It looks like Battlestar Galactica might be headed to the realm of High Definition TV:
Hi-definition TV content ready to blossom
By Daisy Whitney
March 01, 2005 2:59 PM
Lobster fishermen on an early morning in Maine, competitive meatball eaters and late-night comedians are among the new high-definition visuals that will grace HD television screens this year.
While HD programming is by no means mainstream yet, most of the 20-plus national cable and broadcast networks that offer some or all of their fare in HD are broadening their slates with new series and specials planned for 2005. The expansion comes on the heels of a Super Bowl earlier this month that featured about 17 ads in HD, up from a mere handful the year before, perhaps a sign that the HD future is arriving.
HD networks aren't rated yet, and broadcast networks aren't able to break out the viewership for their HD simulcasts. In the absence of such hard data, networks rely on focus groups, surveys and the old-fashioned method of monitoring anecdotal feedback to get a read on what viewers want.
"There is a growing and most insatiable appetite for this," said Bryan Burns, VP of strategic planning and development at ESPN. "Viewer calls and mail has a consistent theme — more, more, more."
Cable's HD networks plan to answer that call, and many broadcasters are also upping their output this year.
A temblor of change
NBC Universal's HD network, rechristened Universal HD late last year, is undergoing the most seismic changes. The network will carry more than 700 hours of unique programming in HD this year, up from about 150 last year, when it was still known as Bravo HD.
In the old incarnation, the network hadn't gained much traction in the distribution department and in fact still lacks deals with leading multiple system operators Comcast and Time Warner Cable. But that should soon change, said Mark Kersey, an industry analyst who runs the Web site BuyingHDTV.com.
"It seems like the operators are waiting for the NBC Universal people to get it all hammered out before they sign on the dotted line," he said.
That hammering is just about done. With NBC's acquisition of Universal last summer came a new strategy for the HD network to include more HD content from NBC Universal's new cable networks. "There was just a tremendous desire on the part of the industry to do even more and even better programming, and we heard that message," said Ron Lamprecht, VP of new media at NBC Universal.
On-air now is cinematic fare such as "Apollo 13" as well as the NBC show "Law & Order: SVU." Episodes of Sci Fi's "Battlestar Galactica" and USA Network's "Monk" and movies including "Backdraft" and "Meet the Parents" should come aboard in HD in the next few months.
On the broadcast side, NBC is moving its late-night shows into the land of HD this year, and plans to flip the switch on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" in April, with "Saturday Night Live" and "Last Call With Carson Daly" to follow in October. "The Tonight Show With Jay Leno" has been in HD since 1999. Additionally, NBC will simulcast all of its 2006 Winter Olympics coverage in HD. That's a change from the Athens Games last summer, when it offered HD coverage but the HD content wasn't simulcast.
"We believe that high definition is really the killer app," said John Wallace, executive VP of television operations and production services for NBC.
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