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Switching to/from another station's signal for network shows

Topics of general interest that just don't fit anywhere else.
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mtburb
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Switching to/from another station's signal for network shows

Post by mtburb » Fri Jan 27, 2017 7:53 pm

This was actually common in the 60's among affiliates who couldn't afford direct network feeds or microwave connections. In that case, engineers would switch to/and from the signal of a nearby affiliate of the same network whenever they would show network programming. I know there were at least three stations that did this practice...

During the 60's, WNEM would often use the signal of WWJ (WDIV) to show NBC programming, doing so using a tower at I-75 exit 98 near Holly (which today is the halfway point between the edges of the Detroit and Flint urbanized areas when one travels along that part of I-75). By the 1970's, though, WNEM finally was able to purchase a microwave link and soon only had to use WWJ's signal for Tigers games.

Also, WPBN/WTOM would themselves use the signals of WNEM (and WOOD) whenever they were airing NBC. It was quite interesting, especially during the summer, when thunderstorms rolled through WNEM/WOOD's respective markets and they therefore put up bugs that would consequently be shown on WPBN/WTOM as well even if the skies over northern Michigan were clear. These, unfortunately, also resulted in tropo propagation conditions (all of this happened to occur during the time of year when northern Michigan's population doubles as residents from the southern half of the state travel up to their cottages, confusing those people into thinking that was a year-round case).

But the most notable case, though, occurred with WNYP (now WNYB) channel 26 in Buffalo. When that station first signed on in 1966 (owned by the late Bud Paxson of HSN and Ion fame), it affiliated with, of all networks, the Canadian CTV network. They couldn't afford a direct feed, so the signal of CFTO Toronto was used for CTV programming. All sorts of crazy stuff happened on WNYP during it's CTV affiliation: airing the same episode of The Aquanauts several times every day at the same time for two weeks, failing to plaster CFTO IDs with WNYP's, a local radio station being picked up instead and even other stations on channel 9 (such as WWTV Cadillac) being shown instead during tropo conditions. Ultimately, WNYP landed itself in trouble as CTV aired a number of American network shows back then (it still does to an extent today) and ultimately relied on a prototype of HSN before shutting down in 1969.

Does anyone here know of any other similar situations like these anywhere in North America?
For three days in January 2017 (15th, 16th, 19th) and one night in September 2017 (22nd), I managed to receive KDKA Pittsburgh from 202 miles away indoors!

My tropo station reception reports: https://www.rabbitears.info/dxlocation.php?id=403

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Plate Cap
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by Plate Cap » Fri Jan 27, 2017 9:29 pm

American Microwave and Communications Corp had a 6 gig backbone originating on the Penobscot Building in Detroit, going up to (coincidental to your story) their tower just off I75 and Holly Road, then to a facility on Hurley Hospital in Flint, and on up through the state. The route went up through Grayling, then Elmira and, into Mackinaw City, into the UP, and up over and into Houghton and Ironwood....I'm fuzzy on the route in the middle. They had a presence in Muskegon, Fremont, and other areas out that way; I don't know if that was a spur off the backbone, or a stand-alone system. They had an office in Lansing.

I had the opportunity way back in the 80s to look at their facilities on the top floor of the Penob; it was a first class setup, but I don't remember how they got the programming there to begin the backbone. There are some expired/cancelled licenses still in the database that show a 22 gig path from WDIV; that might have been how they got into the Penob.

They carried TV programming for stations along the way, and other common carrier customer stuff. They ended up folding their tent in the late 90s; they first sold out to a company in Colorado as I recall. Towers are still there and in use as rental sites.

Ku satellite time simply got too cheap, and there was, by then, a lot of private fiber like Williams and Vyvx that could haul better video cheaper.
The box that many broadcasters won’t look outside of was made in 1969 and hasn’t changed significantly since.

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Calvert DeForest
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by Calvert DeForest » Sat Jan 28, 2017 8:28 am

WJRT utilized American Microwave to distribute their feed to areas of the northeast LP where there was no ABC affiliate available. I remember them being on the Mackinaw City cable lineup as late as 1977-78. WKAR-TV also used them to reach cable systems as far north as Alpena in the days before CMU expanded and built WCML-TV.

The biggest benefactor of microwave hops in the 70's was undoubtedly WKBD. They were on practically every cable system in the state, and gained the rep as Michigan's "superstation".
I'm not a partisan - I'm just here for the free doughnuts!

