Katie Couric’s HD Debut: Nice Video, But Audio… Not so Much

“The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric” became the second nightly network broadcast to make the leap to HD this week (going 1080i, like Brian Williams over on NBC) and as usual for such a momentous transition, the digital upgrade was not without some minor glitches. Audio problems (such as lip-sync delays or no sound at all) seem to have plagued a lot of HD programming ever since the transition began a few years ago—especially on some cable systems, where precise video-audio synchronization sometimes remains a challenge.

On Monday night (July 28), as anchorwoman Couric opened her newscast with a heads-up to viewers that they were watching her first HD telecast, a few stations experienced some early audio problems for several seconds, and some mostly middle-sized markets experienced no audio for several minutes, according to online bloggers and some published reports.

According to viewers blogging to various TV Web sites including TVNewser, some markets had no audio for the first eight minutes of the Monday telecast (while some of the same viewers reported the HD video was stunning). Among markets reportedly affected by the relatively brief audio omissions—some apparently lasting no more than about 20 seconds—were Washington, D.C., Chattanooga and Nashville, Tenn., Providence, R.I., and a handful of others.

The sound problem was apparently caused by a faulty metadata inserter, according to published reports. Fortunately, perhaps, for CBS News is that its HD launch comes at a time of the year when some audiences are at their lowest levels.

Meanwhile, “ABC World News with Charles Gibson” is now the only evening newscast among the Big 3 networks to remain in SD, although ABC/Disney’s “Good Morning America” made the transition to 720p many months ago.