If viewers are cutting the cord, then CTV Winnipeg needs a new channel

CTV Winnipeg Bad Signal

Maralee Caruso anchoring CTV Winnipeg’s 6 p.m. newscast, July 19, 2013.

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.


About theviewfromseven
A lone wolf and a bit of a contrarian who sometimes has something to share.

9 Responses to If viewers are cutting the cord, then CTV Winnipeg needs a new channel

  1. verybadboy says:

    Yes I get the same channels as you from North Winnipeg. I’m using an outdoor RCA ANT-751 antenna, split to 3 HDTV’s and one ATSC PC tuner card. The biggest issue I have with both CityTV and CTV is that their transmitters are much further away than the other locals. CTV is 20km south of the city on Highway 75 (heading toward the US you can’t miss it if you look right).
    CityTV’s transmitter is 20km west of the city (drive down Portage and at the Elie intersection, look left, that’s CityTV).

    In contrast, both CBC and Global transmit from the top of the bank towers at Portage & Main. So I think it’s more of an issue with distance than a VHF/UHF thing personally. If CTV/City had downtown transmitters still broadcasting VHF mind you, I think reception would be much easier for most people. CBC used to broadcast from Starbuck, MB when it was analog.

    As it is right now, my signal from CTV fluctuates between (75-85%), and for CityTV it’s between (65-75%). I sometimes get breakup from CityTV but only occasionally get it from CTV. From my location in North Winnipeg (Garden City area near the intersection of McPhillips & Templeton), I’m slightly closer to the CityTV transmitter and almost 40km away from the CTV transmitter.

  2. verybadboy says:

    Just to add to my 1st comment. I always tell my friends and colleagues that if they want to go antenna, don’t even bother with an indoor model. You pretty much HAVE to have an outdoor combo VHF/UHF antenna in Winnipeg. The pre-amp near the antenna helps too. The RCA-ANT 751 with pre-amp is pretty cheap and easy to setup (you just attach it to a satellite pole just like the ones used for Bell Expressvu).

  3. verybadboy says:

    Believe it or not, about a week ago I was scanning for Channels (this was July 12th) and I was able to pickup WDAZ all evening long from my place in North Winnipeg. They broadcast a 3 channel multiplex (8.1 the main WDAZ ABC signal, 8.2 The CW, and 8.3 a rolling loop of WDAZ weather). That’s the first and only time it ever happened. But it came in all evening long that Friday and I was watching it for a good 3-4 hours. The next day…nothing 😦 I haven’t been able to pick it up since.

    I wish it were possible to get the Prairie Public (PBS) signal OTA in Winnipeg.

  4. theviewfromseven says:

    We had some tropospheric ducting recently, which occasionally (especially during the summer) makes it possible to pick up North Dakota TV stations in Winnipeg. Normally, U.S. television is impossible to receive over-the-air in Winnipeg, except for KNRR/12 from Pembina, whose very weak signal might be receivable using an outdoor aerial.

    Check out this site for advance notice of when “tropo” might take place. Subtract five hours from UTC time to get Central Daylight time:

    I’ve been an advocate for a while of Prairie Public moving the redundant KGFE Grand Forks to Pembina, taking over KNRR’s Channel 12 allotment and installing a more powerful transmitter to at least adequately cover the Winnipeg cable head-ends. It would spare them a crisis if Shaw and MTS ever decided to scrap the microwave relays they currently use to bring Prairie Public and WDAZ up to Winnipeg from the border. No sign of anything happening, though.

  5. Grand Forks Guy says:

    I’m fairly sure Prairie Public has a fiber line now — or if not such a thing could be rapidly implemented — so I wouldn’t worry about tower failures.

    Paid your PPTV membership dues lately? ( http://www.prairiepublic.org/support/membership/ ) Have you ever called and asked the Fargo office about your concept?

    Here’s my take. As little money as Red River Broadcasting puts into KNRR, it’s still there for Pembina County during the floods. I’m not sure they’re ready to just write it off.

    KBRR, KCGE, and KGFE share a transmitter site in Euclid, MN, though, so it’s not like Red River can’t cooperate with PPB. The frequencies are clear such that KGFE 15 could be moved to the KNRR tower, provide a decent signal to Grafton, (the second-largest North Dakota city that Prairie Public doesn’t serve) as well as some Canadian coverage.

    I’m not an expert on tower jobbers (who will be very busy in a few short years when American television loses another chunk of channels), but I believe such a move plus site improvements would cost a few dozens of thousands of dollars. Need help planning a spaghetti feed?

    Cheaper still: Just get PPB onto Shaw Direct and Bell TV, it’s done with a few thousand for signal equipment and two fiber runs. Remote cable operators would be able to have it finally. But that also means going in front of the CRTC – and without first having an interested, supportive group of Manitobans asking for it, that’s not something worth risking.

  6. Complain to The CRTC and force CTV winnipeg to use Channel 46 and Force CHMI-DT to use 32 i have problems receiving them with an indoor antenna

  7. theviewfromseven says:

    Such a move would need to be initiated by the stations themselves. The strongest likelihood of that happening is if they see a UHF shift as paying for itself.

    That will be a tough sell for CHMI, which has no local news after Breakfast Television wraps up at 9 a.m. and the station becomes a semi-satellite of Citytv Toronto.

    It might be different for CTV, as their local newscast appears to be a money-maker for the station. If the cord-cutters start to grow in numbers, and the vast majority end up watching Global or CBC instead, then they might see some value in going UHF, even if it’s just in the form of a low-powered fill-in station operating from the top of a high-rise.

  8. Annette says:

    I’m interested in their comment about how many people view their TV programs online. What about us people in rural locations across the country that either can’t get high speed? I guess they consider that we’re such a small minority that they’re not concerned with us. What else is new? And digital antennas don’t have enough range if you live over 160 km from the nearest stations.

  9. theviewfromseven says:

    (cc: from “Your Guide to Digital TV in Winnipeg and Southern Manitoba”)

    A little trick I tried yesterday that, so far, has improved CKY 7.1 reception:

    a.) Take an old analog scanner radio with the squelch set just above the minimum, and find a relatively weak but audible signal in the 137-174 MHz band — just below CKY-DT’s frequency.

    b.) Wave it over any surfaces on which you might be able to place the antenna. Look for spots where the signal you found is coming in relatively well. Place the antenna in one of these “hotspots”.

    It was quite interesting to observe how small some of these “hotspots” were, illustrating the importance of exact antenna placement for reception of VHF signals. A weaker signal that was coming in decently at one spot would be squelched out just a foot or two away.

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