Can't See Must See TV Can’t See Must See TV
There Is an Easy Solution
The stalemate between Time-Warner cable and local NBC affiliate KXAN TV annoys many Austin and Central Texas viewers. As if the stock market and credit crunch were not enough, you may not be able to enjoy your favorite news, weather, or mind candy on KXAN TV or the other stations owned by LIN TV in the Austin area. If you would rather read the newspaper or get your news from the Internet, you would have no problem. However, if you, like most Americans, still get most of your news from television, and you happen to like KXAN TV/NBC, their stand-off is just one more reason for playing guitar, spending quality time with your family, or taking a cooling-off walk in the Hill Country autumn air. Even then, however, there is the problem of ragweed and red-berry juniper allergens.
The Background: The KXAN TV Time Warner Cable is more than a small spat. KXAN TV’s owner, LIN TV is battling Time-Warner in eleven markets where they coexist. This battle is not confined to Central Texas. With eleven markets, 15 TV stations, and 2.7-million Time Warner subscribers in the mix, this makes for a lot of negotiating. The stand-off with LIN TV has been brewing for decades. For years, Time Warner in Austin took KXAN’s signal off the air with an antenna, explaining why the KXAN picture appeared inferior. Finally, about a decade ago, Time Warner agreed to a direct feed. It was in KXAN’s best interest to be hard-wired.
Now, with most all media stocks in a downward spiral, LIN is looking for revenue wherever it can find it. So, LIN is demanding compensation for the “free” programming Time-Warner is using. TWC knows that any agreement with LIN could create a far-reaching precedent for future negotiations.
In San Antonio, Time Warner and ABC affiliate KSAT say they reached an “agreement in principle” keeping that station on cable. But in Austin, negotiators for neither side are blinking. This disagreement could last a while.
Both LIN and TWC are trying to make more money in an era when “new media” are slicing off chunks of revenue. The revenue pie is getting smaller, and the so-called “new media” facilitated by the Internet are taking a larger and larger piece of the revenue pie. It is ironic that TWC encouraged disgruntled viewers to go to the Internet to watch NBC programming, when it is the new media that are contributing heavily to the slow cash flow at both the cable and TV station.
Of course, TWC is an Internet service provider, and KXAN is often streaming video of its newscasts over those same high-speed cable wires.
The Alternatives: The problem for many, especially those not living in Central Austin, is that there may be few alternative television providers. Also, in the Hill Country, there may be limited Internet provider service. So, the choice is either Time-Warner Cable or satellite TV. KXAN is suggesting that viewers saw off Time Warner and hook up to Dish. Satellite TV may not satisfy everyone’s needs, however. What about Grande Cable, AT&T U-verse, or Verizon FiOS?
Verizon FiOS’ Central Texas penetration is limited. AT&T’s U-verse appears very useful and promising. AT&T is working furiously, trying to reach more and more in the Austin market. Their DVR records up to four shows at one time, and the show recorded on the one DVR can be watched on any TV in the house. Nice. “We've been expanding U-verse availability at a rapid pace, and now we're expanding the number of consumers who can learn about the benefits of AT&T U-verse and order the service,” said Glenn Lurie, president of national distribution for AT&T.Whether you have U-verse in your area is hard to say. The best advice is to check with AT&T U-verse on a case-by-case, address-by-address basis. AT&T must be making progress, judging from the expensive ads running now in the local newspaper. Further, it can be “bundled” with other services, possibly saving money. Possibly not, depending on choices and phone fees.
Grande Communications likewise is still in the process of building out its network, but if there is demand, they might come. “People making calls requesting service drives our expansion.” A customer service representative said.
If an Austin or Central Texas viewer is stuck with Time-Warner because of availability a “bundling” deal or by choice, there is still a good way of dealing with the absence of KXAN TV.
The Solution is of Necessity: At midnight February 17th, 2009 all analogue TV channels will go dark, and TV stations will be broadcasting only on digital frequencies. If a viewer has a cable, fiber optic, or satellite provider, there is no problem. But, if someone is still using an old-fashioned antenna, the sets will show “snow”. In anticipation of that, the Federal Communications Commission is making it relatively easy to see your favorite local stations and much more. Every household is eligible to get two $40 digital converter box coupons from the government. (https://www.dtv2009.gov/) They come in the form of credit cards. The boxes cost about $50. So, you will pay about $10 for each box. A cable customer may want the boxes as a back-up in case TW Cable goes out.
Now, however, viewers may use the boxes to receive KXAN/NBC broadcasts. They work best with amplified "rabbit ears" and connected through the AV ports. That way you can leave your cable hooked up. Directions come with the boxes. All you have to do is click the A/V or Video button on your remote, and there is KXAN!
Viewers can pick up much more than KXAN TV and its NBC programming using the converter box. The local stations have extra channels in the digital spectrum. KVUE 2 has weather 24/7. KEYE has “retro” TV shows. KXAN’s sister station KNVA is available too. KLRU is broadcasting KLRU 2. Another cool thing about the converter box is that there is no “ghosting” (Remember the foil on the antenna?) If you do not want to wait for the coupon, you can just go buy one.
With this option, you might not care how long it takes before someone blinks in the KXAN V Time Warner war.
© Jim McNabb