WCPO Cincinnati VP/General Manager Bill Fee has been at the station since last night, helping the region's viewers work through their considerable DTV problems. With some topographical issues and a high rate of over the air viewing (around 14%), Cincinnati stations-all but WLWT shutting off analog signals this morning-have experienced some heavy calling from affected viewers. A tired Fee says the Scripps station had logged around 850 calls at the joint WCPO-WXIX phone bank by mid afternoon, and expects all the market's calls to be in the thousands.(Newport TV’s WKRC tallied another 700 calls by 5 p.m.)
"There's a lot of confusion, but we're walking people through it," he says.
Fee, who says such volume was not unexpected, says the large majority have involved rescanning channels. Some callers are looking for coupons, and a tiny faction simply does not understand why their channels have gone dark.
Hubbard's WNYT Albany received 300-350 calls at its phone banks, reports director of engineering Richard Klein, since the station shut off at 2:05 this morning. About a quarter fall into the "how do I get a coupon?/where do I get a converter box?" category, and a fair number related to signal issues in the upstate New York DMA's terrain. "It's a little more than we expected," says Klein. "Some just take a few minutes, while others might take 10-15 minutes to figure out what the problem is."
The station has been able to solve "virtually all" viewer quandaries, he adds.
It's been a smoother transition in other parts of the country. Raycom CTO Dave Folsom said "nothing serious" came out of shutting off analog for the group's 44 stations. The LIN stations have gotten about 100 calls apiece by late afternoon; its Buffalo duopoly had about 20 calls as of 1:15 this afternoon. "I guess we've done a pretty good job of educating people," says WIVB-WNLO Buffalo President/General Manager Chris Musial.
Many stations have turned the historic moment into a ceremonial event. WJHL Johnson City (Tenn.) conscripted station founder W. Hanes Lancaster Jr. to flip the switch 65 years after he fired up the station's analog signal, while WAGA Atlanta brought in former engineer Paul Kram to do the same 60 years later. Capitol Broadcasting President/CEO Jim Goodmon shut off analog at WRAL Raleigh-undoing the turn-on he did as a boy in 1956.
WCCB Charlotte went for star power-tapping KISS guitarist Paul Stanley to kiss analog good bye.
Station executives say affected callers have been largely elderly, which was expected. They're bracing for a spike in calls as people return home from work and get ready for their favorite early fringe and primetime programs.
Even if they cop to pangs of sentimentality, broadcasters are pleased to put the analog chapter of their careers behind them. "Each second past 9 a.m. this morning, you could see people taking a big sigh of relief," says Musial. "There was a sense of, ‘Wow, it really happened.'"