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HDTV makes gains

will get a little bigger on Sept. 12 when Tribune Broadcasting and The WB network begin transmitting five hours of HDTV programming a week.

The four programs and their debut dates are Family Affair
(Sept. 12), Everwood
(Sept. 16), Reba
(Sept. 20) and Smallville
(Sept. 24). Smallville
and Everwood
will be repeated on Sunday nights in both SD and HD.

The WB isn't alone in new HD offerings this fall. CBS this weekend will expand its HDTV coverage of the U.S. Open tennis tournament and is close to finalizing deals to bring other sports it previously covered in HD on the air more regularly this fall. NBC continues to be on track for HD programming, with eight shows currently on the docket (although insiders do find it curious that The West Wing
and ER, two programs done in HD by Warner for foreign distribution, are not included). And ABC has more HD plans as well, including taking a hard look at an HD Super Bowl.

CBS also took the first step toward getting Late Night With David Letterman
on the air in HD, purchasing four Ikegami HDK-790E dual-mode HD/SD studio cameras and eight HDK-79E hand-held cameras with Canon lenses. That step is more a future-proofing than a sign of imminent HDTV broadcasts, but the capability for capturing HD images is in place.

Both The WB and UPN have taken steps as well, and Ira Goldstone, Tribune vice president, engineering and technology, says all the Tribune stations are being built to be capable of 1980i transmission. The missing links have been filled in with 19 KTech HD receivers to be installed at the stations to receive the HD content via satellite. "The KTech receivers are pretty flexible and are kind of the Swiss Army knife of receivers," he adds.

CBS Viacom's Marty Franks says UPN will be on in a timely fashion, but it won't be this fall. "We're hustling to get it done because we see it as a logical expansion of the business at CBS. As UPN came under the CBS umbrella, we began the process of getting it ready for HDTV."