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February 25, 2021 3:53 pm  #1


Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

I remember hearing "This is CityTV - Channel '79' - Cable '7'". I remember hearing "CFTO TV - Channel '9' - Cable '8', and "Channel '5', in Toronto - Cable '6'", being spoken by the various voices of local TV stations when I lived in Toronto. I didn't even subscribe to cable for the longest time as I had excellent reception of most everything on both sides of the border, but the practice dates back to when there was multiple cable companies serving viewers within the perimeter of the Toronto OTA coverage. Those like Keeble Cable, York, Scarboro, and Maclean Hunter (mentioning only those that are long gone) all placed Toronto stations on the same cable channel as the other one(s) did.

However - I have no recollection of any TV station outside of those in Toronto, as-in stations in Kitchener, Hamiton,  Barrie, and Buffalo, that told their viewers they were one channel off-air and a different channel (when being viewed) on cable.

Or am I miss-remembering?

I have to believe that sort of thing stopped ages ago when stations in Toronto (at least) were being provided to viewers in other coverage areas, and for certain were NOT on the same cable channels as they were on in the GTA.

So, I have a question. Why can't stations these days just identify themselves by their call letters (referring to a different post regarding call letters in general)? To me at least, I think it would make life for everyone a whole lot simpler and easier than it is now with all of the number conversions/transistions/translations, or whatever it's being called. Not overly well stated but I hope you understand what it is I mean.

Now I know STBs only ever had numeric readouts. I know too that TV remote controls only have numbered entries for station selection short of up/down search buttons. It just seems to me that the problem of keeping track of "who's on first (before Channel 1 was eliminated) and what's on second" could have been addressed as a (real) problem, and that should have been looked to be resolved long before we got to where we are.

Thoughts? Feedback. Agree/Disagree? Just trying to not be bored, reallyhttps://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons3/grin.png
.

 

February 25, 2021 4:25 pm  #2


Re: Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

DeepTracks wrote:

I remember hearing "This is CityTV - Channel '79' - Cable '7'". I remember hearing "CFTO TV - Channel '9' - Cable '8', and "Channel '5', in Toronto - Cable '6'", being spoken by the various voices of local TV stations when I lived in Toronto. I didn't even subscribe to cable for the longest time as I had excellent reception of most everything on both sides of the border, but the practice dates back to when there was multiple cable companies serving viewers within the perimeter of the Toronto OTA coverage. Those like Keeble Cable, York, Scarboro, and Maclean Hunter (mentioning only those that are long gone) all placed Toronto stations on the same cable channel as the other one(s) did.

However - I have no recollection of any TV station outside of those in Toronto, as-in stations in Kitchener, Hamiton,  Barrie, and Buffalo, that told their viewers they were one channel off-air and a different channel (when being viewed) on cable.

Or am I miss-remembering?

I have to believe that sort of thing stopped ages ago when stations in Toronto (at least) were being provided to viewers in other coverage areas, and for certain were NOT on the same cable channels as they were on in the GTA.

So, I have a question. Why can't stations these days just identify themselves by their call letters (referring to a different post regarding call letters in general)? To me at least, I think it would make life for everyone a whole lot simpler and easier than it is now with all of the number conversions/transistions/translations, or whatever it's being called. Not overly well stated but I hope you understand what it is I mean.

Now I know STBs only ever had numeric readouts. I know too that TV remote controls only have numbered entries for station selection short of up/down search buttons. It just seems to me that the problem of keeping track of "who's on first (before Channel 1 was eliminated) and what's on second" could have been addressed as a (real) problem, and that should have been looked to be resolved long before we got to where we are.

Thoughts? Feedback. Agree/Disagree? Just trying to not be bored, reallyhttps://cdn.boardhost.com/emoticons3/grin.png
.

