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Fox TV fans switch to dish

Thu., Jan. 4, 2007

North Idaho sports fans ticked off over the fact that they can’t get Fox TV on Time Warner Cable are overwhelming local satellite television companies.

Andrew Wascisin, a technician at All American Satellite in Post Falls, said Wednesday that the dispute between local Fox affiliate KAYU and Time Warner Cable has been a “godsend” for business.

“This whole Fox thing has done a killing for our industry,” he said, adding that satellite system installations have jumped 50 percent to 100 percent daily since Time Warner, the second-largest cable operator in the U.S., stopped carrying KAYU.

“Most of it is because of football fans,” said Wascisin, who is frequently approached by people who see the DirecTV logo on his rig. “I’m getting sales just by stopping for gas.”

With the college football bowl season wrapping up and National Football League playoffs at hand, some viewers are switching to satellite TV because they don’t want to miss another game. Others are gearing up for Fox’s new seasons of “24” and “American Idol,” both premiering in mid-month.

KAYU has refused to allow Time Warner to have its signal for free, even though it’s broadcast free over the air. The station’s position is that if Time Warner is charging customers for Fox, Time Warner should pay for it, too.

So since mid-December, about 45,000 Time Warner customers in the Coeur d’Alene, Pullman-Moscow and Libby, Mont., areas haven’t been able to get Fox over their cable system.

No Fiesta Bowl. No Orange Bowl. No Sugar Bowl.

“We were lucky enough to have gone to the Time Warner studio to pick up the switch and rabbit ears so that we could watch the Boise State game,” said Gay Glasson, whose son attends the college.

“The overall experience was so pitiful, however, that my husband is more than considering dropping Time Warner and switching to whatever service out there that will actually give us some service. We are sports fanatics and refuse to go to all the hassle anytime we want to watch a (now fuzzy) broadcast on Fox,” she said.

Coeur d’Alene resident Roy Tiefisher said, “It’s kind of like a Scrooge this time of year,” as he lamented his poor football viewing situation.

A nine-inch television sporting rabbit ears sits on a TV tray in Tiefisher’s living room, in front of the 36-inch TV hooked up to cable.

The small TV was what Tiefisher and his New Year’s Day guests used to watch Boise State’s Fiesta Bowl upset victory over the Oklahoma Sooners. He hadn’t realized until the day before that the game was on Fox.

“You could tell where the players were on the field, but you couldn’t tell where the ball was,” he said.

Soon it will be “American Idol” fans struggling to see whether judge Simon Cowell is smiling or grimacing. Fox’s twice-weekly “American Idol” shows were the top two most-watched programs last year, according to Nielsen Media Research.

KAYU General Manager Jon Rand could not be reached Wednesday for comment, but Time Warner Cable’s Northwest general manager, Correen Stauffer, said negotiations are continuing to end the dispute.

Stauffer said she understands viewers’ frustrations, adding that Time Warner Cable is doing what it can to make viewing Fox programming easier to watch for the time being.

The company has given away thousands of switches to assist customers in turning their TVs from cable to broadcast television.

“This is the first time we’ve ever lost a broadcast channel,” said Stauffer, who added that paying for broadcast TV would mean higher cable costs for viewers.

“We’re looking out for them. I hope they understand that,” she said.

KAYU’s Rand previously said most local cable providers and all satellite television companies now pay Fox 28 for permission to carry the channel. But Stauffer has said other local broadcast channels do not charge Time Warner Cable to include them in the lineup.

Though Stauffer described subscriber cancellations over the problem as “minimal,” satellite installers say their business is booming.

Most new customers cite the Fox situation as a reason for making the switch to DirecTV or Dish Network, said Panhandle Satellite owner Jerry Jones.

“They’ve been thinking about it anyway,” he said, “but when this happened, it pushed them over the edge.”


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