Super Bowl Sunday is almost here!
After more than a decade the game is returning to NBC and WITN. The last time NBC aired the Super Bowl was in 1998 and the Denver Broncos upset the heavily favored Green Bay Packers. Last year, when the N.Y. Giants upset the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 42, some fans in eastern North Carolina missed a good portion of the game. That game was on the FOX television network and the way the FOX network is delivered to eastern North Carolina caused some problems with the broadcast.
The subject popped up for "Just Ask Mike" in his class at East Carolina University this past week. Some students remembered missing most of the third quarter and questioned me how this could happen.
The problem last year came down to a microwave signal. In the 1980's FOX awarded its network affiliation to a new station licensed to Morehead City. The signal of that station cannot cover the entire market, so the owners arranged to simulcast that signal over another television station licensed to Ayden, North Carolina. The FOX network signal is received at Morehead City and then sent via microwave to Ayden. Microwave transmissions can be fickle and last year on Super Bowl Sunday, the weather and atmosphere met to create a difficult environment for microwave signals. Those watching the game on the Morehead City station (including the DISH network) had no problems, those watching the game on the Ayden station (including DirecTV) were put into a state of perpetual agony.
New reports also revealed that some fans in Arkansas also experienced problems when the local FOX affiliate lost their network feed.
So, could something go wrong this year? We certainly hope not! In fact we are taking extraordinary efforts to make that nothing stops you from enjoying the game, unless your favorite team fails to score.
We have built in back-ups throughout our system and we have assigned extra personnel to be on standby at both the studio and the transmitter. Here at WITN we have dual sources for our satellite feed from NBC. We have had rare occasions when very heavy downpours have affected satellite reception, but our meteorologists are predicting warm and sunny weather.
We send our signal from our studio to our 2,000 foot transmitting tower in Grifton via microwave. Our microwave path from Chocowinity to Grifton is shorter than the one from Morehead City to Ayden and it passes over far less damp, swampy land. I cannot recall a time that this signal ever faded. We have a twin-stream microwave that sends the signal over two paths and automatically switches if anything should go wrong. Since the Digital Transition Deadline will still be 17 days away, we will be transmitting over both our analog and our digital transmitters. In addition we will have an engineer standing by at the transmitter site. In case of a loss of power, we have generators at both the studio and transmitter ready to provide back-up power. In addition, Suddenlink cable has reactivated a fiber-optic link into the WITN studio and is prepared to pull our signal directly from the studio for Suddenlink customers if needed.
Believe it or not, two years ago the entire nation almost lost out on Super Bowl 41 in Miami. CBS was preparing to broadcast that game, and it has been revealed that prior to the game both their primary and secondary generator trucks went down. The networks usually bring their own power generators so that the television production is totally separate from stadium lighting and electricity. Fortunately a quick-thinking CBS engineer found the solution to get the back-up system running a few hours prior to the beginning of the Pre-Game Show.
So sit back, relax and dig into your Buffalo wings. We're working hard to make sure that all you have to worry about is the final score of the game. I won't try to make any predictions on that matter, for that, you'll need to scroll back up to Billy and Brian's Sports Blog...... or maybe one of those blogs written by WITN News Anchors known to have lived in the vicinity of Pittsburgh!