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ABC, CBS Bow HD Prime Time Show Lineups

The ABC Television Network announced plans to transmit a majority of its prime time broadcasts in the 720p HDTV format this season.

Meanwhile, CBS said it will continue to broadcast its scripted prime time programming in HDTV this season under sponsorships by Panasonic and Zenith.

According to an ABC network spokesperson, the recent terrorist attack on the New York’s World Trade Center will not affect either the analog or digital network signals, but the impact to over-the-air broadcasting in the New York City market was unclear at press time. WABC and most other New York broadcasters used transmission towers atop the WTC to broadcast analog and digital signals.

The CBS Network’s New York-owned-and-operated station, WCBS-DT, meanwhile, continues to transmit its analog and digital channels from atop the Empire State Building, and has pledged to help other broadcasters do the same.

Meanwhile, Alex Wallu, ABC TV Network president, attended the recent CEDIA Expo to announce ABC’s plan to make “a major commitment” to broadcast more than 60 percent of its prime time programming in the 720p HDTV format, starting Sept. 18, with the season premiere of Dharma & Greg.

He said all comedy and drama series, and theatrical movies would be presented in 720p HDTV format. Omitted are mostly live or video-based programs such as Monday Night Football and Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. However, Wallu said he believes HDTV is ideal for event-type programming and expected that such programs as MNF and the Oscars would be added to the list of HDTV services in upcoming seasons.

Wallu said that because the decision to air primetime HDTV came late and during a difficult economic period, the network has thus far been unable to secure an underwriting sponsor to help finance the HDTV telecasts. Ironically, a day earlier, CBS announced both Panasonic and Zenith would sponsor the HDTV broadcasts of 18 scripted (film-based) prime time shows this fall, starting with the Sept. 12 broadcast of Wolf Lake. CBS, which has presented prime time HD lineups for the past two years, using underwriting sponsorships from Mitsuhbishi, Samsung and Panasonic, transmits HD content in the 1080i format.

Last season, ABC broadcast only NYPD Blue and occasional movies in HD format, following a season that included weekly HDTV broadcasts of MNF games and Disney movies.