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TV Stations Resume HD News Upgrades

MULTIPLE CITIES: TV stations around the country are transitioning local news operations to HD architectures after a relatively quiet year of financial uncertainty. At least six stations either launched HD news in the last two weeks or announced plans to do so.

In Johnson City, Tenn., designated market area No. 93, CBS affiliate WJHL-TV is acquiring the HD gear for the studio, the Bristol Herald Courier reports. The transition is scheduled for completion later this year.

WJHL is a Media General TV station. The broadcast group started transitioning its 18 TV stations to HD on Panasonic P2 camcorders when budgets were scaled back last year. This time a year ago, the group cut 300 jobs and froze the employee pension plan. Broadcast revenues increased 12 percent during the first quarter of this year to $67 million.

Meredith Broadcasting is another Panasonic P2 convert, signing a deal two years ago to take all of its 12 TV stations into HD news production with the gear. The Des Moines, Iowa, media company’s 12 TV stations posted operating profit of $17 million on revenues of $76 million for the last three months of 2009, down 23 and 10 percent respectively. At least half of its stations are now doing local news in HD. (See “Meredith’s HD Upgrade Two Years Later.”)

KWWL-TV in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, DMA 88, made the transition to HD about two weeks ago, the local Telegraph Herald reports. The NBC affiliate is owned by Quincy Newspapers.

WRC-TV, the NBC O&O in Washington, DMA 9, launched HD news last week, the last of the Big Four in the market to do so.

KEZI-TV, the ABC affiliate serving Eugene, Ore., DMA 119, launched local news in HD yesterday, April 26, at 5 p.m., becoming the first in the market to do so. Oregon Media Central reports that KEZI received the HD equipment previously used by ABC affiliate KOHD, which ceased news production in March. Both stations are owned by Chambers Communications. The company built KOHD as a digital station after paying $8.5 million for the broadcast license in 2006, the OMC report said.

KTVX-TV is the ABC affiliate in Salt Lake City, DMA 31. It launched local news in HD yesterday at 5 p.m. as well. The station does local news at 5, 6 and 10 p.m., as well as a week-day, two-hour morning broadcast that starts at 5 a.m.

KTVX belongs to Newport Television of Kansas City, Mo. The company announced last month its intention to upgrade all 14 of its local TV news operations to HD with JVC ProHD gear.

KBMT-TV, an ABC affiliate serving Beaumont, Texas--DMA 141--is also upgrading on JVC ProHD equipment. London Broadcasting owns KBMT, the second of its stations to be transitioned to local HD news. It’s CBS affiliate, KYTX-TV, in Tyler, Texas, DMA 109, was transitioned last year.

While HD upgrades did slow down last year after a spate leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, transitions didn’t grind to a complete halt. Much of the upgrading appeared to happen in smaller markets like Tyler.

WJCL-TV and WTGS-TV in Savannah, Ga., DMA 96, were also among the handful of stations that were upgraded for HD last year. The pair launched HD news last March, the first stations in the market to do so. WJCL, the ABC affiliate, is owned by New Vision Television, which operates WTGS, the Fox. The newscasts are produced by WJCL.

WCTV-TV, the CBS affiliate in Tallahassee, Fla., DMA 106, launched HD news last August. It was the second station in the market to do so.

Around 200 or so of the nation’s roughly 800 local TV news operations are now produced in high-definition, and the number is once again steadily increasing. JVC announced deals at 2010NAB to upgrade Nexstar and Hearst TV stations, which have 71 between them. They’re in the process of transitioning a total of 23 stations to HD news.

Atlanta-based Gray Television announced plans in January to convert its 36 TV stations on Ross Video platforms for HD news. It’s Nebraska stations--WOW-TV in Omaha, DMA 76, and KOLN/KGIN-TV in Lincoln, DMA 105 are done. Seven more stations are scheduled for upgrades by the end of this year. -- Deborah D. McAdams

April 15, 2010: “JVC Continue March into Mid-Sized Stations