Saturday, June 13, 2009

ODTV: Cleveland Digital TV Transition Awards

Welcome, to our first Cleveland Digital TV Transition Awards!

Here are our own "winners and losers" from the day analog, full-power TV went away in Ohio's largest TV market, and our primary coverage area:

MOST IMPROVED: A tie between two occupants of that new antenna tower on Broadview Road in Parma, WKYC-DT (RF 17) and WVIZ-DT (RF 26).

You could make a case for either to be the ultimate winner, but it's basically a tie due to their cooperative work and co-location.

With the new facility replacing its former interference-plagued RF 2 facility, WKYC-DT went from the outhouse to the penthouse as far as TV signal strength is concerned. Digital over-air tuners across Northeast Ohio welcomed Cleveland's NBC affiliate...for many, its first appearance.

We'll give a slight nod to WKYC over WVIZ for one reason: WKYC-DT now appears to be the most powerful digital signal in the Cleveland market, or at very least on par with WEWS-DT (RF 15). With an indoor, non-amplified antenna here at the OMW World Headquarters somewhere in northern or western Summit County, you have to work pretty hard to lose the new WKYC digital signal.

WVIZ-DT's new signal is a little lower here, signal wise, but more than enough for an easy "lock". It's pretty much troublefree from our indoor antenna-equipped installations, a far cry from its former temporary status running anywhere from 1 kW to 10 kW from places like the small tower behind the former WVIZ studios to an auxiliary tower on the WKYC property.

We realize that YMMV - "Your Mileage May Vary". Our Friday night comments included one from a Wayne County resident upset that he couldn't get WKYC-DT to watch the NHL Stanley Cup Finals. We'll assume that comparison is to the analog WKYC, vs. the anemic WKYC-DT which until recently occupied RF channel 2.

Honorable Mention; WVPX-DT 23 (ION), which puts a respectable signal out on its new digital channel 23...after years with no digital signal whatsoever.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: That'd pretty much have to be Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8, which mounted its digital RF channel 8 in a flash cut on Friday.

Viewers responded in numbers: "Bring back RF 31! Please!"

"Fox 8" is not in as bad a situation as the Cleveland market's perennial digital TV laggard, WOIO-DT (RF 10).

Close-in viewers in Cuyahoga and northern Summit Counties should still be able to pick up the new WJW-DT VHF signal with a VHF antenna of some sort, and decent antenna placement. (We found that spot here at the OMW World Headquarters, about 20 air miles from Parma.)

But the move turns WJW-DT into one of our weakest stations, and we're not alone. Our E-mail tells us that some folks as close as Shaker Heights lost WJW-DT with the change on Friday.

We also don't know if WJW is running the full 30 kW post-transition power on RF 8. The station had indicated that it acquired a temporary transmitter at that full power level, while it retrofits the now-former analog 8 transmitter to digital, so maybe things will improve...

ARE THEY REALLY TRANSMITTING?: For many, picking up WOIO-DT's 3.5 kW RF 10 signal has been a challenge, and that didn't change a bit on Friday...the station is, as far as we know, still using that facility at the moment.

WOIO has two answers to questions about this untenable situation:

1) "We applied for a power increase." Well, they did, from 3.5 kW to 10.3 kW, but it's being held up by Canadian coordination issues.

You think? Really? Wow, what a surprise! Gee, we wonder why?

Considering that London ONT powerhouse CFPL is also sitting on 10 (analog right now, they'll keep 10 for digital whenever that happens), what were Raycom corporate engineers thinking by insisting on a RF 10 digital facility for WOIO? What were they smoking?

Didn't they realize that before their digital facility first tuned up, in-market viewers along Lake Erie were able to watch CFPL *IN THE CLEVELAND MARKET* with little difficulty? Didn't they know that CFPL was so strong in eastern Cuyahoga County, it was carried on local cable in that part of the area?

Someone has to tell CBS about this.

WOIO is losing in-market viewers in places like Stark County and Portage County to Youngstown's CBS affiliate digital powerhouse, WKBN/27 (RF 41). Those viewers may have no interest in "27 First News", but CSI looks the same on WKBN as it does on WOIO. (For that matter, WJW may face the same problem in those areas, with the WKBN-DT signal also carrying an HD version of "Fox Youngstown".)

While the over-air only percentage of the Cleveland market's viewership is only a certain amount (roughly 20%, we believe, with nearly 80% cable/satellie penetration here), WOIO is left to hold its breath and hope cable and satellite carry the day.

