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Minneapolis / Saint Paul
Minnesota Twin Cities Area
Digital TV & HDTV Cheat Sheet


Here is a cheat-sheet that details information on the various Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul area) DTV stations (Digital TV). I seem to keep forgetting which channel is what, so I finally decided to document the information that I have found to date.

As of mid-2003, all of the major Twin Cities area analog TV stations have DTV transmitters up and running. Some, such as KTCA and KMSP, seem to be running at lower power level than they are authorized because they are much harder to receive than the other local DTV stations. One thing that I found interesting is that KPXM (analog channel 41, DTV channel 40) is very easy to pick up in the Twin Cities despite being listed as being from Saint Cloud.

You do not need a HDTV set to receive DTV signals. A stand-alone DTV receiver will do the trick. All DTV receivers have component outputs for HDTV sets, and some of the newer ones have DVI jacks for HDTV with HDCP (high definition copy protection). In addition, DTV receivers have standard S-video and composite video outputs that will connect to most Analog TV sets. Watching DTV on an analog set is better than the older analog signal since it is Digital, which means no snow, no ghosts, and the potential to use Dolby Digital audio if you have a home theater sound system. These DTV receivers were once over $500. Today, you can pick them up for under $200, and many HD satellite receivers will pick up off-the-air DTV signals.

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Final Update

Life In The DTV Universe — The DTV conversion is now a year behind us. The story has faded from the news, people have adapted, and television has gone through a small revolution as flat screen HDTVs have rendered the big heavy tube type televisions all but extinct. As a result, this will be my last update for this page. While it was useful leading up to and during the conversion, I don't have the time to monitor and report on all future TV changes, so this page will remain as a historical point of view on an event that caused angst for millions, yet, like Y2K, is already largely forgotten.

Update From Glenn Sommerfield — A number of TV related changes have happened over the winter of 2009 and 2010. The best summary of this info was provided to me by Glenn Sommerfield. The remainder of the notes in this section are from Glenn's E-mail.

Changes At TPT — TPT changes as of January 28, 2010:

  • TPT Life moved from RF channel 16 to RF channel 23.
  • Power has been increased on RF channel 23.
  • TPT Weather moved from RF channel 16 to RF channel 34.
The channel line-up at TPT is now:
  • 2-1 KTCA is TPT HD 2.
  • 2-2 KTCA is TPT MN Channel.
  • 2-3 KTCI is TPT Life.
  • 2-4 KTCA is TPT Weather.

Changes At KPXM — KPXM TV 41 shuffled their lineup on Feb. 1, 2010:

  • The Worship Channel on 41-4 has been discontinued.
  • 41-1 is KPXM ION
  • 41-2 is Qubo
  • 41-3 is ION Life

Channel 25 Is Digital — Low power station channel 25 is now broadcasting 5 SD channels using their new digital TV transmitter:

  • 25-1 is TBN (Trinity Broadcast Network)
  • 25-2 is The Church Channel.
  • 25-3 is JCTV, a video music channel.
  • 25-4 is Smile Of A Child, an all kids channel.
  • 25-5 is Enlace TBN, a Spanish religion channel.

Channel 47 — A Wisconsin Public TV digital translator station is running in River Falls. This station rebroadcasts WHWC-TV channel 28 from Menomonie, WI. The call letters are W47CO-D. It runs on RF channel 47 with a power of 1600 watts. The parent channel can sometimes be viewed in the east metro area, too. The line-up is:

  • 28-1 is WHWC Wisconsin Public Television PBS (HD).
  • 28-2 is The Wisconsin Channel (SD).
  • 28-3 is Create and PBS Kids (SD).

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Updates & News

Conversion Date — The analog TV channels will go dark beginning on February 17, 2009, and must complete the process by June 12, 2009. Those dates are rapidly approaching. Most people will notice no difference since most people get cable TV or use a satellite service. Folks that receive an over-the-air signal either need to get a converter box or upgrade to a new TV set. Don't listen to the hype and the truck-stop conspiracy talk and end up making a bad decision. Learn the facts, and be assured that most people will notice no difference.

