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HR20 OTA - The Other Side of the Story

Discussion in 'DIRECTV HD DVR/Receiver Discussion' started by hasan, Jul 23, 2007.

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  1. hasan

    hasan Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2006
    Ogden, IA
    Below is word for word, (with some spelling/grammar corrections) the email I got from a local TV station Chief Engineer that I have been corresponding with regarding missing OTA channels on the HR20. Make of it what you will, but he is certainly taking issue with the "it's Tribune or the Local station's fault" line that I have seen proffered here a time or two. In any case, he gives his take on the background of the "issue" and perhaps it will help someone solve their particular problem. Don't shoot me, I'm just the messenger.:)

    Begin Quote Here:
    I got onto the DBSTalk board this weekend and poked around. I was a bit
    dismayed by a lot of the comments on the boards concerning the lack of
    reception of OTA signals on the DirectTV receivers. Figured, if you
    don't mind, that I'd fill you in on stuff from my point of view. If you
    already are aware of these items, then sorry for taking up your time.

    I guess the biggest thing I saw is that DirectTV viewers are held
    hostage by Tribune & the local HD stations for lack of action. Nothing
    is further from the truth. You are held hostage by DirectTV.

    OTA broadcasters (and I've been one for 34 years) are required by FCC to
    broadcast a standard digital signal. This signal includes the broadcast
    channel, the 'branded' channel (i.e. 33-4 for example), a complete electronic
    program guide, closed captioning, emergency broadcast information, and
    the list goes on and on.

    When you hook up a normal HD receiver with an OTA ATSC tuner in it, you
    get all of that information without Tribune being in the middle of it.
    Correct channels, electronic program guides (ours is 7 days out!),
    channel display, everything.

    DirectTV uses non-FCC standard ATSC tuners in their receivers - that is
    why you can't get us without Tribune media being in the middle of it all.
    DirectTV has made a deliberate decision to do this. Therefore, you are
    'held hostage' to their standards in order to use their equipment. They
    strip out all, or choose to ignore all the information they need, to
    replace it with the identical information simply formatted to fit their
    menu system. While it may be great for marketing, it's a REALLY bad
    deal for their OTA HD users. Just look at the DBSTalk forums!

    We have been feeding Tribune media our program information and channel
    information for ages. It wasn't until DirectTV came out with their new
    generation of PVR units that we disappeared from their tuners. I
    discovered this right after the first one hit Des Moines and the new
    owner contacted me. You know what the kicker was? This guy contacted
    DirectTV, they 'authorized' his tuner over the phone and that fixed the
    problem. DirectTV didn't do that for anyone after that. He got us just
    fine on his old DirectTV receiver but not the new one. Neither us nor
    Tribune changed anything - DirectTV did.

    DirectTV changed the format of the information they needed to get from
    Tribune media in order for it to work with the new tuner. The only
    thing DirectTV would tell me is that "there is a problem with the
    information." They wouldn't tell me what, they wouldn't tell me how to
    fix it. I was told it was up to me and Tribune media to figure it out,
    and that was from their lawyers! Yes, DirectTV had their legal staff
    contact me on this issue...not the technical side of the house...

    How's that for service?

    So pass on to your folks:

    => The stations have no control over the Tribune/DirectTV connection.
    Tribune is one of the services we provide our program guide to.

    => We feed the same information to Tribune media now as we did years ago

    => DirectTV will not provide OTA broadcasters any technical information
    on their channel 'guide' requirements

    => Contact DirectTV and ask them why they can't receive a FCC standard
    signal with all the information!

    => If you can't receive a channel in the local market, get with Tribune
    or DirectTV and they are the ones that need to fix the issue.

