HDTV at NAB: It’s Here, and It Works!

HDTV at NAB: It’s Here, and It Works!

During this year’s National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) Convention in Las Vegas, NV, Jim Goodmon, President and CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Company, was recognized for his outstanding contributions to the advancement of digital television. Goodmon received the Digital Television Pioneer award given by Broadcasting and Cable and Digital Television magazines.

Goodmon credits the honor to the people he works with every day. “This award is for all the people at Capitol Broadcasting who worked so hard to get us on the air and keep us going for the last three years, and for the many companies such as CBS, Harris & Andrews, that were so much help to us. I received the award on their behalf,” said Goodmon.

Reported at NAB, 57 television stations are up and running on their new DT antennae. The government-mandated penetration of DTV is actually ahead of schedule. This November, about 150 broadcasters should be sending DTV signals as other major network affiliates in the top thirty markets come on board. On November 1st, WRAL-HD’s experimental station, Channel 32, will switch to its assigned DTV Channel 53, with continued HDTV broadcasts 24-hours a day.

However, 24-hour transmissions aren’t much good without something new to watch. This year, the main topic of discussion during NAB sessions was programming content. “Something to watch in HDTV is now the critical component in moving the transition forward,” said FCC Commissioner Susan Ness. Those same thoughts were echoed by Consumer Electronic Manufacturers Association (CEMA) President Gary Shapiro, on down to the program executives of smaller stations just beginning digital transmissions.

Last year, those attending NAB heard a baffling array of digital number terms, 1080i, 720p and 480p. This year, while engineers combed the concrete floors in search of equipment needed to complete the digital puzzle, general managers and station executives worked on what to show.

For the first time at NAB, an HDTV consortium of stations met to discuss methods of increasing programming. An appeal to networks, the sharing of local material, group buys on syndicated shows and a web site for independent producers to present their programs were all part of the agenda. WRAL, WBNS and the National Association of Television Program Executives, otherwise known as NATPE, organized the event and are currently formulating a structured plan for action.

Advertiser interest and commitment will certainly be a key part in paying for the new HDTV programs. A panel met to address the issues surrounding HDTV commercials. The additional benefits advertisers will receive through HDTV ads, and the issues that will drive them to be competitive in the HDTV market were all discussed. One advertising agency shared TV spots mastered in HD with the group. Commercials mastered in HDTV, they say, are only a fraction more in cost, but give the finished product longevity.

How many eyeballs will be watching HDTV this year? CEMA’s Shapiro stated that first quarter sales of HDTV sets matched the entire ’98 selling season. This year, over 12,500 HDTV sets have been sold, bringing the nationwide total to over 25,000. But once again, programming is said to be what will move this transition forward, and content will drive sales. Both broadcasters and manufacturers need to join forces to move this process along.

It can be a scary feeling to lead the pack into the world of new technology. The advent of HDTV certainly came without a training manual or map on how to accomplish the transition step-by-step, but that can’t be a deterrent to making things happen. An adventurous spirit has embodied Capitol Broadcasting Company since DTV’s first introduction. Now, it’s beginning to take shape across the country.

CBC’s visionary and driving force, Jim Goodmon, first saw wide-screen television at a demonstration in Washington, D.C. back in 1987. He saw the new transmission as a way to breathe new life into an eroding industry. For Goodmon and his staff, digital television in the high definition format is the key to the survival of free, over-the-air television. He knew it then, he knows it now, and finally, other broadcasters are beginning to listen.

The Digital Pioneer awards were captured in HD by WRAL-HD.

Sheila Rice(Digital Televisison Magazine – left) and Peggy Conlon (Cahners Publishers-right) congratulate the award winners (from left to right): Jim Goodmon, Eddy Hartenstein, Charles Steinberg, and James Chiddix.

Howard Stringer, Sony, and Jim Goodmon, CBC

HD was the subject of much debate before the awards were presented.

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