CBS, Sony Team Up with Pro Football on HDTV

If ever there was a marriage made in heaven, it's big-time sports and high-definition television. CBS and Sony Electronics have teamed up to usher in the new era with four HD broadcasts of National Football League games. The first one, a Buffalo Bills/New York Jets matchup, took place November 8. The game---which the Jets won, 34-12---was seen in New York on WCBS's special channel 56. It was also available to fans in New York, Philadelphia, Raleigh, Cincinnati, Columbus, Charlotte, and Washington, DC.

The two teams will meet again in Buffalo on December 19 for the second HDTV broadcast, which will be relayed nationally to HD-ready CBS affiliates. Another regular-season game, Kansas City at Oakland on December 26, will also be broadcast nationally in HD, as will the American Football Conference Divisional playoff game on January 9 or 10. The site of the playoff game has not yet been determined.

All the games are being produced in the full 1920x1080 interlaced format, the maximum resolution available from the 18 permutations of HDTV. Electronics retailers are introducing the new television format to consumers by hosting "tailgate parties" and other game-related activities at their stores. Fans in the New York City area will be able to see the games at Sony Plaza (550 Madison Ave.) and the following consumer-electronics retail stores: Harvey Electronics (Mt. Kisco, NY), J&R Music World (Manhattan), Nobody Beats the Wiz (Carle Place, NY), PC Richard & Son (Greenvale, NY), and Tops Appliance City (Union, NJ).

The four HDTV games are being produced by CBS using a technically sophisticated HD-production vehicle, the HD-1, provided by National Mobile Television. This truck is outfitted with all the necessary gear, including ten Sony HDC-700 studio cameras and HDC-750 field cameras.

According to a joint CBS/Sony press release, the vehicle's equipment includes Sony's HDS-7000 switcher, HDME-7000 multi-effects unit, DVS-V6464B SDI/SDTI video router, four DVS-A3232 audio routers, DXC-H10 cameras, HDM-20E1U and HDM-14E5U high-definition monitors, and the PFV-HD/HKPF series of HDTV conversion and distribution products. The press release does not mention the cost of the production or equipment, which also includes a combination of General Instrument Corporation's high-definition encoders and decoders for both fiber and satellite links.

The companies involved have invested many millions of dollars in the venture to attract consumers to a technology that is presently out of reach for all but the most affluent. However, such efforts are necessary to build a base of viewers. "Football, in particular, brings out the best in HDTV. For fans, this new visual experience is practically like being at the game," says Sean McManus, president of CBS Sports. "Sporting events broadcast with Sony high-definition systems represent the next great step in the evolution of television, and they will provide an exhilarating experience for the viewer. By taking on the challenge of broadcasting the NFL in high-definition, CBS is helping to jump-start the transition to digital television."