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WOCC Becomes “Westerville TV”

Post Date:12/07/2017 5:17 PM
It’s been nine-and-a-half years (June 2009) since the Federal Communication Commission mandated all televisions transition from analog to digital. Remember the scramble to get a digital converter box for old television sets? Our TV viewing habits have changed dramatically over the last decade. Consider the popularity of Netflix and other streaming services that are not only available on your TV set, but also accessible on your phone or tablet.

Now more people are “cutting the cord” with cable than ever before. Last summer, Fortune magazine reported the five largest U.S. pay-TV (cable) providers had lost more than a half-million customers by mid-2017. These customers are paying for internet service and typically using high-definition antennas to access local network channels for news, local sports and information.

Trends in TV also had an impact on your local government because of the publicly-owned, educational, or governmental ("PEG") channel: WOCC-TV, also known as Channel 3. WOCC, operated by and in partnership with Otterbein University’s Department of Television for many years, aired public meetings, including Westerville City Council, general interest community programming and Otterbein student-produced content.

Through the combined expansion of cable and satellite program selections and online streaming content, viewership significantly declined over the years. In the last two biennial resident surveys (2014, 2016), the City asked for feedback on WOCC. In 2014, only a little more than a fourth of residents (27%) said they have watched WOCC in the past two years (which was a statistically significant decline from the previous time we asked: 36% in 2012). It further declined in 2016: only 18% of survey respondents said they watched WOCC in the past two years.

With such a small segment of the community tuning in for public broadcasting, and more services moving online with on-demand capabilities, the City and Otterbein have made the decision to discontinue the channel. Instead, both the City and the University are taking more video online to direct streaming services. WOCC will fade to black on December 31, 2017.

To continue our programming, the City will launch “Westerville TV” exclusively online at www.westerville.org. It will be the portal for live and on-demand video from public meetings, community events and more, including news, weather and school announcements. Fans of Otterbein programming may still find student-produced content online at www.otterbein360.com.

Westerville City Manager David Collinsworth says the transition, although the end of a tradition known by some long-time Westerville citizens, is a fiscally responsible decision. 

“Operating a television station is no small task, and we were quite lucky to have the capabilities and expertise of Otterbein University for that purpose. Yet, when we took a critical look at our costs to operate and the trends in screen time and compared that to declining viewership, making some changes to content and bringing that online was clearly the most logical course of action,” said Collinsworth.

Otterbein professor and chair of the Department of Communications, Denise Shively, Ph.D., says the University has similar considerations in mind, along with a responsibility to introduce the most relevant technology to students pursuing careers in television.

“As technology has advanced, we have worked with the City of Westerville to provide a seamless transition from cable television delivery of information to streaming on the web,” said Shively. “Otterbein's students are also adapting to shifts in technology. Video is still a preferred means of information as audiences look for visual stories. However, those stories are now delivered primarily to mobile devices and through many platforms including social media and organizational websites. Our student media reporters now work in a digital environment where they learn to produce stories tapping their integrated writing, video and audio skills.”

Stay tuned to www.westerville.org for more information.
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