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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, September 2, 2006

NFL games in HDTV remains spotty

By Sean Hao
Advertiser Staff Writer

Are you ready for some football? Some high-definition football? Well if you're a Time Warner Oceanic Cable customer, you won't be watching this season's Sunday morning NFL games in hue-hammering HD.

What you can get in the new, high-quality TV format once the season starts on Thursday are the Sunday night and Monday night games, which are aired by KHNL and ESPN respectively. However, disagreements between Oceanic and Fox affiliate KHON and CBS affiliate KGMB means daytime Sunday NFL games won't be offered in high definition on cable. It's the same situation as last season.

Some homes can still catch KHON and KGMB digital programming via over-the-air broadcasts. However, most homes in Hawai'i get their TV signals from cable in part because local topography makes it impossible for Windward and valley residents to receive some broadcast TV signals. And Oceanic is the dominant TV provider, with about 400,000 Hawai'i customers.

Just recently, NBC affiliate KHNL joined ABC affiliate KITV in having its HD programming carried by Oceanic Cable. However, both KHON and KGMB have failed to reach similar agreements with Oceanic. One hurdle is that the stations want to be compensated for providing Oceanic Cable with added HD programming. Oceanic Cable, which does not pay local TV stations for rights to offer their standard-definition channels, doesn't want to pay for HD versions of those channels.

Grant Morrow, director of engineering for KGMB, said there was little hope the station's parent company, Indianapolis-based Emmis Communications Corp., and Oceanic could reach an agreement anytime soon.

"I wish I had an update for you, but unfortunately it just isn't happening," he said.

Similarly, KHON general manager Joe McNamara said negotiations with the cable company have yet to result in an agreement. McNamara said he was hoping an agreement could be reached before the start of the NFL season.

"It looks like that deadline is going to come and go," he said. "If people want to complain, I would suggest they let Time Warner know their feelings about it."

Alan Pollock, vice president of marketing for Oceanic, said talks with the two TV stations continue.

"We do want to get all the networks on board and it just hasn't happened," he said.

Nationally, the number of households watching HD programming is rising sharply, according to research firm In-Stat. The number of households with HDTV service is projected to grow from 15 million in mid-2006 to 20.3 million at the end of 2006.

However, there is still a disconnect between HD services and the penetration of HDTV sets. Only one-third of U.S. households with HD-capable TV sets are actually using them to watch HD programming, In-Stat reported.

In Hawai'i, only about 25,000, or about 6 percent, of Oceanic Cable's customers subscribe to HDTV services, the company said.

Reach Sean Hao at shao@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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