Posts Tagged ‘Antenna’

How to Watch FOX 5 and My 9 Without Cable (updated)

Attention, Cablevision (and Time-Warner, and Comcast customers): The dispute with FOX 5 may be over, but it could happen again with another cable TV system – or another TV network. Here’s how to future-proof your TV reception against another retransmission rights dispute.

There are other ways to receive WNYW (FOX 5) and WWOR (My 9). Read on. One of them may work for you, and if so, you can continue to enjoy football and baseball while Fox and Cablevision “punt” this rights dispute back and forth to each other.

Here’s what you need to know: WNYW broadcasts a digital TV signal on physical UHF TV channel 44, even though the station identifies itself as “5-1.” And WWOR (My 9) broadcasts its DTV signal on physical UHF channel 38, even though it identifies as “9-1.”

So that means at the least that you need a UHF TV antenna. They’re not very large and they’re not expensive, either.

IF YOU OWN A NEW FLATSCREEN TV (VINTAGE 2007 – PRESENT)

All TVs manufactured after March 1, 2007 must include a digital TV tuner by law. So your new TV is already equipped to pick up WNYW. If you live within 10 miles of the Empire State Building, all you will need is a simple UHF antenna.

Radio Shack’s model T#749, catalog # 15-1874, is an excellent choice to start. It does not require any power, and if it doesn’t work, you can return it for a full refund within 30 days.  The cost is $12. Radio Shack’s Web site says this model is available in most stores.

(1) Connect this antenna to the “ANT IN” or “RF” threaded jack on the back of your TV. The loop portion is what is used to pick up WNYW, along with other UHF DTV channels like WCBS, WNBC, and WWOR (My 9). (If you want to pick up other VHF channels like WABC-7, WPIX-11, and WNET-13, extend the rabbit ears all the way, too.)

(2) Switch to the TV input. Next, consult your TV’s owner manual to find the menu selection for “Channel Scan” or “Scan for Channels.” Enter this menu, and make sure that “Air,” “Broadcast,” or “OTA” is selected and not “Cable” when you start a channel scan.

(3) Your TV will take about 2 – 3 minutes to scan for any over-the-air digital TV channels it can find. You should see a list of those channels as the scan progresses. If you see “WNYW 5-1” pop up, you are in luck! If not, reposition the antenna and try another scan. HINT: Elevate the antenna and place it near any open windows if you do not pick up the signal.

(4) WNYW also carries the WWOR My 9 programs as channel 5-2. And WWOR simulcasts WNYW FOX 5 programs on 9-2. So if channel 5 doesn’t come in after several tries, you may still be able to watch FOX programming on channel 9-2. Check that either or both channels were scanned and saved to memory.

IF YOU DON’T HAVE A NEW TV

Radio Shack continues to sell DTV converter boxes, even though the analog TV shut-down happened a year ago. Check your store for model DTX9950, catalog #: 15-150 (Digital Stream). It sells for $60. This converter box can be easily connected to your older TV set, using the RF or AV cables supplied with the converter.

(1) After connecting to your older TV, follow the converter boxes’ instructions on how to connect an antenna and scan for channels. The Radio Shack 15-1874 antenna works very well with this converter box, too.

(2) Again, look to see that WNYW 5-1, WWOR 9-1, or both channels have been scanned and saved to memory. You will be all set to watch the Jets game, NFC football, and the World Series. It will NOT be in high-definition, though.

IF YOU LIVE 10 – 15 MILES FROM EMPIRE

You may need an amplified antenna. The Radio Shack model 15-254, catalog 15-254 may do the trick. It costs about $35 and you can rotate the loop antenna for best reception. Radio Shack’s Web site says this model is available in most stores.

IF YOU LIVE 15 MILES OR MORE FROM EMPIRE

If you are more than 15 miles from the Empire State Building, a rooftop or attic antenna for UHF may be required. These are available at Home Depot, Lowe’s, and Radio Shack.

The Radio Shack model U-75R, catalog 15-2160 is an excellent choice. It costs $40 and is small enough to place in an attic, by a window, on a deck, etc. Just unfold the antenna elements, hook up the coaxial cable to your digital TV or converter box, and aim it in the direction of the Empire State Building. Scan for channels on your digital TV or converter box as before.

