New York -- The CBS Television Network announced that Panasonic has agreed to underwrite the transferal of the bulk of its prime-time programming lineup to the HDTV 1080i format for the 2000-'01 season.
Company executives disclosed last month that they intended to continue to offer most of the CBS lineup in HDTV, but did not disclose the name of a underwriting sponsor.
The cost was covered through a similar agreement with Mitsubishi last season, but Mitsubishi opted not to support the prime-time offerings this season. Instead, it is sponsoring HDTV production of certain special events, including the recent U.S. Open Tennis Championships.
Thomson also announced it would sponsor HDTV production of the NFL playoff schedule and Super Bowl on CBS this winter.
Previously, Panasonic had supplied an HDTV production truck to produce last season's Monday Night Football games in the 720p HDTV format on ABC Network stations. However, that truck has been sold and ABC opted not to televise the games in HDTV this year.
In an official announcement of the deal, Bill Mannion, Panasonic television and network systems division VP, said, "HDTV continues to grow and change the way consumers view television, sparked in large part by a steady stream of quality high-definition programming. Working with CBS, we look to strengthen the flow of such programs so that more and more viewers across the country can share in the excitement of this new format."
Seventeen of CBS' 18 weekly series (mostly film-based) will be broadcast in 1080i, the network said. That represents approximately 14 hours of HDTV programming per week for the network.
Currently, 31 of CBS' owned and affiliated stations are broadcasting digitally, covering approximately 45 percent of country. That is expected to increase to 56 percent as eight additional stations begin digital broadcasts by the end of the year, CBS executives said.
"CBS is dedicated to providing viewers with high-definition television programming on an ongoing basis," stated CBS Television executive VP Martin Franks in a formal statement disclosing the deal.
In other scheduled HDTV sponsorship deals with CBS, Sony will sponsor production of the 2001 Masters in the second of a three-year agreement.
Ironically, when CBS executives said at a Mitsubishi press conference last month they intended to again carry the prime-time lineup in HDTV this season, they suggested that production costs have lowered considerably, as more and more production houses shift to HDTV as the origination source for their productions.
According to CBS, Diagnosis Murder is being produced in the 1080 progressive HDTV format instead of 35mm film for the first time.
In announcing the RCA sponsorship of the HDTV sponsorship of the NFL playoffs, Thomson executive VP Jim Meyer said he "hated" to have to underwrite HDTV productions in order to have broadcasters fulfill their obligations to supply digital television content including HDTV programming.
Series to be televised in HDTV through the Panasonic sponsorship include the following:
· New series: Yes, Dear, Mondays, 8:30-9 p.m. ET/PT; The Fugitive, Fridays, 8-9 p.m.; CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Fridays, 9-10 p.m.; That's Life, Sundays, 8-9 p.m.; The District, Saturdays, 10-11 p.m.; Bette, Wednesdays, 8-8:30 p.m.; Welcome To New York, Wednesdays, 8:30-9 p.m.
Returning series: The King Of Queens, Mondays, 8-8:30 p.m.; Everybody Loves Raymond, Mondays, 9-10 p.m.; Family Law, Mondays 10-11 p.m.; JAG, Tuesdays, 8-9 p.m.; Nash Bridges, Fridays, 10-11 p.m.; Touched By An Angel, Sundays, 8-9 p.m.; Becker, Mondays, 9:30-10 p.m.; Judging Amy, Tuesdays, 10-11 p.m.; City Of Angels, Thursdays, 9-10 p.m.; Diagnosis Murder, Thursdays, 10-11 p.m.
The network said it will also broadcast selected CBS Sunday and Wednesday Night Movies in HDTV.