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CBS, USA Networks Play Doubles

Broadcaster, cable network team up on HD coverage


Cable viewers of this year's U.S. Open will get to see the tennis tournament a whole new way.

While viewers of the CBS schedule have watched the tournament unfold on network TV in high-definition -- a medium that brought the crisp image of tennis balls smacking outside the line up close and personal -- this year CBS is joining forces with USA Networks to offer viewers a double-dose of HD tennis.

For the first time, the cable network will this year broadcast several days of the tournament in HD. While CBS will handle weekend coverage, USA Networks will show the tournament on cable in HD for four nights during its second week. USA Networks' HD simulcast will be available on separate channels on DirecTV and some cable networks.

America's top tennis event will begin Aug. 25 and run until to Sept. 7 at the National Tennis Center in Flushing, N.Y., in Queens. Rather than complicating the technical setup, working in conjunction with USA Networks will be a boon for CBS, said Ken Aagaard, senior VP of Operations for CBS Sports. "It's actually a good move for us. As the host broadcaster of this event, we come in with our own HD facilities. USA will use our trucks, cameras and people, and it's all already in place."

CBS will again use a digital truck from Core Digital, which can handle HD and SD simultaneously and was used by CBS for its college football HD coverage. Equipment within the truck includes a Sony MVS-8000 4 M/E live broadcast switcher and an SSL Axiom MT digital audio production console. "It was a waste not to be able to use [the multifunctional truck] during the weekdays, so we're really excited about this," Aagaard said. An added benefit: "Working with USA helps us pay for some of the incremental costs as well."

CBS will use 56 cameras -- 16 native HD, namely Sony BVP 900s and Ikegami HDK 790s -- to cover the two-week-long event. The Tiffany Network will also again bring out its much-talked about Mac Cam, a group of high-speed cameras placed on the "out" line to get an undebatable glimpse of whether the ball was out or in.

USA will offer its cable viewers a different glimpse how technology can end the "is it in, or is it out?" argument with its Hawk Eye technology, a graphic display that illustrates just where a returned volley has landed.

This year, CBS will use a crane camera outside of center court, similar to the setup that USA used during last year's Open. The crane will be positioned within the National Tennis Center but just outside of Arthur Ashe Stadium, a 23,000-seat venue known as the facility's famed center court. "We were trying get the flavor of all the people that are there, and be able to show some of the excitement that happens at the center," Aagaard said. A standard HD handheld camera will be used on the crane.

CBS also plans to use 5.1 digital audio for the audio portion of the HD broadcast.

Susan Ashworth is the former editor of TV Technology. In addition to her work covering the broadcast television industry, she has served as editor of two housing finance magazines and written about topics as varied as education, radio, chess, music and sports. Outside of her life as a writer, she recently served as president of a local nonprofit organization supporting girls in baseball.