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Some Guy from Toledo
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by Some Guy from Toledo » Sat Jan 28, 2017 5:36 pm

mtburb wrote:But the most notable case, though, occurred with WNYP (now WNYB) channel 26 in Buffalo. When that station first signed on in 1966 (owned by the late Bud Paxson of HSN and Ion fame), it affiliated with, of all networks, the Canadian CTV network. They couldn't afford a direct feed, so the signal of CFTO Toronto was used for CTV programming. All sorts of crazy stuff happened on WNYP during it's CTV affiliation: airing the same episode of The Aquanauts several times every day at the same time for two weeks, failing to plaster CFTO IDs with WNYP's, a local radio station being picked up instead and even other stations on channel 9 (such as WWTV Cadillac) being shown instead during tropo conditions. Ultimately, WNYP landed itself in trouble as CTV aired a number of American network shows back then (it still does to an extent today) and ultimately relied on a prototype of HSN before shutting down in 1969.
Bud Paxon certainly was very ballsy on getting that CTV affiliation at all.
Calvert DeForest wrote:The biggest benefactor of microwave hops in the 70's was undoubtedly WKBD. They were on practically every cable system in the state, and gained the rep as Michigan's "superstation".
That was an achievement.

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mtburb
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by mtburb » Sun Jan 29, 2017 3:43 pm

I just realized another example of this. When WUHQ (now WOTV) Grand Rapids first signed on in 1971, it couldn't afford a direct feed from ABC, so whenever they would show ABC programming, engineers had to switch to and from WZZM's signal, though this proved to be less than satisfactory as WZZM often preempted ABC programming. Whenever WUHQ had advance notice, they were able to broadcast film copies of the preempted shows, but during instances where there was no advance notice, WUHQ ended up instead simulcasting WSJV South Bend, usually with results less satisfactory than simulcasting WZZM. However, when atmospheric conditions prevented the WSJV simulcast, WUHQ was forced to broadcast alternate non-network programming instead.
For three days in January 2017 (15th, 16th, 19th) and one night in September 2017 (22nd), I managed to receive KDKA Pittsburgh from 202 miles away indoors!

My tropo station reception reports: https://www.rabbitears.info/dxlocation.php?id=403

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Some Guy from Toledo
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by Some Guy from Toledo » Sun Jan 29, 2017 4:23 pm

mtburb wrote:I just realized another example of this. When WUHQ (now WOTV) Grand Rapids first signed on in 1971, it couldn't afford a direct feed from ABC, so whenever they would show ABC programming, engineers had to switch to and from WZZM's signal, though this proved to be less than satisfactory as WZZM often preempted ABC programming. Whenever WUHQ had advance notice, they were able to broadcast film copies of the preempted shows, but during instances where there was no advance notice, WUHQ ended up instead simulcasting WSJV South Bend, usually with results less satisfactory than simulcasting WZZM. However, when atmospheric conditions prevented the WSJV simulcast, WUHQ was forced to broadcast alternate non-network programming instead.
Well at least it's not a test pattern and some music, though I suppose that would be uncalled for!

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SolarMax
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by SolarMax » Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:24 pm

I am probably rather fuzzy on recollection of details on this, but I think in the mid-late 60s there was a loose regional affiliation of what were then called Educational TV stations.
IIRC it was called the "M5-O2 Network." Five stations in Michigan with WTVS as the "hub," with WKAR and WCMU and 2 others north and west, and two in Ohio, probably Toledo and Bowling Green. I believe the stations relayed an off-air pickup of the one most nearby, perhaps also aided by telco transport. Not used too frequently but for special programming or events of regional interest.
Please fill in the gaps if you remember any of this.

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Plate Cap
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by Plate Cap » Sun Jan 29, 2017 9:33 pm

Calvert DeForest wrote:WJRT utilized American Microwave to distribute their feed to areas of the northeast LP where there was no ABC affiliate available. I remember them being on the Mackinaw City cable lineup as late as 1977-78. WKAR-TV also used them to reach cable systems as far north as Alpena in the days before CMU expanded and built WCML-TV.

