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High Time for TNT HD

Turner Broadcasting System is venturing into the high-definition business, with plans to launch an HD version of TNT in May. TNT HD will feature the channel's mix of off-net series, theatrical movies, sports and originals.

The high-def service will debut with TNT's coverage of the National Basketball Association Western Conference Finals. (As it did last year, TNT will also produce the NBA All Star Game in HD, although the channel will not be ready by that time.) TNT HD will feature a mix of true HD content, like some NBA and NASCAR events and originals produced in high-def, and programming, including some movies and off-nets, upconverted from standard-definition (see related story in Technology, page 48).

TNT plans to make its originals in HD, beginning with terrorism drama The Grid, a limited series co-produced with the BBC, slated for this summer.

"Now we will have even wider reach as we translate [TNT's] long-standing success into the high-definition world," Turner Entertainment President Mark Lazarus said last week at the Television Critics Association tour in Hollywood. "With our programming, we have a great launching pad for TNT HD."

Turner is no HD trailblazer. Big cablers like Discovery and ESPN already have channels up and running. "We were waiting to educate ourselves," Lazarus says, "to continue discussions with cable operators to figure out their wants and needs, and then to round out our facilities so we'll have the capabilities." So far, no operators have signed on to carry TNT HD, but Lazarus expects to announce deals with major operators shortly. Corporate cousin Time Warner Cable would presumably be one of the early adopters.

Comcast's Outdoor Life Network also has a 13-week HD reality series. The Lance Armstrong Story, debuting April 29, will follow the Tour de France champ and his U.S. Postal Service cycling team. OLN President Roger Williams said his network is talking to pay-per-view and on-demand provider In Demand, which runs high-definition channels that distribute some content from other programmers, about carrying the series.