Broadcast Nets Start Detailing Digital Plans

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The broadcast networks last week signaled that they will
embrace high-definition TV — at least in some fashion — and put on hold plans to
multicast their signals.

In another piece of good news for the cable industry, ABC
Television Network
president Preston Padden said last week that the network would
develop high-definition programming based on the 720P (progressive) format that
Tele-Communications Inc. supports.

The broadcasters, however, appeared split on which format
to use. CBS last week said that it would program five hours per week of
HDTV in primetime using the more bandwidth-eating 1080I (interlace) format. NBC also
signaled its plans to program HDTV in the 1080I format in primetime. CBS and NBC
said they might use the 720P format during daytime hours, while ABC would use 480P outside
of primetime.

Fox Broadcasting president Larry Jacobson
said the network would use the 480P format, which is not considered true HDTV.

The broadcast networks will hold press conferences
detailing their plans at the National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas this
week.

A consensus on 720P would cheer cable operators and the
Consumer Electronics Manufacturers Association, which have battled on which format to use.

Tele-Communications Inc. president and chief operating
officer Leo J. Hindery Jr. last week repeated TCI's desire for broadcasters to settle on a
less-bandwidth-intensive HDTV technique, such as 720P, instead of 1080I. TCI's reasoning
is that up to four digitally compressed 720P programs could be squeezed into one
6-megahertz cable channel, versus two 1080I-formatted programs.

Hindery made his remarks at the Variety/Schroders
"Big Picture" Media Conference here, speaking on the same panel as NBC CEO
Robert Wright and CBS Station Group CEO Mel Karmazin.

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