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Transition to Digital Signals Got You Down? FFC Knows How to Help 

What would you do if the cable signal in your health club stopped working? Think about it. You would have to deal with an endless string of complaints and a large number of angry members while trying to find the source of the problem and remedy the situation as quickly and effectively as possible.

Six years ago, Greg Cibura, Chief Technology Officer for Chicago’s Fitness Formula Clubs (FFC), found himself in this exact position.

Miscommunication often plagues these types of situations, so Cibura called his cable company regarding FFC’s billing cycle in order to assess the scope of the problem.  After hours of being on hold, he was able to reach a representative who informed him that all his clubs’ accounts were in good standing & there were no area outages. The problem, was that the cable provider pulled their analog signal, and the TV signal wouldn’t function without a receiver, or set top box.

Cibura questioned why his provider had not notified him of these impending changes. When asked, the cable company defended itself saying the information was public knowledge, as they had previously published two advertisements in the Chicago Sun-Times indicating that this transition to digital would take place within two weeks time even if businesses chose not to comply.

With this transition to digital, each cardio machine at one of FFC’s clubs would have required the addition of a receiver or set top box – a move that would increase FFC’s monthly bill from $65/month to $1,700/month.

In light of this news, Cibura refused and decided to do some independent research.

“I had to educate myself instantly and become fully ingrained in the subject matter, “ he said, “Otherwise, it could have been weeks or even months before this issue was fully resolved.”

After gathering intelligence and speaking with various local experts within and outside of the health club industry, Cibura eventually settled on an agreement with a satellite TV provider– who had anticipated the cable company’s transition and created a more reasonable alternative to it’s competitors’ high-cost solution.

The solution for Cibura came from a satellite TV provider offering what is known as a “head-end” system that uses multiple receivers to modulate and combine channels and then output them on an analog signal.  Despite the fact that implementing this type of system would cost roughly $3,000-$5,000, after that one-time fee, this solution would bring the cost down to about $140/month for each of FFC’s club locations – a significant cost reduction from the proposed $1,700/month Cibura’s old cable provider would have charged.

Despite the more affordable cost, installation also proved to be a challenge. A dish needs to be placed on the rooftop of your business in order to receive this kind of signal, so in this instance, it was necessary to check with each building’s board of directors to ensure that doing this would not violate any regulation codes or irritate any residents who would find the view of the dish less than aesthetically pleasing.

As an added annoyance, satellite head end units are generally large and require an adequate amount of space to operate efficiently.

However, after some consideration, Fitness Formula Clubs remedied their problem and decided that choosing satellite TV would provide the best experience for their members at the most cost-effective price.

In the words of Cibura, “There’s so much misinformation out there right now, but everyone knows a little piece of the puzzle.”

Have you run into this problem? If so, what solutions has your club come up with?

If you are addressing this issue, let us know and as always, if you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact IHRSA at  

Reader Comments (1)

My facility also went through a similar issue with the cable company. When the cable company changed from an analog to a digital signal our club had no service. After speaking to their business manager we were assured that if we chose to stay with the cable company that we would have superior picture quality and an improved system for a slightly higher cost. The choice at the time was to either stay with cable or go to a satellite system. At the time we chose to stay with the cable company for several reasons including down time and a previous issue with satellite reception going in and out with weather conditions. As for the promise of superior picture quality, the picture quality did not improve. When we contacted the cable company they said we would have further upgrade our package (more money) to receive the better quality picture ( this fact was left out when they quoted the new system). Also, the digital upgrade required a receiver box and either a channel selector box or a remote to be mounted to every cardio unit. After installation we found that the wireless system they sold us would not work due to the fact that the wireless signal would be picked up on several units in the same area at the same time. This meant that when a member changed a channel on one unit then all units in the same area automatically changed to that same channel. It took weeks to get another new "wired" system installed. The wired system fixed the problem but gave us another problem. The wiring for the remotes were light duty and failed on a regular basis. Anytime we reported an issue they would send a repairman out to replace the defective wiring but would charge us anywhere from $95 to $175 to replace the defective wires. We currently still have cable but are still very unhappy with the service received versus the service we were promised.
June 3, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterStace Beecham

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