Sin City Snow Coincides With DTV Test

Storm caused TV viewership to be sky-high during testing
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Nevada broadcasters feared a large number of viewers would see snow during the statewide digital TV tests yesterday, but not the kind that shuts down airports and prompts snowball fights. As luck would have it, the largest snowstorm to hit Las Vegas in three decades hit the same time the whole of Nevada was conducting multiple DTV tests. Station managers suggested last night’s storm—which dumped 3 ∏ inches on the famed Strip and as many as 10 in the outskirts of the city—was a gift from the heavens for digital TV awareness; viewership was sky-high, as many were home from work and school today and glued to the screen for the latest on the storm.

“Our ratings doubled yesterday afternoon,” says KLAS Las Vegas General Manager Emily Neilson, who said it was the first time she recalled schools being closed in her 30 years in the market.

Stations in Vegas and Reno, Nevada’s two DMAs

, ran DTV tests five times across Wednesday and early this morning. Nevada Broadcasters Association V.P. Adam Sandler said the stations’ joint call center received around 1,700 calls from viewers; the bulk were about antennas and coupons for DTV converters. Sandler said the Association did not have a number in mind beforehand regarding how many calls it might expect. “We’re still digesting all the information,” he says.

While affected viewers were instructed to phone the call center, many ended up calling stations. General managers are waiting to see test results from the Association, but their initial take on the early Wednesday tests is that Nevada is in good shape for the analog shutoff in February. “It went very well,” says KVVU Las Vegas VP/General Manager Darrin McDonald, whose station used a green graphic if a set was DTV-compliant and a red screen for those that needed upgrading. “We didn’t get as many calls as we expected.” 

The snowstorm made for some memorable photos for Vegas tourists and residents alike, many which ended up on the station Websites. Roads and freeways are starting to open again today, and flights have resumed in and out of McCarran Airport.

The snowstorm set the record for December and is said to be Vegas’ largest since 1979, catching the city off-guard. “We don’t even own a snowplow at our airport,” says Neilson.