Good luck! Also reference these articles about indoor and outdoor DTV reception:

http://www.hdtvexpert.com/?p=449

http://www.hdtvexpert.com/?p=36

Cord-cutting: Funny Thing About That… (Updated 10/28/10)

(Editor’s note: This story has been updated from the 10/27/10 post.)

Yesterday, Comcast Corporation announced its 3rd quarter financial results, and they reveal a disturbing trend: 275,000 basic cable subscribers said goodbye to Big C, helping to put a pinch on the company’s net income, which dropped 8.2% to $867M on sales of $9.4B.

According to a story on the Fierce Cable Web site, remaining Comcast subscribers paid an average of $129.75 per month for various services.

The story suggests four factors that are driving people to drop cable TV subscriptions – the economy, the flagging housing market, constant rate increases, and the digital TV transition.  Comcast Cable Communications President Neil Smit was quoted in the story as saying there are no signs that the customers are giving up cable for over-the-top (Internet TV) services. “All our active surveys have seen almost no impact from OTT… (a) small number of customers appear to be going over-the-air (DTTB) more than any over-the-top impact.”

Through September of this year, Comcast lost 622,000 cable TV subscribers, according to a story in the 10/28/10 edition of the Philadelphia Inquirer. That represents about 3 percent of its subscriber base and about $300M in revenue. Smits said that 40% of those cancellations were basic cable tier subscribers.

By this time last year, Comcast had lost 424,000 cable TV subscribers. The drop rate has gone up by nearly 50% in just one year, although some of that was offset by new subscriptions for almost 250,000 broadband customers, 228,000 VoIP customers, and 219,000 digital video customers. (It’s reasonable to assume there is lots of overlap in those last three numbers, as the three services are often taken as a ‘triple play’ bundle.)

The term “cord-cutting” first appeared in early 2008 as the current recession took hold, forcing many households to re-assess the amount of money they spent each month on communications and entertainment services.  It’s not unusual for a typical ‘triple play’ service (VoIP, broadband and cable TV) to cost $130 a month or more.

Add in monthly charges for a standard family wireless phone plan, and we’re starting to talk some real money here!  So it’s no wonder that consumers are looking for more economical ways to watch TV – and free, over-the-air digital TV (with lots of HD) is definitely one of them.

DTTB also solves the current Fox – Cablevision dispute quite nicely for several million subscribers in the New York City metropolitan area – that is, if they figure out how to connect an antenna to their digital TV. In many cases, that means nothing more than a $12 radio Shack UHF loop and rabbit ears.

Comcast COO Steve Burke called attention to the problem of cord-cutting a year ago at the CTAM convention in Denver, CO, pointing out that “…An entire generation is growing up, if we don’t figure out how to change that behavior so it respects copyright and subscription revenue on the part of distributors, we’re going to wake up and see cord cutting.”

How prescient. As I’ve written in the past, families are starting to value their broadband service more than tiers of dozens of cable channels, most of which are never viewed anyway. Add in video streaming from Netflix (something Redbox is also about to offer) for a flat monthly rate, plus selected network offerings on Hulu, and the cable industry has a legitimate concern.

No one should ever think they can’t price themselves out of a market. It’s happened before, and it will happen again. It’s very clear from recent trends that many consumers are placing a greater value on high-speed Internet access over cable TV channel packages, a trend that may result in Comcast (and other service providers) delivering metered broadband service in the not-too-distant future – especially if TV subscriptions continue to decline.

The challenge for Comcast and other cable MSOs is how to re-structure their standard TV channel offerings into a more affordable a la carte model, served up on demand.

That’s obviously what consumers want, and they’re voting with their wallets. Is Big Cable listening?

To DVR, Or Not To DVR?

Marist College just released a poll that shows almost 70 percent of Americans still watch their favorite television shows at the time they are broadcast, and only 16 percent record them to watch at a later date.

What’s more, it’s an ‘age’ thing. Close to 80 percent of TV viewers ages 45 and up still prefer so-called appointment television, choosing to watch a show when it is normally aired on terrestrial, cable, or satellite TV networks. But only 56 percent of viewers below 45 years of age do so.

