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Thursday, January 29, 2015

Cable in Syracuse

The Enron of cable!
While the scope of cable TV in the US has changed over the decades, I decided to focus on my own backyard.  The earliest system I can remember Syracuse having is CableSystems (their old satellites remain at the Chimes Building downtown but may no longer even be operational).  In the suburbs there were NewChannels covering Onondaga County except Skaneateles, Jordan and Elbridge which were under whatever they may have had in Auburn (Newchannels and later TWC CNY's old headquarters in East Syracuse by Wegmans were just torn down).  CableSystems became Cooke Cable by the late '80s and the Adelphia by the mid-'90s which went down in scandal a decade later.  Time Warner Cable already absorbed Selectavision in Cazenovia, NewChannels and then Syracuse and much of Upstate New York north of the Catskills.  Comcast bought other Adelphia markets, though merging with TWC would have brought it all full circle.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Hotel TV

Motel in Mesa, AZ which gets HBO and Fox 10.
Whether you stay at a nice hotel in the big city or even a cheap fleabag motel in the middle of nowhere there will always be a TV in the room.  Many motels will say if there's HBO.  Used to be lucky to have colour TV or even cable in the old days!  When I go somewhere I don't go often I like to see what the local lineup is ahead of time unless it's somewhere I know well enough that I have it committed to memory but the varied nature of national TV means it's like the lottery machine as to which numbers go where for both terrestrial and pay-TV networks,  They always used to say and still do, "Check your local listings" (a rule of thumb with domestic syndication in laymans terms).  I get settled for the night and a list of what's available can be out of date if something changed its name (it could say Court TV instead of TruTV as it's called today) or the lesser known ones are missing (like the CW or myNetwork TV while CBS, C-SPAN or PBS are a given).  Of course you book a hotel 'cos you're on holiday, business, going to an event or what-have-you.  It can give you a sense of home if you like (within US soil anyway, but abroad, you may get a bit of culture shock if you don't find something familiar straight away).  Some hotels will have cable, but others I've gone to have satellite (one had DirecTV and another I think Comcast).  Usually pay-per-view and a looping tourism video channel will also be offered.  I just notice patterns over the years.  For countries with licence fees like the UK I wonder if they pay one per set or hotel and what the HMRCs (the UKs IRS if you like) policy on write offs are but that's another blog!  I just hope I can catch some Corrie again next time!

Planet Fitness

Columbia, SC location where they get NBC 10, CBS 19, ABC 25, and Fox 57.
For a few years I've gone to Planet Fitness and there are a number of TVs on mute that you can only hear through a few types of equipment on headphone.  They will have the first four along with Fox News (sister to Fox), CNN and HLN (ex-sisters to TWC), ESPN (sister to ABC), MSNBC and CNBC (owned by Comcast; you see the pattern), MTV and VH1 (ex-sisters to CBS), A&E (Duck Dynasty are the flagship show there now much to Morrisseys ire), and in the case of Time Warner Cable in Upstate NY, Time Warner Cable News; all depending on the franchise.  Other gyms may do this too as far as I know as there was a report on TVs in a publicly run community gym mainly used by pensioners the other week.  Back at PF sometimes a TV doesn't work right or at all. Some locations have Cardio Theatre which has a TV on each individual machine with a remote attached which will get all the channels provided by the cable company there.  As I posted earlier the future Cortland, NY location will have two stations each of CBS and Fox being roughly between Syracuse and Binghamton.  The existing one near Ithaca in the next county will have Onondaga County ones with one each for Broome and Chemung/Steuben County (both Twin Tiers).  Once my gym exists I can write off TWC and other business expenses on my taxes.  TV like the Tannoy (PA) can become part of the furniture however when people go to the gym to keep their figure!  Better than being at home on the settee all day!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

No news is good news?

