ABC-Owned Stations to Deliver Analog Feeds After DTV Transition

ABC stations will continue to air an analog signal after the transition to digital after all, but only for use by analog cable customers.

ABC said Monday that subject to agreements with the local cable operators involved, it would make a standard-definition, 4/3 aspect ratio analog feed of its 10 owned TV stations available to cable operators for at least one year after the transition to digital TV in February 2009.

Broadcasters by law must cut off analog broadcasts by Feb. 17, 2009, but the ABC feed will be wireline and available to cable operators only to feed to their cable-system headends and, via that route, to their analog customers.

Cable operators are required by the Federal Communications Commission to make a viewable signal available to their customers after the transition, which, in some cases, will mean downconverting a digital signal to analog for subscribers who have not made the switch to digital cable. One question that has remained open is just who is responsible for providing the viewable feed.

"The hope is that this will provide viewers in those 10 stations' markets who have not converted to digital cable the capacity to have a better picture," ABC spokeswoman Julie Hoover said.

“These extra feeds will help to ensure that the highest-quality signal is provided to our local ABC viewers who continue to have analog-television sets in their homes by the Feb. 17 cutoff date,” ABC-owned stations group president Walter Liss said in announcing the move.

The cable industry was pleased with the help.

“We’re delighted that the ABC-owned TV stations are offering this valuable service benefiting cable subscribers who will continue to depend upon a standard-definition signal after Feb. 17," said Richard Green, president of cable's technological test bed, Cable Television Laboratories. "These feeds exemplify the shared objective of broadcasters and cable operators to provide the best possible picture and sound for all viewers during the federally mandated digital transition.”

The stations, which cover about 24% of the country, are WABC-TV New York; KABC-TV Los Angeles; WLS-TV Chicago; WPVI-TV Philadelphia; KGO-TV San Francisco; KTRK-TV Houston; WTVD-TV Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; KFSN-TV Fresno, Calif.; WJRT-TV Flint, Mich.; and WTVG-TV Toledo, Ohio.

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.