PBS, NBC Tap Sony

NBC has signed a seven-year extension with Sony on Olympics-related equipment at the NAB Show, extending their arrangement to 2012.

Sony also inked a deal with PBS, under which Sony will develop three types of production-equipment offerings to help make it easier for PBS stations to get involved with HDTV and standard- definition production.

“This shows the confidence we have in Sony,” Dave Mazza, head of NBC Olympics technical operations, says. “We don’t even know what products they’ll be delivering in 2012, but we assume it’s going to be working for us.”

Mazza’s team is hard at work gearing up for NBC’s first true foray into HD Olympics production for the Winter Games in Torino, Italy, next February. He expects NBC to use more than a dozen Sony MVS-8000A and MF-2000 switchers. Sony monitors and cameras will also be used, but NBC will use any other cameras, depending on what comes with the trucks it rents.

At PBS, Ed Caleca, Pubcaster’s senior VP, technology, operations and distribution, says that, in about a month, he’ll begin surveying PBS member stations about their future production needs.

Three types of production packages are likely: one based on the low-cost HDV format, another based on standard-definition XDCAM products (for multicasting channels) and a third for high-end production that uses Sony HDCAM cameras and VTRs.

PBS’ deal is non-exclusive, and, like all PBS initiatives, participation is voluntary.

But Caleca thinks both multicasting and the opportunity to gather high-quality HDV images entice stations.

“Many of our stations do local production, but they have a hard time getting into the national mix,” he says. “We want to move them into the HD world so we can get the prime time schedule converted to HD. And in order to fill the gaps, we have to have more people than WNET New York, WGBH Boston and WETA Washington producing in HD.”

Sony says other developments may include the initiation of a PBS certification program for HD operations, with Sony working closely with PBS stations to install new equipment and train station personnel, as well as providing equipment discounts and financial support for HD productions for PBS’ National Program Service.