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'Seinfeld' to Debut In HD

In conjunction with its now-typical big splash at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Sony Pictures Television (SPT) will announce it is making the syndicated comedy Seinfeld available to broadcast stations in high-definition for the first time. HD episodes of the long-running sitcom will be ready to air on stations beginning Jan. 26.

Sony will back the move to HD with a massive promotional push featuring new digitally enhanced HD promos. Sony will supply stations with four episodic hi-def promos for each of the 180 episodes, or 720 in all. SPT has also created a complete HD graphics package it will supply to stations to assist them in creating their own local promos, as well as sales presentations.

Actor John O'Hurley, who played J. Peterman on the show, has voiced some of the promos. This marks the fourth set of episodic promotions in all for Seinfeld, but the first in HD.

SPT execs will work with stations through advisory boards, attempting to keep the sitcom fresh to offset the fact that it's in its 13th year in syndication. Rating erosion is common at this stage.

Seinfeld is the greatest television show ever,” says John Weiser, SPT's president of distribution. “The time is right to deliver the show in hi-def and continue our efforts to introduce Seinfeld to a new generation of viewers. Now the quality of the broadcast will match the quality of the content.”

Seinfeld is the third off-net sitcom to be made available to stations in HD. Warner Bros. has made Two and a Half Men available to stations in HD since its premiere, while CBS Television Distribution started making Everybody Loves Raymond available to stations in HD last March.

Other syndicated programming is offered in HD, including The Oprah Winfrey Show,Ellen DeGeneres, Entertainment Tonight,The Insider,Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy!But it's expensive for stations to download, and until recently few did. Just 40 stations were carrying Two and a Half Men in HD last summer. But more stations in the top 75 to 100 markets are completing installation of Pathfire systems that will make handling syndication HD easier.