Converter Boxes — The low-cost converter boxes are now available in quantity. You can get up to two $40 coupons from the US Government via the website. Note that the converter boxes only support stereo audio and analog video, so while they will look great on analog TV sets, you will not get HD quality pictures on HD sets. You need one of the more advanced ATSC Tuners or a tuner built into a newer HD TV set to get an HD quality TV picture from an over-the-air source.

Channel Swapping — TV stations have been operating their digital transmitters on new TV channels. For example, channel 5 runs their digital transmitter on channel 50. In recent months, a large number of TV stations have petitioned the FCC to change their channel numbers. The FCC has now approved this change. Up to one-third of all TV stations will change their channel numbers once again on the day of the cut-over. This impacts viewers in two ways. First, existing DTV viewers will need to rescan their TV channels after the cut-over to pick up the stations that move to new channels. Second, while all the of the Twin Cities DTV channels are on UHF, some channels will move back to VHF, which means that people will need the older and larger VHF antennas as well as the newer and smaller UHF antennas. More details on this will follow.

Low Power Analog — Only full-power analog TV is going dark. Low power analog TV, Class A TV, and analog TV translator stations are being allowed to continue after the cut-over date. The twin cities has a number of low power stations, and many out-state towns have translator stations for the bigger twin cities TV stations. If you plan to continue to watch analog TV after the cut-over date, and you plan to get a converter box, make sure that the converter box has a feature called analog pass-through.

Twin Cities Public TV — TPT has changed their plans for their DTV roll-out. Gone is the PBS Create channel, Kids, the dedicated HD channel, and channel 17. As of the end of December, 2-1 is TPT2 in SD, while 2-2 is TPT2 in HD. The final channel line-up will be 2-1 as TPT2-HD, 2-2 as TPT-MN, 2-3 as TPT-LIFE, and 2-4 as TPT-Weather. At the cut-over, 2-3 and 2-4 will be on the old channel 17 (DTV channel 16) equipment, which is lower in power than the main channel 2 transmitters. TPT has applied for a new channel number where they can run at full power, which has been approved by the FCC, but it has not yet been approved by Canada. As a result, 2-3 and 2-4 will be harder to get than 2-1 and 2-2.

Early Switch Results — Wilmington, NC, has already completed their Digital TV conversion as a test market. The biggest issue that was encountered is that people had DTV sets (or converters), but did not have proper antennas. The big learning is that Digital TV requires a far larger antenna than analog TV. If it is important for you to be ready on day one of the switch, then you need to test your reception now so you have time to upgrade your antenna, if needed.

Analog Transmitter Shutdown — As of February 17, 2009, channel 23, the CW station, became the first analog station in the Twin Cities to shutdown its analog transmitter, completing its conversion to DTV. Most remaining analog stations plan to remain on the air through June.

Conversion Has Happened — As of June 14, the digital conversion date has passed. It actually wasn't so much a digital conversion, but rather, since digital TV has been up and running for years, it is an analog TV shutdown. The major analog stations have either shutdown, or have stopped programming in favor of the night-light service to provide information to those who may still be unaware of the transition. A number of low power analog stations remain on the air, so analog TVs are not totally useless here in the metro area. Despite all the hype and warnings, there were no riots in the streets, no piles of dead bodies, and life did not come to an end.

Low Power TV Update — The TBN low power station on channel 58 has gone digital on channel 25. Other low power stations have either submitted applications or been granted construction permits for digital transmitters. This includes channel 19 (digital channel 16), channel 7 (digital channel 30), and channel 62 (digital channel 51).

Channel 29 Move — Channel 29 will be moving their RF channel from 21 to 29 during the summer of 2009. If you suddenly lose the ability to watch channel 29, try rescanning your channels to allow your TV set to find channel 29 at its new location.

