Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Digital TV Activities

Suddenly, the over-air digital TV scene is as nearly as active in Northeast Ohio as it was in the days before the analog TV shutoff, back on June 12th...

A 19 UPGRADE: OMW hears, third-hand, that Raycom Media Cleveland CBS affiliate WOIO/19 has completed an interim digital signal upgrade.

We're told that last Wednesday, WOIO's engineers nearly tripled the power coming out of the station's transmission system - with a power level of 9.5 kW. WOIO's digital signal has been pumping out just 3.5 kW since it first signed on. The FCC granted the temporary signal upgrade late last month.

Though even the 9.5 kW signal is modest for high VHF broadcasting - remember, many other VHF stations nationwide are asking for many times that, and WOIO continues to use interference-plagued RF channel 10 - the move returned "Cleveland's CBS 19" to full-time over-air reception on our best digital TV over-air setup here at OMW World Headquarters, about 20 miles as the Digital Crow flies from the Parma antenna farm.

We're told by an OMW reader in New London OH, a small outpost between Ashland and Norwalk on the western fringe of the Cleveland TV market, that the new signal gives him at least a chance at catching WOIO on a regular basis. Of course, that far away, our reader isn't using a modest indoor antenna aimed out a second floor window like we use here.

Again, note the word "interim" in regards to the 9.5 kW WOIO signal. It'll help the station reach some more viewers, particularly in the immediate Cleveland-Akron area, but it's not the long term plan.

OMW hears that Raycom does hope to eventually camp out WOIO on a UHF digital RF channel.

For various reasons, explained here on OMW by RabbitEars.info's Trip Ericson a few weeks ago, WOIO can't "just go back" to RF channel 19. The station seems resigned to how long the process may take.

Though some other Raycom stations (and others) have already made some similar changes, Alabama-based Raycom is a group that mostly has stations south of the Mason-Dixon Line. Nearly all the other Raycom outlets don't have to deal with something WOIO has to consider - Canadian allocations.

While getting its Cleveland market CBS affiliate off of RF channel 10 - occupied by pesky lil'...er... big Canadian outlet CFPL/10 - is presumably a priority for the engineering folks at Reserve Square, other new allocations have to consider Canada as well.

And the Canadians have a habit of hanging onto unused allocations, or those no longer used, and "notifying" them to the U.S., so U.S. stations won't camp out there in the future.

For the nonce, let us know if you've been getting an improved WOIO/19 over-air signal since about Wednesday night...

AND ANOTHER UPGRADE: A CBS affiliate that Cleveland market over-air viewers often seek out as an alternative station is making its final digital moves.

New Vision's WKBN/27 Youngstown is preparing to "top mount" its digital TV antenna this week, according to this story on the "27 First News" website:

At about 8am Wednesday, the antenna used to broadcast WKBN-TV and FOX Youngstown will be turned off for about 12 hours.

A crew is going to remove the 4,000 lb. analog antenna from the top of the tower, lower it to the ground, and mount the digital antenna in its place. The work, if all goes as planned, will take about 12 hours.

WKBN/WYFX helpfully remind viewers that while the antennas are being moved, over-air viewers will lose the station's signal for about 12 hours. The station has fiber connections to Time Warner Cable and Armstrong Cable, so those viewers will continue to be able to watch during the antenna moves.

The station hints that viewers in places on the edge of the signal, like perhaps the OMW World Headquarters, could see improvements:

Until now, the digital antenna has been on a side mount several hundred feet below the top of the tower. The additional height should improve the digital signal, probably to be noticed only by those viewers in fringe areas.

For the nonce, WKBN's digital signal is the most powerful in the Youngstown market, even from that "side mount" location. Moving the antenna up could well help the signal get further out of the Mahoning Valley...very few people in the Valley have any trouble picking up WKBN-TV.

OMW readers know that New Vision has been, recently, transmitting WYFX's "Fox Youngstown" signal in HD format via WKBN subchannel 27.2. This will probably give some fringe area viewers (again, maybe folks in part of the Cleveland market) an alternative should they have problems receiving another "VHF Nightmare" station, Local TV Fox affiliate WJW/8 in Cleveland.

And last time we were in the Valley, with a digital TV tuner, New Vision was still pumping out "Fox Youngstown" from its original over-air home, LPTV outlet WYFX-LP/62 Youngstown. (And we presume, though we couldn't get it from our location, sister WFXI-CA/17 Mercer PA.)

Those who don't have Time Warner or Armstrong cable, but an analog TV tuner, would presumably have those signals as an alternative to the off-air Fox Youngstown signal via digital WKBN-TV during the 12 hour work window on Wednesday...