There are a few I can think of outside Southern Ontario off-hand, mostly from what I've seen on YouTube:

- Channels 2&7 (now Global Calgary and Global Lethbridge) was a well-known one that also took advantage of the OTA positions of its two stations - reflecting Channel 2/Cable 7 in Calgary, and Channel 7/Cable 2 in Lethbridge.
- Some CBC O&Os in Western Canada promoted both channel numbers in the 80s. Vancouver branded as 2/3 (Channel 2, Cable 3); Calgary 9/6; Edmonton 5/4; Regina 9/4; Saskatoon 11/12. CBC Manitoba also branded as "CBC 2/Channel 6" in the early 80s, the 2 being their cable position in Winnipeg.
- CKND (now Global Winnipeg) included 9/12 in its logo in the 80s, reflecting Channel 9/Cable 12
- CHBX (CTV Sault Ste. Marie) branded as 2&11 prior to joining the MCTV system in the 90s - reflecting Channel 2/Cable 11.
- Thunder Bay Television also did this for years - 2/5 for the CBC affiliate and 4/6 for the CTV affiliate

An example from CBC Calgary (at the end of the promo):




I don't ever remember any of the stations in Southwestern Ontario promoting cable channel positions, though that may have been due to the vast rural areas they covered where OTA was the main means of reception - CFPL was always Channel 10. CHCH using "11" in its branding worked for a long time because they were on Cable 11 in Toronto and some other areas, and OTA 11.

Some stations also promoted their cable position exclusively without mentioning OTA positions, probably due to having a large number of OTA transmitters. An example of this in Ontario was CJOH (CTV Ottawa), which promoted itself as "CJOH, Cable 7" for many years. A well-known one in Western Canada was CKVU in Vancouver, which was known as either CKVU 13 or VU13 at various times before joining the Citytv system, reflecting its cable position.

Last edited by MJ Vancouver (February 25, 2021 4:37 pm)

 

February 25, 2021 4:40 pm  #3


Re: Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

CFRN in Edmonton borrowed an 80's era WCBS jingle to promote themselves as "CFRN Television 2" in the 90s. Plus, their newscasts were called "Eyewitness News"! Before that they were "2/3 TV" (cable 2, channel 3).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qX0JJNA3Yk

I thought CTV had the right idea back before 2005 where they kept the local call sign for local programming, while the rest of the programming day was branded as "CTV". I really wish they would have kept that going, and wish that other networks like Global and Citytv (the old stations names like CKVU, MTN, or A-Channel at least) would have done the same.

As far as channel numbers, it doesn't make sense to have a brand based on that. You'll have different placements on cable, satellite, IPTV nowadays. 

 

February 25, 2021 5:02 pm  #4


Re: Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

ED1 wrote:

CFRN in Edmonton borrowed an 80's era WCBS jingle to promote themselves as "CFRN Television 2" in the 90s. Plus, their newscasts were called "Eyewitness News"! Before that they were "2/3 TV" (cable 2, channel 3).

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5qX0JJNA3Yk

I thought CTV had the right idea back before 2005 where they kept the local call sign for local programming, while the rest of the programming day was branded as "CTV". I really wish they would have kept that going, and wish that other networks like Global and Citytv (the old stations names like CKVU, MTN, or A-Channel at least) would have done the same.

As far as channel numbers, it doesn't make sense to have a brand based on that. You'll have different placements on cable, satellite, IPTV nowadays. 

There is also one example from a large-market network O&O in the US - up until a few years ago the NBC O&O in San Diego was known as NBC 7/39 - Channel 39, Cable 7. Today they are known as NBC 7, opting for the cable position instead of OTA. (The market's FOX affiliate does the same thing, FOX 5 instead of FOX 69.)

I've found it curious that even today a lot of US stations still use a channel number in branding, usually reflecting OTA but occasionally a cable position as is done in several cases in San Diego.