The highest percentage of real-time TV viewers live in the Midwestern states (77%), while the lowest percentage (61%) reside in the West. Households with incomes of $50,000 or more are slightly less likely to watch in real time (64%) than households with incomes below $50,000 (70%).

Not surprisingly, 15% of those surveyed under age 45 were more likely to watch TV online using a computer, something only 3% of respondents over age 45 admitted to. DVR usage was highest among women under 45 and in households making $50K and up.

One of the more interesting parts of the survey showed that 9% of respondents living in the West do not watch any TV at all. That number contrasts with only 3% of Midwest residents who leave the boob tube shut down.

The poll of 1,005 people has a margin of error of ± 3%.

Goodbye Flo, We Hardly Knew Ye

Last Tuesday, Web outlet paidContent.com broke the story that Qualcomm was preparing to shut down its underperforming FLO TV business unit this coming December.

FLO TV, for those readers who’ve never heard of it (and that’s a large group, apparently), is a proprietary subscription mobile TV service that broadcasts nationwide on UHF channel 55. The service, also bundled as a ‘white label’ wholesale product to Verizon and AT&T subscribers, delivered several channels of TV programming specifically formatted for mobile and handheld devices.

Among the networks offered to FLO subscribers were Fox, CBS, NBC, ESPN, MTV, Nickelodeon, and CNN. The service first launched in 2006 as MediaFLO, and picked up Verizon (VCAST) and AT&T Mobile as re-sellers in 2007.

The FLO will be cut off in December…

Unfortunately for Qualcomm, FLO never caught on with Verizon and AT&T customers. Customers didn’t care to watch movies and long-form programming on cell phones, opting instead for ‘snacking’ on news and sports clips.

The result was a decision to market the service directly to consumers in the summer of 2009, with big box stores including Best Buy and Radio Shack offering a 3.5” LCD FLO TV receiver for $250, along with a $9 per month service contract with a three-year commitment.

The total out-of-pocket expense to watch 12 channels of programming – $570 – was not appealing to potential customers, particularly with the new ATSC MH mobile digital TV service getting off the ground. Why pay all that money when you could potentially access thousands of digital TV stations across the country for free?

Another strike against FLO TV: It didn’t offer any local news, weather, and sports broadcasts, which are the three biggest drivers for mobile media consumption. To make matters worse, smart phones were already providing Web access to video content providers like Netflix and Hulu, not to mention Web podcasts of sports, news, and weather programming; all on a flat rate data plan that also included email access. That’s not a battle Qualcomm could hope to win.

Ironically, FLO viewership numbers surged with ESPN’s coverage of the 2010 World Cup as the obituary was first being drafted back in June. But it was a case of too little, too late.

Nice try, but no cigar.

Qualcomm’s plans for what’s left of FLO TV and its nationwide network of over one hundred channel 55 TV transmitters (and in some markets, channel 56) aren’t clear yet. But there doesn’t seem to be a lot of hand-wringing coming from the San Diego corporate headquarters.

That’s because Qualcomm acquired the UHF spectrum relatively inexpensively earlier this decade, and now feels that the channels are worth at least $2 billion today, based on current spectrum auction results.  So they can sell off their real estate and still pocket a nice piece of change for their efforts, which among other things included relocating (at Qualcomm’s expense) a few UHF TV stations broadcasting on channel 55 prior to the analog TV shut-down in June of 2009.

Is there a market for subscription-based mobile digital TV? It would appear not. And there’s no guarantee that the free MH services just getting off the ground will be sustainable, either.

But in a day and age of customers feeling they are being ‘nickel-and-dimed to death’ for cable and satellite TV, Internet access, cellular phone service, and landline telephone service, FLO TV never stood a chance.

3D: Expect a Long Slog

3D: Expect a Long Slog

It took nearly seven years before HDTV really took off. So how can we expect 3D to launch in less time?

There’s been a lot of discussion lately in the trade and consumer press that 3D is at danger of falling back into a novelty entertainment category.

Several prominent movie directors (among them J. J. Abrams) have come out against the format. Christopher Nolan (Inception) said it was too dark. And sloppy 2D-to-3D conversions, such as Clash of the Titans, may scare some people away from the format.

