Q&A: Preston Davis, ABC Broadcast Operations & Engineering

Preston Davis has been president of Broadcast Operations & Engineering for the ABC Television Network Group since 1993. A 31-year veteran of ABC, he spoke this week with HD Notebook:

HD Notebook:As the February 2009 transition deadline looms for analog and DTV, how is ABC’s overall HD/digital conversion coming along here in late 2007?

Davis: ABC’s transition to HD is in lock-step with the audience. We broadcast over 1,900 hours of HD programming in the 2006-07 season last year. The majority of our primetime programming, other than non-live reality programs, is produced and broadcast in HD. We’ll continue to transition other programs to HD as we re-build technical facilities over the course of the next few years.

HD Notebook:So far has your experience with ABC’s preferred format, 720p, led to any issues (for better or for worse) that were not foreseen going in?

Davis: No. The 1080i/720p issue, for the most part, is a dead issue. We can purchase every piece of equipment needed to produce and distribute 720p programming. Our stations that have embraced 720p have enjoyed a more efficient use of their spectrum whereby they can offer additional programming services without material degradation of the prime HD service. Our new media partners—such as ABC.com and Apple iTunes—prefer the 720p format since it’s more efficient to compress, deliver and to display on computer platforms.

HD Notebook:“Good Morning, America” went HD quite a while ago. What timetable do you foresee for “ABC’s World News with Charles Gibson” and other ABC News content also making the leap to 720p?

Davis: We��re building new production facilities in New York to accommodate the news and magazine program production in HD. Our current plan is to have these shows available in HD by the fall of 2008.