DTV Subchannels: Sports, Local News on Tap

Feb 1, 2009  •  Post A Comment

An informal survey of the nation’s biggest television station groups reveals a broad range of programming strategies when it comes to their digital subchannels.
Digital channels require less bandwidth than analog ones, which means that after stations abandon their analog signals in the DTV switchover, they can carry several programming options and services on the freed-up bandwidth.
The NBC-owned station group carries Universal Sports in nearly all of its markets, including Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. The network, a partnership between NBC Sports and InterMedia Partners, features Olympic-related sports programming. The channel now is available to more than 30 million TV homes after expanding its reach through the NBC station carriage deal.
NBC started offering the network after the Beijing Olympics ended last summer, programming repeats of many of the events, including United States swimmer Michael Phelps’ eight gold medal races. Throughout the year the network covers events around the world in Olympic sports, such as rowing, swimming, cycling and skiing.
NBC’s WNBC-TV in New York will debut a New York-centric news, lifestyle and information network on one of its subchannels later this year.
Some of the 27 Fox-owned stations carry standard-definition simulcasts on their digital tiers in markets including Dallas and Atlanta. The group has started testing handheld mobile video using its digital subchannels in the Chicago market. The goal is to offer a portable simulcast version of the station’s programming for cell phones and handheld devices.
The CBS station group is evaluating opportunities for subchannels that make business sense, but it hasn’t launched any yet, a station spokesman said.
ABC and Tribune did not provide information on plans for the digital tiers at their station groups.
The Sinclair Broadcast Group is using the digital real estate to carry MyNetworkTV and MGM-owned THIS TV in Dayton and Columbus, Ohio, and Richmond, Va. Sinclair’s Baltimore stations runs THIS TV 24 hours a day on its digital channel. THIS TV programs classic TV shows and movies from the MGM library.
“I don’t think there is a big enough audience yet for anyone’s subchannels to make any significant dollars,” said Del Parks, VP of engineering and operations at Sinclair. “But I do think as time goes by, and more people replace their old analog TVs with new ones, viewing of subchannels will be more relevant.”

Your Comment

Email (will not be published)