How Sunshine Can Put Your Favorite Cable Shows on Ice
The autumn and spring equinoxes mean changing weather, and the possibility that you might miss a few minutes of The Golden Girls on cable. Don’t panic — your reception will be back shortly. And spoiler alert: there’s a good chance Blanche and company resolved their problems over cheesecake.
Many cable customers are unaware that annual sun outages occur every spring and fall. While an inconvenience, these service interruptions are brief and predictable. The culprit? Solar radiation.
How the Sun’s Position Disrupts Satellite Transmissions
Every spring and fall in the Northern Hemisphere, the position of the sun can interfere with cable TV reception.
“There’s a whole bunch of satellites in the sky that feed video services,” explains Golden West Video Engineer Anthony Sterkel. “Twice a year, the sun is positioned directly in line with the ground-based satellite dish antennas used to receive our CATV programming. The rays of the sun basically overwhelm the frequencies that the satellites are sending.”
This solar interference causes background noise that can disrupt cable broadcasts. Fortunately, downtime is minimal.
“As the earth rotates, it passes that particular satellite and then the sun moves on, hitting the next satellite in the arc,” Anthony continues. “Interruptions only last between five and 15 minutes.”
While we know approximately when these outages will occur, it’s impossible to determine which broadcasts will be affected.
“It just depends on which channels are on which satellite,” Anthony says. “Turner might be on one satellite, ESPN on another. Different channels get hit at different times.”
Sun Outages Affect All Cable Providers
When the digital signal is interrupted by a sun outage, you’re likely to experience the following:
- Receivers will display “one moment please” while trying to view the affected channels.
- Tiling of channel(s) — pixelated images and/or audio distortion — may occur.
If you have a DVR, recorded programs are unaffected by sun outages. The same holds true for internet and phone service.
Sun outages are not exclusive to Golden West. They affect every cable provider regardless of size and geographical location.
As frustrating as outages can be, it’s important to remember that no platform is immune from disruption. Satellite TV broadcasts are subject to the whims of Mother Nature and can be affected by rain, snow, and other adverse weather conditions year-round. At least with cable TV, sun outages occur only during brief, predictable periods every spring and fall.
If you experience an unusually long outage that persists longer than 20 minutes, please contact Golden West at 855-888-7777, option 2.