May get news for the first time in a decade.
Not all affiliates of the big four broadcasts get a newscast at 12 Noon and 10 PM or at all.  I know ABC 20 WUTR in Utica didn't have news for a time but now even sister station Fox 33 WFXV has news at 10.  Fox 68 WSYT along with sister station my 43 WNYS have changed hands recently so they may bring back news in the near future having carried NBC 3 WSTM and CBS 5 WTVH provided news (before they merged as part of CNY Central).  However CNY Central no longer have 12:00 News on either channel anymore but have it on CW 6 WSTQ at 10 PM.  Unfortunately with competition from Time Warner Cable news for local and regional stories and CNN and MSNBC for national and international coverage, local news operations struggle in the ratings and not many people are home at lunch time anymore for that.  Smaller areas may also have limited news staff if any or have a simulcast from a sister station which is the case with ABC 50 WWTI in Watertown carrying Syracuse counterpart NewsChannel 9 WSYR's news two counties away sharing owners and network franchise with some central-casting.  As if morning shows weren't cutthroat enough, trying to keep news departments running in low-rated markets can be an uphill battle.

ION Television

Positively Entertaining.
ION, formerly PAX and i, has had a unique yet underdog history going from airing family and religious shows to police procedural crime dramas and sitcoms.  However they have the least affiliates of all the commercial networks that existed before the DTV revolution in recent history.  ion 56 WSPX in my area have the largest digital tier with six subchannels yet have a small studio in East Syracuse near Walmart.  ion 51 WPXJ in Genesee County serves much of Western New York.  For areas that don't even have a low-power station over the air with ION cable or satellite should have it on their lineup.  Due to the vast size of the nation it'd take an eternity to come up with over a hundred markets that could use ION which could be why they could have lower ratings than my Network TV or the CW.  Upstate NY I know so I could just go from there and a few select other states just to get an idea.  Here's where ION could charge up:

Tallahassee (Floridas capital)
Philadelphia (even there)

Just several examples without going out on a limb.

NY Retail Roundup: The New Melody Maker: Contact information

NY Retail Roundup: The New Melody Maker: Contact information

UK in the US

Recently deceased Corrie star Anne Kirkbride.
Since the '60s a number of UK comedies and dramas found their way across the pond to the US and Canada (both Commonwealth and via the US) mainly on NET the predecessor of PBS until 1970 when NET were absorbed by flagship WNDT in New York to become WNET.  The BBC launched Lionheart Television (now BBC Worldwide Americas) which handled distribution and syndication with PBS member stations as PBS are technically the pubcaster for the US though not a de facto per se like Auntie (BBC).  Monty Pythons Flying Circus, Butterflies, The Good Life (as Good Neighbours to avoid confusion with another show), Are You Being Served?/Grace and Favour (AYBS Again US), A Fine Romance, Prime Suspect, Absolutely Fabulous, Some Mothers Do 'Ave 'Em, Only Fools and Horses, To the Manor Born, Eastenders, The Vicar of Dibley, Last of the Summer WineKeeping Up Appearances and Waiting for God (the last two I watch) just to name a few are or have been on participating affiliates but as an extra package as they're not network package shows like Downton Abbey (from ITV) and Call the Midwife are which give PBS ratings on par with their commercial competition yet air in North America several months after the UK depending on the show.
In markets bordering Canada or other select areas, if you can get the CBC on cable or over the air Coronation Street from ITV airs Sunday Mornings. Supernanny, Jeremy Kyle, Trisha Goddard and even Ant and Decs Wanna Bet? have all had brief US editions.
Ex-pats and diehard fans alike who can afford it can subscribe to an expensive satellite service which allows one to receive BBC 1-3, Channel 4, Five, itv, BSkyB and other UK networks but will still have to pay the licence fee and have equipment to rent to convert PAL signals to NTSC I would have to believe.
Some have had mainstream success Stateside while others have a cult following compared to back in Britain.  On cable BBC America only has a handful of Beeb programmes in order to appeal to US tastes making it BBC in name only if you ask me.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Not so Big Cable

