HDTV Brought To You By...

Following the Super Bowl, comedian Jay Leno quipped on The Tonight Show, "Okay sports fans, now you can return your large screen home trial TV set to Best Buy!"
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And now, the NCAA's March Madness is over. Even though worn out from major seeded team upsets, overtime games, and wild come-from-behind games, many broadcasters still noted that the championship games were played out in DTV, sponsored by Harris Broadcast.

What a great boost that was for television set sales, with showrooms across the nation and home set viewers discovering that your team can look great in DTV, even when they're losing!

In fact, 39 tournament games were shown in HDTV and 5.1 surround sound. Last year, just 12 games were broadcast in HD. The CBS live telecasts were unified productions, produced in 1080i and then downconverted for CBS's analog broadcast coverage. Of course, this technique also delivers improved analog images.

While CBS Sports president Sean McManus was touting the network's leadership in HD sports broadcasting, Harris was equally interested in answering the old chicken and egg riddle.

As Harris Broadcast Communications Division president, Jeremy Wensinger put it, "One of the best ways we can ensure the wide-scale success of digital television is by giving the American public the chance to experience HDTV. High-visibility events like the NCAA tournament are an excellent way to do this."

As the DTV transition deadlines loom over the horizon and March Madness fades away, broadcasters are finally showing signs of earnestly moving back to the future. Buoyed by a basically financially successful 2004 (prompted by political advertising during the primaries and the national election), it's apparent that stations are finally falling into the sign-up lines.

Over the last three months, transmitter, antenna, and tower companies report a definite surge in requests for quotes on new systems. As one transmitter manufacturer reported, "We've been sending out so many quotes I expect our fax machine to burn out any time now!"

Because of the highly competitive nature of transmitter sales, manufacturers were reluctant to quote actual sales numbers, but you can expect to see lots of smiling faces in the transmitter booths at NAB this year.
Of course, the real indicator of transmitter sales is to track tube sales. E2V, L3, CPI, and Thales are working hard to keep up with the demand. Speaking off the record, one major supplier summed up business this way: "Tube sales have been much higher than I had hoped for!"

Despite the introduction of new transmitters equipped with depressed collector in recent years, buyers need to keep a sharp eye on what's being exhibited. With higher and higher efficiencies the design goal, a number of manufacturers will be offering new transmitters. Even the solid state versions will see vast improvements.

The industry will have a keen interest in how the RF manufacturers fare at this NAB convention. Capital expenditure budgets have been focused on RF, because without a transition in the RF plant, you have no DTV. Once relieved from the heavy burden of RF equipment, budgets will soon enough open up to a wide variety of DTV acquisition, production, and infrastructure equipment. It's an excellent example of the domino effect.

Meanwhile, it was duly noted that, after the NCAA tournament, Jay Leno made no comment on returning plasma, flat screen, or large screen television sets.