Digital Subchannels

Last night, my wife asked me to sit down and watch a program with her. This wasn’t a surprise; she actually likes to sit with me sometimes :-). Nor was it a surprise when it turned out to be “The Trouble with Tribbles”, an episode of the original Star Trek. She likes old TV program. What was a surprise was the channel: 20, ME-TV. Now we have DirecTV, and a channel under 100 is a local channel. I had never heard of ME-TV, nor did I know of any channel 20 in the Los Angeles area. So I started investigating.

Now, we do have some traditional broadcast channels that do “old” shows (where “old” is 90s and earlier, sigh). KPXN, which was UHF channel 30 but is now digital channel 38, was part of the old Paxson group, but is now broadcasting ION (“eye-on”) TV.KDOC, which was UHF channel 56 but is now digital channel 32, also broadcasts old shows. KCET, since it has dropped its PBS affiliation, occasionally does old shows. Of course, the traditional VHF independents and former-independents, KTLA, KCAL, KTTV, and KCOP broadcast syndicated old programs.

But that still leaves the question of ME-TV, and Channel 20. This led me into the whole area of digital subchannels–which I knew nothing about because we use satellite TV, not over-the-air with a digital box. It initially looked like the Me-TV we were seeing was one of the digital subchannels of KDOC (56.3, to be precise). In fact, it turned out the Me-TV was one of a number of new “networks” broadcasting old stuff: there also was Antenna TV (KTLA 5.2), and This TV (KTLA 5.3). (There’s also something called BounceTV, but that doesn’t appear to be in LA). In fact, it looks like there are loads and loads of digital subchannels, when one looks at the full list. Most of the folks who get cable (note: they are carried on some providers) or satellite know nothing about these (I didn’t); they are only available “over the air”. One of the benefits of digital TV.

So that doesn’t answer the question of why it is Channel 20, and why, of all the myriad digital subchannels, only this one is carried by DirecTV. The answer, it turns out, is that DirecTV isn’t carrying the digital subchannel. Actually, they are carrying a local station from Bishop CA, KVME-TV, which is channel 20. Both KVME-TV and KDOC’s 56.3 brand themselves as “Me-TV Hollywood”, and broadcast the same schedule.

Is it worth putting up an antenna just to get these missing digital subchannels? Probably not. I watch little enough TV as is; who needs more channels. There is always the possibility that DirecTV will carry them, but there is limited satellite channel space. I guess DirecTV makes more money carrying the “shilling” channels that live in the 60-90s.

Music: Things to Ruin: The Songs of Joe Iconis (Lance Rubin): The War Song