If you invested a thousand or so bucks in an HD TV set (one with a built-in digital tuner), don't fret. All you have to do is prop a digital antenna (available locally for $75 to $150 at stores like Ricky Smith's Audio) on top of your set or in your attic (for better reception), use the auto program feature to tell the TV set to search for the over-the-air digital channels and voila, you're watching the game in HD on Channel 56.
It's as easy as going from watching a DVD back to cable.
So why can't you just switch the cable remote to Cox's 700 channels and get CBS in HD like you do for ABC, NBC, FOX and other networks? Because Cox and local CBS affiliate KLFY have yet to strike a deal to bring it to you.
"Cox is playing hardball," says KLFY General Manager Mike Barras. "Their attitude is, 'I'm the big boy, and you either take what I offer or don't take anything.'"
No thanks, Barras told Cox more than a year ago. He says the negotiation impasse has nothing to do with KLFY seeking monetary compensation for Cox to carry its signal in the HD lineup ' an issue so heated in the mid-1990s that KLFY almost went black on the cable system ' but rather his right to control programming. He explains that once digital is fully integrated ' the Federal Communications Commission's ever-changing deadline is now February 2009 ' KLFY will be able to "multicast," or broadcast a number of signals on its Channel 56 spectrum. In essence, KLFY could offer different programs on channels 56-1, 56-2, 56-3, 56-4. Unlike analog, digital channels can be compressed to allow multiple channels ' primarily an HD core channel and subsets of digital channels ' on the same spectrum.
Barras says KLFY might want to run weather 24 hours a day on one channel, or high school football games or news re-runs; he wants the right to dictate his programming. "We're not asking Cox for money," he says. "They want the option to reject [the programming KLFY chooses]. They can't do that, they can't tell us what to program or not to program. We won't let them do that because we want to be able to control what we put out. That's the only sticking point."
Andrew Shenkan's tact a year ago was quite different from Barras'. The general manager of ABC affiliate KATC, Shenkan says nothing would have stopped him from getting on the HD lineup in time for the 2006 Super Bowl game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks, which ABC broadcast. "We [Cox and KATC] came to terms on that deal in January 2006 because we wanted people to get used to viewing us in HD and because the Super Bowl is the perfect launch. It has such a huge audience. I was adamant about it, and of course Cox wanted it, too."
Though he would not disclose terms of the negotiations, the KATC official says he was happy with the outcome. "We are exchanging value. We're being compensated," he says. "We got multicast as part of our agreement," Shenkan continues. "I would not have entered into the agreement if I had not gotten it. When we're ready to program a sub-channel on our digital tier, we will approach Cox to clear that channel." Shenkan predicts he'll launch a sub-channel, which the FCC says must offer three hours per week of children's programming, in the next 12 to 18 months.
Despite the impending deadline of the big game, Cox spokeswoman Sharon Kleinpeter is hopeful the Super Bowl will be televised locally on the Cox system in HD. "We certainly would like to have a resolution to the negotiations by that time," she says. "We have a few weeks, and it's been going on for a while, so it's not like we're starting from scratch."
Barras says he'd be willing to discuss a temporary solution that would put KLFY on Cox's HD lineup in time for the Super Bowl, "if the temporary deal includes allowing me to program what I want."
And while negotiations between Cox and KLFY haven't progressed much on the HD side, the situation could worsen when analog is phased out in the next couple of years. If the two parties don't come to an agreement that gives KLFY total control of its programming, Barras says he'll likely be off the cable system altogether.
Such negotiation standoffs certainly aren't exclusive to Lafayette and have been going on for many years. "This is a big topic," says Shenkan. "Broadcasters and cable companies are at odds [across the country]."
Lafayette cable subscribers, take heart ' the situation could be much worse. On Jan. 4 The Times-Picayune reported that WWL-TV's analog signal may go dark on the Cox cable system a few days before the Super Bowl due to a negotiation impasse between Cox and WWL's parent company over Cox adding CBS affiliate WWL to its HD lineup in New Orleans. That'd mean a total Super Bowl cable blackout in the Crescent City.
Cox notified its customers of the potential change, and WWL fired back with a missive on its Web site and included the phone number to Cox's office to incite viewer protest. "This pathetic practice ' enlisting viewers and subscribers as soldiers in corporate-level maneuvers, when we are, in fact, actually hostages ' is apparently an irreversible trend," wrote Times-Picayune reporter Dave Walker.
