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Mitsubishi Will Fund U.S. Open HDTV Broadcast

Expanding its previously announced sponsorship of CBS Network’s plan to convert certain prime-time programming to HDTV format, Mitsubishi said it will also provide similar funding to televise the semi-finals and finals of the 1999 U.S. Open Tennis Championships in the digital 1080i format.

Under the deal, CBS Sports will produce 18 hours of the U.S. Open for HDTV broadcasts on September 10 (11 a.m.-6 p.m., ET), September 11 (11 a.m.-7 p.m., ET) and September 12 (4-7 p.m., ET).

The HDTV telecasts will be produced and transmitted independently of the network’s analog broadcast coverage from New York’s Flushing Tennis Center.

“CBS is pleased to expand on our partnership with Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America (MDEA), which further positions us as a leader in the digital sports television arena,” said Leslie Moonves, president/CEO of CBS Television. “From prime time to the best in sports television, CBS continues to create more opportunities than any other network for viewers to enjoy high-definition television.”

Bob Seidel, CBS engineering VP, said National Mobile Television (NMT), which used two HDTV trucks with Sony broadcast equipment to televise a handful of NFL games on CBS last year, is building a third truck that will be used for the U.S. Open HDTV telecasts.

CBS first began HDTV broadcasts with the John Glenn space shuttle launch in October 1998. In November 1998 it aired the first live NFL game in the HDTV format (Buffalo Bills vs. New York Jets) — one of four HDTV NFL games presented by CBS Sports during the 1998-99 season.

Also in November, CBS recorded and broadcast in HDTV an episode of Chicago Hope, marking the first ever broadcast of a prime-time series in that format. In December 1998 and January 1999 the network produced and transmitted two “CBS Tuesday Movie” presentations, The Bodyguard and The Shawshank Redemption, in HDTV format. And on April 1, 1999, CBS broadcast 48 Hours: Striking It Rich, the first-ever news magazine in HDTV format.

In a previous announcement, CBS and MDEA agreed to the most extensive digital broadcast programming package ever, with MDEA exclusively underwriting the costs associated with producing the majority of CBS Television Network’s prime-time series entertainment programming in HDTV.

The MDEA-sponsored HDTV broadcasts will begin this fall and run throughout the 1999-2000 television season.