I’ll admit it’s probably not the best ad I could have come up with. But it’s close. Suggest improvements in the comments.

Editor’s Note: On the day this post goes up, we are exactly six months away from the transition to digital television in the United States, and the outreach effort has been, to put it simply, a fiasco. Even its successes have been failures because it has ended up spreading some inaccuracies. As such, I have taken it upon myself to create a DTV PSA designed to alleviate the misconceptions and spread as much information, good and bad, as possible, in a short, simple, concise form. I timed myself reading it and came out to about three minutes.

(An image appears of a grandfather clock.)

Voiceover: Remember when you went from having to memorize a bunch of rules to figure out what the time was…

(An image appears of a modern digital alarm clock.)

Voiceover: …to simply being able to read the numbers off the clock?

(An image appears of someone surrounded by paper doing a lot of writing.)

Voiceover: Remember when you went from having to do your finances by hand…

(An image appears of someone working on an Excel spreadsheet.)

Voiceover: …to having a computer doing all the calculations for you?

(An image appears of a newspaper hitting a doorstep.)

Voiceover: Remember when your parents only had a few choices for learning about what was going on in the outside world?

(A screenshot of Wikipedia slides in on top of the last image. Other screenshots from blogs, informational web sites, and the like slide in on top of it.)

Voiceover: Now there are literally dozens of options and more coming every day.

(A generic landscape appears.)

Voiceover: On February 17, 2009, TV will make that move, and it will change forever.

(An image fades in of a television broadcasting tower.)

Voiceover: On that day, all full-power television stations in the United States are required to broadcast exclusively in digital television.

(The image now fades to a television set showing one of those stock images used to show how bright, crisp and clear the image is. As the voiceover continues, it shows a NASCAR race and a mosaic of a wide variety of programming.)

Voiceover: It will bring (usually) better picture quality, better sound, and even entire channels added to the current landscape.

(Fade to a diagram of two broadcast towers, highly lit up, with rings radiating from them. The television set continues to flash images in the lower right.)

Voiceover: And it’s actually a very simple switch. Most TV stations are already broadcasting in digital at full strength alongside their existing analog signals; some have already stopped broadcasting in analog.

(A calendar showing the date February 17 appears. One of the towers stops radiating rings and its lights go out. The television set continues flashing images.)

Voiceover: On February 17, the remaining stations will simply shut off their analog signals and will broadcast exclusively in digital from then on. That’s it. Most viewers probably won’t notice the difference, assuming everything goes as planned, and won’t have to do anything.

(An HDTV appears with a NO symbol over it, fading into a chart showing HD -> DTV, and DTV with two arrows leading to HD and SD.)

Voiceover: You don’t need an HD set. HDTV implies DTV, but DTV does not imply HDTV.

(A new diagram appears. On the left side, the words “CABLE OR SATELLITE” and below it, “DON’T WORRY!” On the right side, on the same line as “CABLE OR SATELLITE”, read the words “ANTENNA TV”.)

Voiceover: If you subscribe to cable or satellite, you won’t need to do anything, even if you don’t have a converter box; you’ll get exactly what you get now and might not even notice that anything changed.

(A TV fades in over the diagram, showing the same mosaic of images shown earlier, just barely slower and not as clear.)

Voiceover: Your cable operator or satellite provider will handle everything for you, although you should keep in mind that your cable operator or satellite provider is not required to bring you all the new channels opened up by digital, and may condense the digital signal so you won’t get the clearest possible picture and sound.

(The diagram fades back into focus. On the “ANTENNA TV” side of the diagram, it is cut in half lengthwise. On the top half fades in an image of an HD set; on the bottom half, an old-fashioned SD set. Below the HD set fade in the words “DON’T WORRY!” The SD set zooms into focus when the voiceover starts “even if it’s still SD…”)

Voiceover: If you get your TV through an antenna, you still don’t need to do anything if your TV is an HDTV, and even if it’s still SD you may not need to do anything.

(Image of someone flipping through a TV manual and finding the SPECIFICATIONS page.)

Voiceover: Check the specifications of your TV; they should be in your TV’s manual or on the box it came in.

(A line from the SPECIFICATIONS page zooms in, with “TV standard” in the left column and “NTSC” or “ATSC” in the right column.)

Voiceover: If it says it uses the “ATSC” standard, you’re all set.

(The letters “NTSC” fade in in big white type as the rest of the screen goes dark.)

Voiceover: If it doesn’t, and it only uses the “NTSC” standard, you won’t need to get a new TV or antenna or anything.

(Image of someone setting a digital converter on top of his TV.)

Voiceover: All you need is a digital converter, which you can get at a discount with a coupon from the federal government.

(Diagram of a broadcasting tower slowly moving away from a television set. As it moves away, the image on the TV becomes pixelated and eventually goes dark. The antenna starts to grow in size, and as it does the image comes back pixelated and then clear.)

Voiceover: Note that although any antenna will work with both digital and analog signals, signals further away from where you live will require a more robust antenna, even if you receive the analog signal fine now.

(A camera, a broadcasting tower next to the camera, and a TV appear. The camera shows a bunch of images, and the number 2 is on top of the tower. The TV is off. The 2 slowly changes to 19. The TV turns on, clearly showing the number 2, and shows the same images as the camera.)

Voiceover: Also, although you won’t notice any changes in the channel numbers on your TV, many stations will be broadcasting from a different channel from their analog signals.

