News Column

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel On TV/Radio column

September 18, 2013

YellowBrix

Sept. 18--I'm not sure what I find more confusing -- the rules for "The Million Second Quiz" or Time Warner Cable's switch of analog channels to the digital tier.

I haven't watched NBC's convoluted game show but have been entertained by reviews that describe it as "like being choked underwater in a doctor's waiting room" (The Hollywood Reporter) and "deeply flawed ... universally unpopular" and a "wildly expensive failure" (The Onion).

And, since I am not a Time Warner subscriber, I have attempted to ignore last week's switch of several analog channels to the digital tier in "La-la-la-la-la I'm not listening" fashion.

For the past (he checks calendar) 57 days, the Time Warner lobe of my cerebrum has been hijacked by the blackout of WTMJ-TV (Channel 4).

But I can no longer ignore the panicky emails from readers affected by the analog channel change.

"What a ripoff at a time when we have been patient with them during this WTMJ debacle," one reader writes. "It would seem to me that you should be able to get this basic cable service on a modern TV without paying extra (for EVERY TV) for the converters."

Another wrote: "We are digital subscribers but do not have boxes for all of our TV sets. My wife likes to watch the Weather Channel on TV sets without the cable box. This will be a deal breaker for us. Their offer of a digital adapter for a year is not acceptable."

Here's the problem: Time Warner is shifting some popular channels from its standard tier to its digital-only tier for a "higher quality" experience. If you want to view these channels on a direct-connect analog TV, you need a digital adapter, which converts digital signals to standard definition analog.

Current subscribers can request free digital adapters and remotes for these channels through November. If they do, there will be no charge until January 2015, after which they will cost 99 cents per month.

Time Warner is doing this market by market on its way to discontinuing all analog service by 2016.

The company says analog channels use up to 14 times more bandwidth than digital channels. And it says the freed-up space is going to allow it to "improve our network capabilities," and increase video-on-demand content and high-definition channels.

The affected channels, and their Time Warner channel numbers in the Milwaukee metro area, are: WPXE-TV (Channel 15), WVCY-TV (Channel 23), WWRS-TV (Channel 21), WMLW-TV (Channel 7), Lifetime Movie Network (Channel 65), The Golf Channel (Channel 28), CNBC (Channel 47), and EWTN (Channel 97). The Weather Channel (Channel 64) and local public, educational and government access programming will be delivered in digital format only.

Time Warner "customers will have to become accustomed to going forward with technology changes," Jim Hall, vice president and general manager of Weigel Broadcasting station WMLW, said in an email.

Hall said he hopes these changes will "open up more bandwidth" on the Time Warner Cable system "to consider carrying more of our multicast programming streams from WMLW like Bounce (49.2) & Movies (49.3)."

A sampling of the fall TV season by the numbers, so far:

(Ratings cited are for Monday unless otherwise noted.)

National rating for NBC's Sunday's NFL game: 12.2

Sunday NFL rating on blacked-out WTMJ-TV: 13.1

Rating on WTMJ for a September 2012 Sunday night game: 16.4

Number of new fall series: 28

Number of returning series: 61

National rating for premiere of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars": 10.8

"DWTS" rating on WISN-TV (Channel 12): 15.1

National rating for premiere of "Sleepy Hollow" on Fox: 6.1

"Sleepy Hollow" rating on WITI-TV (Channel 6): 8.8

"Under the Dome" finale rating on WDJT-TV (Channel 58): 7.1

Rating for new syndicated talk show "Bethenny" on WISN: 1.8

Rating for new local WITI's "Studio A" local newscast: 1.9

"Katie" rating on WISN: 1.0

Rating for new syndicated talk show "Queen Latifah" on WDJT: 2.3

"Steve Harvey Show" rating on WITI: 2.2

National rating for NBC's "The Million Second Quiz": 2.7

"Million Second Quiz" rating on WTMJ: 1.4

Longest-running series this season: "60 Minutes" (44 years)

Twitter followers for raunchy "Dads" on Fox: 2,098

Twitter followers for "Mom" on CBS: 1,034

YouTube views of "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D" trailer: 2.5 million

A prime-time shakeup at Fox News Channel has Megyn Kelly's new show "The Kelly File" taking over Sean Hannity's time slot at 8 p.m. Hannity moves to 9 p.m., and "On the Record With Greta Van Susteren," moves to 6 p.m. No changes are planned for "The O'Reilly Factor." Van Susteren is an Appleton native.

The changes, effective Oct. 7, are the first in prime time at the No. 1-rated news network in a decade.

R.J. Mitte, who plays Walter White Jr. on the acclaimed AMC series "Breaking Bad," will speak at Marquette University at 7 p.m. Thursday. Like his character, Mitte has cerebral palsy, and will speak on overcoming adversity and bullying. Mitte will speak at the Varsity Theater, 1324 W. Wisconsin Ave. His appearance is free and open to the public.

Mitte plays the teenage son of the high school teacher and cancer survivor turned meth manufacturer, Walter White, played by Brian Cranston, and his wife, Skyler, played by Anna Gunn. Young Walt uses crutches on the show, but Mitte has been quoted as saying he never used them.

Email: ddudek@journalsentinel.com

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