Gray’s CBS affiliate is promising “true and full” HD with no upconverted SD from the field. It’s the “biggest thing” since color, GM says.
Gray Television’s WKYT Lexington, Ky., plans to offer “true and full” local HD news by June 1, according to Wayne Martin, general manager of the CBS affiliate.
Unlike other local HD news pioneers, WKYT will shoot HD in the field, according to Martin.
“We will be true and full HD,” Martin says. “We have already acquired and are using [Sony] HD cameras in the field. We will have HD cameras in creative services. We will have HD cameras in the studio.”
About 30 other stations are now offering HD news. But most are shooting news in the field in widescreen SD, upconverting it and then integrating it with real studio HD for broadcast.
At WKYT, Martin said, the only programming that will be upconverted after June 1 is “legacy footage” and non-HD syndicated programming.
“It’s going to be the biggest thing for our viewers since the conversion from black and white to color,” Martin says. “I think it is that significant. The investment that we are making will not have an immediate return, but long range people are going to recognize the quality of what we are providing.
“Our market penetration with HD sets is in the mid teens right now,” he adds. “That will increase exponentially over the next two years.”
WKYT will be the first Gray station to go with HD news, but may not be the first in Lexington, the 63rd-largest TV market. Cordillera’s WLEX, the NBC affiliate, announced last month that it would begin offering HD this spring. “We are on target for April 26,” Promotion Director Chip Alfred. “We are moving full speed ahead.”
WKYT’s Martin says that WKYT has been gradually equipping itself to be fully HD for the past four and a half years. “We didn’t just decide to do this six months ago.”
Martin credits station engineer Chas Callaway with the HD upgrade. “The vision has come from [Gray COO] Bob Prather and the execution is with Chas.”
“It’s going to be a distinct competitive advantage when 2009 rolls around,” Prather told TVNewsCheck.
“It’s like going back to 1969,” Prather says. “If you watch color TV all day, you don’t want to see the local news in black and white. Once people get use to seeing HD programming, they are going to expect the news to be in HD and they are going to expect us to be the leader.”
Prather said five or six additional Gray stations will make the move to HD news over the next two or three years, but he declined to identify them. “I don’t want to give a competitor a chance to jump in there too.”
In connection with the news upgrade, WKYT will also upgrade its digital CW affiliate to HD by June 1, Martin said.