More TV Stations to Time-out Analog Transmissions

Barrington plans dry runs
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The Barrington Broadcasting TV group is joining a growing number of stations suspending analog broadcasts to see if anyone notices. Among them, NBC affiliate WEYI-TV in the Saginaw/Flint/Bay City, Mich., designated market area No. 66 will briefly go dark on Channel 25 during its evening newscast Sept. 4.

WEYI, a Barrington Broadcasting station, joins several other stations conducting tests in preparation for next Feb. 17, when the 70-year era of analog TV broadcasting comes to an end. Most are simply going to black for a minute or two, then telling folks who get snow how to maintain reception post-2/17.

Eleven stations in Florida temporarily pulled analog programming in June. Richard Monn, chief engineer of Hearst-Argyle“s WESH/WKCF/TV in Orlando provided a post mortem of those tests. Two more are planned for September and December.

KVBC-TV in Las Vegas briefly went dark in early May. ION Media Network stations started a series of tests this month.

Five stations in Wilmington, N.C. are planning a second test after an Aug. 19 dry run yielded no viewer feedback whatsoever. The Wilmington stations are shutting down analog transmitters for good Sept. 8. There was some concern there that the first 60-second test run wasn“t long enough to give viewers a chance to figure out what was going on, though a recent NAB survey indicated that 77 percent of the households in the market knew about the Sept. 8 power-down date.

The Wilmington stations taking an early exit include Raycom Media“s WECT-TV; WWAY-TV owned by Morris; WSFX owned by Southeastern Media; WILM-TV, a lower-power CBS affiliate owned by Capitol Broadcasting and W51CW, a low-power Trinity Broadcasting affiliate. Those stations are doing a second shutdown test Sept. 2 at 7:30 p.m. for a total of five minutes.

Jon Bengston of WEYI said the station“s game plan was a “natural follow-up” to other stations conducting shutdown tests.

“Our parent company is Barrington Broadcasting, and two of our executive staff, Mr. James Yeager and Chris Cornelius, have been in the forefront of the industries conversion to digital and the support of the industries transition to digital. Mr. Yeager has been very involved with the National Association of Broadcasters to promote the change and broadcastings efforts. Mr. Cornelius is a member of the NBC Affiliates Board,” Bengston wrote TVB in an email.

“Under their direction, the entire group of stations they operate will participate in the “test.“ Our plan is that during our 6 p.m. NBC25 News, a significant portion of the show will be directed towards an informational presentation about digital television.”

WEYI will then pull the programming on its Channel 25 transmitter while continuing the digital simulcast on Channel 30. Viewers with digital reception will be assured they are prepared for the final conversion.

“We will restart our analog transmitter following this assurance statement to announce that if they “lost“ the program feed, they need to either upgrade to a television set with a digital tuner or purchase a set-top decoder box,” Bengston said.

WEYI“s market has about 469,000 TV households, with about 80 percent penetration of cable and satellite, he said. That potentially leaves 93,800 homes that rely exclusively on over-the-air TV reception. Bengston said he knew of no other stations in the market that have done similar shutdown tests.

Barrington Broadcasting, in Hoffman Estates, Ill., has 21 TV stations in 15 markets.