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CBS tees up HDTV

After collaborating on CBS' high-definition broadcast of The Masters last April, CBS and Sony are teaming up again for more HDTV golf. CBS has struck a deal to use Sony HDCAM gear to produce the PGA Tour's Sony Open in HDTV Jan. 20-21.

Broadcasting the golf tournament in HDTV that weekend, CBS ensures five consecutive weekends of HDTV sports: besides the Sony Open, the National Football League AFC wild-card game Dec. 31, 2000; the AFC divisional playoffs, Jan. 6-7; AFC Championship, Jan. 14; and Super Bowl XXXV, Jan. 28.

Thomson Consumer Electronics is underwriting CBS' hi-def NFL coverage, but the agreement between Sony and CBS for the Sony Open is not a subsidy deal, says Sony Broadcast President Ed Grebow: "We're helping them, but we don't think of this as a sponsorship."

What made the deal attractive, says Grebow, was both Sony's existing corporate sponsorship of the Hawaii-based tournament and CBS' willingness to use one set of Sony HDTV production gear to produce both HDTV and NTSC coverage. Although Sony's HDTV cameras have been capable of producing simultaneous 16:9, 1080i and 4:3, 480i outputs for several years (a technique used by MSG Network for its HDTV and NTSC coverage of New York-area sports), the Sony Open will be the first time CBS has used a single production crew to generate both HDTV and NTSC feeds. CBS' previous HDTV coverage of NFL games, NCAA basketball and The Masters were done as dual productions with separate announce teams, cameras and control trucks, so as not to disturb the 4:3 analog production.

"Single production of sports broadcasts reduces costs while making possible complete HDTV coverage of sports programming," says Terry Ewert, executive producer of CBS Sports.