CW TV mostly MIA in Hawaii
Only viewers with access to KHON-DT were able to view the debut of the network
Monday's debut of the CW Network in Hawaii was available to far fewer residents than hoped.
Only those able to tune in to KHON-TV's secondary digital channel, known as KHON-DT, over the air, would have been able to watch the upstart network's shows.
Estimates of that audience range from fewer than 2,000 to as many as 6,600 on Oahu, according to Honolulu television and cable executives.
One delay in getting the CW to most households is the lack of a carriage agreement between KHON and Oceanic Time Warner Cable.
Rather than just negotiate a channel for the CW or for KHON's high-definition signal, Oceanic President Nate Smith said he suggested, "why don't we do them all at once?" to Joe McNamara, president and general manager of KHON.
McNamara did not return Star-Bulletin calls yesterday.
KHON is carried on Oceanic's basic cable lineup on Channel 3, but to add availability, "we're suggesting digital KHON on Channel 83, the CW on 93 ... and somewhere in the 900s, HD KHON," Smith said.
Both KHON, owned by California-based Montecito Broadcast Group LLC and Oceanic, owned by New York-based Time Warner Inc., are accountable to corporate headquarters. That means proposals that cross a conference table in Hawaii get bounced to the mainland, which adds time to the negotiating process.
Channels 3, 83 and the 900-level channel would carry Fox-affiliate KHON's programming.
Basic cable customers don't receive Oceanic's digital or HD services and would not receive KHON on Channel 83, or at the 900-level. Nor would they receive the CW on Channel 93.
"We further said to Joe that if he could get permission from the CW, we would put the previous shows on On Demand so the viewers could catch up," Smith said.
The CW's fall season started Sept. 20, but it did not have a Hawaii affiliate until last week. Fans of shows that formerly aired on the WB and UPN, which merged to form the CW, have missed several episodes -- and most are still missing their shows.
Oceanic would offer CW replays on either Channel 330 or 332, free for subscribers to its digital or high-definition HD Entertainment Pak services.
McNamara previously told the Star-Bulletin that once a CW show airs in the market, it cannot be rerun, which would make unlimited viewing via on-demand unlikely, unless the CW relaxes its restrictions.
The HD Entertainment Pak includes 14 HD channels such as Discovery, Showtime and ESPN, as well as local stations KITV on 936 and KHNL on 938. Digital cable customers may upgrade to HD service for $6.95 a month, but it only benefits viewers with high-definition TV sets.
"Across the state we have more than 180,000 digital customers," said Norman Santos, Oceanic's vice president of operations. About 20,000 of those pay for the HD service, he said.
"The thing that is not ever talked about is that the off-air broadcasters like KITV, KHNL and soon hopefully KHON receive those HD signals for free (from their networks) as part of an FCC mandate. Thus, if we get the signal for free we send it out for free to those that have HDTVs," said Santos.
High-definition television sets are coming down in price and finding themselves in more homes, but they are not yet priced for the masses.
Many early buyers of HDTVs did not connect the sets to a source of HD programming, and thus were not receiving true HD signals or picture quality.
"Now, people are starting to buy HD sets with receivers in them," said Mike Rosenberg, president and general manager of KITV and an HDTV viewer.
Built-in HD receivers -- sometimes called tuners -- allow reception of local stations' over-the-air HD signals, but are not a guarantee.
"With a digital signal, you either get a really, really good picture, or you get nothing," Rosenberg said.
For those who receive nothing, additional help, such as a cable or satellite service HD connection, is required.