Research Firm, Broadcasters Scrap Over DTV ‘Gap’
Conflicting views on a study released by Centris
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 2/12/2008 8:53:00 AM
If market research firm Centris is right, there are major DTV coverage gaps for millions of homes that will rely on over-the-air signals. Not everyone agrees with the study’s results, however. The Association for Maximum Service Television (MSTV) says Centris is incorrect in their findings.
According to the
of small and medium sized roof-mounted antennas, there was little continuous DTV signal coverage beyond a 35 mile radius from the station, rather than the 60-70 mile service contour identified by the FCC.
Unless broadcasters' signal coverage is improved, or viewers get a sufficiently sensitive roof-top antenna, Centris argues, there will be "serious gaps" in DTV signal coverage for which those antennas may be an option. Centris advises that "signing up for a cable, satellite or telecom video provider is the only guarantee that their TV sets will continue to work."
Hold the phone, said MSTV, which vetted the study and concluded that it was not based on real world signal strength measurements and did not provide a "realistic assessment" of DTV coverage. "Centris uses only “small” and “medium” omnidirectional outdoor antennas that [the Consumer Electronics Association] recommends for homes located within 20 - 30 miles of a TV tower. Centris then makes the leap that because these “small” and “medium” antennas may not work for areas outside of 30 miles, or in some terrain-shielded areas, DTV service is not available. This is simply wrong!"
"[H]omes in areas beyond 30 miles from a broadcast tower may need larger, perhaps amplified, antennas. This may also be true in terrain-challenged areas within 30 miles of a tower. In no way does this mean DTV service is not unavailable."
"They don't really understand the analysis we did," said Barry Goodstadt, senior VP for Centris.
Far from overstating the case, Goodstadt argues that the survey was conservative and that the problem was likely even bigger than the study suggested. "We assumed that, at a minimum, everyone had a small or medium omnidirectional outdoor antenna when our stats show that only 10% of households have such an antenna. Therefore, the coverage data we got back suggested they were going to get even better coverage than they are likely to get."
I bought a HDTV receiver set top box for my parents, who live 75 miles away from New York City. It could not lock on to any NYC digital stations. They have two 25+ year old VHF and UHF antennas on the roof aimed at New York City, which currently receive analog reception of all VHF analog channels - but have trouble with UHF channels because of some mountains that block signals from the Empire State Building. All the NYC digital channels are currently in the UHF range.
This is a major inconvience to those who lose their TV signals and now have to upgrade their antenna system. My Dad is 87 years old. He's not going to go up on the roof to install a preamp on the antenna mast or change the 25 year old 300 ohm twinlead cable to 75 ohm quad shielded coax.
People who live in fringe areas are in for a rude awakening when they hook up their DTV converters to their analog sets. If they are like my parents, they'll just get cable TV and forget about over the air reception.
T. Basura - 2/15/2008 9:03:00 AM EST
I am finding that DTV signal from stations that have maximized their signals are going farther that their analog signals and are far clearer in the fringe areas.
Hal Protter - 2/13/2008 8:36:00 AM EST
If Centris says DTV signals will be spotty with rabbit ears more than 35 miles from transmitters, they are right. But MSTV is correct in saying that with a properly installed fringe or deep fringe antenna, coverage should be similar to the analog service. IMPORTANT: The same observations are true about the current analog coverage.
If a properly installed fringe or deep fringe antenna does not do the job, then an amplifier may be needed. One wild card here -- the UHF DTV signals of analog VHF stations will have more restricted propagation characteristics, particularly behind terrain obstacles. But since these stations in many cases will be able to, and will choose to, move the DTV operation down to their current VHF channel within a year, when the transition is complete, this may not prove to be a major problem in the end.
Eric Norberg - 2/12/2008 4:57:00 PM EST
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