Frustrated football fans benefited from a Hail Mary touchdown pass this week when Bresnan Communications reached agreement with Missoula’s NBC affiliate, KECI, to broadcast high definition programming (HDTV). The deal, which had been in the works for more than three months, comes just days before NBC’s Feb. 1 broadcast of Super Bowl XLIII, one of television’s most-watched events every year.
“I think everyone just wanted to get the deal done, and obviously the Super Bowl was part of it,” says Jean Zosel, station manager at KECI. “It’s a big event. But there’s always something big coming up. Over the summer it was the Olympics, and we heard questions then from viewers wondering why they couldn’t watch programs in high definition.”
HDTV is a form of digital television broadcast in higher resolution than traditional analog systems. According to Broadcasting & Cable magazine, more than 39 million American households watch HDTV and rabid sports fans—those who crave every drip of spittle from a slobber-knocking tackle or every piece of stubble from quarterback Kurt Warner’s beard—are most responsible for continuing to increase that number.
“I’d say the Super Bowl was a driving force,” says Bresnan general manager Mike Oswald, who was first contacted by the Independent last week to check on negotiations between KECI and his company. At the time, Oswald said he “wouldn’t bet on” an agreement being finalized before Sunday’s kickoff. Once the deal was reached, Oswald says he was pleasantly surprised. “It’s a relief,” he says.
Before adding the local NBC affiliate, Bresnan’s 12,000 local cable customers could only see one of the four major networks in high definition—KPAX, a CBS affiliate. Oswald says the company’s committed to adding more high definition channels in 2009 to satisfy both customer and advertiser demand.
“It’s definitely a major point of emphasis,” he says. “It’s something that’s being driven by the consumer.”
According to Oswald, Bresnan is not currently in negotiations with Missoula’s ABC affiliate, KTMF, or KMMF, which broadcasts Fox programming.