If the network TV groups follow through with their rollout plans for HD production, TV viewers will soon be able to watch HD news on at least two stations in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco and on at least three in Philadelphia.
If you live in one of the top five TV markets—New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and San Francisco—go ahead and buy that HDTV set you’ve had your eye on. In addition to all the network programming in HD, you will soon be able to tune into HD newscasts on at least two stations in each market.
Within the next 90 says, ABC stations in New York (WABC), Chicago (WLS) and San Francisco (KGO) will begin offering HD news, says Dave Converse, the engineering executive in charge of making it happen.
The ABC stations in Los Angeles (KABC) and Philadelphia (WPVI) already have HD newscasts.
Meanwhile, CBS is in the final stages of rebuilding its stations in Los Angeles (WCBS), Chicago (WBBM) and Philadelphia (KYW), says Bob Seidel, VP, advanced technologies/engineering, CBS.
The new facilities have been outfitted top to bottom with HD gear and, when they go into operation within the next few months, the stations will make the leap to HD news, he says.
Other stations in the top five markets with HD newscasts: NBC’s WNBC New York, Cox’s KTVU San Francisco and Fox’s WTXF Philadelphia.
So, if Seidel and Converse make good on their promises, sometime in the first quarter of next year, there will be two HD news stations in four of the top five markets and three in Philadelphia.
According to Seidel, 23 stations now broadcast news in HD. All but two are in the top 25 markets.
Converse and Seidel revealed their station groups’ HD intentions during and following a panel session at the HD World Conference & Exposition in New York Thursday.
A third panelist, Jeff Johnson, VP, technology, Gannett Broadcasting, says his TV group now has seven stations on the air with HD newscasts, but he declined to say how many more would follow in 2007 for competitive reasons. The largest of the Gannett stations with HD news: WUSA Washington (DMA 8).
Like many of the other pioneering HD stations, the Gannett and ABC stations do not offer full HD newscasts.
The studio production is all HD, but most of the news footage from the field is standard-definition video with a 16-by-9 HD aspect ratio. The video is upconverted—that is, enhanced—to narrow the SD-HD quality gap before it is incorporated into the HD newscast.
Converse says that KABC will be first of the ABC stations to go HD from the field in “about 12 months” when it introduces new ENG gear at the station, “probably” Sony’s XDCAM HD.
By contrast, CBS’s HD newscasts will be all HD—studio and field—from day one. That’s because it has already begun introducing Sony’s HD-capable XDCAM HD ENG gear at all of its stations.
Seidel says the Sony rollout is on an 18-month schedule. Chicago is fully equipped and Philadelphia and Los Angeles will be by the end of December, he says. After that, the Sony gear will be introduced at the other CBS news-producing stations at a rate of one per month.
Seidel says CBS is outfitting its stations with the new Sony gear not so much for the sake of HD, but because the existing DVCPRO gear is, after nine years, coming to the end of its usefulness.
It’s fully depreciated and the maintenance costs are rising, he says. “It’s hard to keep it on the road and reliably working.”