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Nexstar StationsMaking Big Hi-Def Push

In an obvious reminder that highdefinition upgrades are still very much a major focus at many broadcast operations, Nexstar Broadcasting is planning to launch HD newscasts at eight of its stations this year—the highest number of upgrades in the group’s history.

For competitive reasons, Nexstar is not yet releasing a full list of stations getting the makeovers. On April 2,, the company launched HD newscasts at NBC affiliate WBRE in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., as well as nearby CBS affiliate WYOU in Scranton that WBRE runs under a joint sales agreement. Next up is Nexstar’s Shreveport, La., NBC affiliate KTAL, scheduled to complete its HD upgrade in June.

In addition to the HD upgrades, Nexstar is working on a number of other projects, including the installation of new master controls from Utah Scientific in several markets; taking delivery on two new trucks for newsgathering; and upgrading some standard-def newscasts from the 4 X 3 format to 16 X 9. Also, Nexstar senior VP of station operations Blake Russell and his team are working on a channel in the box installation of Grass Valley’s K2 Edge platform in Lubbock, Texas.

Eight HD upgrades in a year is a record for the group, but Russell downplays the idea that the projects represent a significant spike in activity.

“It looks very impressive on paper when you are doing eight HD builds and the master control upgrades and everything else we’re doing,” he says. “But from a cost standpoint, we’ve been working to do things differently so we’ve been able to do more with the available money. And we are doing all of this as part of a multiyear plan” that has allowed the group to spread the HD investments over a few years.

As part of Nexstar’s 16 X 9 newscast upgrade efforts, the company recently launched 16 X 9 with a new set in the Monroe, La./El Dorado, Ark., market, where the group owns Fox affiliate KARD and operates NBC affiliate KTVE.

“We’ve decided to put some money into 16 X 9 news in some markets where we might not be going HD in the next 12 months as an economic way to improve what we offer viewers,” Russell says.

A number of markets have or will be getting those new Utah Scientific master controls, which will lay the groundwork for future HD upgrades.

This month, Nexstar is also taking delivery on two new news trucks from Accelerated Media Technologies. “In the state of Illinois, [one of the trucks] will give us a roving presence to cover markets that we haven’t been able to do before,” Russell says.

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