The biggest benefactor of microwave hops in the 70's was undoubtedly WKBD. They were on practically every cable system in the state, and gained the rep as Michigan's "superstation".
Imagine for a moment the 'chicken / egg' decision and eventual leap of faith someone had to take with the VERY expensive construction of this backbone.......you would have to sell the originating stations and all the customers on the concept, layout and stick to schedules and payments that worked for everyone, lock them in tight, all the while finding sites, getting licenses, building sites, and financing all the equipment before the first video flowed.

Imagine the maintenance staff, spares, expenses, electrical bills, property taxes, fencing, key control, and the MANY miles of driving for a relatively small operation. I know from personal experience that some of these sites were really off in the puckerbrush.

I strongly admire that sort of foresight and overall 'chutzpah' in putting a system together and making it work, especially at that point in time before communications financing and VC capital. I'll bet they got push back from the MPSC, AT&T, W/U, and MCI. Talk about your 'art of the deal'.

I hope they made their money back.
The box that many broadcasters won’t look outside of was made in 1969 and hasn’t changed significantly since.

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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by jry » Mon Jan 30, 2017 3:21 pm

Didn't know that they even used 22 gig, back then. What a great set of posts!

organman95
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by organman95 » Tue Jan 31, 2017 1:06 pm

Did WGTU use WZZM's feed for a time? Or did they pull from WJRT?

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audiophile
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by audiophile » Tue Jan 31, 2017 9:36 pm

jry wrote:Didn't know that they even used 22 gig, back then. What a great set of posts!
The American Microwave stuff I saw was all 10 GHz.

Sure they didn't just put a TV set in one tower and camera in the other? That light would be close to 22 GHz anyway... :blink
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by ftballfan » Fri Feb 03, 2017 7:12 pm

Calvert DeForest wrote:WJRT utilized American Microwave to distribute their feed to areas of the northeast LP where there was no ABC affiliate available. I remember them being on the Mackinaw City cable lineup as late as 1977-78. WKAR-TV also used them to reach cable systems as far north as Alpena in the days before CMU expanded and built WCML-TV.

The biggest benefactor of microwave hops in the 70's was undoubtedly WKBD. They were on practically every cable system in the state, and gained the rep as Michigan's "superstation".
WJRT was seen in Alpena until recently (when WBKB added ABC to their DT3).

Also, before WCMU expanded, some systems along the Lake Michigan shoreline carried WGVU and/or WPNE. The Ludington Daily News is on Google News Archive (with TV guides included) and it looks like 'KBD was never carried there or in Manistee.

Speaking of WKBD, they also got carriage in parts of Wisconsin and Ohio. Later, after WKBD went UPN, then-WGKI was carried as far west as Hurley, Wisconsin (Duluth didn't have a FOX affiliate at the time).

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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by Calvert DeForest » Mon Feb 06, 2017 11:48 am

WFSL-TV (now WSYM) secured an agreement with ABC in the early-mid 80's to air network shows that weren't picked up by WJRT. There was an antenna mounted on the high-rise across the street and a demod tuned to WXYZ, which was used to pick up program feeds. The quality of the off-air feed from WXYZ wasn't the greatest at times, but it passed for air. When I started there in the summer of '85, we only picked up one feed. It was whatever program ABC had sent down at noon, which WJRT pre-empted with local news. I remember reruns of the sitcom "Angie", which was later changed to some game show. The ABC feeds were dropped by the end of that year in favor of syndicated fare.

I remember we had a generic circle-ABC slide in our film chain that we hot-punched to cover the net promos. The timing rundowns we got from the network were usually pretty accurate, although they did throw us the occasional curve-ball.
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rugratsonline
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by rugratsonline » Thu Feb 16, 2017 8:34 pm

ftballfan wrote:
Calvert DeForest wrote: The biggest benefactor of microwave hops in the 70's was undoubtedly WKBD. They were on practically every cable system in the state, and gained the rep as Michigan's "superstation".
The Ludington Daily News is on Google News Archive (with TV guides included) and it looks like 'KBD was never carried there or in Manistee.
Taking a glance at the archives, it's amazing that they never carried WKBD -- or any of Milwaukee's indies (such as WVTV or WCGV).
ftballfan wrote: Speaking of WKBD, they also got carriage in parts of Wisconsin and Ohio. Later, after WKBD went UPN, then-WGKI was carried as far west as Hurley, Wisconsin (Duluth didn't have a FOX affiliate at the time).
Duluth did not get its own Fox station until 1999, when KQDS became an affiliate. Prior to then, I imagine that Duluth got Fox via satellite from the national FoxNet network, which was available in communities with no local affiliate.

