Wednesday, April 28, 2010

April Quick Hits

A few quick hits from the last few days...

Regent Emerges From Bankruptcy: We had been following the situation with Cincinnati based Regent Communications, which had gone into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this year. Here's the story from the Cincinnati Business Courier, as it announced its exit from Chapter 11 yesterday afternoon. The exit plan had been approved by a judge back on April 12th.

Regent now emerges as a privately held company, with Oaktree Capital Management as majority owner.

And in just breaking news: NASDAQ announced this afternoon that it will de-list common stock of the company. That may happen as soon as two weeks from tomorrow. The stock had been suspended since January 8. That was academic, as the common stock was "extinguished" by the company after the close of business Monday. The stock closed on Monday at 13 cents per share.

Former CET President Heads to Tampa: This one coming from the Kiese Blog this afternoon... as Susan Howarth exits and heads down I-75. She will become president of Tampa's WEDU-TV Channel 3 late in May.

Howarth had been WCET-TV 48/Cincinnati's president until it merged with Dayton-based Think TV, which owned WPTD 16/Dayton and WPTO 14/Oxford, in 2008. The groups, of course, are now one as Public Media Connect.

We congratulate Howarth for her dedication to public broadcasting, and wish her the best...

WLWT Re-Airing Old Programs: And by "old", we mean "Mostly Before Your Tri-State Media Watcher was Born".

The Kiese blog also had this one yesterday, when WLWT announced "Flashback Fridays". Programs from WLWT's 62 year history will air Fridays beginning this week at 11 AM, preempting Martha Stewart's daytime show.

The schedule as Kiese had it is as follows:

This Friday: “Avco Hour of Stars” from the 1974 Ohio State Fair with Braun, Dixon, Marion Spelman, Ruby Wright, Bonnie Lou, the band and many others.

May 7: “Ruth Lyons Special” (1981) and “Ruth Lyons: A Living Legend” (1983), both hosted by Bob Braun, looking at clips from her “50-50 Club” featuring Bob Hope and others, and songs by Spelman and Wright.

May 14: “WLWT Remembers Bob Braun” The 2001 special after Braun’s death with clips from his old shows featuring Lucille Ball, Bob Hope and others.

May 21: The famous “Paul Dixon Show” chicken wedding show from 1969.

Our Take: This is a great move by WLWT. Whether it will lead to future airings of past shows remains to be seen. We hope so though... and we also wonder if it'll help ratings for the noon news...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Of HD Radars and Messed Up Broadcasts

We're starting this week with the wrapup on a Friday night broadcast snafu, and a newly replaced radar at a station that's done without for 15 months...

Reds HD Mess: As you may recall, Friday night, we were tweeting like crazy with our readers, along with Time Warner Cable customer representatives, as the Reds game...didn't air in HD. At least at first.

We now know for sure what happened from around 7 PM Friday night, when we first got word of the happenings from Friend of TSMW Mike Taylor, until sometime close to 9:30 PM when it was fixed for Time Warner customers here. (We don't think it was ever fixed for DirectTV.)

Apparently, the problems arose from trying to broadcast two sports in HD. The Reds game had to be put on an alternate feed, as the Cavaliers were also set to be broadcast in HD Friday night. FSO says some changes had to be made about an hour before the 7 PM first pitch - and not all cable and satellite companies got the word in time. That apparently included Time Warner and Direct TV subscribers at a minimum in our area, maybe others also. (We now know that Insight customers in Northern Kentucky had no problem getting the HD feed - what we here at the TSMW Headquarters saw was indeed High Definition.) The Standard Definition feed was never impacted - but of course, Reds fans know that FSO had promised 145 High Definition games (their entire Reds schedule).

We now hear that this isn't the first time an HD Reds game didn't air somewhere this season: in an apparent glitch on Wednesday, the Reds didn't air in High Definition on...Insight. We didn't catch this mixup, but suspect it's the same issue.

Anyway, FSO says they hope to have all of the Reds games in HD from here on out. Although they have the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Reds conflicting again Wednesday as far as HD broadcasts, they hope that's not going to be an issue.