There’s also anecdotal evidence that the initial fascination that movie audiences had with 3D is starting to wear off. The premium for a 3D ticket can be anywhere from $3 to $5, depending on the theater chain and location. And experiences like Titans will make consumers gun-shy about spending 25% to 40% more for a 3D presentation.

But that’s a movie theater issue. What CE manufacturers want is for 3D to take off like HDTV did, back in the late 1990s.

The only problem with that thinking is that HDTV did not take off in the late 1990s at all! As a matter of fact, it moved at a glacial pace for quite a few years.

I installed my first HDTV (Princeton Graphics AF3.0HD) in the fall of 1999, and connected it to a Panasonic TU-DST51W set-top box and antenna to watch a smattering of HD movies on Saturday nights (ABC) and a few sitcoms and hour-long dramas (CBS), along with Monday Night Football games (ABC again).

My TV market (Philadelphia) didn’t have a full slate of HD content available on the top four networks until 2003, five years after the first HDTV stations lit up. Remember NBC’s experimental HD coverage of the Winter Olympics in February of 2002? Remember the Fox network’s 480i ‘high-resolution digital TV?’ in 2000 and 2001?

The fact is; HDTV set sales didn’t hit their stride until the third and fourth quarters of 2005. That’s when the price wars began in earnest and the HD DVD – Blu-ray war was just starting up.  (Coincidentally or not, 2005 was also the high-water mark for DVD sales.)

Consider that HDTV turned the idea of TV viewing upside down. Gone was analog TV, replaced by digital bits and bytes. Gone too were big, bulky cathode-ray tubes, replaced by matrices of tiny pixels actuated by LCD and plasma technology.

Good-bye, VHS tapes – DVDs were well on their way to killing off this format by the start of 2005. And of course we were no longer limited to just 480 lines of picture resolution, but could enjoy programs with 1280×720 and 1920×1080 pixels of picture detail…win widescreen, no less!

Think about it. TV was literally re-invented from 1998 to 2005. And in 2009, we pulled the plug completely and analog TV broadcasts, completing the switch. But that was 11 years after the process started.

For most viewers, 3D is still an expensive novelty

So…manufacturers want people to buy into 3D. Currently, there are a limited number of 3DTV sets for sale, and they’re not as cheap as 2D sets. And there’s not much 3D content available on Blu-ray to watch right now. You can count the number of 3D TV networks on the fingers of one hand.

And the glasses! Depending on which model 3DTV you watch, you may see ghost images. Or, the picture may get darker as you tilt your head. (You may even get a headache after a few minutes.) And the glasses are expensive, and you need a separate pair for every viewer.

Did I mention that most 3D glasses will not work with other brands of 3D TVs? Hey, you could make anyone’s HDTV set-top box work with anyone’s DTV set. Ditto DVD players and Blu-ray players, and set-top boxes. But not 3D glasses.

It also doesn’t help that we’re in a nasty recession. People are reluctant to spend money now, especially with close to 10% unemployment.  So 3DTV winds up being an exotic luxury for now.

I return to my main point, and that is the long adoption curve I anticipate for 3D. The price premium is one drawback, and the other is the fact that millions of U.S. homes just bought one or more new HDTVs within the past three years.

Depending on whose numbers you believe, we are at or around 50% penetration for HDTV, meaning 50% of all homes have at least one HDTV set. I can guarantee that more than half of those sets were purchased after Q3 of 2005. So, where’s the impetus to buy a new 3DTV?

The good thing about a long adoption curve: Within two years, all models of HDTV sets 50 inches and larger will have the capability to play back 3D programming. (They’ll all have network connections too, but that’s another story.) So it won’t matter which set you buy – you’ll have the 3D playback built-in.

The same thing will happen with Blu-ray players and set-top boxes. They’ll be able to process 3D content as easily as 2D content. So you won’t have to buy an expensive special model just to watch 3D Blu-ray discs.

How long a curve are we looking at? I’d say about five years. By then, broadband speeds will have picked up considerably and we’ll be able to access 3D content through Internet TV channels, as well as from optical disc and video-on-demand.

Content drives demand, and there just isn’t enough of it in 3D right now. By 2015, the situation will have changed dramatically and we’ll have 3D movies, games, and TV programs coming out the wazoo.

Until then, expect 3D to penetrate the TV market slowly, in fits and starts…just like HDTV did.