    Sorry for the rambling here. It's just that I have a cheepie ATSC OTA
    tuner at home and the first time I fired it up, I got ALL the stations
    in the Des Moines area with no issues. Audio, HD, 5.1, complete program
    guide for all the channels, everything. Why is it such a hassle with
    the satellite companies who claim to have an OTA HD tuner in their
    End of Quoted Material

    I found this to be most interesting, and apologize if I bored anyone to tears by putting it up. Perhaps it will help someone. I know I am VERY fortunate to have such a responsive Chief Engineer locally. He has answered EVERY email promptly, with good information, and he was able to rattle the cage of "whoever" was needed to get one additional channel working in the last week, and is actively working on my behalf on the other. Keep in mind, this isn't "his" problem, he's just trying to help someone who seems desperately in need of it. He is to be commended for his willingness to go the extra mile to help out.
  2. JDW

    JDW AllStar

    Jun 5, 2007
    An OTA scan option for the HR20 would alleviate all this BS ...
  3. hasan

    hasan Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2006
    Ogden, IA
    Yup....to a point..we still wouldn't have guide info on the channel, but at least we could watch it.:)
  4. JDW

    JDW AllStar

    Jun 5, 2007
    No guide info?!? That's not necessarily true ... Had it with my old Hughes DirecTV receiver and it worked fine; guide info included on the channel I can't get b/c of the upgrade to the HR20.
  5. tkrandall

    tkrandall Hall Of Fame

    Oct 3, 2003
    Very interesting information. Sounds credible considering some of the symptoms I have seen the HR20's OTA tuner setup. Sure would have been a lot easier if DTV had simply let the stations be accountable for providing industry standard guide info to feed the program guide content for the OTA channels, and to let the HR20 simply scan for channels like any other "real" ATSC tuner.
  6. n3ntj

    n3ntj Hall Of Fame

    Dec 18, 2006
    Very informative, Hasan. Thanks for posting it.
  7. gio12

    gio12 Icon

    Jul 31, 2006
    My thoughts are D* really does not want you to get OTA locals with THEIR box. Like the new H21 and R17. I am sure if and when the new HR21 comes out, there will be NO OTA.

    They want you to PAY for locals and use their service.

    If this really comes about and D* tuners on their DVRs will NO LONGER have OTA capabilities, I am done with them.

    I need OTA due to rain fade here in SFLA. Yes, this might drive me to Comcrap and the inferior S3.
  8. Earl Bonovich

    Earl Bonovich Lifetime Achiever

    Nov 15, 2005
    R17 ?
  9. tonyd79

    tonyd79 Hall Of Fame

    Jul 24, 2006
    Columbia, MD
    I don't think they are looking at locals as a revenue stream since they include them now in the packages.

    However, I can see them shutting off OTA in new boxes for cost purposes.

    I don't agree with it but I can see it happening.
  10. Ken S

    Ken S RIP

    Feb 12, 2007
    Perhaps someone from DirecTV could respond to the post and let us know why they are going out of their way to make it more difficult for their customers to receive OTA programming.
  11. Que

    Que Icon

    Apr 15, 2006
    I don't think D* will say anything. To me OTA is the KING in PQ for HD. MPEG4 can come close but not better. That might be it...
  12. Milominderbinder2

    Milominderbinder2 Cutting Edge: ECHELON '08

    Oct 8, 2006

    This is exactly what TMS has told me when I have called them. If you are missing channels here is the link and the phone number for TMS:

    Tribune Media Services at (518)792.9914 ext. 2227

    Maybe if enough of us call them, they might take action.

    In the mean time, there is good news and bad news.

    The Good News is that our HR20's already has the perfect solution to this problem. It is on page 78 of the HR20 manual:

    To scan for off-air channels and set up the local network areas after Guided Setup, do the following:
    1. Press MENU.
    2. Press SELECT on Settings in the Quick Menu.
    3. Select Setup in the Quick Menu.
    4. Select Sat & Ant from the options on the left menu.
    5. Press SELECT on the Antenna Setup button. If you have not selected your local networks yet,
    select the Local Networks button and follow the instructions until you are done.
    6. Select the Scan for Channels button to have the receiver scan local off -air frequencies.

    The Bad News is that OTA Scan is one of the 11 Missing Promised Features.

    How big is the problem? Many missing OTA channels are documented here:

    OTA issue reporting web page

    The HR20 is almost a year old. Maybe OTA Scan could be a birthday present?