Precision Doppler 12 HD: We had first seen pictures of the WKRC-TV 12/Cincinnati radar site in Cold Spring on John Gumm's Facebook page, but didn't say anything about it because we weren't sure when a supposedly repaired PD12 Radar would launch.

Well it happened today - and it's not repaired, it's completely replaced.

We didn't get a chance to screenshot the new radar when it showed up on the noon news today. Nonetheless, Precision Doppler 12 Radar IS completely re-done, and is definitely high definition.

Gumm posted all about the new radar over the weekend on the forums of the Skyeye Weather website (which Your Editor is a member of) run by former WXIX-TV 19/Newport chief met Rich Apuzzo. This is what he wrote:

“After nearly a year of careful planning, I am pleased to announce the arrival of the most advanced TV radar in the Cincinnati area – Precision Doppler 12 HD. When Precision Doppler 12 broke down over a year ago, we first decided to just fix it. But after much discussion with our radar designer, [Weather Detection Systems](WDS) we decided to rebuild instead with the goal of being ready for severe weather season 2010. This was a much longer and costlier option and is proof of the station’s dedication to weather. We have been in the testing and calibration phase for the past week. In fact, I spent all afternoon Wednesday at the radome in Cold Spring with WDS’ chief radar engineer going through this process.

The end result is amazing. I did some test runs with the new radar this past week during the storms we had and its performance was outstanding.

Here are the major upgrades:

1.) Upgrade to an RVP8 processor- this is the same processor now used in the 88Ds. This allows for much faster scan speeds than were available with PD12. We, however, will have the option of 3 scan speeds and will switch between each as needed. Faster is not always better!

2.) Upgrade to a new transmitter with pulse compression. This has increased our peak output power by a good margin. Our radar still operates at much lower output power than Baron Services standard radars (see WCPO) by design. We use pulse compression along with a much bigger dish and much more sensitive receiver equipment in order to exceed their data quality and resolution despite the lower wattage. The design of this radar simply makes it more accurate in the display of velocity and reflectivity data.

3.) New receiver, exciter, and synthesizer components. This results in higher resolution data than before.

4.) Integration with Weather Central’s ESP:LIVE system. This gives us all the hi-res HD mapping capabilities of the ESP system and also allows for the addition of our exclusive storm tracking algorithms which were developed at the National Severe Storms Lab. It will also allow us to display up to 3 Level 2 NWS radar data streams along side of PD12 HD.

There are other enhancements we will be working on in the weeks to come, some of which we will be the first in the country to utilize.

Guys, I am like a kid with a new toy. This is awesome!”

Your Editor's take having seen the new radar: I like this new radar. Did WKRC get blasted by numerous media outlets for not having their own radar for 15 months? You bet: Two of the three competitors have run commercial spots touting their OWN radars - and blasting away at 12 for having not fixed theirs.

Was it worth it? From our point of view, absolutely. Radars can't be replaced overnight...the NWS radars in the interim served as a halfway decent replacement, and it's better to take 15 months to do something right, than just hurry to do it half-right in six months or less, and wind up needing to repair the radar again shortly thereafter.

We'll have to see how the new radar performs when there's something to track, however... tracking ground clutter isn't the best use of new doppler radar technology, after all...

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time Warner Adding New HD, Changing On Demand, and Moving GSN

We get word of this from Friend of TSMW Mike Taylor.

Mike informs us that Time Warner Cable announced the addition of fifteen more HD channels today, and linked us to this post from John Kiesewetter detailing them all.

Here is how it all shakes out with the different tiers, with channel numbers in parentheses:

–Added to HD Variety Package: Hallmark HD (1113), Fuse HD (1258) and IFC HD (1280)

–Added to HD Standard Package: QVC HD (1175), HSN HD (1176)

–Added to HD Sports Package: CBS College Sports HD (1322), Tennis Channel HD (1327), NHL Network HD (1324)

–Added to HD Movie Package: Encore HD (1290)

–Added to premium services: HBO 2 HD (1604) & HBO Family HD (1606), Show TOO HD (1643), Action Max HD (1624) & More Max HD (1623), TMC HD (1662)

Also, there will be a change to On Demand services. Any home that can access On Demand programming from more than one television set will now have the ability to watch saved programs on those TV's without having to re-order.

