Whether you'll be able to watch Fox on cable is once again up in the air, as Lexington's Fox affiliate WDKY (Channel 56) and Lexington cable provider Insight Communications are at odds.
The three-year contract that allows Insight to carry WDKY as part of its cable packages is up at the end of the year, and WDKY owner Sinclair Broadcast Group expects a new deal won't be reached in time. The latter had a heated dispute this year with Time Warner Cable, the leading area cable provider outside of Lexington. That dispute resolved after the deadline was extended.
The issue could have far-reaching consequences for both companies. In a six-county Central Kentucky area that includes Lexington, 62 percent of all television viewing is done through cable providers, according to a report this year by television research company Nielsen.
Of the remainder, 29 percent watch TV from satellite companies, and the rest use over-the-air antennas.
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This week, WDKY began airing crawls on its broadcasts alerting viewers to the situation and encouraging them to consider other viewing options such as satellite companies.
Insight, meanwhile, has publicly stated it would like to keep WDKY on its lineup until a decision is reached, to avoid interruption for customers.
"We don't believe it's in anybody's best interest to have customers be in the middle of a business dispute," Insight spokesman Jason Keller said. "We work out hundreds of these agreements every year without them becoming public spectacles."
At the root of the issue is broadcast fees. The cable industry has long resisted paying broadcast networks for their channels because the networks are available for free over the air.
But broadcasters have fired back that their content remains the most popular viewing option across all cable. And if cable networks such as ESPN and CNN charge cable companies to carry their content, why shouldn't broadcast networks?
"Like any business, we're not prepared to sell our product if we can't get what we think is an appropriate price for the product," said Barry Faber, executive vice president and general counsel for Sinclair.
Faber said money was not the only issue, but he declined to say what the others were. Keller also declined to discuss specifics.
Insight is in the midst of being purchased by Time Warner Cable, but the agreement between Insight and WDKY will expire before that deal is completed. Sinclair and Time Warner Cable ended their dispute in mid-January.