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Jackson Memorial Evolves into Massive HD Event

When plans finally came together for the July 7 memorial service for the late Michael Jackson at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, all four major broadcast networks (after some trepidation) decided to carry the nearly three-hour Tuesday event live—and in HD.

The memorial tribute to the 50 year-old entertainer started at 1 p.m. EDT and was carried in 720p by Fox and Disney/ABC affiliates, as well as in 1080i by NBC Universal and CBS stations. CNN and Fox News Channel also carried the event in HD, along with MSNBC (which just upped its programming to1080i barely a week ago, and whose HD channel is not yet carried by most of the major pay-TV services). However, much of the field reporting on the news cablers outside the Staples Center was in 4:3 SD.

Garnering more live HD/SD and online coverage in America than a typical presidential news conference, the memorial service was covered by no fewer than 16 American networks (both English and Spanish-speaking), according to the Washington Post—which reports American TV coverage was about double that of that last mega-funeral event—Princess Diana in August 1997.

As for sheer global coverage in SD/HD—much of which is still concentrated in North America (along with analog in many nations)—the numerous July 7 Jackson events (starting at 5 a.m. and ending past midnight, EDT) overall, could turn out to be the most-viewed HD content of any news event in the United States, to date, other than a sporting activity. (At Diana’s death, there was virtually no HD at all.)

Still, no one may ever know final HD numbers of these and similar major news events in the short-term future. Nielsen does not keep regular, comprehensive stats of HD-only eyeballs.