If viewers are cutting the cord, then CTV Winnipeg needs a new channel
July 21, 2013 8 Comments
Why pay for cable television when you can get most, or even all, of what you want online? It’s an increasingly common sentiment in Canada today: a market study released earlier this month showed that 16 percent of Canadians claim to do all of their TV viewing online.
Online TV viewing is poised to continue eating into conventional stations’ audiences in the coming years. Not only is more viewing being done on wireless devices, but WiFi-compatible Smart TVs — which allow viewers to switch effortlessly between cable/satellite, local over-the-air TV and web sites — are now becoming commonplace among retailers.
But even without a cable or satellite subscription, there will be times when viewers will want to watch live local TV, particularly for news and sports. Reaching these viewers, who will no longer be as few or as poor as non-cable/non-satellite households usually were in the past, will matter.
That’s where a little problem crops up for CTV Winnipeg, which has long aired the market-leading newscast.
When Winnipeg’s six local television stations shut down their old analog transmitters and went all-digital in 2011, four wisely moved up to the channel 14 to 51 UHF band. UHF frequencies are easier to pick up using the small, discreet antennas that mobile devices come with and that people prefer to have in their homes. These higher frequencies are also less susceptible to interference.
Two stations, however, remained on their original VHF channels: CTV Winnipeg on channel 7, and Citytv on channel 13.
This meant lower digital conversion costs for them, but left their stations on frequencies that were vulnerable to interference from thunderstorms and household appliances, with this interference having the same effect as telephone line static does on a dial-up Internet connection. These lower frequencies also require unsightly larger antennas: at least 84 centimetres (33 inches) across for proper channel 7 reception.
As the following video taken on Friday, July 19 shows, reception of most local TV stations using an indoor antenna in south Winnipeg was good to excellent. Even Cityty was coming in nicely, thanks either to a living room window that faces directly toward their transmitter west of Winnipeg or perhaps the station’s relatively high channel 13 frequency.
The exception was CTV, which suffered from poor signal quality and continue to do so all weekend. (As of 10:30 p.m. Sunday, an attempt to tune in CTV using an indoor VHF antenna facing south toward the station’s Ste. Agathe transmitter generates a “Weak or No Signal” message.)
CTV Winnipeg was pre-approved during the digital switchover preparations to use UHF channel 46. Had it taken up this option, it would never have had the reception problems it will now have among the cord-cutters trying to tune the station in on channel 7.
Channels 25, 28, 42, 43, 48 and 49 are also approved for use in Winnipeg.
The seemingly less-afflicted Citytv also has an option to use channel 32.
Two stations in Ontario, CHCH Hamilton and CBOFT Ottawa, have already dumped their old VHF channels in favour of UHF after receiving complaints that their original channel 11 and channel 9 signals, respectively, were unwatchable.
A U.S. site refers to other stations using the same channel 7 frequency as CTV experiencing serious reception problems. This includes WSVN/7 in Miami, which applied for an “emergency” power increase on the day after the U.S. digital switchover in June 2009, even though the station was operating at higher power at the time than CTV Winnipeg does today; and WLS/7 in Chicago, which moved from channel 7 to channel 44 after receiving 1,735 phone calls in a single day complaining about reception problems.