Date Last Updated — March 3, 2010.

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Analog TV — The conventional method of broadcasting TV signals in use since the 1940's, and standardized since the early 1960's. The picture features about 500 lines of resolution, and has 30 frames per second. The picture is interlaced, which means it is actually 60 half frames per second, with 2 consecutive frames making a single picture. These numbers were picked since they were the lowest numbers that did not make people ill when watching TV.

NTSC — The electronic method of putting color and sound on a TV signal. It stands for the National Television Standards Committee. Note that this is not a world-wide standard. The PAL format is used in much of the world, and SECAM is used in parts of Asia.

Digital TV (DTV) — a new method of broadcasting where the TV picture information is in a digital format of 1's and 0's rather than an analog voltage. This allows higher bandwidth, which means more picture information can be transmitted, plus more features are available. These features include Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, 16 x 9 picture size, and the ability to transmit more than one TV show at a time. DTV can broadcast SDTV, EDTV, or HDTV. Just because it is DTV does not mean that it must be HDTV.

ATSC — Advanced Television Standards Committee. The people that define how DTV works. Also refers to the type of TV Tuner required to watch DTV and HDTV signals over the air. Most older HD Ready sets need an external ATSC box to watch over the air DTV, while many newer sets are starting to include a built-in ATSC tuner.

SD TV — Standard Definition TV. Another name for the dimensions of a standard analog TV picture. An SD picture may be carried over an analog or a digital TV station.

ED TV — Enhanced Definition TV. A picture that is better than SD, but not up to the quality level of High Definition. A DTV station can transmit several ED TV channels in addition to an HD TV channel.

HD TV — High Definition TV. To be considered hi-def, a TV picture has to have at least 1080 lines of resolution containing lines of either 1280 or 1920 pixels. 1280 pixels is the standard 4 x 3 width picture, while 1920 pixels is the 16 x 9 wide screen picture. HDTV also features Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.

Digital Cable — a method of squeezing multiple SDTV signals into a single SDTV channel. While DTV means better quality, Digital Cable means lower quality. The benefit is far more channels being available.

Digital Satellite — a method of transmitting SDTV, EDTV, and HDTV signals using a satellite dish. Quality is far better than Digital Cable, but less than DTV.

HD Ready — a marketing term. Most often means that a TV set can display an HDTV signal, but does not have the ability to tune in HDTV stations. You must use some kind of converter box with this type of TV set.

HD TV Set — a marketing term. Most often means that a TV set can display an HDTV signal, and can also tune in DTV stations over the air. HDTV Sets normally require an external converter box for Dolby Digital sound.

HDCP — High Definition Copy Protection, a scheme were a viewer can watch a HD program, but not be allowed to make a high quality recording of that program. Low quality recordings would be allowed. HDCP was big news in the early part of the 2000's, and is widely credited with setting back the adoption of HDTV by several years. HDCP has all but vanished from the broadcasting industry having never been widely implemented.

Dolby Digital 5.1 — a sound signal that includes 5 normal speakers including right, left, center, right rear, and left rear, plus a single special effects speaker (normally a sub-woofer). Almost no TV sets have DD5.1 built in. Some TV sets have a "digital sound" jack that can be connected to a DD5.1 receiver.

Dolby Digital 2.0 — a downgrade of the Dolby Digital 5.1 standard where the sound is blended into two speakers, a right and a left channel. Many newer HDTV sets with ATSC tuners can decode DD5.1, but have only 2 speakers, so they blend the sound into DD2.0.

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Analog To Digital Channel Map

Here is the list of Twin Cities area analog TV stations, with their DTV station assignments, sorted by the analog TV station channel number. Note that many of the digital stations are on temporary channel numbers, and these stations will move to their permanent channel after February 17, 2009.