What would baby watch? (Rogers are a big one in Canada though)
In most small towns, it's not always the big boys running the cable junket despite its roots as CATV providing out of town stations to far flung places (especially in higher elevations).  Several regions of Upstate New York alone have indie service.  In Cazenovia there used to be Select-a-Vision but that was absorbed into Time Warner Cable.  South on NY 13 in Cortland County, while the city has TWC, within the zip code in the hamlet Virgil in the ski belt there, Spencer-based Haefele Cable, which I mentioned before covering some of the Finger Lakes and Twin Tiers, have the rights.  Southern Cayuga County Cablevision is based in Locke.  Mid-Hudson Cable south of Albany I just may have heard of before when I lived down the river some that now even offer a digital converter for older sets (I had MediaOne then which went the way of TCI one town down).  The Cleveland Show had one called Waterman Cable which is in a small town in Virginia called Stoolbend between Washington and Front Royal.  Even Ireland have a handful of small ones and a licence fee like the UK.  Back in the States there are over 800 mini-cable companies amidst the megas.  However there are still spots where you'd be lucky to sign up for DirecTV or Dish.  With the carriage disputes domino-ing nationwide the small cable companies like ImOn Communications in Cedar Rapids, IA just decide to let go (Viacom in ImOns case) rather than get into a David and Goliath type tug of war that their conglomerate counterparts can solve in a matter of days if not weeks.  Indies may sacrifice lower-rated yet A-list cable channels but fight for broadcast ones.  Even those in one-horse towns can find other ways.  ACA represent the interests of the mini-telecoms.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Comcast-TWC merger

To xfinity and beyond?
There has been a lot of talk about Comcast buying Time Warner Cable.  They have been slated for net neutrality, customer service and anti-trust concerns.  Even if Washington allows this something will have to give.  Some systems could be going to Charter.  Central New Yorks may possibly go to Bright House based in DeWitt but spun off TWC in Tampa Bay and Orlando in Central Florida (take me there!).  Then there's the issue of TWC News (formerly YNN; previously News 10 Now in CNY/NNY, R News in Rochester, and Capital News 9 in Albany) as to what it could be called but YNN could come back (Comcast already have CNBC and MSNBC).  Everything's still up in the air so we'll see where this goes.  (UPDATE: In a twist of fate, Charter and Bright House are now looking into a merger of their own, which could affect Bright Houses office in the town of DeWitt if cleared.)
(2ND UPDATE: No Comcast-TWC merger.)


The way it ought to be and where I wanna live until April!
Fox helped start a trend in the broadcast business with branding to show where the network is in each area.  While there's my43 in my neck of the woods and CBS 2 in LA, not every station has caught onto this pattern. Take WSVN in Miami.  It should be called Fox 7 especially as it's a larger area.  Up the east coast in New York City ex-indie superstation WPIX is called PIX 11 Home of the CW rather than just being CW 11 despite being the flagship.  Sister station WGN in Chicago isn't referred to officially as CW 9 either and has a cable channel for the rest of the nation.  For a less populated region WYOU in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area could be CBS 22 being all UHF over the air being surrounded by two larger markets and a few small ones with the risk of overlap on VHF.  For convenience they're within the first dozen channels on cable and FiOS.  Closer to home, NewsChannel 2 WKTV (NBC) in Utica (another common practice) is on channel 4 on Time Warner Cable in Oneida, Herkimer and Hamilton counties.  Sometimes the number isn't featured, such as Fox Rochester WUHF (31).  This is mainly an American phenomenon as it's not the same everywhere else, so you may never think of CBC affiliate CKWS in Kingston, ONT (also on TWC in the Mohawk Valley yet far from Canada) as CBC 11 but TV there is a whole other matter as most stations are O&Os with translators outside the big cities and have to follow Canadian content regulations enforced by the CRTC, north of the 49th Parallels answer to the FCC.  In my backyard if I tell a TWC customer that I watch channel 24 on Saturday nights I have to tell them that I mean WCNY (PBS) not ESPN!  On the road I sometimes know the local lineup in a nutshell.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Identity crisis

ABC in Australia, not the one I know.
I put a similar post on the sister blog so I'll put this here now.