2) 'An outdoor antenna will help". Sure, it will. It pretty much always does.

But how many people have rooftop antennas anymore, and when is telling viewers they have to spend $50-100 or more ever a good idea for a TV station? Particularly when their existing or cheap "rabbit ears" and/or UHF loop antennas pick up all the other stations without going outside?

The insistence on keeping WOIO-DT on RF channel 10 - with a strong Canadian station pushing across the open waters of Lake Erie - may be the stupidest engineering decision ever made by a major market, network affiliate station. And we are being quite kind.

Amd we doubt the proposed 10.3 kW upgrade will not make matters all that much better...

BOOBY PRIZE: To nearly all local TV stations in the Cleveland market, for not doing much to mark the analog shutoff.

We didn't see it, but we're told that Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 was the only station that did ANYTHING...breaking away on analog 5 to run a short feature on the ending analog transmission...right before analog 5 went away after 62 years (!) of serving Northeast Ohio viewers. 62 years...gone like "that".

WKYC/3 has a regularly scheduled local program at 10 AM, "Good Company Today"...but there wasn't much interesting talk about the end of analog TV, just a brief talk with a station "expert" on a show that's basically an hour-long series of live infomercials.

It was as if all the stations threw up their hands, and said, "we're sick of this, just push the button and move on"...

AND THE "IF YOU CAN'T SEE ME" AWARD: ...goes to, as far as we can tell, all four local TV news operations.

Reporters covering the "DTV Switch" for noon newscasts pretty much all stated that "if you can't see or hear us", viewers needed to call certain numbers to get help.

Well, if you can't see or hear TV, you probably can't see or hear the TV reporter telling you to get help, but that's just a guess...


Ann said...

I'm getting WOUC, channel 11, all of the Cleveland channels, 9 PBS feeds, 27 and 21 - it's crazy! I'm not even sure what cities I'm connected to now (I know I saw Toledo weather, weird!).

firebird said...

Here in Atlanta, WAGA and WXIA had the original engineers who turned on the transmitters in 1949 and 1951, respectively, turn off the analog signals yesterday.



Andrew J said...

I'd have to say that WVIZ's analog shut off was the most entertaining of all the shut-off's I've witnessed throughout this whole transition period. WVIZ analog played songs (mostly oldies with newer ones thrown in) that were themed as "goodbye" songs (did anyone else watch/listen to it??). The last songs they played were "The Final Countdown" and "Goodnight Sweetheart (It's Time To Go)". The looney tunes theme was thrown in during the final minute with porky pig's famous line "That's All Folks!". About 30 seconds later, which was exactly at midnight the plug was pulled. I wish I would have had a tape rolling and recorded it, but I didn't think of it until after the fact.

TheWgp said...

Just wanted to comment and confirm that even western Shaker Heights has lost WJW-DT. This is even the case with at least one old huge top-of-the-pole antenna (my neighbor's). WOIO also won't come in for either him or me with my decidedly more modest rabbit-ears-and-circle mounted on the 2nd floor indoors!

Funny how "Shaker Heights" CBS won't even come in on WOIO, but my neighbor says he regularly picks up CBS stations from other markets, though I guess not super-reliably enough - he has Dish as well! The real disappointment for me at least is losing WJW's awesome signal, though. We picked up RF 2 WKYC most of the time, so RF 17 is great but nothing new... this transition has meant that we now only get ABC, NBC and PBS out of the networks we actually want...

nathanobral said...

WJW at least had Todd Meany in the transmitter building with their CE Jim Snell pushing the button, along with the "CALL FCC" phone #. I have it posted right here.

A few stations nationwide did some great sendoffs... most were PBS stations. WTVS/Detroit, KTCA/Minneapolis and Milwaukee Public Television come to mind - KTCA with their first show host ever sending the analog signal off.

KLRU/Austin's was back in April, but they played their original 4th-stanza SSB film from the 70s with the ID slide (this time with no VO).

WVIZ's may have paled in comparison. I thought they would put up the old "25" test pattern at the end. But, nonetheless, I did hear the same "goodbye" songs as well. As Garfield would say, "nice touch."

WNEO/WEAO's audio at 12AM was totally out of sync. They played Charlie Rose, but the audio was coming from the Martin Savage "NewsWorld" show... unintentionally funny.

