440s range. But the 3/31-4/29 channels seem to be spread out. Some are even past the HDTV Tier, up in the 480s where the PPV/VOD channels are. Seems kinda unfriendly to browsing/channel surfing.

Also, why is Palladia(MTV channel) listed as being on position 470 as of 3/31? Right now Universal HD is channel 470, part of the HDTV tier(and even some viewers in the former Adelphia area are getting UHD for free). Is TWC dumping UHD or moving it? I'd hate to see that channel go.

Also, why isn't F/X HD on the March or April list? I'm happy to be getting new HD, but I'm disappointed when I see things like ABC Family, Bravo, CNBC and ESPN News ahead of channels like F/X, which has 'the best' original programming and movies in HDTV.

I remember in the earlier article Mr. Jascoe said he cared about "real HD" on the channels TWC carried. So I'm shocked to see a channel like ABC Family that was called "a joke" by the AVS Forum because of its small amount of HD programming. And channels like ESPN News and CNBC that are HD only because they are glorified barker channels.

MaximusMMIV said...

Uh... where's CNN? I don't understand how this channel is overlooked time and time again.

Tim W said...

I see by the comments left on an article on our local newspaper about WTRF being pulled from the Time Warner Dover/New Philadelphia lineup that I am not the only viewer of WTRF in Tuscarawas County, Ohio. It's not only to watch 7 News. It is also to watch the Steelers games on CBS that the Cleveland CBS affiliate would not carry. Here is a link to the article:

http://www.timesreporter.com/news/x599198164/WTRF-TV-out-of-Time-Warner-line-up

There is a poll relating to this article and here are the results:
Are you upset with the loss of WTRF-TV Channel 7 from the Time Warner Cable lineup?
Yes 53% (279 votes)
No 32% (166 votes)
I don't have cable 15% (80 votes)
Total Votes: 525

As a long time 7 News viewer, I voted yes. The address for this poll is

http://answers.polldaddy.com/poll/1464800/

I have sent e-mails to the Station Manager and Chief Engineer of WTRF as well as TWC.