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John Kiesewetter on the world of local and national TV

Senior Entertainment Reporter John Kiesewetter has been covering TV and media issues for 20 years. After joining the Cincinnati Enquirer in 1975 as a summer intern, he worked as a county government and suburban reporter; assistant city editor and suburban editor; and features editor supervising the Life section. He has a B.S. in journalism from Ohio University.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Is Your TV Obsolete?

Less than two years and counting.... until your analog TV is obsolete. On Feb. 17, 2009 -- two years from last Saturday -- all US TV stations will cease broadcasting analog signals, and switch to digital. That means millions and millions of TV sets won't get over-the-air pictures without a converter box of some sort. Most of us will continue to get our TV from cable or the dish, but for those who don't, it will be a big problem.

The digital conversion deadline has been pushed back several times, but the government appears serious about the '09 deadline established in the DTV Television Transition and Public Safety Act of 2005. The law says analog TV households can get two vouchers, worth $40 each, to help pay for a converter. But I'm not sure if many converters are on the market now (so you could watch the CinCW with your analog set). When I asked about one at a big box TV/electronics store, I was told they didn't keep them in stock, but I could order one from the website for about $200.

Hopefully the broadcast engineers who read this blog can fill in more details. I expect there will be a lot of questions over the next 24 months.


at 2/19/2007 12:00 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

In this market 80% of the homes have cable or satellite. The move to digital affects less than 20% of the people in this market.

The cable and satellite systems get the local channels via fiber optic and then distribute the local channels to their customers and get their customers to pay for something they can get for free over the air.

Since the local stations send their signals to the cable and satellite systems via fiber and not via outdoor antenna, their transmitters could go down and only 20% of the viewers are affected. I'm sure to some station general managers that 20% doesn't even matter because it doesn't matter to them now.

at 2/19/2007 12:27 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why is the Federal government so serious about the current date? It's my understanding that the government has already sold the rights for that portion of the electomagnetic spectrum where VHF and UHF stations broadcast their signals. The change must occur because new renters are waiting to fill the space. So the govenrment forced the broadcasters out - but who will that 20% affected blame when their sets don't work? The broadcasters. It will be ugly.

at 2/19/2007 2:40 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe that 20% will be the lucky ones. They may rediscover reading, conversation, and other worthwhile pursuits that entertained people before the 200 channel, on-demand, multimedia onslaught of the current TV blitz.

at 2/19/2007 3:34 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

It might get ugly, but expect the cable/sat companies to run campaigns informing the consumer they don't have to throw away their old set because their cable/sat box will keep their old set useful.

I agree with ANON 12:27PM. The government forced the broadcasters out. The FCC isn't helping matters either by creating an uneven playing field by putting restrictions against broadcasters and not against cable networks.

Broadcasters are asked to invest money into new technology for the transition to digital television, but what is the return? There isn't a need for a station to go digital when they send their signal to the cable and sat companies via fiber, or when the majority of their customers watch their channel on their cable/sat system, or when the majority of their viewers have no idea what an antenna is, or when you have the FCC putting rules against you but not against your competition which is one click away on your cable/sat channel.

Will the the government use the billions in revenue gained from auctioning spectrum space towards educating the general public? I'm sure somone who reads this blog knows how much is being allocated, which I bet is a small fraction to the amount coming in from selling the spectrum space.

I'm okay with the end date. I think this is a great time for the broadcast industry to band together and push Digital Over The Air. But that won't happen. Why? Because DOTA doesn't matter to the average consumer.

We want our lives to be convenient. There is so much going on with work, family, the kids, football pratice, softball, no one wants to deal with more problems when it comes to their television experience.

I'm curious what the figures are of new HDTV buyers and whether or not they watch tv with an outdoor antenna or cable/sat. My bet is the average consumer buys a HDTV, hooks it up to their cable and buys the HD package from the local cable system, which brings up another area how broadcast is getting hosed.

The cable company gets the local HD signal, puts it into a package, sells it without providing any compensation to the local broadcaster. But that's a topic for another day.

at 2/19/2007 8:04 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got a digital HDTV box a couple of years ago for $200 from Walmart when they were still carrying them. Its been the best $200 I ever spend. I have an antenna in the attic and get 40 digital channels (all the cincy and dayton channels and probably 14 PBS stations) that look the same as my DVD's.
With digital you either get a perfect picture or nothing. I didn't have cable before but I have even less reason to get it now. I think the fact that you can get HDTV for free is the best kept secret around. The area where the govt messed up is in not getting rid of the analog tv's before now. as it is come March 1, all devices manufactured must be digital.

at 2/19/2007 8:09 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got my HDTV and only use an antenna. The picture looks better than my neighbors who have Time Warner or DirectTV

at 2/19/2007 8:39 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Personally, I have an HDTV set, but not cable or satellite at the moment, and not sure if I even will bother since I can get all the information and entertainment I need from the local channels.

