I used to own the cable company Charter now operates here. But I haven't had cable tv since roughly 1993. I just lit up WXOW-19.3 digital myself tonight (Fri, 2/5/10). I've been receiving digital channels from rabbit ears here on a hill poised next to I-90 on Sparta's south side near its Country Kitchen. I live at Apple Blossom Apartments. I mostly collect films on DVD and only watch network newscasts off the local stations here. I watch the films on an Epson projector for old school NTSC signal, but will eventually get a high def projector. I planted a beige dish-like radio shack omnidirectional UHF-vhf antenna in a utility closet where all rg-59 ends of my apartment's antenna system converge. There are four outlets, one in each of four rooms including two bedrooms, the kitchen and living room. Lately I'm getting everything but Eau Claire NBC 13 on the Radio Shack Omni, which, incidentally, has a pre-amp that plugs in. In the experimental days of digital, the antenna hung from a light bulb fixture in that closet and I turned it to maximize what minimal digital signal I could find. Most of you probably know that the FCC's digital experiment has failed and the agency is likely to be allowing new translators to reach the people 'lost in transition.' I haven't heard anything about it yet, but translators are the natural solution to the problem unless something new develops. Anyway, I am the third single floor apartment in a stack of six arranged north to south. 19, 25 and 31 are due west of me in Minnesota, three transmitters all grouped together, and it sounds like KTTC with a translator off the Fox 25 tower. My family owns an FM over Winona (WFBZ 105.5) with a translator on 25's tower too, transmitter insider the building. Its pretty crowded over there. Channel 8's vhf tower is north somewhere near Holmen and on the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi. 13's tower is in Fairchild and the hardest of all for me to get. I get it off an $8 pair of rabbit ears from Wally World in my bedroom which is the northernmost of the 2 bedrooms I have. Its perfect all the time and the ears are right on top of the set, which is convenient. But I can't get 13 NBC anywhere else in this building except there that I know of. I use VCRs to tape the network news and any off air programs I'm interested in, from those ears and from the Omni in the closet. I watch close to nothing live, all tape and DVD. Occasionally I watch Netflix or Hula or something straight off the Net to my laptop, s-video out to the projector. I watch some occasional **********s that way too. I once made a VHS copy of a CBS Evening News broadcast I had missed right off the net just to see how good the quality is. It's not quite as good from CBS's website as it is off air here. There's an RCA (just a name these days, owned by Thompson Europe now I think) adjustable vhf-uhf with pre-amp laying over my cupboards in the kitchen, with which I feed ABC 19 to a small set in the kitchen with., yes, a vcr right beneath it. I can't even remember how many digital converters I have, but I'm using just five, and actively looking at tape from just three normally. A little $45 sansonic model converter I bought at Target in Atlanta is the best of them. The folks watching cable don't know that their normal vhf pics don't come near the clarity of what is available converted into digital NTSC pictures coming right off the air. In Atlanta I got 28 digital channels off the air with that $8 set of rabbit ears. I have a number of 25 and 32 inch old school NTSC TV sets that I paid nothing for to watch most TV because it strikes me the the HDTV sets are mostly too small for the price, producing not really that much more picture. My projector cost $600 and projects a larger than hdtv picture on my off-white wall that is completely satisfactory. I can buy a High Def for $1,200 and probably eventually will. I bought one of those 32 inch sets in Atlanta for $20 from a company that conducted satellite business TV conferences to save the expense of travelling for corporate employees. The company had switched to Hi Def. There are still five sets available there. You can probably get a practically new 25 to 32 inch here too with an ad on Craigslist anywhere.
I've figured out what Dave Magnum is likely to do with channel 23 in La Crosse, channel 50 in Tomah and a low power UHF in Eau Claire. He bought La Crosse 23 in early 2009 after owning and experimenting with channel 50 in Tomah for a few years. He clearly plans to launch all three of his TV stations, probably with the same 24 hour network - ION right now in Tomah- and get all three of them onto Charter Cable which mostly follows the outlines of the La Crosse-Eau Claire TV market Charter mostly dominates. That will put him in the unique position of having an 'indy' channel in the air and on cable, a market niche that he can sell advertising with. I know Dave because he and my family are radio competitors in Monroe and La Crosse county. He's got two FMs and an AM and so do we. Interestingly, there is the prospect now of there being more competition in the TV business than there is in radio in this area. Add up all the digital TV channels now operating or planned, all the cable channels and the satellite channels too. TV is becoming so splintered, the advertising communities for each little channel base are shrinking. Magnum will be compelled to go Hi Def with his little low powers eventually too. But TV is splintering into so many small components, with cable having to share now with satellite, that TV advertising is bound to cost less than it does now eventually. There are going to be a lot of new business models growing out of that. Of course radio will have its own digital revolution within the next few years too. There's digital on the air everywhere. If you get a receiver you can get it all now. But there will eventually be internet radio you can pick up while moving in your car too. So who knows what that will eventually look like.