HD Sports on ABC, ESPN

High-definition television will get a big push this season and next with sports programming from ABC and ESPN.

ABC Television Network will broadcast several major sports championships in high-definition this season, according to recent announcement from company president Alex Wallau. Among coming HD events are the Super Bowl, games of the National Basketball Association finals and the NHL's Stanley Cup.

"Live sporting events provide the best platform to showcase the dramatic benefits of high definition television," Wallau said. "We're delighted to broadcast these sporting events in HDTV, including the most-watched television event of the year, the Super Bowl." ABC also announced that it would broadcast the 2003-2004 season of "Monday Night Football" in HDTV.

The network already broadcasts the majority of its primetime schedule - scripted dramas, comedies and movies – in HDTV. ABC was the first major network to broadcast in HDTV, beginning in November 1998, and it is the only major broadcast network currently airing its HD programming in Dolby Digital 5.1-channel surround sound. All of ABC's programs will use 720 Progressive (720P), ABC's selected HDTV format. In September 2001 ABC made a major commitment to HDTV programming when it began broadcasting the majority of its schedule in the digital format.

Earlier this season, sports network ESPN announced its own plan to boost HDTV with the April 2003 launch of ESPN HD. The service's first 100 live broadcasts will include games of Major League Baseball (MBL), the National Basketball Association (NBA), the National Football League (NFL), and the National Hockey League (NHL) – all produced and distributed in high-definition television. "Sports will be a key driver of HDTV," said company president George Bodenheimer, "It is only fitting that ESPN plays a leadership role in serving our fans, affiliates, advertisers and rights holders in advancing the adoption of digital technology."

In addition to professional sports events, ESPN HD will also air a variety of ESPN original entertainment proprietary programming such as the X Games, Great Outdoors Games, the ESPY Awards, and college basketball championships including the Women's Final Four and the ACC Men's Basketball Tournament. In 2004, the popular ESPN studio program "SportsCenter" will be produced in HD. Like ABC, ESPN's high-def format is 720P.

ABC will air Super Bowl XXXVII on January 26, 2003, from San Diego, CA. The NBA finals are scheduled for June 4-18, 2003, and the Stanley Cup for May 31-June 9, 2003.

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