Network Temp Digital
Perm Digital
2 KTCA PBS 34 34 100KW 924KW Shoreview East
4 WCCO CBS 32 32 100KW 1000KW Shoreview West
5 KSTP ABC 50 35 100KW 1000KW Shoreview West
9 KMSP FOX 26 9 316KW 691KW Shoreview East
11 KARE NBC 35 11 316KW 774KW Shoreview West
17 KTCI PBS 16 26 141KW 50KW Shoreview East
23 WUCW CW 22 22 4570KW 1000KW Shoreview West
29 WFTC UPN 21 29 5000KW 1000KW Shoreview East
41 KPXM ION 40 40 2770KW 1000KW Big Lake MN
45 KSTC Ind 44 45 5000KW 82KW Shoreview West

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Digital To Analog Channel Map

Here is the list of Twin Cities area digital TV stations, with their analog TV station equivalents, sorted by the digital TV station channel number.

Network Analog
16 KTCI-DT PBS 17 141KW 50KW Shoreview East
21 WFTC-DT UPN 29 5000KW 1000KW Shoreview East
22 WUCW-DT CW 23 4570KW 1000KW Shoreview West
26 KMSP-DT FOX 9 316KW 691KW Shoreview East
32 WCCO-DT CBS 4 100KW 1000KW Shoreview West
34 KTCA-DT PBS 2 100KW 924KW Shoreview East
35 KARE-DT NBC 11 316KW 774KW Shoreview West
40 KPXM-DT ION 41 2770KW 1000KW Big Lake MN
44 KSTC-DT Independent 45 5000KW 82KW Shoreview West
50 KSTP-DT ABC 5 100KW 1000KW Shoreview West

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Digital TV Content

Here is a list of the programming that is currently available on DTV in the Twin Cities area. Note that DTV stations can have more than one channel per broadcast slot, so there are more broadcast channels than there are broadcast channel numbers. Note: the display channel number normally is set to be the same as the station's analog channel number, but this is not required. Note that Twin Cities Public Television changed their channel assignments in early 2004 (which changed again in late 2008). A final note, Channel 45 was forced to discontinue their over-the-air broadcast of HD-Net in late 2004. HD-Net was a 24x7 channel that carried all HD content. It is a real loss for the HD community.

Network Digital
Current Programming
Future TPT 2 HD
Future TPT2 MN
2-3 KTCI-DT PBS 16   Future TPT Life
2-4 KTCI-DT PBS 16   Future TPT Weather
4-1 WCCO-DT CBS 32 4 WCCO 4 Local / CBS HD
5-1 KSTP-DT ABC 50 5 KSTP 5 Local / ABC HD
5-2 KSTP-DT ABC 50   KSTP 5 Local Extra
9-1 KMSP-DT FOX 26 9 KMSP 9 Local / Fox HD
9-2 KMSP-DT FOX 26 9 KMSP 9 Local / Fox SD
11-1 KARE-DT NBC 35 11 KARE 11 Local / NBC HD
11-2 KARE-DT NBC 35   KARE 11 Weather
23-1 WUCW-DT CW 22 23 WUCW 23 Local / CW HD
23-2 WUCW-SD CW 22 23 WUCW 23 Local / CW SD
29-1 WFTC-DT UPN 21 29 WFTC 29 Local / UPN HD
29-2 WFTC-ST UPN 21 29 WFTC 29 Local / UPN SD
41-1 KPXM-DT ION 40 41 ION
41-2 KPXM-DT ION 40   QUBO
41-3 KPXM-DT ION 40   ION Life
41-4 KPXM-DT Independent 40   Worship
45-1 KSTC-DT Independent 44 45 Independent Programming

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Low Power Analog TV Content

Here is a list of the low power TV stations in the Twin Cities area. This information is based on FCC licenses and construction permits. If you happen to know more on the status of any of these stations, please let me know. The stations marked as active have been recently viewed. The stations marked "No" appear to be dark. These are all analog stations except for channel 25, which is running on a digital transmitter. Low power stations are not required to go dark at the cut-over.