I've long been in favour of maintaining localization to branding, particularly in markets like Southern Ontario where there is overlap between stations from the same network. It also helps differentiate the local news from the national/network news, something US media has been able to do effectively, even at O&O stations - for example there is no lack of certainty that News 4 New York or Channel 7 Eyewitness News are distinct local identities separate from NBC or ABC's network newscasts. Canada's local broadcasters do this a bit better now than they did a decade or so ago when there was no branding difference between CTV News and CTV News, other than that Lloyd Robertson appeared on one and Ken Shaw (or Max Keeping, or Steve Murphy, or whomever) appeared on the other.

Last edited by MJ Vancouver (February 25, 2021 5:18 pm)

 

February 25, 2021 5:06 pm  #5


Re: Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

DeepTracks wrote:

So, I have a question. Why can't stations these days just identify themselves by their call letters (referring to a different post regarding call letters in general)? To me at least, I think it would make life for everyone a whole lot simpler and easier than it is now with all of the number conversions/transistions/translations, or whatever it's being called. Not overly well stated but I hope you understand what it is I mean.

Call-letters as brands made sense when there was very limited choice. To identify any media by a meaningless four letter combination in 2021 just isn't going to stick. It almost comes across as a password.

Last edited by RadioAaron (February 25, 2021 5:07 pm)


 
 

February 25, 2021 5:16 pm  #6


Re: Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

RadioAaron wrote:

DeepTracks wrote:

So, I have a question. Why can't stations these days just identify themselves by their call letters (referring to a different post regarding call letters in general)? To me at least, I think it would make life for everyone a whole lot simpler and easier than it is now with all of the number conversions/transistions/translations, or whatever it's being called. Not overly well stated but I hope you understand what it is I mean.

Call-letters as brands made sense when there was very limited choice. To identify any media by a meaningless four letter combination in 2021 just isn't going to stick. It almost comes across as a password.

You make a lot of sense, yet the rules are the rules, as outlined in this response I received from Industry Canada. Apparently, they're not interested in enforcing them. 

 

February 25, 2021 6:09 pm  #7


Re: Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

It's complicated, isn't it? Especially in the US, where there are 200+ TV markets and all kinds of permutations of how local owners and stations brand and identify themselves to viewers. 

In maybe 2/3 of them, it's fairly straightforward - the legacy OTA analog channel number is also the main branding for the channel. Rochesterians have more than 60 years now of being familiar with "channel 8," "channel 10" and "channel 13," the cable system puts those stations on 8, 10 and 13, as do the satellite services, and so it makes all the sense in the world for their primary branding to be "News 8," "News 10 NBC" and "13 WHAM." Same for 2, 4 and 7 in Buffalo - though if you go back to the 1960s and look at ads for WGR-TV, it was often identified as "2 & 6" because it had a channel 6 translator in Jamestown. 

Then you have UHF-heavy, cable-intensive markets like Fort Myers/Naples, Florida. Almost everyone watches on cable down there, so few people even know that NBC affiliate WBBH is "channel 20" - it's been on "channel 2" forever, and every bit of its on-air branding is "NBC 2." Same with its sister station, ABC affiliate WZVN, which is over the air 26.1 but is "ABC 7" in everything it does. The CBS affiliate is just "WINK," and never uses its channel (11) in its branding. 

There's been a resurgence in callsign-only branding in some markets down here, often in markets where the actual channel number a viewer uses is widely varied within the market. In Elmira, WENY-TV is both ABC (36.1) and CBS (36.2), but it's on maybe a dozen different cable and satellite positions depending what town you're in across its sprawling service area... so it has settled on just branding as "WENY." Its sister stations in Erie, WICU (NBC) and WSEE (CBS) do the same these days, especially WSEE. (And their shared newscasts are "Erie News Now.")

There's been a push within public broadcasting to get away from channel-number branding - most PBS stations were on UHF and were on a variety of dial positions on cable and satellite in their markets. Older Buffalonians might still talk about "channel 17," but of course on the air it's now just "WNED" or "Buffalo-Toronto Public Media." We never use "channel 21" on the air at WXXI-TV, just "WXXI."

Consistency is overrated anyway.... right?





