By Paula Hendrickson
Remember back in 2009 when television broadcasters were required to stop transmitting analog signals and switch over to digital transmissions, and anyone without cable of satellite subscriptions—or newer TVs or DVRs with built-in digital tuners—suddenly needed digital converters so their antennas could receive local signals? (For a time the government even offered $40 vouchers to cover the costs of obtaining a digital converter box.)
It was a confusing time for TV viewers. Sure, the government offered $40 vouchers to cover the costs of obtaining a digital converter box, but you had to apply to get one. Some people discovered they needed even stronger antennas to receive the weaker digital transmissions.
Despite all of the headaches it caused consumers when first implemented, the switch to digital broadcasting made it possible for broadcasters to transmit more than one channel at a time, via sub-channels, which has allowed local television stations the ability to offer more programming options on multiple channels. The result? More free, over-the-air channels than ever before.
That provided people who’d never splurged on cable or satellite services more viewing options than just the major broadcast networks they were used to. Even today’s “cord cutters”—who have given up cable and satellite in favor of paid subscriptions to Netflix, Hulu and the like— can watch more free TV than just ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, and TheCW.
Channels like My Network TV and Bounce have aired locally quite a while thanks to sister stations WTVO and WQRF, respectively. Between the two stations, they’ve just added three more channels.
WTVO is now broadcasting Laff, a mix of contemporary off-network sitcoms and movies, as well as Grit, a male-skewing blend of westerns and action movies, while WQRF is now bringing viewers Escape, a channel geared toward women. All three channels will air 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
“Katz Broadcasting owns and operates Escape, Grit and Laff, and Bounce Media, the parent company of Bounce TV,” says Kelly Lattimer, vice president and general manager of WTVO and WQRF. “We were pleased to be able to provide Katz Broadcasting distribution for the networks via our digital sub-channels; thus offering a free over-the-air option for our local viewing community.”
Local advertisers might be a little bit disappointed because the new stations won’t be able to insert local ads into the new channels, but adding the channels wasn’t done to placate local advertisers. It was about offering more options to viewers. “[It] enables us to bring fresh content and more entertainment to the market,” Lattimer says.
Bounce Rockford is channel 39.2; programming schedule at bounceTV.com
Escape is channel 39.3; programming schedule at escapetv.com
Grit is channel 17.4; programming schedule is at grittv.com
Laff is channel 17.3; programming schedule at laff.com
My Network TV is channel 17.2; programming schedule at mynetworktv.com