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."
Visualize Lafayette’s next great thing from 3,000 feet.
A Baton Rouge judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday against enforcing a law that prohibits anyone 70 or older from running for justice of the peace or constable.
Gov. Bobby Jindal believes the last-minute passage of a pension hike for his state police superintendent, Col. Mike Edmonson, was improperly handled, according to the governor's office.
As the courts hash out the attempts to preserve and shelve Common Core in Louisiana, a group of six state lawmakers are planning an Aug. 22 trip to Oklahoma to meet with their counterparts and strategize for the 2015 regular session.
While hopes are high for turnout this fall, a new report from the Center for the Study of the American Electorate suggests that Louisiana's midterm face-offs may amount to nothing special in terms of votes cast.
The attorney hired by the Lafayette Parish School Board for a special investigation of Superintendent Pat Cooper has submitted his final report, though it may be another week before the findings are made public.
Poachers killing elephants at increasing rates; independent autopsy on Brown; Gaza truce continues and more national and international news for Tuesday, August 19, 2014.
Tuesday's Blogs from the Bog!
The Tea Party of Louisiana is calling Sen. David Vitter a “turncoat” for his newfound embrace of Common Core educational standards.
An annual report evaluating Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of Medicaid lacked important financial information and presented rosy performance reviews not corroborated by data, according to a review released Monday.
Lafayette attorney Michelle Meaux-Breaux has announced her plans to seek the Division E seat for judge in the 15th Judicial District.
A card-carrying member of Lafayette’s “tribe,” Milton “Spider” Guidry died over the weekend. IND music writer Nick Pittman remembers the character and the man.
As tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, Mo., between law enforcement and residents protesting the shooting death of a local teen by police, we’re reminded of the peculiar circumstances surrounding the in-custody death earlier this year of a New Iberia man.
A group of teachers and parents who support Common Core is asking a state judge to invalidate Gov. Bobby Jindal's actions against the multi-state education standards.
Drew Brees walked up to the line of scrimmage early Sunday, taking a snap during the New Orleans Saints' pre-practice walk-through.
A state judge Friday refused a temporary injunction sought against state education officials in an effort to block implementation of the Common Core education standards in Louisiana.
UL was the consensus pick in a coaches' preseason poll to win the league, and experience has a lot to do with that.
The price tag has nearly doubled for Gov. Bobby Jindal's hiring of an outside consulting firm to recommend new ways to balance the state budget.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is under scrutiny for billing private chartered planes to her Senate office when she used the flights to attend campaign fundraisers.
Many people found not guilty by reason of insanity are being held in Louisiana jails, where they cannot get the treatment they need, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday.
In a just-released audio recording, City Prosecutor Gary Haynes claims Mike Harson had direct dealings with the alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme in the DA’s office.
C-P councilmen sponsor a resolution in support of the notion that one should subscribe to Tea Party ideas about civics before being allowed to seek public office.
Russel Honoré, the retired U.S. Army general known for his role in restoring order to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and most recently for his involvement in the Green Army movement to stop environmental abuses of Louisiana, has now weighed in on the police response to protestors in Ferguson, Mo.
More than three dozen restaurants, bars, convenience stores and supermarkets in Lafayette Parish are facing fines in connection with the state office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control’s 2014 “Summer Crackdown.”
The grim news, delivered to the joint legislative budget committee, barely raised eyebrows at the committee hearing, after more than six years of such disappointing financial forecasts.