Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Three Things I’m Looking Forward to in March

#1 March Madness – If you’ve read or listened to about anything I’ve done on this blog, you’re likely aware of the fact that I have a sports problem. So, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that March Madness is something I’m looking forward to in March.

March works itself to be a basketball buffet for three straight weeks with NCAA Conference and National Tournaments. Locally, I love the atmosphere our South Dakota State Basketball Tournaments offer and look forward to Mitchell Telecom’s expanded coverage (All Three Classes for Both Girls & Boys!) every year. Since I feel like you should know these things, I’ll be paying special attention to the following…
-          Our Kernels, both squads have played lights out this year and enter post season play with a real chance of doing damage. Both teams have been thoroughly fun to watch all season and I’m hoping they can prolong the season as long as possible

-          My Fliers, the Flandreau Boys Basketball team has started to restore the roar (of the engine, that is) this season. I’m hoping Coach Bass and the boys and navigate a prickly district and loaded region en route to making the Class A field in Sioux Falls. (For those not interested in FHS Hoops, sorry for being a homer)

-          The Wolfpack, North Carolina State, baby! Coach Mark Gottfried’s squad has shown some renewed vigor in 2011/12, and I’m praying they can make it back to the big dance. Note, the most likely destination for dancing will be the NIT

-          My Bracket, I look forward to discussing this for hours and hours with people that could really care less. Sadly, it is one of the items I long for each year – sue me, I’m a guy.
#2 Geek Speak – this is set to be Mitchell Telecom’s first recurring theme for our corporate podcast. We’re set to record the first episode with our resident ‘geek’ Jon Mueller tomorrow (Thursday, March 1st), so look for a link to that later in the week.

Geek Speak is our attempt to bring some attention to the gadgets, apps, websites, etc that we like in hope of improving your broadband experience. Ideally, listeners will walk away with a handful of things to check out to see if it fits their needs. For Geek Speak #1, it looks like we are going website heavy – featuring sites like and
#3 SPRING – On Leap Day when over an inch of rain and 4+ inches of snow fell in the past 24 hours, this seems fitting. Spring starts on Tuesday, March 20th and promises flowers, green grass, and means we’re a little more than a week away from baseball (GO CUBS).  I don’t care how nice this winter has been, ’m looking forward to spring. Growing up, I associated spring with the winding down of the school year, maybe that’s why I look forward to it each year – if I could only find a way to get summers off again.

While we’re here, not that it is necessarily tied to spring, but our clocks ‘spring forward’ on Sunday, March 11th – go ahead and mark your calendars.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Podcast #4 - Local Author Dave Sietsema

--Recorded 2/24/12--
Our guest, Dave Sietsema, stops by the Pod to discuss his book 'Grace and Other Whispers of Hope' that was recently published. The book captures a journey in Dave's live where he picked up a pen to put his thoughts on paper to cope with his personal struggle. 'Grace' combines his words and some wonderful photography in a really well done final product.

You can pick up a copy locally from the Reader's Den on South Burr.
If you're looking online for a copy (or for more information) check out

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Monday, February 20, 2012

Channel 90's New Look / Survey Results

If you were checking out Channel 90 last week during at any time when games weren’t being shown, you probably saw a new look for what I call the splash screen. The splash screen is our way of running upcoming schedules / community events, current weather conditions and other items. The change was 100% the work of our employee Chris Tronnes, who wanted to come up with a better and more eye appealing layout. He did a such a good job, that we swapped the new look with our tired look and feel on Channel 7, the community channel.  Take a look at Channel 90 sometime and tell Chris what you think by emailing

Also over the past couple weeks, we’ve been asking our customers what they thought about our coverage on Channel 90. Our goal was to learn more about the use of the programming and how we might be able to improve the overall service. You can view the complete results here: -- otherwise, here’s some highlights…

The top graph shows the engagement we receive from our customer base for Channel 90. About 90% of customers watch the Channel each month, with a bulk of the viewers (roughly 38%) watching 1 – 3 events during the month. A sizable group (28%) watches 4 – 6 events each month and another 23% watches 7 or more events. That is much more engagement than I think we could have anticipated.
On the next two graphics, you’ll also see that while the coverage for the Kernels (83%), Tigers (60%), State Tournaments (68%) and City Council (42%) is all highly watched, it is the Kernel coverage that our customers really love – over half the responses said it was their favorite! I would have expected the Kernels to be somewhat of a fan favorite, but that margin surprised me.
Of note, our annual expanded State Tournament Coverage started this past weekend with State Gymnastics. We’ll also have State ‘AA’ Wrestling this week (Friday & Saturday) on Channel 91.