What worries me is many of the older folks I know, my mother included, don't have the money to upgrade. Fixed incomes, older TV sets, etc. These poor folks will be reduced to listening to radio to get their news, and have no electronic form of entertainment if the converter box prices don't come way down. They are not technologically savvy, and will be quite upset when all of a sudden they can't watch TV anymore.

at 2/19/2007 9:30 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

actually the low power stations (wbqc +woth) get one more year till 2010.

at 2/19/2007 11:17 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am one with an HDTV set but have not made the jump to buy an extra HD package. I currently have DirecTV but do not see the added expense for the few channel I receive as being worth it. I am a fan of the Bengals and receive their games over the air, so why invest extra? I do enjoy sports, but not to the level of investing more and sending it to DirecTV? Maybe someday, but not right now. I bought an outdoor antenna and have it on my roof all for an expense of less than $40 and get both Cincinnati and DAyton stations in HD.

at 2/20/2007 11:10 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I bought an HD set and outdoor antenna and showed ten people the clarity of HD.

Person #1, who already had a HD capable television but didn't want to pay the added expense for HD, decided they wanted HD. They upgraded to HD through their cable system.

Persons #2-4 bought a HD set, but didn't want to deal with the outdoor antenna. So they bought the HD package through their cable system.

Person #5 bought a HD set from HH Gregg. The salesperson sold Person #3 a crappy HD capable 16x9 projection TV. Person #5 wasn't educated to know that what they should buy, so the salesperson took advantage of them.

Persons #6-10 liked the picture but will wait as long as they have to to make the switch to HD. They all have cable or a dish.

The advantage of HD with an antenna is being able to get HD from Dayton stations. The CW station here isn't in HD, but it is in Dayton. There is added value in the DirecTV HD package. For $10 per month DirecTV provides HDNet, HDMovies, TNT, UniversalHD, ESPN, ESPN2 and any movie channels you subscribe to.

at 2/20/2007 4:28 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Call me a cheap skate, but I have always refused to get cable or the dish, for me, it's a way to save money, I'm dreading the day that I have to get cable. I hope they push the date back, I DON'T WANT TO PAY TO WATCH TV.

at 2/20/2007 4:54 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

It looks like that for some of you, watching TV is a freaking career--for me, it just isn't life or death... So, whatever....

at 2/20/2007 6:21 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The cable company has to give you the local HD channels no matter what tier you are on. If your TV has a QAM tuner in it. You will get the locals in HD without paying extra.

at 2/20/2007 8:33 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the poster above, pushing back the date is not a good thing. You will NOT have to pay for tv, repeat NOT pay for tv. Simply the 5,9,12 we have been watching OTA since the 1950s are going digital. The government will be offering the discount and we will see cheap boxes out there, not $200, but $50-100. These boxes will decode the digital signal and pass it to your current analog tv. Tv will look better this why. Now if you want HD, you may need to pay more. Everyone needs to understand the difference between the analog shutoff and changing to digital vs. HD. With the government box, you will get the digital signal, but it will not output at a HD resolution, but one that is SD, or what your current tv shows.

at 2/21/2007 7:07 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

re the person who doesn't want to pay to watch tv. Don't pay! just buy a new tv 2 years from now. A new TV will be much less than a year of cable.

at 2/21/2007 10:29 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just buy a new set with a built-in digital tuner. Then you can watch your programs in HD too. The local stations here are already broadcasting digitally and in HD, with the exception being the two independent stations (channel 38 and channel 25).

at 2/22/2007 4:25 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'm the one that said that I don't pay to watch tv, and i can certainly afford to by the converter box or cable, but i chose not to in order to save some money.

But what about the older folks out there, or those on a fixed income, or just plain old poor people, what are they to do????

at 2/26/2007 11:34 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

at 2/20/2007 6:21 PM Anonymous said...
The cable company has to give you the local HD channels no matter what tier you are on. If your TV has a QAM tuner in it. You will get the locals in HD without paying extra.

Then where is channel 64HD huh

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