Time Warner HD

Here at OMW, it’s definitely one of our most Frequently Asked Questions:

When is the local Time Warner Cable operation in Northeast Ohio going to add more HD channels?

OMW readers are a well-informed bunch, as a rule. They know that satellite providers have added a number of HD channels over the past year or so. They know other cable systems – even those owned by Time Warner, like the Columbus-based Mid-Ohio system – have added many more channels.

(To be fair, not only is the Mid-Ohio system mostly the company’s original system – give or taken some Adelphia pieces, we think – but it has many less bandwidth-stealing analog “must carry” channels than the company’s Northeast Ohio systems.)

On a recent visit to our long-time friend and colleague Scott Fybush’s home in Rochester NY, we saw a Time Warner Cable HD lineup with about three or four times more channels than we get in Northeast Ohio.

Why not us?

There’s plenty of speculation behind the delay in addition of HD channels on Time Warner’s Northeast Ohio system, but we decided to go for the facts…and TWC local spokesman Bill Jasso was very forthcoming.

Jasso tells OMW the base reason for the delay in adding HD channels, and it’s basically what we thought:

It’s all about switched digital video. The problem is the former Adelphia and Comcast systems are still not compatible with the legacy Time Warner system from a switched perspective. The need to introduce OCAP — the open systems platform, also threw a monkey wrench into the works.

For those not familiar, “Switched Digital Video” or SDV is the main driver that allows cable systems to add large numbers of new channels.

SDV means that cable companies can move lesser used channels off the main feed. When your digital cable box tunes to one of those channels, with SDV, it’ll go out and grab that feed and send it to your home directly. If no one is watching the channel, it doesn’t “sit there” and take bandwidth.

And that means cable operators can free up that bandwidth…for HD channels, and other digital services.

The explanation is kind of simplistic, and we probably got a detail or two wrong, but that’s basically how it works.

The complexity of Time Warner Cable’s giant Northeast Ohio system, which was brought together from the Time Warner “legacy” system, the former Adelphia system and the former Comcast system, all with different equipment types, is one reason SDV hasn’t been fully implemented yet, which would pave the way for more HD channels.

TWC’s Jasso tells OMW:

What we don’t want to do is treat our Akron and Cleveland systems differently, so we won’t move to a “switched” system until we can do it area wide.

As such, Jasso says though he’s hesitant to make any projections, the SDV work in Northeast Ohio could be done “by early/mid March”.

We’ll help Bill out here, and warn that ANY such projected dates for any complex television/technology project could pretty much be written in pencil.

We’ve run into this before at OMW…with the tower construction that eventually gave Clear Channel Canton market AC WHOF/101.7 and rock WRQK/106.9 their new home, and currently, with the tower work for Cleveland NBC affiliate WKYC/3 and PBS affiliate WVIZ/25 at WKYC’s Parma site.

You can give a projected date, and Things Happen Beyond Your Control. Any complex project sees it.

So, don’t come back here in April if the TWC SDV project isn’t complete yet, and shout stuff like “HE TOLD US IT WOULD BE DONE IN MARCH!”…because it’s just a projected date. They ARE working on it, and Mr. Jasso was kind enough to give us a very general expected timeline.

We don’t know, at this time, how long it’d be between the completion of the SDV project and the addition of new channels, but we suspect it wouldn’t be that long. TWC clearly feels the pressure from competitors like DirecTV and Dish Network, AT&T U-verse, WOW Cable, etc…and many of the company’s HD channel carriage deals are already done with the company nationwide.

Jasso tells us that the SDV project will, when completed, not only provide more room for HDTV channels and other digital services…it’ll also allow the company’s “StartOver” feature to be implemented here in Northeast Ohio.

“StartOver” will allow TWC digital cable subscribers to “go back” to the start of a show they joined in progress, even if their cable box wasn’t tuned to the channel at the start. We’ve seen it in action in Rochester, at the Fybush Media World Headquarters, and it’s actually a good feature.

Finally, TWC’s Bill Jasso tells us that he’s looking for input on HD channels, and which ones our readership would like to see.

Jasso is actually a new HD set owner himself, and says he’s personally sensitive to “fake HD” channels – which stretch or otherwise manipulate non-HD programming to fill the screen as a bulk of their programming.

You can, of course, use the usual ways to give feedback to TWC. If you’d like to weigh in directly here, either add comments to this item, or E-Mail us, and we’ll pass your wishes along to Mr. Jasso.

By tbe way, about the comments feature here…a few months ago, we changed it so you can use “OpenID” to log in so you can add comments. You don’t have to sign up for Blogger.

If you have another blog account (LiveJournal, WordPress and the like), or have an AOL/AIM ID, you can use that instead…

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