XETV and KSWB Swap Networks

In February, Ed Wilson left his position as President of the Fox Television Network to become President of Tribune Broadcasting. The next month, he announced that Tribune’s TV station KSWB in San Diego would take over the Fox affiliation from XETV August 1, 2008, ending channel 6’s 22-year run with the network.

The race was on for KSWB Director of Engineering John Weigand to outfit the station not only for news, but high definition. Last Friday the station did just that, airing a four-hour morning program and hour-long 10 PM newscast, both in HD. This after a year of outsourcing news entirely to NBC O&O KNSD.

During the four months, they installed multiple Sony PMW-EX3 1080i cameras, a Ross Vision switcher, and related furniture and terminal gear. Crews from Tribune sister stations KTLA Los Angeles and WGN Chicago helped out.

Meanwhile, XETV negotiated with the CW Network to assume that affiliation on the same August 1 date. The contract wasn’t finalized until July 3, with 29 days to air.

The only technical challenge for XETV after changing web domain names was converting its DTV chain from the Fox Network’s elegant MPEG splicer that doesn’t involve decoding to the CBS distribution scheme that involves decoding not only HD video, but Dolby E audio, then rencoding AC-3 on an MPEG2 stream downstream of local switching. XETV aired the first night of CW with simple stereo audio, not having yet received the Dolby equipment.

There were a few stumbles during the transition, like Dish Network’s swapping channels, DirecTV’s forgetting to swap HD resolutions, KSWB’s 40 minutes of silence to debut its morning news, and XETV’s lip sync issues. But KSWB successfully introduced HD news, including ENG, and at a new price point as the technology advances.

The author is Director of Engineering for Bay City Television, US Operators of XETV Tijuana.