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Set Makers Underwriting HD Telecasts

Samsung and Panasonic in recent days each made HDTV programming announcements aimed at making more HDTV content available for dealers to generate interest in new digital television products.

Meanwhile, CBS issued a list of prime-time programs that will be converted to HDTV for broadcast through an underwriting deal with Mitsubishi. That deal will result in 12 hours of programming per week from 15 CBS series, starting September 20. Continuing shows to be offered in HDTV format include Becker, Chicago Hope, Diagnosis Murder, Early Edition, Everybody Loves Raymond, JAG, King of Queens, Martial Law, Nash Bridges and Touched By An Angel.

New series offered in HDTV will include Family Law, Judging Amy, Ladies Man, Love Or Money and Work With Me. Mitsubishi is also underwriting the HDTV production of CBS’s U.S. Open coverage.

Samsung said it will underwrite the cost of converting to the 1080i HDTV format many of the movies appearing in the 1999/2000 season on the CBS Sunday Night Movie and CBS Wednesday Night Movie telecasts.

Panasonic, which previously announced plans to help ABC produce the Monday Night Football telecasts in the 720p HDTV format this season, produced and broadcast to dealers in four markets HDTV video coverage of the Panasonic Village Jazz Festival on August 30.

Panasonic arranged to shoot the concert from Washington Square Park in New York City, encode the footage into digital HDTV format, and uplink the signal to a broadcast satellite. Unnamed digital broadcast stations in Dallas, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. delivered the signal in those markets, where Panasonic dealers worked to promote the event to generate in-store traffic.

Dealers listed as carrying the coverage included: Ed Kellum & Son in Dallas; Fry’s Electronics and The Good Guys in Los Angeles; American Appliance, Boscov’s, Hi Fi House and Romano Electric in Philadelphia; and Myer-Emco in Washington, D.C.

Headliners featured in the telecast were Chick Corea & Origin and Regina Carter.

Meanwhile, CBS said it is taking a leadership position in HDTV broadcasting through its various underwriting deals with consumer electronics manufacturers. Ralph Dauria, an account executive for New York’s WCBS-TV, said the Samsung deal will cover feature films shot in 35mm, but may not include certain made-for-TV movies that were produced prior to the agreement in formats that do not lend themselves easily to the HDTV conversion.

Also, Dauria said, individual program producers determine whether a program will be delivered in 5.1-channel Dolby Digital surround sound. Non-Dolby Digital programs are broadcast in Dolby Pro Logic, he added.

The Samsung deal is similar in structure to one CBS signed earlier with Mitsubishi. CBS said that 18 owned and affiliated stations are currently broadcasting in digital formats, covering approximately 38% of the nation.

“By November 1, CBS expects to be transmitting digital programming across approximately 35 owned and affiliated stations, reaching more than 50% of the country,” according to a statement released by the network.

Steve Panosian, Samsung digital products group senior marketing manager, said his company is currently working out joint retail promotions between select Samsung dealers and local CBS digital TV affiliates to develop in-market HDTV events to lure customers to stores to see CBS HDTV movie telecasts on Samsung sets.

Additionally, the deal will credit Mitsubishi’s or Samsung’s HDTV sponsorship with a tag line announcement appearing at the start and in the middle of broadcasts on both the analog and digital feeds. This will help the manufacturers generate brand awareness while promoting HDTV broadcasting in general.