Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why Did You Lose the Olympics?

Olympic Flames

Moments before 10 p.m. Tuesday night, February 23, 2010, I reached for the remote to turn on another TV to catch the news. South Korean Ice Dancing favorite Kim Yu-Ni was about to perform. So, I left KXAN TV (NBC) on. Literally, the moment that I pressed the “On” button for the other TV, KXAN went blank, followed by the hated and feared message, “No Signal”.

The other TV didn’t come on either. So, my first thought was that I had fried my TVs. The other channels were there. The next thought was that it had to do with either Time Warner Cable (TWC) or KXAN or both. I tried a TV not connected to the cable hooked to a DTV conversion box. “No Signal” from KXAN. There was also “No Signal” from KXAN’s sister station KNVA TV. Hmmmm.

I went to Facebook, and it was like a collective “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHH!!!!!” was being screamed across the community. My “friends” were not happy. I went to the KXAN fan page. Wow. You talk about unhappy and pointedly vocal.

Meantime, there was no immediate explanation on either the site or the fan Facebook site. I posted what had happened to me on my site, and soon got new information. Viewers using Grande and AT&T U-Verse were still watching without interruption. Then, there were Facebook messages from friends inside of KXAN saying that there had been a fire at the transmitter in West Lake Hills. No injuries. I posted that information to Facebook too.

There was more to the story. If U-Verse and Grande were still getting the feed from KXAN, part of the problem must reside with Time Warner. Years ago during the retransmission dispute between TWC and LIN TV, KXAN TV’s owner, Time Warner used to take KXAN’s programming off of the air (OTA), making the resulting product on cable inferior to the other channels. That contractual issue was resolved about a decade ago, and TWC began taking the transmission via fiber.

So, unless TWC’s fiber was burned in the electrical fire, TWC was again taking KXAN’s signal off the air.

In the meantime, KXAN plugged in Olympic programming to its third station KBVO-TV, Channel 14, if you can see it all of the way from the Hill Country. Most in the metro area cannot see KBVO with a DTV conversion box. You must have Time Warner Cable or some other service. KXAN notified viewers using its emergency email system. By the time I got the email from KXAN regarding the switch to KBVO, the Olympics coverage was long over at 10:44 p.m. soon had a message regarding what was going on. Nothing was posted to the KXAN Facebook fan page. So, I copied and pasted the message there:

“KXAN lost its signal shortly after 10 p.m. due to a fire at our transmitter site. KXAN and KNVA are both affected. We are working hard to restore the signal and in the meantime KXAN Olympic coverage and news will be broadcast on KBVO. KBVO is on the following channels SD Digital Over the Air N/A 14,51 Time Warner N/A 1525 Grande 18 318 AT&T 7 1007 Suddenlink 15 725 DirecTV 51 N/A Dish Network N/A”

I was promptly chewed out by a viewer on the fan page who said she wished that I’d posted the information sooner, and I had ruined her night. She apparently thought that I worked for KXAN. (Just like old times.)

Today, Wednesday, February 24, 2010, Eric Lassberg, KXAN TV’s president and general manager confirmed my suspicions of why the Olympic coverage didn’t continue in Time Warner Cable.

“Yes, they were taking our signal OTA (Over the Air). We were unaware of this until the incident,” Lassberg says. “After we made them aware of KXAN’s loss on their system they quickly re-established a signal connection via the provided fiber by approximately 12 a.m.” How could this happen? “I believe they had past equipment/system issues that made them take our signal OTA and not via fiber.”

A TWC engineer says it is a million to one coincidence that they would have issues at the same time KXAN would have a fire at its transmitter, but that’s what happened, according to TWC spokesperson Angela Williams. Williams says KXAN’s signal is now coming to TWC via fiber.

So, why did you lose the Olympics coverage? Time Warner was taking the transmission over the air instead of fiber. Who may be more angry that you, the viewers? KXAN TV. Why? They are nearing the end of the important February sweeps.

© Jim McNabb, 2010

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