Already this year, at least one stalemate led to a mad rush for rabbit ears when Sinclair Broadcast Group pulled 22 of its stations off Mediacom Communications Corp.'s cable systems in 13 states. The two groups failed to negotiate a retransmission agreement for the cable company to carry Sinclair's programming, with Sinclair claiming the cable company would not meet its asking price. Mediacom responded by providing antennas to thousands of subscribers, maintaining that it shouldn't pay for what's free over the air ' an argument Cox has long held in Lafayette.
Broadcast affiliates in a cable company's designated market area can opt for what's called "must carry," whereby the cable operator is obligated to carry the station for no compensation (must carry applies only to analog). If the station chooses to negotiate "retransmission consent" of its over-the-air signal, the two parties decide on any number of payment options. Sometimes the cable company pays per subscriber, like it does with CNN and ESPN, with on-air advertising or by carrying digital broadcast sub-channels. Also, the cable company may compensate the broadcaster through partnerships for local news re-run channels like WWL's NewsWatch 15 in New Orleans. In some retransmission consent cases, however, there is no payment or exchange of value because the cable company typically increases the signal's reach and quality, which enables the station to reap greater ad revenue.
Shenkan says he can't fathom a situation that would result in KATC removing itself from Cox's cable system, where it reaches 114,000 households in a six-parish area under a must-carry agreement.
KLFY chose retransmission consent for its analog signal.
"I respect [Barras'] judgment, but his business plan is not my business plan," the KATC official says. "The rules have changed, and we're going to aggressively seek out every platform available to us. There will be others as the future unfolds."
State Rep. Lenar Whitney — one of a handful of Republican candidates vying for Louisiana’s 6th Congressional district — has been described by Cook Political Report analyst David Wasserman as one of the most “frightening or fact-averse candidate[s]” he’s ever met following her reaction to an interview last week.
Mid-August hearing dates have been set for dueling lawsuits over Louisiana's use of the Common Core education standards in public schools.
An investigation into the last-minute passage of a pension hike for the state police superintendent continues, despite Col. Mike Edmonson's decision not to accept the increase.
Safety Jairus Byrd practiced with the New Orleans Saints on Tuesday for the first time since his signing in March.
Sentencing has been delayed for a businessman who provided key testimony in the corruption case that resulted in the conviction of former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.
The spectre of priest sex abuse has returned to haunt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Lafayette following the recent release of an investigative report by Minnesota Public Radio, revealing new allegations of another child predator hiding behind the clerical collar.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Times Square impersonator crackdown; Israel shells Gaza school; Russia hit with sanctions and more national and international news for Wednesday, July 30, 2014.
The sponsor of a Louisiana law that requires doctors that perform abortions to have hospital admitting privileges doesn't believe the provision is in jeopardy after a federal appeals court struck down a similar Mississippi law.
Louisiana's state school board has jumped into a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal that accuses the governor of illegally meddling in education policy through his efforts to block Common Core education standards.
Here's how one nationally recognized conservative political pundit reacted upon hearing the news Monday that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was leaning toward an endorsement of Louisiana’s lone Democrat senator.
With the qualifying deadline for Lafayette Parish School Board elections quickly approaching, a series of candidate forums have been announced by the Lafayette Parish Public Education Stakeholders Council.
The investigation and potential prosecution of the man charged in the recent hit-and-run death of a Youngsville cyclist won’t happen overnight, according to local law enforcement officials.
Louisiana's state school board is holding a special meeting to consider whether to sue Gov. Bobby Jindal in an ongoing dispute over the Common Core education standards.
A bipartisan congressional deal to help improve veterans' health care access includes approval for new veterans clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles.
It wouldn’t be a first, however, as the Chamber has thrown money behind Landrieu before.
The Democratic incumbent, seeking her fourth term in office, is a strong supporter of the Export-Import Bank, which helps finance exports of U.S. companies.
The world is a politically tense place these days with hot spots ranging from the Middle East to Ukraine. In Louisiana and Mississippi, where the political chessboard tends to be a lot less threatening and at times entertaining, this election season is living up to expectations.
Louisiana has joined nine other states in support of Indiana’s appeal of a federal judge’s ruling that the Hoosier State’s ban on sam-sex marriage violates the Constitution.
The Saints are being cautious in an effort to minimize risk of re-injury.
LSU Health Sciences Center says people with a common, hard-to-treat kind of lung cancer can join a new national trial to test drugs faster.
As New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and general manager Mickey Loomis spoke about the opening of training camp, steep, tree-covered mountains were in full view behind them.
The family of fallen cyclist Lon Lomas is speaking out after the release this week of the man charged with his death.
"The solutions are obvious: undo consolidation, or amend the charter to make this hybrid attempt at a new form of government work better."
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is considering whether to get involved in a lawsuit against Gov. Bobby Jindal for his attempts to undermine use of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana's public schools.