Olympics in low-def

During the long drive from San Francisco to Santa Barbara yesterday we looked forward to vegging on the couch and taking in the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, recorded earlier but presented in prime time by NBC on its local affiliates.

With our nice Sony flat screen, fed by our top-end Dish Network receiver, we figured to be watching the show in high-def. But Dish wasn’t obliging. Seems that getting the locals up in HD is a bit of a chore. Dish doesn’t publish a schedule for that, but DirecTV does. Here’s the list of 150 markets where DirecTV will be introducing local HD channels to the whole HD line-up, gradually, month by month. Santa Barbara’s not on it. Being the number 200-something market, we’re pretty far down the priority list. Since DirecTV and Dish compete pretty much across the board, I’m sure Dish will be just as slow at getting those to us.

To Dish’s credit, my call for help got escalated to a high-level support person who was far more helpful than the first person I talked to. He said that a steady fiber-optic link had to be established between each local affiliate and Dish’s uplink center near Denver. This takes time, and accounts for the hold-up.

Turns out CNBC and USA have a lot of Olympics coverage too; but not, apparently, of the opening ceremonies. Not that I could tell, anyway.

Some of the time we can get HDTV over the air from San Diego and Tijuana, which are more tan 200 miles away, across the open Pacific. But last night (only a few hours ago as I write this) only the ABC signal came in. NBC is the Olympics network, and the San Diego NBC affiliate, KNSD, wasn’t there. (Over-the-air (OTA) digital transmission is kinda binary. You get it or you don’t.)

Our “local” NBC affiliate is KSBY from San Luis Obispo. Its low-def signal on Channel 6 is a long way off in any case, and at the end of its journey here slams into the 4000-foot high Santa Ynez mountains. The station’s HD signal, on UHF channel 15, might as well be coming from Alaska, since UHF signals don’t travel nearly as well as VHF (channels 2-13).

So we settled for KSBY’s low-def picture, which reaches us by a route that leaps mountains by running a 50,000 mile route from San Luis Obispo to Denver to a satellite over the equator and then down to us here in Santa Barbara.

It’s all actually a pretty messy system, considering.

And I’m expecting it to get a lot messier after next February 17th.

Here’s a photo tour of another Channel 6 transmitter site, also doomed to go dark in February.

2 comments

  1. Terry Green’s avatar

    The picture is not much better in market #124, just to your north. No hope of HD on DirecTV or Dish, the low-res picture from KSBW on DirectTV is lousy, and even though I have line-of-sight to their transmitter from my house, KSBW’s analog ch. 8 and digital ch. 10 signal are both getting mangled by impulse noise and are unwatchable. Grrrrr…

  2. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Yep, it’s a mess.

    BTW, I know this post has a twin, but I haven’t figured how to get rid of it.

Comments are now closed.