Programming

Broadcasters Report Minimal DTV Hangover

Rescan is the word of the day 6/13/2009 11:59:13 AM Eastern

On the first day of America waking up to fully digital television, a cross-section of broadcasters say the historic shift has been relatively painless. A long day of call center troubleshooting, primarily related to rescanning for new digital channels, has brought hundreds of thousands of viewers on board with broadcasting's new requirements.

A Hearst Television spokesperson says the analog shutoff was a non-event in Boston, Hearst's largest market. Call volumes in the remainder of the Hearst markets, including Orlando and Sacramento, were similarly without catastrophic incident. "We haven't seen greater than anticipated call volume," says the spokesperson.

A LIN spokesperson said the switch was "smooth," with around 100 calls per station. Same story at the 10 Meredith stations, says VP/Director of Engineering Joe Snelson. The Meredith markets, including Atlanta and Las Vegas, saw between 50 and 375 calls yesterday, not including the calls made to FCC hotlines and call centers. "Overall, our group would classify this as a non-event," he says. "If there's any takeaway from yesterday, it's rescan, rescan, rescan."

Of course, with a few million households unprepared, and numerous others working through problems related to topography and conflicting signals in outlying market areas, the transition has hardly been without incident. Cincinnati broadcasters reported call volumes that were well more than what was anticipated, due to a large number of over the air viewers and some topographical problems. After a WCPO-WXIX call center was "bombarded" yesterday, according to WCPO engineer Greg Reams, the calls slowed to a manageable, though hardly insignificant, number today. Reams says the center got 1700 calls in the first 24 hours, and another 400 as of 10:15 today.

He says most of the queries are fixable-even if most require "a good half hour per call."

While the calls are expected to stream in throughout the weekend nationwide, many broadcasters believe the worst is over. For Meredith, a possible spike in calls yesterday evening, as viewers got home from work and tucked into primetime viewing, did not materialize. Snelson says his phone did not ring last night; nor did he awake to a cavalcade of anxious emails today.

"I got a good night's sleep," he says.

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