Network Power
Content Active?
7 KO7UI Daystar 405W IDS Center Religion No
13 WUMN-CA Univision 1250W IDS Center Spanish Yes
14 K14KH-CA 3ABN 4980W IDS Center Religion Yes
19 K19ER EWTN 4830W IDS Center Religion Yes
25 K58BS TBN 15,000W IDS Center Religion Yes
43 K67HG HSN 4630W IDS Center Shopping Yes
58 K58BS TBN 7KW IDS Center Religion No
62 W62BD Daystar 9240W IDS Center Religion Yes
67 K67HG HSN 4630W IDS Center Shopping No
69 K69GB 3ABN 27.6KW Foshay Tower Religion No

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DTV And HDTV Antennas

There is a myth that you need a special kind of HDTV antenna to receive DTV signals over the air. This myth is propagated by shady (or ignorant) vendors who wish to up-sell, or add onto an already major TV sale. In reality, analog TV signals and digital TV signals are electrically the same, and you cannot tell one from the other at the electrical level. As a result, there is no special antenna for DTV or HDTV.

What is different about many newer digital TV stations is that they operate on higher channel numbers. Higher channel numbers means a higher radio frequency. It turns out that many older TV antennas are optimized to receive TV channels 2 to 13, while many digital TV stations are running on higher channel numbers in the Twin Cities area.

The rules for good over-the-air reception are:

1) Use an antenna designed for UHF channels 14 and above. Older antennas are mostly designed for receiving channels 2 to 13. While you will need to pick up 9 and 11 in the older VHF range, you will need good antenna sensitivity from channels 21 to 45 to get the majority of the DTV channels.

2) Use a good quality coax feed line such as RG-6. Older coax and flat wire has too much loss on the higher channels.

3) If you use combiners, splitters, splices, etc, make sure they are rated for 1000MHz. Older units may be VHF only, or have high loss on UHF.

4) Point the antenna at the Shoreview antenna site (I-694 half way between I-35E and I-35W).

Like all digital signals, a Digital TV picture is all or nothing. You will see either a perfect picture, or no picture. If you get no picture, then you have little choice other than upgrade your antenna, move your antenna outside, move it higher, or give up on receiving a particular channel. In some cases, your picture may freeze, or deteriorate into an image made up of large squares. This is called pixelation, and it normally means that you have a weak signal and are missing some of the data stream coming from the TV station. Again, the only option is to get a better signal.

Many people have been finding that it is much harder to pick up DTV signals over the air than the older analog signals. This is partly due to some stations running on temporary channels with temporary antennas and lower transmitter powers. Some of this problem will clear up after the cut-over as these channels move to their permanent channel and go full power. It also appears that many folks who used to get acceptable TV reception with simple rabbit ears will now have to install TV antennas in their attic or roof-top, or migrate to a cable or satellite solution.

Twin Cities Digital TV Tower Locations

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Video Cable Types

Here are the various video connector cable types, in order from lowest quality to highest quality. In general, you will want to use the highest quality interconnect cable that is supported by the devices that you are connecting.

Composite — This is a single RCA-style connector that is good enough to carry analog SD TV pictures. This connector is often colored yellow, and is normally found on all older video devices. It is often the only common connector found on more unusual type of equipment.

S-Video — This is a small round connector with 4 tiny pins. It breaks the composite signal into two streams, resulting in a clearer picture. Some S-Video devices are able to record or display a picture that is slightly better than SD TV, but not to the standard of ED TV.

Component — This cable has 3 different RCA-style connectors on each end. They are often colored Red, Blue, and Green. However, to be technically correct, it is actually Y, YB, and YR. These are mathematically derived signals that carry the red, blue, and green, but using less bandwidth. Component video is the minimum required for an HDTV picture. Many DVD players use component video, but as this is written in mid-2005, DVD signals are not yet HD quality.

