HD World: Slow Economy to Impede Local HD Buildout

Airing network content in HD has been a given for quite a while in the industry, but apparently only about 140 stations in about 65 markets (no one seems to have exact data) have begun airing their local news, sports and weather in 1080i or 720p.

At the recent HD World confab in New York, some suggested that the slowing economy will also slow up the planned local HD infrastructure at stations for the unforeseen future. As usual when economic conditions are a factor, it's the smaller markets that will likely feel the brunt of the recession more than others.

"The events of the last few weeks certainly have affected those of us in the over-the-air broadcast industry," Delbert Parks, Sinclair Broadcasting Group's vice president of operations/engineering, told an HD World panel. According to Newsday, the Long Island, N.Y., newspaper, Parks said broadcasters "are faced with some challenging times ahead."

He said while Sinclair likely will delay local HD rollouts to the rest of its stations (perhaps for a few years), the broadcast group's stations in the large markets of St. Louis (DMA no. 21), Baltimore (DMA no. 26) and Nashville (DMA no. 29) already have switched to local HD.

Despite the multibillion dollar bailout by the federal government, small-market broadcasters will still likely find it difficult to borrow money for local HD upgrades, Parks said. Other panel members generally concurred with Parks.