 

 

February 25, 2021 7:04 pm  #8


Re: Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

I remember that Channel 2 & 6 thing. When I was a kid, it always made wonder what that "6" was about, especially since we had CBC on that channel in Toronto. 

And at least Channel 13 kept its number. For many years, it was WOKR before the big change back to WHAM (still great call letters.)

It's interesting that the Channel 6 designation took a very low place in all WGR ads, as seen from those below, from July 1965:

https://i.ibb.co/D88fCZR/WGR-Lloyd-Thaxton-Ad-1965-0001.jpg

https://i.ibb.co/V38JCgr/WGR-Mike-Douglas-1965.jpg

https://i.ibb.co/j6pywF9/WGR-Bachelor-Father-1965.jpg


Here's what the channel line-up looked like in TV Guide back then:

https://i.ibb.co/7YQ2dD7/Channel-Line-up-1965.jpg


And just for Scott Fybush, here are a few blasts from Rochester's past.

https://i.ibb.co/Hrj0Xdj/WROC-Leave-It-To-Beaver-Ad-1965.jpg

https://i.ibb.co/HYxcK9Y/WROC-Ad-1965.jpg

https://i.ibb.co/VD8wDWL/WHEC-News-1965.jpg

 

 

February 25, 2021 7:16 pm  #9


Re: Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

fybush wrote:

There's been a push within public broadcasting to get away from channel-number branding - most PBS stations were on UHF and were on a variety of dial positions on cable and satellite in their markets. Older Buffalonians might still talk about "channel 17," but of course on the air it's now just "WNED" or "Buffalo-Toronto Public Media." We never use "channel 21" on the air at WXXI-TV, just "WXXI."

Consistency is overrated anyway.... right?
 

A big exception to this, of course, is Thirteen (WNET) in New York City.

I can remember WQLN in Erie (which is still the PBS station on cable in London) always emphasized the call letters over the channel number, though when I was much younger they sometimes used "TV 54" or "Channel 54" in promos. I don't think they even mention 54 anymore other than in legal IDs.

One of the few other large market PBS stations that was on analog VHF is KCTS in Seattle - and they still consistently call themselves KCTS 9.

On another note with channel numbers, I read that Mexico went through an exercise a couple years ago where most OTA stations rebroadcasting stations in Mexico City changed their PSIP channel number to match the Mexico City station. For example, the network known as Canal de las Estrellas broadcast on XEW Channel 2 in Mexico City but many different other channels throughout the country in the analog era. Now, all the rebroadcast transmitters use 2.1 for the PSIP (after originally using the old analog numbers as the PSIP number). They even allowed another station to change its PSIP from Channel 13 to Channel 1 in the process, which makes it an anomoly in North American broadcasting.

Last edited by MJ Vancouver (February 25, 2021 7:34 pm)

 

February 25, 2021 7:44 pm  #10


Re: Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

I believe that CKCO in Kitchener which was on channel 13 (but channel 12 on cable in the region) did identify themselves with both.  And CFPL which was channel 10 in London appeared as channel 9 on many cable systems including Rogers in London, but I never had them long enough to notice if they identified with both channels 10 and 9. 

 

February 25, 2021 9:54 pm  #11


Re: Channel numbering - is it too late to 'fix'?

RadioActive wrote:

RadioAaron wrote:

DeepTracks wrote:

So, I have a question. Why can't stations these days just identify themselves by their call letters (referring to a different post regarding call letters in general)? To me at least, I think it would make life for everyone a whole lot simpler and easier than it is now with all of the number conversions/transistions/translations, or whatever it's being called. Not overly well stated but I hope you understand what it is I mean.

Call-letters as brands made sense when there was very limited choice. To identify any media by a meaningless four letter combination in 2021 just isn't going to stick. It almost comes across as a password.

You make a lot of sense, yet the rules are the rules, as outlined in this response I received from Industry Canada. Apparently, they're not interested in enforcing them. 

For sure. I'm not arguing against legal IDs, just the idea of them being stations' main identity.