Slogging toward new TV technology
THE new fall television season is underway, the Super Bowl is coming, it's 2007 and Hawaii still doesn't have all its network affiliates or their shows available in high definition.
Why doesn't KHON's Fox prime time programming look as good as it could?
PBS Hawaii is MIA in HD because ...?
And, whither KGMB, carrier of the Feb. 4 Super Bowl XLI?
Local network affiliate stations do transmit their networks' HD programming over the air, for free.
But at issue is the large percentage of Hawaii's population that relies on Oceanic Time Warner Cable, to whom they pay subscription fees, to receive television of any kind.
KHON, KITV (ABC) and KHNL (NBC) have channels in Oceanic Time Warner Cable's high-definition channel package. The networks' HD programming is aired on those channels, but with one exception, locally produced shows are in standard definition.
High-definition television is not cheap for anyone, from consumer to network-level broadcaster or anyone else along the way.
Networks spend mounds of moola to create programs in HD, which take up a lot of expensive bandwidth to send around to affiliates.
Many of those affiliates don't have equipment that will record network shows in true HD for playback during prime time, so they record shows on standard definition equipment and use upconverters to send the shows out at the best possible resolution -- but not true HD.
Then we get to your house, where your uber-expensive HDTV can receive HD signals over the air, or, via additional equipment provided by a multichannel distributor, such as a cable company or satellite television service.
That, of course, costs extra money too.
"Any of our sports shows, aired live that are from the network, those are in full HD," said Joe McNamara, president and general manager of KHON-TV, Hawaii's Fox affiliate.
"We have the only locally produced HD show ... "In Tune," which airs Sundays at 6:30 and 10:30 (p.m.)," he said.
When it comes to prime time shows such as "24," "American Idol," and "House," "they're in a reduced HD format at this time and we're working with the network on a solution. It's how they provide it to us," he said.
Another possible fix could come from the supplier of KHON servers that receive and send out the shows. The company is considering using KHON as a beta-testing site for software that will adjust the way the shows are received and sent, he said.
"We'd be able to do it right away ... I don't see any loss," said McNamara.
PBS Hawaii, or KHET-TV, for us analog TV dinosaurs, receives four to six hours of true HD programming each week from PBS national, said Steve Komori, vice president of content delivery.
For over-the-air HD viewers, PBS Hawaii is also multicasting, or sending out more than one program stream: KHET as well as a second channel, Create, which carries do-it-yourself type shows.
It is those two channels that hope to find homes alongside other broadcast brethren in Oceanic's Ch. 80- and 90-tier as well as in its HD tier of Channels in the 900-range. Oceanic currently offers 16 channels in its $6.95 a month HD package.
Former PBS Hawaii CEO Mike McCartney and Oceanic President Nate Smith have "reached an accord," Smith said yesterday.
McCartney is now head of the state Democratic Party but still serves PBS Hawaii as a consultant. Getting PBS additional channels on Oceanic was something the station asked him to continue working on, said Karen Yamamoto, chief financial officer and interim CEO.
"We agreed to all the issues. Now it's just the technical side, putting it in writing. I think we're close and I'm pleased that it will go forward," she said. There is no set deadline, but all involved are hoping it will be ASAP, she said.
As for an HD airing of that upcoming annual broadcast showcase of expensive advertising, er, football game in So-Fla, hope springs eternal.
"Nate and I are having serious discussions to see if we can't make it happen," said Rick Blangiardi, senior vice president and general manager of KGMB-TV, Hawaii's CBS affiliate.
The sticking point is, "we have parent companies that have a different view of the world ... but at the end of the day we are trying to come up with a win-win situation."
Smith is looking at an agreement beyond a one-time broadcast of a football game.
"Rick and I are definitely not at loggerheads. We are definitely trying to find a path that can appease both of our (corporate) masters" and the viewers.
is a reporter with the Star-Bulletin. Call 529-4747, fax 529-4750 or write to Erika Engle, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., No. 7-210, Honolulu, HI 96813. She can also be reached at: email@example.com