DVI — DVI is slightly better than component, but few of us can actually tell the difference. DVI was becoming popular since the high definition copy protection standard would have required a DVI connection to watch certain broadcast TV shows and some movies. The HDCP has been backed off of, and may even be dead, so this might be a non-factor.

HDMI — HDMI is a newer connector standard. It is the first connector that can carry an HDTV picture without compression. That gives it the ability to carry the best HDTV picture. HDMI also carries sound. In fact, it can carry 8 channels of sound, so it will support a 7.1 system (more than enough for HDTV 5.1 sound).

You may also find the following connector types in use. In general, these are being phased out of the consumer level TV market.

RGB — RGB is mostly obsolete in consumer applications, but it is still used in professional video. In RGB, one cable carries red, one carries green, and one carries blue. This exactly matches the 3 colors that they human eye can see. RGB has high bandwidth requirements, which means that it is both high quality and expensive. Component video is used at the consumer level. Component carries the same information in a lower bandwidth format using a mathematical trick.

Computer Connectors — Video is often carried on USB or Firewire connectors on hand held cameras and computer systems. These connectors started to show up on early HD displays, but they have faded from the scene. Most people seem to prefer to import their video to a computer, then burn DVDs or Video-CDs, which can then be played on their TV systems.

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Audio Cable Types

Here is an overview of the various types of audio cables that you will see associated with HDTV and surround sound.

RCA Cables (2) — This is the lowest common form of audio connection. It carries 2 signals, a right and left channel in analog format. The signal is + or - 1 volt into a 600 ohm load. This is often called line level, since it is too low voltage to drive a speaker, but far higher than what a turntable can produce. A 2 wire RCA cable can carry Pro-Logic surround sound. That is a very basic form of surround sound that is common on VHS video tapes and older cable TV systems.

Fiber Optic Cable — This is a digital format that can carry any of the modern digital surround sound formats. That includes Dolby Digital, DTS, THX, Neo-6, etc. This cable is often called TOS-Link. Note that many older receivers have only 1 or sometimes 2 TOS-Link jacks. That makes it hard to hook up all the devices that you find today with fiber optic connectors. As a result, you want to make sure that your next surround sound receiver (or pre-amp, or home theater in a box) has enough fiber optic jacks for all of your equipment, plus extras for future expansion.

Digital Coax — This is a single cable with an RCA-type connector. It carries the same signal as a fiber optic TOS-Link cable. Purists claim it is better quality than fiber optic since you do not get jitter in the light due to imperfections in the glass in the fiber. That is mostly gibberish since normal folks cannot tell the difference. The digital coax was once much easier to switch, but now TOS-Link fiber optic switches are common and inexpensive.

RCA Cables (6, 7, or 8) — This is a scheme where each of the right, left, center, surround, and sub-woofer speakers all have their own line level audio connection. Most surround sound receivers have at least one 5.1, 6.1, or 7.1 input that accepts this type of connection. Many higher end DVD players have this type of output. Using individual RCA line level signals for each channel can result in better sound. It is handy to do it this way if you intend to use different amplifiers for each channel as is often found in high end home theater installations. The drawback is that you often have to tell your DVD player to use this format, and each DVD often requires you to select this format. What happens is that viewers do not pay attention to the settings, and end up with a lower quality encoding format (like pro-logic when DTS was available). This format is best left to pros, hobbyists, or times when you are short of inputs and have no other choice.

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Web Links For Full Power TV Stations

Network Analog
Web Address
22 WUCW-DT CW 23
44 KSTC-DT Independent 45

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Web Links For Low Power TV Stations
Network Web Address
7 KO7UI Daystar
13 WUMN-CA Univision
14 K14KH-CA 3ABN
25 K58BS TBN
43 K67HG HSN
58 K58BS TBN
62 W62BD Daystar
67 K67HG HSN
69 K69GB 3ABN

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Made With Macintosh
Authored by John A. Weeks III, Copyright © 1996—2016, all rights reserved.
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