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Philly's KYW Stakes Its Future on HD

Viewers may have noticed something different about KYW Philadelphia's 11 p.m. newscast on April 2—if they happened to be watching an HD television set. That evening's edition of KYW's Eyewitness News was the first to be produced in high-definition.

KYW got out in front of the HD curve early last year when the station moved, along with sister station WPSG, to a 120,000-square foot studio in downtown Philadelphia. The CBS-owned station combined the move with a full-scale plunge into an HD production, making it among the first of the nation's stations to originate news in HD, and the first CBS O&O outlet.

The new facility includes two TV studios and production-control rooms, a master-control room, a satellite-feed operations center, and an outdoor deck for live weather reports. CBS has installed a tapeless newsroom, HD cameras and editing gear, too.

KYW's conversion made it the first newsroom in the market to be completely tapeless and high-definition both in-studio and in the field. “We will be shooting all of our stories in high-definition, giving the viewer a more complete sense of 'being there,'” says VP and news director Susan Schiller.

KYW is shooting HD in the field with XDCAM HD and airing edited packages in HD. Live remotes are also shot with XDCAM HD, but are output and transmitted in widescreen standard-definition to backhaul them to the station and then upconverted for air. That's because KYW, like many stations, is waiting to receive new digital microwave gear from Sprint Nextel as part of an FCC-mandated overhaul of the ENG spectrum before undertaking true hi-def ENG.

Suppliers for KYW's HD origination and production include Thomson's Grass Valley Group for a complement of feed capture, nonlinear editing and server/storage platforms; and Pixel Power, which outfitted KYW with its Clarity switchable graphics generator to produce news graphics in native HD.

KYW's digital HD signal gets to Philadelphia-area viewers through retransmission arrangements with DirecTV and Dish Network, and is carried by Comcast. As of October 2007, Nielsen says about 15% of Philadelphia TV households are equipped to see HD signals.