More than 500 stations on the air with DTV

The NAB announced that several new stations have made the transition to digital television broadcasting, as of last week, bringing the current total of commercial and public stations to 509.

KTBS-DT Shreveport, La., signed on September 3rd, using a Larcan Landmark digital transmitter with two IOT tubes at one million watts ERP.

Among the new DTV stations is ABC affiliate KTBS-DT Shreveport, La. (market No. 79). The station signed on September 3rd, using a Larcan Landmark digital transmitter with two IOT tubes at one million watts ERP. The station is also using a Dielectric antenna and transmission lines between the transmitter and its tower.

Now broadcasting on channel 28, Chief Engineer David Hendricks said they’re able to replicate existing NTSC coverage at one million watts, although he admits there are not a lot of digital sets in the Shreveport market at this point.

KTBS-DT is multicasting two digital channels: one for the station’s entertainment and news programming and the other is a 24/7 weather channel, fed by a one million-watt Doppler radar system.

Programming is made up of upconverted NTSC shows during the day and HD (720p) during primetime, when the network passes through most of its series, in the traditional 4:3 aspect ratio with the top and bottom cut off (referred to as “letterbox” style).

“We’ve found that our viewers would rather watch TV in 4:3 [in letterbox],” Hendricks said. “We’ve got a network of viewers who correspond with us via the Internet and tell us what they like and what they don’t. They all say they wish there was more to watch.”

That’s why the recent announcement that ABC will produce more HD programming (including sports) is welcome news to Hendricks, who said, “They should have done it two years ago. If I would have had “Monday Night Football” in HDTV when I signed on September 3, when the season started, we would have sold some sets in this market, I’m sure of it.”

There are two other digital stations in the market, CBS affiliate KSLA-DT, which began broadcasting DTV on May 1, and LPBS-DT, the Louisiana Public Broadcasting System station which has been on for a month.

Hendricks said his station wanted to begin broadcasting on May 1 (the government-mandated date to begin DTV), but the tower crew could not finish the job in time. The tower is located on an antenna farm, 18 miles north of Shreveport.

Hendricks said he is “hopeful” about the success of DTV in Shreveport, although he’s less optimistic about getting his digital channels carried on the local cable operators (Time Warner Cable and Cox), where initial discussions have provided no results thus far. This, he said, is critical to stimulate DTV set penetration.

The NAB said DTV signals are now being transmitted in 145 markets that include 90.442 percent of U.S. TV households. In addition, 45 percent of U.S. TV households are in markets where broadcasters are delivering four or more DTV signals.

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