Come November, all six broadcast networks will be on pace to begin delivering at least half of their prime-time schedules in high definition. That’s because UPN will have the facilities in place in two months and is aiming to offer up to six of its 10 weekly prime-time hours in HD, an increase over its sole current HD fare, “Star Trek: Enterprise.” The UPN move, coupled with Fox’s plan to carry about 70 percent of its prime-time lineup in HD starting this fall, puts the final pieces in place to help accelerate the HD rollout.
CBS Building Second HD Suite
CBS is building a second HD suite at CBS’s Television City facility in Los Angeles to provide a backup for CBS’s comprehensive HD prime time-lineup and to allow UPN to air more of its scripted series in HD. Because CBS offers its entire prime-time scripted lineup in HD, its edit suite has been operating around the clock, said Martin Franks, executive VP, CBS Television. The suite is used to prepare HD programming for air, which largely means inserting commercials. “We’ve had trouble getting as much done of UPN as we would like, and one of my nightmares would be getting the call that said, “`CSI”‘ can’t be done in HD tonight because the suite is broken,”‘ he said. That has never happened, but Mr. Franks said once the facility is complete in November, he’ll rest easier. UPN delivers about 10 hours of prime time each week, including two hours of reality shows and two hours of wrestling. That gives a base of six hours to likely draw from for potential HD series this fall. “For people who say the transition isn’t going well, I wonder what their standards are,” Mr. Franks said. CBS relied on Sony HD products for the suite.
Local Severe Weather Feed Set
The same Intellistar local devices that allow The Weather Channel to deliver different ads based on local weather conditions are about to be used by the network to provide an entire alternate feed for continuous coverage in severe weather situations. The Weather Channel said it will test the capability in Philadelphia in the first half of next year and wants to learn how frequently it should activate the secondary feed and in what situations it’s most desirable for viewers, said Brian Shield, chief information officer for the network. “You could be watching Weather Channel or `Storm Stories’ and we could say, `We now interrupt this for coverage of a tornado in the Midwest,”‘ he said. While the feed won’t be active until next year, the recent spate of hurricanes demonstrates the usefulness of such a service, he said. In the case of a hurricane, The Weather Channel already has the crews in place and could leverage those resources to provide continuous coverage for certain portions of the country. By the end of next year the alternate feed should be available for use nationwide. n