Since June 12, 2009, almost all local broadcast television stations were required to convert to digital broadcast.  By converting to this format, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was able to regain bandwidth that they could use to facilitate communications between various emergency services (local police, firemen and women, and EMS among others).

Changing to digital also made it possible for broadcasters to transmit numerous programs on one channel by using a digital process called time division multiplexing (other times statistical multiplexing is used, but the basic concept is still the same).  In time division multiplexing, each program is allocated a certain amount of time to transmit within the allocated bandwidth.  So if a given station is transmitting two programs at one time, let us call them program A and program B, A would be given a certain amount of time to transmit. After that time B is transmitted and the process is repeated (ABABABABAB……).  Your digital TV or digital converter box (for analog non-cable and non-satellite tv viewers)  separates the As from Bs.  The As (AAAAA….) will be put on for example channel 2.1 and B (BBBBB….) will be accessible on channel 2.2.  All of this is still within the bandwidth allocated for channel 2 by the FCC.

From a consumer point of view, this should be a win, especially for sports fanatics like myself.  For years, we have been limited to seeing the game our local broadcaster decides that they think most people in their viewing area wants to see.  When digital tv was fully implemented, I thought that would be over.  I thought all games within a given sport that local broadcasters had the option of showing will be shown concurrently (example: channel 2.1 – basketball game option 1, channel 2.2 – basketball game option 2, ….).  Imagine your local CBS station for example showing numerous NCAA tournament basketball games on multiple channels (example 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, ….).  I recalled that before local broadcast stations were forced to change broadcast format, some stations had already adopted and were doing digital broadcast.  During that period my local CBS station did show multiple games at once.  At the time, I thought this was perfect for frugal individuals like myself that would like to sit back on the couch with a bowl of chips, my favorite beverage, and picture – in – picture, flipping between a number of tournament games for FREE.  I looked forward to the day this would become the norm.

Two years later and it is still not a reality.  Unfortunately, the NCAA decided to split the TV contract for the now 68 games between CBS, TNT, TBS, and TruTv vs. putting them all on CBS, which is FREE.  Chances are, this was a dollars and cents decision.  As a frugal person this drove me crazy.  Here is the thing though, even if you are not the frugal type, this should have driven you crazy also, especially if you have a high definition (HD) TV.  Why, you ask?

Well, by placing additional games on cable networks, the consumer again got shafted.  Many HD users do not know, but if you have cable or satellite, the programming you receive is not true HD quality.  The data from your satellite and cable providers is compressed and restored before you see it on your TV screen.  A lossy compression process is used to do this.   In simple terms, this means some of the data or picture is removed.  To restore the image, an average of the loss data is used to replace that data, and it is not perfect because it is an average, not the actual removed data.  For true HDTV your best bet is capturing television signals directly out of the air from your local station.  Thus, during the NCAA basketball tournament, only broadcast from CBS  delivered to your TV will be true HDTV quality.  Given that many spend so much money on purchasing HDTVs to give them the feeling of being on the court or courtside, this is crazy.

Fortunately for everyone, the remaining games (the Final Four and the championship game) are on CBS and CBS ONLY.   So, enjoy true HD by capturing the signal from your local CBS TV station for FREE.  When a new winner is crowned, it will be time to voice our opinion on this topic, frugal or not.  Hopefully, if there is enough outrage, the NCAA will change their minds for next year’s tournament.