Finally, GSN will be moved to the Variety tier from the Sports tier. This happens this Tuesday also.

To answer Mike's question, and a question that others of you might have, YES, if you have the Variety tier, you'll automatically get GSN. If you have both Sports and Variety, nothing will change. (And a correction to our email to Mike: No, channel position will NOT change. It does stay at digital 219.)

We also read from the TWC Cincinnati channel change notifications that the Speed Channel will be made available to any standard digital service customer who has a converter, and that there are future changes in the works, too, that will merge content from Action Movies on Demand, Comedy Movies on Demand & Drama Movies on Demand and eliminate those stand-alone channels - but it's not clear if either change is planned Tuesday. We assume these will, but proceed with caution. (We'll be working on it.)

That's a lot, but hopefully, it's all clear what's planned...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Quick Hits We'll Chase Down Friday or Monday

A few items, quick-posted, that we'll look into more either tomorrow or (more likely) Monday, with the Easter weekend upon us...

Hopkins Gone At 5, Wells Leaving 19 Soon: No, this has absolutely nothing at all to do with the big switcheroo with radio posted this morning.

Michelle Hopkins will leave WLWT-TV after tonight's 11 PM news. She's been there for 10 years and has decided to "explore other opportunities", she told John Kiesewetter today. She was first hired as a morning anchor in 2000, then went on to work with the "Taking Action" and "5 For Kids" franchises, but her role has diminished recently.

Over at WXIX-TV 19/Newport, this exit isn't voluntary at all. Zach Wells' contract won't be renewed in July, according to the above link... and some of the other changes are permanent, including shrinking "Sports Wrap" on weekends to 15 minutes.

WKRP Adds NBC Universal Sports Subchannel: Yes, we'd heard they were thinking about this one for MONTHS...and something new DID light up this afternoon.

Elliott Block has added Universal Sports, as part of a larger-scale update of the OTA digital 25.1-25.5.

The new lineup still has WKRP (former/current WBQC-CA 38) on 25.1. Then Universal Sports is on 25.2, followed by Retro TV on 25.3, Jewelry TV on 25.4 and then the former WOTH-LP 25 on 25.5 with its American One programming. Currently, only the WKRP main signal is carried on Cincinnati Bell 24 and Insight Cable 198.

At this point, we wonder if either Time Warner (which doesn't have ANY of the WKRP signals), Insight or Cincinnati Bell (or anyone else) will pick up any of the channels they don't have. We sure hope so...

1160 Goes Irish: No, THIS isn't an April Fools joke, either!

WQRT-AM 1160/Florence will now pick up Notre Dame Fighting Irish football games, according to the Kiese Blog Wednesday. It'll kick off when the Fighting Irish host Purdue on Saturday, September 4th at 3:30 PM.

Our Take: Great pickup for WQRT. Clear Channel couldn't pick them up (where would they PUT them?), Bonneville and other owners didn't show any interest in blocking off 3 hour blocks on Saturday in fall for football, so 1160 gets them. Just one problem...oh yeah, that measly night signal.

Let's just hope fans can listen online if the Irish should play at night... because we imagine there'd be a lot of unhappy ND fans storming 19 Broadcast Plaza if not...


We're learning this as most of you are today...and it is definitely no joke...

WXIX-TV 19/Newport has scored not one but two major coups according to John Kiesewetter in a post yesterday:

The first deal is immediate: 19 is doing weather forecasts on WLW 700AM/Cincinnati and WKRC-AM 550/Cincinnati, replacing WLWT 5/Cincinnati. Again, that happened today.

The second is for fans of WEBN Fireworks every Labor Day weekend. 19 now has those rights, too... taking those from WLWT as well.

What's not clear yet is how this impacts Bonneville Broadcasting which had, until recently, used WXIX news and weather. For now, we think they'll resort to dropping morning news and delivering the NWS forecasts. (If you hear differently email us.)

All this, on a day notorious for pranks. We thought it was just that til we began to check around...