WQHS/61 did a national countdown for their shut-off via Univision. In Times Square, no less. "A New Era" in Spanish... which is remarkable I could figure that out w/o ever learning the language. :) Not that bad for a station that has had zero local identity in the market since 1986.

The best ones came from WFAA/Dallas played their classic sign-off film from the late 60s (its soundtrack was Neil Diamond's "African Suite") a part of a five-minute tribute from their chief meteorologist.

KDKA-TV aired the "High Flight" video as part of a wonderful goodbye montage set to the SSB, going back to the WDTV pattern. KYW-TV aired their original "W3XE" test pattern from 1932 (!) and a "goodbye" slide with the CBS eye device.

John said...

I must have my amplified rabbit ears in *just* the right spot, because I can pick up WJW right now, but not WEWS, and i'm in North Canton.

miss beth said...

I'm in Elyria, I got the digital fox channel perfect before, now we can't get it, I can kinda pick it up in the bedroom, but it comes in too choppy to watch. I'm so pissed! I guess if they don't up the signal they are going to loose western viewers. Glad to hear I'm not the only one to loose this.
The PBS stations are awsome!

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

@Andrew J is this what you're looking for?

Andrew J said...

Thanks Steven for the link. I never thought of checking for it on youtube. I actually found one that was a little better quality.

Chuck Matthews Blog said...

I have cable so I don't understand the big deal about the DTV conversion? Is everyone getting the digital feeds from other cities via the converter boxes?

Anonymous said...

I'm starting to see a pattern here.
From Pittsburgh, Wheeling Ch7, Johnstown Ch8 and Steubenville Ch9 are all digital on these channels. I always recieved the analog sigs on these channels but cannot get any of them digitaly even with an outside antenna. Johnstown came in perfectly when parked up on UHF.
Apparently the HI-VHF channels 7 to 13 are going to be real stinkeroos because the power has been cut back too much. Somebodys formula doesn't work.
Channel 19 in Pittsburgh is supposed to appear on RF-11 but hasn't yet. Well see what kind of sig they will have.

Blank said...

I live in Elyria and can pick up every channel, except for WOIO. I do have a signal booster that helps, but with WOIO it goes in and out, except for on cloudy days. If WKYC can go from VHF to UHF, why can't WOIO? The FCC should have mandated that all digital stations be UHF.

Anonymous said...

Props to WKYC and WEWS, for I can now get their digital signals when I wasn't able to get 'em before. VERY disappointed with WJW-DT, used to get the digital signal...nothing now. And WOIO: wasn't able to get their analog signal in the first place.

BTW, I live south of Youngstown OH, so I can get KDKA-DT (such a strong signal), and WPXI-DT on occasion; no luck with WTAE-DT or WPGH-DT, though.

Andrew J said...

Well, since CFPL was mentioned, I thought I would pass this along.

It's a map of the predicted coverage area for CFPL analog 10. I can certainly say that with a good rooftop antenna and a decent pre-amp, you can receive an analog signal even at the edge of the coverage area (Only UHF digital television behaves in the same manner). This indeed means that CFPL USE to have coverage along the north shore of Lake Erie from Cleveland well into New York.

One's got to wonder how WOIO got Canadian coordination at all?

Anonymous said...

In Akron, Ohio, we used to get WJW and WOIO easily--2 of the clearest stations. Now they have completely disappeared from view. My converter box scanner detects that they are there, but 15-27 is too weak. WEWS and WKYC are up around 50 (normal), sometimes higher. Very clear.

Brian said...

I live in Richland County north of Mansfield. I have an outdoor antenna (Channel Master Crossfire) about 10 foot above my roof and I get ALL Cleveland-Akron stations just fine. I have a rotator on the tower and dial it right in on Cleveland. I even recieve a couple of Toledo stations while it is pointed toward Cleveland! If you love over the air TV as much as you all let an antenna and get over it!

Anonymous said...

I live in Los Angeles, and before the digital conversion, i could see FOX just fine, it looked so nice too on my new HDTV, but since the conversion, i have not been able to get FOX to work i did once, on my kitchen tv, but i havent since and its annoying since most of the shows i watch are FOX shows, so i have to wait for someone to upload them online to be able to watch them, which isnt that bad, i mean no commercials, but then again i would rather watch it on my tv, my tv just sits there, i rarely use it since i cant get all the programs i want...stupid FOX and since i see that i am not the only person with this problem as i thought, I AM REALLY ANNOYED THAT THEY CANCELED DOLLHOUSE, DAMN YOU FOX, DAMN YOU!!!!