AND ANOTHER UPGRADE: Back in Cleveland, Scripps ABC affiliate WEWS/5 is notifying viewers of its own antenna work.

WEWS has never been one of the Cleveland market's Digital Problem Children. It operated at 870 kW, 285 meters above average terrain for many years before the digital TV transition in June, and eventually will offer a 1000 kW signal from an antenna 310 meters above average terrain.

Until that final signal goes on, the station found a lower spot on a nearby tower, and is operating at a paltry, anemic, puny signal level of 843 kW, 191 meters above average terrain. It's a wonder you can pick up the station outside Parma!

Of course, that last paragraph is an attempt at Digital TV Humor. We bet very few have noticed a lower signal out of WEWS's temporary facility, especially in the core of the Cleveland-Akron TV market.

FCC rules require WEWS to notify viewers who may have difficulty picking up the temporary signal, so the station has done so both on the air and by posting a link to this FCC map of the signal on the station's website.

The map shows a comparison between the now-gone WEWS/5 analog signal, and the STA for the temporary digital signal. The orange and red symbols represent viewer loss in places like Mansfield and Ashtabula, though the new 1000 kW higher antenna would presumably fix much of that.

The new facility, with both increased power and height, could also gain WEWS some more over-air viewers on the fringe of the Cleveland market, or even in parts of the Youngstown market.

Those who have cable or satellite have been reading the above, and wondering how it affects you.

Well, if you're an NFL football fan, being able to pick up WKBN's digital signal in the Cleveland market could give you more game options, as WKBN (CBS) and WYFX (Fox) don't always carry the same games that Cleveland's WOIO (CBS) and WJW (Fox) carry.

It won't help you avoid any potential Cleveland Browns home blackouts, since the Youngstown market has always been included in the NFL's "blackout zone" for the Browns (the Youngstown signals land well within the 75 mile blackout radius), but perhaps you'll get more variety in other games...

AND FINALLY: In this busy digital TV item, a note that a new signal has popped up for a few Cleveland market viewers.

It's the market's first low-power digital TV station - Daystar's WCDN-LD 53.1/53.2, which is the replacement for now-former analog LPTVer WCDN-LP/53.

Yes, Daystar is a prominent religious TV operator that has a mixed collection of full-power and low-power TV "O&O's". It even squeezed itself onto the subchannel of a public TV station in Orange County CA (KOCE) after its controversial bid to buy the station fell through.

OMW hears that in addition to its own Daystar religious programming on 53.1, WCDN-LD is also offering the Home Shopping Network feed on 53.2 - programming we believe is also carried on analog LPTVer WXOX-LP/65. (Maybe the Daystar folks got an idea from what they had to do at KOCE, and are leasing out 53.2 to WXOX?)

Though WCDN-LD is well-situated on the WBNX-TV tower in Parma - 338 meters above average terrain - it is still a low-power station, putting just 300 watts into the air in its digital form, which lives on RF channel 7.

Thus, it's no surprise to us that we haven't been able to receive its signal some 20 miles out from the Parma antenna farm.

Some may be wondering how WCDN-LD is able to squeeze onto new digital RF channel 7, when Local TV Fox affiliate WJW is on RF channel 8. We're told you can do that, as long as the two signals are basically coming from the same area.

WJW's facility, of course, is not far away in Parma...and back when WJW-DT was using RF channel 31, it sat comfortably next to WBNX-DT's RF channel 30 facility...


idrmrsr said...

Huzzah! Using my Hauppage WinTV 850 USB DTV receiver, and a Terk amplified antenna, I got WOIO for the first time EVAR inside my Cleveland Heights condo. Still doesn't work with the portable battery operated DTV. I suspect the 850 somehow has better circuitry. I can now watch HDTV on my PC. 3, 5 good, WOIO decent, 25, sputtery, 55 OK 61 OK, and now only 8 seems to be the weak sister.

Andrew said...

I got WOIO-DT before in Akron with my indoor antenna. The placement was a little tricky though. It doesn't seem as fussy now.

I notice a signal with WCDN-LD 7 surprisingly in north Akron, although not strong enough to lock onto.

I'm right on the fringe of WKBN-DT due to topography. It's something I've barely been able to lock onto only when the atmosphere allows it. We'll see if the upgrade brings a lockable signal.

Andrew J said...

The signal contour map for WCDN-LD seems to be very generous (much like WVIZ's temporary digital setup). Believe it or not, I am able to get something on RF-7 here in Geauga County, but it's not strong enough to decode. I think they've lost coverage with this move. Their analog 53 signal was quite respectable IMHO at my residence.