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ESPN Expands HD Offerings

ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD said Wednesday it will expand its high-definition offerings in seven major featured sports segments. In 2007, the networks will show all NASCAR, NBA, Major League Baseball, Major League SoccerNational Hot Rod Association college football and NFL Monday Night Football telecasts in HD.

Previous to the announcement, ESPN had only committed to a full boat for NASCAR--it's the network's first season showing of the auto races--and Monday Night Football. While ESPN won't show all of its approximately 450 collegiate basketball games in HD, it will show 140-160 games in hi-def. That's actually more, in terms of hours, than for any of the other featured sports it broadcasts.

Altogether, ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD will deliver more than 7,000 hours in high definition this year. More than 95% of ESPN and ESPN2’s Bristol, Conn.-based studio programming originates in high definition, including SportsCenter, NFL Countdown, NFL Monday Night Countdown, NFL Live and Baseball Tonight.  ESPN 2’s Cold Pizza and 1st and 10 will begin airing in HD from Bristol this June. 

In addition to live sports programming, ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD produce individual programs, movies and series from ESPN Original Entertainment.

Bryan Burns, VP, Strategic Business Planning and Development, ESPN, wouldn't disclose how much more showing the games in HD will cost: "I will tell you that the incremental cost [increase] is far less than it was when we started this four years ago. Then, it was massive." 

One of the problems with increasing HD output is purely logistical--ESPN and truck vendors have to figure out a way to get to more places, more often.