    - Craig
  13. Capmeister

    Capmeister Large Hairless ApeCutting Edge: ECHELON '08

    Sep 16, 2003
    I have to say, I have issues on two channels--WILX 10-1 and WSYM 47-1, both with closed captioning being delayed--but ONLY on the HR20. The HR10 handles the closed captioning from these two stations just fine. It makes sense that something is being handled VERY differently on the HR20 that the HR10 handles fine. (The CC on those stations also works fine with normal ATSC CC decoders as well).

    I'm getting very concerned that this won't be fixed by the fall season, and if not I shall be VERY, VERY disappointed. It will mean putting my HR10 back in play in my living room.

    D* has done very well by me where captioning is concerned--but not good enough. There're still pending issues, and every battle shouldn't have to be an uphill one. If part of the reason is because of some non-FCC approved non-standard tuner, I may end up considering other options eventually. :(
  14. hasan

    hasan Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2006
    Ogden, IA
    Now, wouldn't that be "special":rolleyes:

    This doesn't seem to be a priority for D*, but I wish us all luck!
  15. hasan

    hasan Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2006
    Ogden, IA

    Tnx for the phone number....I did feel a bit left out when told to call Tribune, and I didn't have a "real" contact number. Yes, scan would at least let us watch the channels...which would be terrific as a stop-gap. I say stop-gap, because of course, the guide info will be missing (unless they use the entire OTA data stream to parse out the program info...and I'll bet just about anything they won't do that, cecause they already abandoned using the "standard guide info" provided with the OTA signal for something in-house that is "better".
  16. hasan

    hasan Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2006
    Ogden, IA
    I don't want to believe that....I really don't. Being able to record OTA-HD is a very big deal to me and I don't want to think that there is some sort of conspiracy to discourage or thwart OTA in D*'s leading receivers (HR20 and H20). I wouldn't make much of the H21 not having OTA, as it appears to be an entry level receiver for HD satellite programming only. As long as they keep the H20 (or somesuch) and the HR20 in their type of receivers, I'll assume that there is no concerted effort to discourage OTA in the D* line.
  17. Stuart Sweet

    Stuart Sweet The Shadow Knows!

    Jun 18, 2006
    Not if the tuners are incapable of receiving PSIP data as this engineer suggests. I would like to know how he has determined that the tuners are non-standard. Hasan, could you ask him?
  18. hasan

    hasan Well-Known Member

    Sep 22, 2006
    Ogden, IA
    They are non-standard in that they don't make use of the PSIP data...and that isn't (in my mind) a "tuner" issue, but a software support issue. I think he was lumping it all together, as that is the "result" of trying to service the D* box with "standard", industry wide PSIP data. When D* decided to go their own way with this aspect, they enabled some nice stuff...however, they "broke" the sections we are having trouble with and the local station engineers (if this one is typical), have not exactly had strong support from D*. I can inquire further if you like, but I'm not sure what we will gain by it. I will have the opportunity when/if this other channel he's trying to help me with shows up/doesn't show up, as I'm supposed to let him know.

    I think of tuners as the RF part, perhaps in the HR20 or these tuner chips in general, the PSIP data is processed on chip, perhaps not. I just don't know. If I were guessing, the PSIP is pass through data that D* elects not to use.
  19. Fish Man

    Fish Man Godfather

    Apr 22, 2002

    I've said it before, and I say it again.

    This is the most glaring feature omission on the HR20, IMHO. <Fish Man dons flame-retardant underwear> It is even a more severe omission than DLB.

    To distill this engineer's complaint down to it's essence, for the OTA tuner in the HR20 to work correctly, the following chain of PSIP data has to be perfect:

    Station -> Tribune -> DirecTV -> Satellite uplink -> HR20.

    If the "ball is dropped" anywhere along this path, you get no reception.

    If you add an autoscan feature to the HR20, it becomes:

    Station -> HR20.

    The HR10 does, indeed, have an autoscan feature.
  20. Alan Gordon

    Alan Gordon Chancellor

    Jun 7, 2004
    Dawson, Georgia
    You've obviously never seen Blu-ray or HD DVD!! ;)

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