Saturday, June 13, 2009

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...


  1. WJW had Todd Meany in the control room with about 30 seconds left giving details, a countdown, etc. They showed the engineer pushing the button to initiate the flash cut from 31 to 8.

  2. Yeah, I can also confirm that's what WJW did with the report from the transmitter site.

    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.


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