The switch from WKBD to WGKI on the microwave feed was mainly to keep Fox available in the UP -- especially as 1994 was the first year that Fox carried NFC football. Though of course, WGKI also replaced WKBD in other parts of Michigan where there was a local Fox affiliate -- it was on Bresnan's Bay City system for a year or so after the switch, but was blacked out most of the time, due to syndex and WSMH's exclusivity of Fox programming. They did eventually find a way to pipe in WKBD, which took back its cable slot (only to be replaced by WBSF after that station opened).

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Some Guy from Toledo
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by Some Guy from Toledo » Sat Feb 18, 2017 2:37 am

rugratsonline wrote:
ftballfan wrote:
Calvert DeForest wrote: The biggest benefactor of microwave hops in the 70's was undoubtedly WKBD. They were on practically every cable system in the state, and gained the rep as Michigan's "superstation".
The Ludington Daily News is on Google News Archive (with TV guides included) and it looks like 'KBD was never carried there or in Manistee.
Taking a glance at the archives, it's amazing that they never carried WKBD -- or any of Milwaukee's indies (such as WVTV or WCGV).
ftballfan wrote: Speaking of WKBD, they also got carriage in parts of Wisconsin and Ohio. Later, after WKBD went UPN, then-WGKI was carried as far west as Hurley, Wisconsin (Duluth didn't have a FOX affiliate at the time).
Duluth did not get its own Fox station until 1999, when KQDS became an affiliate. Prior to then, I imagine that Duluth got Fox via satellite from the national FoxNet network, which was available in communities with no local affiliate.

The switch from WKBD to WGKI on the microwave feed was mainly to keep Fox available in the UP -- especially as 1994 was the first year that Fox carried NFC football. Though of course, WGKI also replaced WKBD in other parts of Michigan where there was a local Fox affiliate -- it was on Bresnan's Bay City system for a year or so after the switch, but was blacked out most of the time, due to syndex and WSMH's exclusivity of Fox programming. They did eventually find a way to pipe in WKBD, which took back its cable slot (only to be replaced by WBSF after that station opened).
Unusual history there.

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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by Milk » Sat Feb 18, 2017 9:24 am

I remembered back in the 90s when Fox 33 in northern Michigan carried WJBK Fox 2's news, they used their feed for Fox shows and sometimes, a Fox 2 ID would appear on the screen.

I wonder how 9&10 and 7&4 handled it if the stations they bummed their signals from had IDs on the screen.

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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by Some Guy from Toledo » Sat Feb 18, 2017 3:32 pm

Milk wrote:I remembered back in the 90s when Fox 33 in northern Michigan carried WJBK Fox 2's news, they used their feed for Fox shows and sometimes, a Fox 2 ID would appear on the screen.

I wonder how 9&10 and 7&4 handled it if the stations they bummed their signals from had IDs on the screen.
Here's how a station in Springfield, MA had to deal with it when they played a game from a station in Boston!
https://youtu.be/kAhawXEpK1c

Of course that was annoying!

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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network s

Post by mtburb » Sat Feb 18, 2017 6:30 pm

Milk wrote:I remembered back in the 90s when Fox 33 in northern Michigan carried WJBK Fox 2's news, they used their feed for Fox shows and sometimes, a Fox 2 ID would appear on the screen.
Did they ever forget to drop the Detroit-specific ads to show those intended for the northern Michigan market?
For three days in January 2017 (15th, 16th, 19th) and one night in September 2017 (22nd), I managed to receive KDKA Pittsburgh from 202 miles away indoors!

My tropo station reception reports: https://www.rabbitears.info/dxlocation.php?id=403

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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network shows

Post by Splouge » Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:37 pm

That WNYP story sounds like something that would happen at a LPTV. Sounds like something WMNT-CD would do
One time, I got WYZZ Peoria 330 miles away indoors clearly for 10 minutes on Dec 5, 2015

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Some Guy from Toledo
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Re: Switching to/from another station's signal for network shows

Post by Some Guy from Toledo » Sun Mar 05, 2017 5:36 pm

Splouge wrote:
Sat Mar 04, 2017 5:37 pm
That WNYP story sounds like something that would happen at a LPTV. Sounds like something WMNT-CD would do
I'm sure they're STILL at it!

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