ABC - Australia (pictured), the Philippines and USA
Fox - network and FNC which are related yet different in scope
BrightHouse - US cable service HQ in CNY and UK retailer
Cablevision - NYC, Service Electric Cablevision in NE PA, Cooke CableVision (sold in 1992 to Adelphia), early name for Bright House, and Southern Cayuga County Cablevision in Upstate NY.
Time Warner - cable and conglomerate (ex-parent company of TWC)
NBC - USA, the Philippines and Namibia
Dish Network and Dish Nation
Yes - UK, US (sister to Fox) and Canada
Ghostbusters - Filmation and Sony (you get the idea)

Double trouble?

One of two Fox stations serving Cortland County
Many small towns and even states fall between two viewing markets but mainly belong to one.  Upstate New York has a few instances of straddling the proverbial fence.  I wish to open a Planet Fitness in Cortland which is 30 miles south of Syracuse but over 40 north of Binghamton.  I'll have several TVs in the gym as they all do so I would have two of them with Fox; Fox 68 from Onondaga County back home and Fox 40 from Broome County in the Twin Tiers (logo pictured).  I'd get both on TWC and I know who to call.  As you head towards the Finger Lakes wine belt and the PA state line, two small cable companies, Southern Cayuga County Cablevision (more on that later) and Haefele have the Elmira and Rochester markets featured along with mine but only so much overlap because of retrans fees (see petition).  It'd be too far to have an antenna in these small towns.
I lived in the mid-Hudson Valley for a period between Albany and New York but it's mainly the vast flagship tri-state market but the northern part has some of the Capital Region stations too.  The cable company I had then was Freeview compared to what they have now.  I used to be able to see a syndicated show on a local station and then on a then-indie superstation right after until SyndEx caused blackouts.  Not sure if something would be blacked out on one or the other as maybe the FCC makes exceptions for double dipping areas.  New Jersey isn't too big so they're split between NYC and Philadelphias lineups.  Once Jefferson and Oneida Counties get the stations I proposed earlier, either room could be made for them on TWC, or the CNY Central ones would have to go.  The pensioners will likely tell you they grew up with just three channels and a dial!

The little networks that could

Not yet available in CNY.
There have been several upstart networks appearing on digital tiers around the country this past decade but not all of them are in every city.  MeTV, ThisTV, TheCoolTV, RTN, AntennaTV, Bounce and others are among those who weren't meant for the analogue period and some have reruns of classic series of a simpler time.  Some major markets like Philadelphia have room for them but have yet to act upon that opportunity.  Earlier digital networks like The Tube and PBS spinoff ThinkBright went the way of DuMont and the WB but at this rate there could almost be as many terrestrial networks as pay-TV ones.  Just be glad we don't have an annual licence fee like some countries do!

Cordcutting alternatives

No endorsement implied.
The recent blackout of Fox News and Fox Business from Dish that lingered for three and a half weeks left some subscribers either moving to another provider or if they're stuck in a contract plan B being going online to an unauthorised feed which appears to alternate between Cablevisions Optimum on Long Island, NY and Bright House Networks in Tampa Bay/St Petersburg, FL (although the company are based in my area).  Another one is out there but I only put them here as an example though those into cord-cutting apart from using Hulu and Netflix.  A briefer carriage dispute between my area local affiliates for FNCs sister networks Fox and myNetworkTV vs FiOS got me looking for another Fox station but more because the weather affected my DTV signal and I found Fox 45 from Dayton/Springfield, OH and flagship Fox 5 from the tri-state area.  However if you do ditch cable or satellite and live close enough to the transmitters then a good antenna is needed for local stations.  I have an old school one on the chimney so I only have to pay for Dish downstairs though Clear TV has had mixed reviews.  The posts on Utica and Watertown show that not all networks are easily available over the air in all areas though being able to find out of town stations can fill the vacuum there too but the varied nature of syndication (chat shows and reruns for a start) can add to the challenge when trying to do broadcast on a budget.  I've even been told by someone he was able to watch TV from the US and UK through a MMORPG online via XBox but I think I'll just keep Dish!

