HDNet Plans Themed Convention Coverage

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HDNet will not provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Democratic and Republican Party conventions this August in HD, as it did in 2004, but the network will be offering extensive coverage of the event on Dan Rather Reports.

Host Dan Rather will be working the floor with an HD camera crew and his show will produce hour-long shows focusing on the issue of race for the Democratic convention in Denver and then government service at the Republican confab, said R. Wayne Nelson, executive producer for Dan Rather Reports.

HDNet was the first to offer full coverage of presidential conventions in HD in 2004 but this year decided not to repeat that effort, in part because the broadcast networks and cable news networks will be producing the pool feeds in high-definition.

Finding ways to differentiate their coverage from the major broadcast and cable news networks that will broadcast the conventions in HD for the first time, poses some challenges, Nelson said.

Nelson stressed that several factors will allow HDNet to offer viewers unique content. Beyond the fact that all of their reports and material is shot in true HD in the 1080i format, unlike most of the major broadcasters and cable outlets who offer upconverted SD content from the field, Nelson said the network will draw on Rather’s experience and its extensive coverage of particular issues.

“Dan brings a lot to the table in terms of his experience and his love of politics and there are very few outlets any more that will devote a whole hour to particular topics,” said Nelson.

Covering politics as a kind of horse race on the talk show formats that now dominate the cable news arena “is the easiest and most inexpensive way to cover politics,” Nelson added.” But to say that people don’t care about real in-depth coverage of issues doesn’t make any sense. All you have to do is look at the excitement this election has generated. Where we can really provide an alternative for viewers is to look at immigration, race or other issues.”

Race will be the theme for the Tuesday night show at the Democratic convention (Aug. 25-28), where Barack Obama will become the first African-American to receive the nomination of a major party; and service will be the theme for the episode airing during the Republican Party Convention (Sept. 1-4), where John McCain, who is known for his service in Vietnam, will be the party nominee.

“Dan [Rather] has a history in both civil rights and Vietnam and he can really add lot to the discussion,” Nelson said.

For their election coverage, Nelson expects to produce some issue-oriented shows as well as some coverage from the field, where Dan Rather Reports can draw on two HD trucks owned by HDNet.

That infrastructure allows Dan Rather Reports to use only true HD material. “It drives me crazy whenever I turn on my HD set and see that,” Nelson said. “All these mixed formats are distressing to the eye.”

Election night coverage is still being finalized but Nelson expects that they will broadcast live in HD in front of an audience of about 1,000 people at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan in New York City and have HD cameras in remote locations, including the Obama and McCain headquarters.

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