August 2022 Update to U-M Cable TV Service

On August 15, 2022, the technology underlying the campus television network was updated by our content provider to ensure continued reliability. This change may affect the performance of some older televisions. This page contains background information and tells you how you can check whether televisions operated by your unit are fully compatible with this update. 

In technical terms, the digital TV signal for most high definition (HD) channels changed from being based on the MPEG-2 compression standard to the MPEG-4 standard. MPEG-4 is the prevailing industry standard for digital television compression and existing MPEG-2 distribution equipment is no longer supportable.

Most televisions produced in the last 10-12 years support MPEG-4. For those TVs, accommodating the change to MPEG-4 will be a simple matter of re-scanning the channel line-up. The TV will then successfully receive the updated signal.

Some older televisions will be unable to properly receive the updated HD channels because their tuners lack an MPEG-4 decoder. Those TVs would be unable to display video on MPEG-4 HD channels.

This change does not affect two groups of channels:

  • The locally broadcast channels, including local ABC, CBC, CBS, CS, FOX, NBC and PBS affiliates, continue to be carried in HD using MPEG-2.
  • Standard definition (SD) channels continue to be carried using MPEG-2.

A television without an MPEG-4 decoder will still be able to receive the locally broadcast channels (in HD), plus any of the over 150 standard definition channels currently in the lineup. MPEG-4 channels will display as a black screen with sound. Again, we expect that only televisions older than 10-12 years will be limited in this way.

You can test today whether TVs operated by your unit will be affected by this update by taking the following steps:

  1. Go to any television that has a U-M television connection and re-scan the channels. This is typically an option within the television's menus using its remote control.
  2. Tune the television to channel 400. If you see a test pattern, the TV has passed the test and is able to receive MPEG-4 broadcasts. If you see a black screen, it's a sign that the television is not able to decode MPEG-4. In either case you should hear audio on the channel.

If a television is unable to display channel 400 as described above, you could choose to replace it or to leave it in service to view the local broadcast channels and standard definition channels. You can use a filter at the U-M cable television channel lineup page to generate a list of the MPEG-2 channels. 

To provide feedback and ask questions about this update, please send email to: its.tv.feedback@umich.edu.