Showtime to Offer HDTV Programming

According to a June 14 report on the OpenDTV news list, Showtime Networks will begin delivering original HDTV programming early next year. Concerts, movies, and sports will all be produced in either 1080i or 720p. Showtime has not yet decided which format will get the ultimate nod, but Mark Greenberg, executive vice president for corporate strategy and communications, says his company is leaning toward 1080i as offering the biggest bang for the buck. Also undecided is whether HDTV signals will be delivered over dedicated channels or will share bandwidth with existing services.

As much as 60% of Showtime's prime-time content will be produced in the new format next year. The report cautions viewers not to expect re-runs to be upgraded to high-definition---only a small fraction of the network's video library will be transferred to HDTV. Greenberg says the cost of transferring old material to the new format isn't justified.

"I don't feel the need to go back and spend $20 to $30 million on transferring old programming," he told Communications Daily. Viewers without HDTV receivers will be able to watch the new programs on their old equipment with converter boxes from companies such as General Instruments and Scientific-Atlanta. Pricing for Showtime's HDTV offerings hasn't been finalized.