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Jeopardy, Wheel Go HD

Syndicated HD programming will get a serious jump start this September when King World Productions and Sony Pictures Television begin distributing game show powerhouses Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy in high definition.

The move to HD is natural outgrowth of an overhaul of the Los Angeles Sony Pictures Television studio where the programs are shot and produced. And given Sony’s presence in the professional HD production market, not to mention consumer markets like HDTV, Blu-Ray high-definition DVD players and, later this year, PS3 gaming, it’s only natural for Sony to be the first to take the HD syndication plunge.

Taping the programs in HD is the simple part of the transition. The vast majority of TV stations across the country are in phase one of their HD transition that is passing through network HD signals to HD transmitters. HD syndication, however, will require stations to go to phase two: local playback of HD content. “This will push stations to more rapidly have HD local playout capability,” says Bob Seidel, CBS VP, engineering and advanced technology.

Stations that are interested in delivering the programs to viewers in HD will need to either record an incoming linear HD satellite transmission or, in the near future, pull it in via Pathfire’s store and forward system. The latter, which is used by King World to distribute its programming, will require a still-to-be-completed upgrade to Pathfire systems.

The first episodes of the game shows will be aired on Sept. 11. Resolution will be 1920x1080, introducing another local challenge. “Depending on whether a station broadcasts in 720p or 1080i they may need to add new cross conversion gear,” says Seidel.

While some stations will need to buy cross conversion products from Evertz or Miranda there are a number of satellite receivers that have built-in up and down conversion gear. “The Harris receive allows the station to specify what the output should be and it will cross-convert as necessary,” says Seidel.