(“14-51” appears in white letters on a mostly black background. With each conjunction, the screen changes, first displaying a UHF-only antenna near “14-51”, then to “2-13” near a VHF-compatible antenna.)

Voiceover: Most of these will be in the UHF band and you can get them using a UHF-only antenna, but some stations will broadcast in VHF.

(Appropriate screenshots from the website appear.)

Voiceover: To find out if you need a more robust antenna and if you can get away with making it UHF-only, log on to DTVAnswers.com (or whatever the site of the organization producing the PSA is). There, you can also find out if there are any low-power stations near you that will not be transitioning to digital.

Wild and Crazy Speculation on the Future of the Olympics on TV in the US

ESPN may be gunning for NBC’s Olympics rights starting in 2014.

The sports blogosphere generally hates ESPN and so what reaction I’ve seen has been negative. But on the plus side, between ABC Sp… er, ESPN on ABC, ESPN1, ESPN2, ESPN Classic, and maybe ABC Family and ESPNU (not to mention ESPN Deportes), they have no lack of platforms to put events on (which I’m not as certain of with CBS or Fox), and they might have more by 2014. And you know they’ll stream lots of events on ESPN360.

If they do get it, though… well, you see what happened when NBC overextended for Olympics rights – it led to the NFL and NBA leaving and killed NBC Sports until last year. If ESPN isn’t careful getting the Olympics would be the peak – and would start a long march downhill that could really help places like Versus. (Hear that, NBA on ESPN/ABC bashers? There might be a pretty good chance you’ll get what you want in 2016!)

NBC Extends Wimbledon Contract

NBC has signed a “long term extention” with the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club for coverage of the Championships, Wimbledon.

More is hopefully forthcoming, as linked article does not provide exact duration.

UPDATE: The “long term deal” is for only four years. ESPN is also close to a deal that could include the Tennis Channel, according to sources.

NBA Re-ups with ABC, ESPN, TNT

This is a little late; blame NBA.com’s tardiness putting up the story, but the NBA will stay on ABC, ESPN, and TNT through 2016, well after just about all other leagues will have to renew their agreements. So far as people watching TV will be able to tell, it will be status quo, unless they happen to watch NBA TV try to become as close to the NFL Network as the NBA is to the NFL.

TNT will show 52 regular season games a year and up to that number of playoff games. ABC will show a minimum of 15 regular-season and the same number of playoff games, including the Finals; the ESPN family will show up to 75 regular season games and 29 playoff games.

More info at the linked article.

15 playoff games mean even with a 7-game Finals, ABC will have to show 8 playoff games, more games than Finals games. This represents a larger playoff commitment on the part of both ABC and ESPN. This and more analysis on Sports Media Watch.

NBC probably had the most successful run of any NBA TV partner, but this deal will give ABC rights for longer than NBC. Many NBA fans on the Internet have been critical of the NBA on ABC – and with gimmicks like bringing in the Pussycat Dolls to do songs for the opener, ABC makes an easy target – but the NBA and others have stated repeatedly that NBC, CBS, and Fox did not make a sufficient offer to compete, and it’s absurd to blame the NBA’s broadcast ratings woes to the presentation of games on ABC. If the games are good, people will turn in in spite of the presentation.

The most pivotal day in "Versus" history?

Versus will televise Big 12 and Pac-10 football games as part of a new agreement with FSN, a rehash of FSN’s prior deal with TBS. I’d be more impressed if FSN hadn’t already let Pac-10 games go to ESPN and made another agreement with ESPN for Big 12 games.

This is great news for Versus and terrible news for fans of those conferences who have longed for them to get off FSN. TBS to Versus is a big step down. On the other hand, while Versus isn’t likely to get The Game That Will Determine The National Championship (between ABC and FSN), this is exactly what Versus needs to do to establish its bona fides as a major sports power before the Big Three contracts come up for renewal again in the mid-2010’s. Versus’ limited distribution and the fact that it counted on major sports to establish its reputation, instead of making sure they had one going in, helped kill their shots at NFL and MLB rights (though Versus’ best shot at the mighty NFL, especially considering their distribution, was probably always the package the NFL relegated to the NFL Network for reasons not concerning the individual drawbacks of any network).

Getting the sort of sports that characterized the early days of ESPN and ESPN2 is also a must. Versus has already gotten a head start on that with NLL and MISL coverage, and dipped its toe into Arena Football coverage last season. Jumping into more mid-major sports, like MLS and the WNBA, would seem to be a logical next step, but MLS and AFL rights are locked up into the next decade, and WNBA (and NBA) rights are pretty much too far into negotiations at this point, with the pens practically already sitting by the contract.

The Big 12 has already re-upped with ABC and FSN, a deal that starts in 2008. Versus might be able to interject itself in SEC negotiations, which are up for renegotiation soon for a new deal starting 2009. Both football and basketball are shown on CBS and ESPN, but ESPN’s coverage of the SEC is rather limited, with lesser games (including the basketball semifinals, a bit of notoriety shared by no other Big Six conference) relegated to regional syndication.

Versus probably overestimated the cache of the NHL today in trying to line up deals for better sports. Now they have to hope that even mid-level Big 12 and Pac-10 games will draw enough eyeballs to stop itself from being a joke for any league over the NHL line. I can’t exactly say the battle of Iowa is a good sign of what’s to come, but at least now they might edge just a little bit higher.