Sunday, August 14, 2011

How The TV Networks Underestimate OTA Viewership

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With a few weeks remaining until free over the air TV goes digital in Canada's major cities.  Unlike the American digital TV transition two years ago,  the conversion to digital TV is much more low key.  Canada's television broadcasting industry claims that because higher usage of cable and satellite television services is the reason for the much less than enthusiastic approach to the change over to digital TV.  Canada's 30 top media markets will get digital and high definition TV over the air for free after August 31st.  Residents in small towns and rural areas who watch over the air TV from rebroadcast relay transmitters will remain stuck with analog service for the next few years.

Canada's private television networks have found themselves getting bought out by the companies that distribute their programming through wires or by satellite.  Many blame this ownership as the sole reason that television networks down play the role of over the air transmission as part of their business.  It is estimated by the TV networks 9 percent of viewers receive their programming by over the air signals.  The estimate by the television broadcasting industry only takes viewers who use antennas as their only means of television reception.  Friends of Canadian. Broadcasting estimates that 30 percent of Canadian households have at least one TV set with an antenna. 

There are many viewers of over the air signals that are not counted by any of the estimates, long haul truckers with small TV's in their rigs using just an antenna to receive TV programming during overnight stays at truck stops.  While some who tour across the country in their recreational vehicles have satellite TV service the majority of RVer's just raise their TV antenna on the roof of their unit to catch the news or favorite shows after parking at a campground for the evening.  Even a significant number of those whose second recreational home is in a fixed location such as a cottage or cabin get their television signals with an antenna. 

While Canada's private television networks are only upgrading transmitters that serve the CRTC mandated markets by the August 31st deadline, both CTV and Global are going to upgrade all their rebroadcast transmitters by 2016.  Despite the high cost of replacing transmitters is pretty high, It is in the economical interest of TV stations to upgrade to digital due to the lower operating cost through lower power consumption of digital transmitters.  Only one tenth of the wattage is required for digital broadcast compared with the analog counterpart. 

While most who are dependent on over the air TV will have a few years to wait for digital broadcasts, Global and CTV will be doing a lot more than CBC.  The public broadcaster whose mandate to be available over the air to all Canadians is staying analog in all areas that are not mandated by the CRTC until the analog transmitters reach the end of their lifespan and die and then no new transmitters will be installed.  It's surprising unexpected that the profit motivated private networks have a stronger commitment to over the air viewers than the network owned by the people for the people.

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