Supply and Demand

When they write the history of Kansas television, don’t be surprised if what’s happening right now with cable and broadcast stations in Wichita and Topeka ends up as a watershed moment.

Trace the word, “broadcasting” to early agrarian sowing of seeds by casting them in a broad, diverse pattern. When radio and later, television, came along, same principle. Invisible waves transmitted through the air, received by antennas. (Antennae?) On the roof or rabbit ears atop the set.  

Get up, walk across the room to change channels.
Chunka, chunka, chunk.

Along came a coaxial cable, and Easy Street for television broadcasters got a little bumpy. If all Carson offered was George Gobel, switch over to ESPN for some Australian Rules Football.

Local broadcasters got into bed with cable a generation ago. For the most part, it’s an amicable give-and-take. Today in Kansas, they’re like an old married couple who have lost the love and spend their days and nights maneuvering to one-up one another. 

Broadcasters pay cable to carry their signal. I’m not in the negotiating room, but this is like any business deal involving two sides with disparate perspectives.

Cable holds the cards. Let it go dark a few days and let’s see what happens. 

Cable’s betting on the law of supply and demand. If there’s no demand for the product, why on Earth should they offer it? Not sure what broadcast is betting on.

My money’s on cable.

Look, I make no bones about it, I’m a television elitist. As a former broadcast journalist (emphasis on ‘journalism,’) it's hard for me to abide what passes for news on local TV at 5, 6 and 10. (Why, back in MY day...) Pretty sure I’ve not watched an entire local news broadcast since the 20th century. 

Granted, I’m just one middle age precipice-approaching borderline curmudgeon, but likely a pretty mainstream television consumer, i.e., one who thinks about the DVR and on-demand long before he thinks about locally-produced programming. If I want a weather forecast, I’ll pull the phone outa my pocket and look at it. Ditto on sports scores.
I was privileged for a time to serve on a Kansas broadcasters trade group foundation board. We were tryna raise money to help old school broadcasters get their heads and hearts around a rapidly changing industry.”
The changes are so rapid, local broadcasters simply cannot re-invent themselves fast enough. Plus, there’s a little head-in-the-sand goin’ on here. It’s like newspapers. Had they put up a paywall when we were all still dialing up the Internet...

I suspect there’s an entire generation of Kansans who’ve not the foggiest notion this stalemate is even underway. Re-arrange my life, just to watch local TV at 10 p.m.?


I’ve seen or heard no hue and cry since the cable system dropped the local stations. Hardly a whimper on social media.


If a hue and/or cry does emerge, it may happen at about 3:40 p.m. Sunday afternoon when the Broncos host the Colts on CBS. 

Meantime, local broadcasters are urging me to go out and buy an antenna. 


In 2015. 

Which begs the question...  what would happen if a couple of local broadcast television stations were removed from the largest cable system in the state – and nobody noticed?