CBS Getting Ready to Expand HD Beyond Prime Time

Although virtually all of its 22 hours of weekly primetime has been offered in HD (1080i) for several years, CBS has yet to transition its early-morning and late-night shows yet, although a lot of HD hardware-software already is in place. Some trade reports recently "announced" that Dave Letterman could jump to HD by next fall (following competitor Jay Leno into HD by several years). But CBS is not ready to confirm a go-date for Dave quite yet. Sources tell us several factors still could affect the actual launch period. The HD prospects for CBS morning and late night will be a bit clearer, we're told, after the NAB show next month.

Meanwhile, Bob Seidel, vice president of engineering and advanced technology for both CBS and UPN networks, tells HD Notebook that dual mode cameras were installed in Letterman's studio last year that produce both HD and SD outputs. "This is standard operating practice whenever we update studio cameras." However, he said, right now the HD signal goes no further than the CCU (Camera Control Unit). Seidel said the control room, videotape and edit room would need to be totally rebuilt.

"The CBS Morning Show has had HD cameras for three years, but we have not converted the control room, tape or edit areas," he added. And for CBS it's not a matter of "either/or" when it comes to Interlace or Progressive. Although the network has long favored 1080i as a matter of policy and all its prime time and sports events in HD boast the 1080i realm, Seidel said CBS Television City in Las Angeles just installed Sony HD cameras in a studio that can produce 1920 x 1080 /60 fps Progressive. "They are also switchable to 1920 x 1080/59.94 interlace." (For more recent HD equipment upgrades re: CBS Television City, see last week's HD Notebook, March 9.