Cable Act Petition

What looks like INXS on this snap I happened to have.
I started a petition to change a generation-old law that is long overdue for a change.  Click, read and sign today!  I explain more there.

Mary Whitehouse

The queen of the clean screen on the scene!
Mary Whitehouse may not be as well known in the US as in the UK but for three decades she led a crusade against what she saw on TV and heard on radio that caused her offence as a card-carrying member of the Church of England.  She frequently wrote to the BBC about something she wanted banned.  Her campaigning slowed down by the late '80s to early '90s as her health declined and passed on in November 2001 but if she were around today she would be livid by the continuing signs of X certificate language and violence during watershed (Prime Time) or anytime, social media, or just about anything pushing the envelope.  She's turning in her grave by half of what's on now!  Not saying I agree with her on everything.

CBS in Utica

Can be started?
CBS have never had a station of their own in the Mohawk Valley.  Towards the west they get CBS 5 WTVH from Syracuse, CBS 6 WRGB Albany towards the east, and CBS 7 WWNY as you head north.  The Tiffany networks newest affiliate could start a whole new tier, or have WFXV DT2 on 33.2 coming after Fox 33 owned by Nexstar who also have ABC 20 WUTR and my11 WPNY.  WTKO LP 15 in Oneida is dormant but that's a county away.  Watch this space.

Update: Long overdue, NBC affiliate NewsChannel 2 WKTV added CBS to DT 2.2 making it one of the newest affiliates of Americas Most-Watched Network in the nation and one of the few without a legacy analogue signal.  Their half sister the CW moved to DT 2.3 and MeTV to DT 2.4.  Now there may be hope up NY 12 in the North Country for NBC et al but more on that later.  Since it's a small town this blog must be working somehow.

WLOT/WBQZ NBC 34.1/my34.2 Watertown

I'll just let someone else design a more polished professional logo.
As a small but border community market, Watertown in has been behind in catching up with the bigger cities.  CBS 7 WWNY used to be the only station on the US side of the St Lawrence Valley and then there was CBC 11 CKWS in Kingston, ONT which is even on cable down NY 12 in Utica. One of the owners of WLOT has passed on a decade ago while affiliated with UPN and his partner went to court but the station had gone dark and awaits a new FCC licence as NBC has to be brought in by NBC 3 WSTM in Syracuse who may boost their signal but myNetworkTV isn't even on Time Warner Cable there yet (the carriage dispute the former owners had with them makes recent ones pale in comparison).  Once these stations are on air, they also have to make sure Dish Network (given what they just went through with myTVs sister station), DirecTV, and FiOS in the US and Cogeco, Vidéotron, Bell TV, Shaw Direct and Rogers in Canada (eastern Ontario) will all be willing to carry them.  They'd also have to see which programs in syndication haven't already been picked up by CBS 7, ABC 50, Fox 28, or the CW.  A tower in Rutland, NY may still be standing but one will have to be closer to Landsdowne or Cornwall across the seaway.  A property on county route 100 near Salmon Run Mall west of I-81 may still be vacant and could even hold a small studio yet something better in Jefferson County may be available.  More as this develops.  WLOT obviously stands for Watertown Lake Ontario Television or Watertown Lake Ontario Thousand Islands (small town so I know) while WBQZ refers to the WB which they were supposed to have but that was merged with UPN into the CW already near 10th Mountain.  QZ can mean Quick Zone!  I'd get onetime resident Viggo Mortensen to film a station ID promo if he's willing to do so.