The fourth graphic shows what other programming options the respondents would like to see added to Channel 90. While there were a number of options that scored well, finding additional programming from our schools was the top option (43%). We’ll make this more of a priority going forward.
While we’re here, we do have some non-Mitchell High School Basketball in the upcoming weeks from the Corn Palace. We’ll be providing live coverage of the District 11B & 12B District Tournament (Boys & Girls), the Region 5B (Girls) Championship and the Region 6B (Boys & Girls) Championship. Check your guide for dates and times.

Also, this summer we’ll be rolling out coverage of the Mitchell Parks & Recreation Youth Baseball and Softball leagues.

We also asked respondents on what they would change or improve about our Channel 90 coverage. The only common response focused on audio issues (no game announcers, low audio from the City Council). We’re tracking those items currently and working on a solution to provide a more consistent experience regardless of where we broadcast. We’ve received some of that feedback through customer calls, but this provided some specific examples that should allow us to improve the signal.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Local Broadcast Channel Fee

Cable subscribers saw a small increase to their monthly bill this month (February) in the form of a Local Broadcast Channel Fee. That charge was a direct result from increased fees broadcasters levy for each cable customer with access to their channel. I feel like we owe customers a little more of an explanation on how we got to this point and I'm going to try to do that in three parts...

1. History: This topic goes back three years to our last retransmission agreement. (Quick Aside: a retransmission agreement is a contract Mitchell Telecom makes with local broadcasters to carry their channel. We couldn't carry these channels without an agreement and the agreements are renegotiated every three years.)

Prior to 2008 the signal was free, just like it would have been if the subscriber posted an antenna on their house and pulled the channel over the air. The rationalization for the free coverage was that cable providers expanded the footprint for broadcasters (and subsequently their advertisers) delivery their service (and advertisements) to more eyeballs. I can only assume that meant higher ad rates.

During 2008 our local broadcasters first added a monthly surcharge on cable customers for the ability to carry their channel. Fast forward to today and a new set of agreements brings a new set of these surcharges see dramatic increases in the neighborhood of 325%.

As a cable provider, we have no other recourse if we want the programming. We can’t shop around for another provider as the local broadcaster’s designated market area (DMA) is protected by the Federal Government.

2. Viewership / Business Changing: Historically I have to assume local broadcasters would have been nearly 100% advertiser supported. The local news was sponsored by ABC Hospital and XYZ Bank, other sponsors purchased 30-seconds spots during primetime programming – over the course of a month or year these ads paid the bills and made a nice margin for the owners. At some point, that model changed.

Advertisers weren’t willing to pay for these spots (or at least the rate they were being charged) as they found cheaper alternatives for placement mainly on cable networks and also on the Internet. That squeeze forced local broadcasters to change with the landscape or look for other means of revenue. To me, it appears they put a big bull’s eye on the back of the cable subscriber.

Please don’t read the above as an attack on the quality of programming made available by these broadcasters – it is quite valuable. However, I’m trying to point out that if you look back four years (when the service was free to cable subscribers) not much has changed with the service other than two big additions – expanded HD coverage and a hefty surcharge to cable subscribers.

3. End Result: Based on past customer feedback, we felt our cable product would not be very competitive without this group of local broadcasters. Through the different retransmission agreements, we acquired the rights for channels that represent the second most expensive block of channels we offer. After the 325% increase starting in 2012 the local broadcast block of channels accounts for over 10% of the programming costs within our basic package. The result? Higher cost service and a $1.20 Local Broadcast Fee.

Please understand, this post is completely from a biased perspective – I work for a cable provider and I think our customers are getting a raw deal. That said, my biggest point of frustration is pretty simple in my eyes…if I as a customer wanted to do away with cable service and pick up the signal over-the-air, I have no programming costs associated with the service. BUT, by connecting via a cable provider I’m forced to pay a premium. What?

Got other questions? Email us at

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Podcast #3 w/ MTI President Greg Von Wald

I had a lot of fun with this one - Greg is great to catch up with and always has somehting interesting to share. Today, we focused on a couple new programs (Welding and Manufacturing Technologies & Farm Power) coming to Mitchell Technical Institute next fall. Well worth 30 minutes of your time if I don't say so myself!

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Podcast #2: Doug and Hannah stop by to discuss the Corn Palace

--Recorded 1/31/12--

We caught up with two members of the Chamber's Tourism / Corn Palace Area Development Committee to discuss the recently unveiled concept for a revamped Corn Palace.

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