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Dec 31, 2002  •  Post A Comment

Posted Tuesday, Dec. 31

Denver retransmission dispute resolved

Denver ABC affiliate KMGH and local cable company AT&T Broadband reached an agreement late Monday night, a day shy of the expiration date, on a new six-year retransmission agreement that will allow the McGraw-Hill-owned station to launch its local news cable channel on the AT&T system early in 2003.

The dispute between the station and the cable company grew heated in the final days with both sides running ads in the Denver media. AT&T then filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Monday afternoon asking the court to keep Channel 7’s signal on the air. Since the parties reached an agreement Monday night, the lawsuit was withdrawn this morning.

McGraw-Hill Broadcasting has launched local news channels at its stations in San Diego, Indianapolis and Bakersfield, Calif. The San Diego station, News Channel 15, has been on the local cable system since 1992. The Denver channel, yet to be named, is expected to launch sometime in the first half of the year and possibly as early as March, said Ed Quinn, president of the McGraw-Hill Broadcasting Co. in San Diego.

The channel will originate from KMGH’s studio and will largely consist of repurposed KMGH newscasts. It will simulcast the news with KMGH and then will repeat the most recent newscast throughout the day, Mr. Quinn said. When the local morning news ends at 7 a.m. and “Good Morning America” begins, for instance, the cable channel would air repeats of the morning news from KMGH, he said. The channel will air breaking news or special events from time to time, and will provide wall-to-wall election coverage. The presence of the channel reduces the need to pre-empt network programming for breaking news coverage, he said.

Commercials during the simulcasts will be the same, but when the news is repurposed the channel will sell those spots separately. The channel will be co-branded and marketed by KMGH and Comcast, which recently acquired AT&T Broadband. “This extends our brand and generates news revenues,” Mr. Quinn said.

Study bolsters use of DTV signal standard: Digital TV receiver improvements can ensure acceptable over-the-air delivery of DTV signals without rejiggering the nation’s ATSC/8VSB digital television standard. That was the conclusion of a research paper published in the December issue of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers’ Transactions on Broadcasting. “This contradicts some early reports, which suggested that 8VSB be heavily modified or abandoned entirely to achieve a successful transition to DTV,” said a summary of the study, conducted by Fox, Philips Research and Australian National University.

Andrew Setos, Fox Group president of engineering, said the study showed that DTV reception can be made more reliable. “It is now up to the marketplace to embrace these proven techniques and endow DTV receivers with this level of reception performance,” Mr. Setos said.

Cable good news and bad: The good news for cable TV industry was that there were 68.8 million cable subscribers as of June 2002, an increase from the year before, according to a study released by the Federal Communications Commission today. The bad news was that total represents subscriber growth of only 0.4 percent. Over the same period, the FCC said the number of direct broadcast satellite subscribers grew from 16 million to 18 million. “Calendar year 2002 may be the first year in which the [cable] industry as a whole has had a net loss of subscribers,” the FCC said. The FCC report also said, however, that cable TV rates rose 6.3 percent during the study period, almost six times the rate of inflation.