NBC: More HDTV Next Season

Networks and cable providers are slowly getting behind the HDTV effort. Responding to criticism that it has lagged behind competitors ABC and CBS in rolling out HDTV programming, NBC has announced that it will offer more HD prime-time shows next season.

Currently, Crossing Jordan is the network's only HD production in prime time. Late-night production The Tonight Show with Jay Leno is also offered in HD. The announcement of increased HD offerings was made in early May, but NBC executives said they wouldn't make any final commitments about which shows would get the HD treatment until after an analysis of this season's productions.

Although NBC has been a bit slack on producing regular programming in HD, the network has pioneered sports coverage in the digital format—including the recent Winter Olympics from Salt Lake City. NBC officials have stated that they believe HD sports and movies will attract more viewers than sitcoms and dramatic programs. NBC has partnered with HDNet in providing HD feeds of National Basketball Association games and other major sporting events.

Responding to criticism from electronics manufacturers and from Michael Powell, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, cable providers are also coming on board with HDTV. In early May, the nation's top ten cable operators pledged to carry at least five HD channels in major markets where they have upgraded their systems to digital. The cable companies have pledged to begin offering HD programming in these markets by January 1, 2003.

"The more cable embraces the transition to HDTV, the better for consumers and for the overall transition," said Gary Shapiro, president of the Consumer Electronics Association. The commitment by the cable industry is "a big step forward," said former FCC chairman Richard Wiley. More than 70% of US broadcasters missed the May 1 deadline for going live with HD transmissions.