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DTV Transition: WINK Throws the Switch

Feb 16, 2009  •  Post A Comment

In the last two weeks, the CBS station in Fort Myers, Fla., has fielded about 1,500 calls and e-mails from viewers regarding the digital transition that will occur at 12:10 p.m. EST today for WINK-TV.
For TVWeek’s comprehensive coverage of the digital television transition, visit the DTV Switch Navigator page.
That’s when CBS affiliate WINK will flip the switch to digital, ending its analog transmission forever. Station executives are betting that the last few weeks of testing and messaging to viewers will make for a smooth transition.
Fort Myers Broadcasting-owned WINK-TV is one of about 400 TV stations around the country sticking to the original digital transition date of Feb. 17. The Florida station will sign off its analog feed about 10 minutes into its noon newscast today, general manager Wayne Simons said.
Congress voted to delay the transition to June 12, but the Federal Communications Commission is allowing about one-quarter of the U.S.’ TV stations to flip the switch as planned today.
After receiving its FCC approval to transition on schedule, WINK upped the number of on-air crawls and notices to make sure viewers were prepared, Mr. Simons said. “Once we applied to stay with the regular date, we were required to increase the frequency of crawls,” he said.
The station ran about five minutes of crawls per hour through Sunday, then bumped that to about 10 minutes per hour for the final two days. Because of the increase in messages in the last two weeks, the station received about 750 calls and about 750 e-mails from viewers, said Greg Stetson, programming director for WINK.
Mr. Stetson took about half of those calls himself and sometimes walked viewers through the entire process of setting up the digital converter box. Others contacted the station asking how to tell if a TV set is digital.
Wink has also conducted a number of “soft tests,” removing the analog signal for a minute or two at a time. After the first two-minute test in December, the station received about 35 calls from viewers.
Because of the message saturation in the last two weeks and the handful of tests, Mr. Simons believes the Fort Myers market is ready for the switch today. The market has a high cable penetration with only about 5% of TV viewers relying on over-the-air, he said.
WINK opted to stick to the original date because waiting until June would have placed the transition in the midst of Florida’s hurricane season, a risky proposition. Oddly enough, the station is required to run messages through March 31 on its digital signal about the analog shut-off even though analog-only TV viewers won’t be able to see them after today.
(Editor: Baumann)

4 Comments

  1. Remember, WINK is based in Fort Myers, FL, winter home of one of the greatest inventors and technical whizzes of the 19th and 20th centuries, Thomas Alva Edison. He probably would have liked to see the transition to DTV. (And wasn’t it the late Gracie Allen who once observed that, were it not for Edison and the light bulb, we’d all be watching TV in the dark?)

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