'TV Guide' Does Its Bit for HDTV

TV Guide sits in a crucial position for the cable industry in its efforts to educate and sell consumers on HDTV, and the Tulsa, Okla.,-based guide company knows it.

That's why next week at The National Show, TV Guide is unveiling a new "HDTV 101" initiative for cable operators inside its TV Guide product, seen in 56 million homes. The program is free to operators and contains two key elements.

One is an HDTV icon that will be present in the bottom scroll of the screen for any program broadcast in HDTV. The other element is the creation of four, two-minute education segments that cable operators can run inside the 10 minutes of inventory they control in TV Guide.

Those four segments address these four questions:

  • What is HDTV?
  • How do I get it?
  • What programming is available?
  • How much does it cost?

TV Guide will be placing a condensed 30-second version of each of those segments inside the video carousel at the top of screen, where they will appear next to traditional TV Guide segments like "Hollywood Insider" and "What's On."

"The first step with HDTV is to educate the consumer on what is it, how do you get it, what's on, and what does it cost," said Amy Bates, senior vice president, affiliate marketing. "It's the industry's first consumer-education program and it's designed to demystify HD. And TV Guide is best positioned to do this." The four segments will be hosted by TV Guide host Cynthia Garrett.

"We can insert this at the national level, regional or on a headend-by-headend basis and customize it for that cable operator," