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Here is a rather lengthy article from this week's issue of MediaWeek magazine.


It sums up where we HD enthusiasts are, and where we might be headed. It gives a wide-ranging view of things based on last week's National Association of Broadcasters convention in Las Vegas.


Sadly, not all is optimistic - especially when it comes to some local broadcasters (see the last paragraphs for quotes about their heel-dragging).


Mediaweek Feature -- Future Vision

By John Consoli APRIL 14, 2003 -


To see how far the broadcast industry has come in its transition to digital and high-definition transmission, attendees at last week's National Association of Broadcasters' annual conference headed straight for the bar. Really. Set up in the lobby of the Las Vegas Convention Center exhibit hall was the DTV Drafthouse, where any of the 89,000 attendees could settle in for a beer at the L-shaped bar and watch several Zenith 34-inch, fully integrated high-definition TV sets placed behind the bar to simulate a real-life setting.


Spread out around the perimeter of the Drafthouse were more sets from such set manufacturers as Panasonic, Sharp Electronics, Sony, Thomson and Toshiba. And on the official opening night of the conference, broadcasters gathered at the Drafthouse to watch a live, premiere sporting event that was being produced and transmitted in high-definition -- CBS' telecast of the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship game between Syracuse and Kansas. (CBS also carried the Masters golf tournament in HD for the first time over the weekend.)


The Drafthouse, sponsored by NAB, the Consumer Electronics Association and the Advanced Television Systems Committee, represents somewhat of an evolution over the past two years' gatherings, at which the trio's lobby display consisted of a very generic enclosure with a wall of HD monitors, showing mostly nature footage rather than live or prerecorded prime-time broadcast and cable network programming.


"The past few years our goal was to show a mass display to give people an idea of the scope of HDTV monitors out there," explained Jeff Joseph, vp of communications and strategic relationships for the CEA. "This year the feeling was that every broadcaster attending the conference knows there is a lot of high-definition product out there, so we decided to put it in a more real setting, to make it fun."


Clearly, progress is being made. Currently, 809 local TV stations around the country are offering digital feeds, up from around 200 a year ago, and NAB president and CEO Eddie Fritts predicts that number will rise to 1,000 by the end of 2003.


There is a big downside, however: Only 107 of those stations' digital signals are being carried by the local cable systems, leaving very few viewers able to see high-definition programming the stations are carrying from their broadcast networks. That minuscule ratio prompted Fritts, in his opening remarks at this year's conference, to take a swipe at the cable industry.


"Here, the cable industry is missing at its post and absent without leave," Fritts charged. "Cable operators are carrying less than 13 percent of local digital TV broadcast stations on the air today. Broadcasters are under federal mandate to build DTV stations. Set manufacturers are under federal mandate to phase in DTV tuners. And it is high time the cable industry be placed under federal mandate to carry local DTV broadcast signals."


Fritts' rhetoric notwithstanding, that is not expected to happen. The Federal Communications Commission has concluded that such a mandate would be held unconstitutional by the courts. And even though the powerful Rep. Billy Tauzin (R-La.) -- who heads up the House Energy and Commerce Committee -- plans to introduce a bill this month that attempts to deal with some of the issues that he believes are stalling the country's adoption of high def, the committee's legal counsel, Jessica Wallace, does not believe the bill will mandate must-carry duties on cable operators.


Sans a federal imposition of must-carry rules on the cable industry, it will be up to the broadcast industry, HDTV manufacturers and the electronics retail industry to work with cable to make the pass-through happen organically. While Fritts may be throwing a barb or two at the cable industry, he is also a realist who understands the need for cooperation. "All four of us have a commonality of interest in making sure that this transition is completed expeditiously on behalf of the consumers," he said.


Robert Sachs, president/CEO of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, agreed his industry also has too much invested in the transition to not make a partnership work. "Over the past seven years, we've invested more than $70 billion in the platform that's been created to allow us to provide digital and high-definition television, as well as high-speed broadband and cable telephony services to our customers," Sachs said.


And the old chicken-and-egg argument -- that programmers will not provide more high-definition content until more sets are sold, and setmakers don't want to to make a broader assortment of sets until consumers really start buying them -- is also becoming more irrelevant. CBS and ABC both offer nearly all their prime-time program lineups in high definition, while the WB has five hours of prime-time HD fare. NBC is offering a few of its prime-time shows in HD, as well as the Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and plans to offer more next season. On the cable side, HBO, Showtime and Discovery are all offering sizable amounts of programming in HD. And ESPN has just started its new HD simulcast network on which it will run more than 100 live professional sports events in high def through the summer.


Not to be outdone, TV set makers are offering a wider assortment of sets at far more affordable prices. "There are about 450 HDTV products on the market today," said John Taylor, vp of public affairs and communications for Zenith Electronics Corp. "The number of integrated sets being made has quadrupled since last year. And retail prices are down 15 to 20 percent from last year. Right now you can get a 4-by-3 [screen ratio], 32-inch, fully integrated HDTV set for $1,300 retail. Two years ago, they were above $2,000."


Zenith's 34-inch, fully integrated, direct-view, widescreen 16-by-9 ratio HDTV sets, on display at the Drafthouse, have a suggested retail price of $2,299.


While the massive digital and HDTV equipment booths of major product manufacturers like Sony and Panasonic were packed with prospective local TV station customers throughout the show, and integration of HD at stations continues (more on that later), it is the consumer that needs to be targeted even more. The good news is that, in a recent poll by station consultants Frank Magid Associates, 61 percent of consumers said they were either very familiar or somewhat familiar with HDTV. And after giving those polled a description of HDTV, 77 percent said they thought it was at least somewhat appealing.


The survey found that HDTV has a higher appeal among men and that the most interested audience is men 25-54, which Magid's Maryann Schulze said is the demographic that broadcasters, retailers and setmakers should target in their promotional and educational efforts. Schulze said since 10 percent of all households each year replace one TV set, there's significant upside to a proper marketing effort.


With more HDTV sets in retail stores than ever before, customer service at the store level also needs to be tweaked. Circuit City, which has more than 600 stores nationally, recently eliminated sales commissions for its in-store sales people, a move some believe will adversely affect motivation for learning about and selling HDTV products. But Bob Perry, vp of marketing for Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America, pointed out that another huge national electronics retailer, Best Buy, has operated on a straight salary basis for years without its business being adversely effected. "I do not see a negative impact for Circuit City," he said.


Both Perry and Zenith's Taylor said their companies spend millions of dollars every year on store-visit programs and seminars aimed at training retail sales people, and Perry said some retailers have incentive programs instead of straight commissions. Taylor said Zenith also has a Web site on which consumers can actually find out what HD programming is available in their market and, if they are buying an HDTV set, what type of antenna they would need.


While national programming in HD is moving along at a decent clip, local high-def efforts -- particularly local news telecasts -- have gotten nowhere, and probably won't for years.


While stations have borne the cost of building new digital antennas to transmit HD signals, the cost of upgrading their local newsgathering operations, studios and production facilities to HD is at this point still too prohibitive, especially with a moribund economy trimming ad revenue. To date, only three local broadcast stations are airing their local newscasts in high definition.


Jack Sander, president of Belo Corp.'s TV stations division, says that local news will be the last thing passed through in HD by the stations and is about five years off. "There is no clear benefit of offering news in HD right now," he said. But he said Belo's NBC affiliate KING-TV in Seattle will soon be producing Evening, a local community oriented, half-hour show in HD five days a week.


Stanley Hubbard, chairman, president and CEO of Minnesota-based Hubbard Broadcasting, said local stations' production of HD newscasts could be as far as 10 or 15 years away. "It's just prohibitively expensive," he said.


Lowell "Bud" Paxson, chairman of Paxson Communications, was even more negative. "I've invested over $200 million in this digital fiasco," said Paxson. "I think my shareholders would like to see a little return on investment. My feeling is that Larry King in HDTV doesn't get any prettier."

http://www.mediaweek.com/mediaweek/h...ent_id=1864607
 

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Bud is being alitte too cute and an idiot -- using larry king as an example. I think no amount of education would make bud any smarter...


I could care very little if the local news is ever in hd or not..
 

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I think that the success of HD............not DTV, but HD will come down to the local stations. The ones who support it, promote it, and have locally produced and/or high quality up-converts to go with the network HD feeds will be the ones to make or break HD.


I mean look at it like this, when you have several stations in a market, and one starts running wild with HD..........their ratings are going to go up.


When the other stations start looking for why, they will see, and they will have to start more HD.


And this will trickle down to cable, DBS, and the "cable channels" like MTV, TBS, TNN, etc.


There are 2 catches to this idea/hope. One is that the locals never take the lead, and never really push anything HD, just coast on the DTV train.

Two is that the TV manufactures dont start getting more integrated HD tvs to the market, at a price to compare with their analog/HD-ready cousins. Because like it or not, we as HD enthusiasts are not going to drive the change to HD.............It will be the American public, aka Joe 6-pack.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by rogo
Who the hell cares if local news is in HD?
Those of us living in towns with cute weather girls! Really though, simply going widescreen would be a feat. I get tired of stretching the picture - makes the weather girls look fat :(
 

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Paxson's comments do not surprise me. He was one of the co-petioners who tried to change the technical standards of HDTV midstream in 1999(throw out 8-VSB and replace it with COFDM):

http://beta.cdad.com/twice/article.cfm?InputKey=1156


I think his quote is another example of somebody who wants to delay or eliminate HDTV so he can use the free DTV bandwidth he was given for other more profitable purposes.
 

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""""I think his quote is another example of somebody who wants to delay or eliminate HDTV so he can use the free DTV bandwidth he was given for other more profitable purposes."""""


You are absolutely correct as far as I am concerned..
 

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Two Seattle stations (ABC and NBC) are doing local news in HD. Any others?
 

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Yes that's true, and of course it's not as if I'm going to watch local Seattle news in the middle of prime time anyway, but it is nice to see.


There is a new local station launching here later this year, with significant local programming, and while they had planned to go HDTV in the third year of operation, the playing field has changed enough that they have decided to go HDTV from the start.


In regards to the ratings for local stations, there are still no HDTV ratings available, but the market is still woefully small. With most major markets doing no local HD programming, we're years away from it becoming the standard in local programming in medium and small markets. We've still got some small market stations in Canada that haven't made the leap to stereo!
 

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Please define which version of HD would be practical for news. I mean 4:3 or 16:9? How do you make a single camera useful for both viewers? 16:9 would be good for cover shots or two shots and a single with graphics. But how would that play to the 4:3 monitor? Most HD cameras in the studios (that I am use to) use 4:3 viewfinders while putting out 16:9 video. (Actually you can grab either)

GT
 
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