ESPN is the latest network to make a play for high-definition television,
announcing that it will simulcast 100 live events in the format by mid-2003.
Starting next April, ESPN HD will supply HDTV feeds of select Major League Baseball, National Basketball
Association, National Football League and National Hockey League games.
It will also include X Games coverage, The ESPY
Awards and live college championship events such as the NCAA Women's Final
Four and the Atlantic Coast Conference men's basketball tournament.
ESPN will encode the HD video at 720p
(progressive) for transmission to cable operators and satellite providers.
Eventually, ESPN plans to convert all of its signal to that format for
display on HD sets.
Adding HD content to ESPN's lineup is a good fit, given the format's
rectangular picture and razor-sharp clarity, vice president of affiliate sales
and marketing Sean Bratches said.
'We thought it was a natural for us to get into this business,' he added.
'Secondly, our affiliates have been asking us to do this.'
Adding HD-encoding and transmission gear did require a significant capital
investment. Not only will it entail upgrades to ESPN's production center in
Bristol, Conn., but it will also require HD-enabled remote trucks to support the
By January 2004, ESPN plans to complete the Bristol
That will allow
the sports outlet to add 3,700 hours of studio programs, such as
SportsCenter, to its HD roster.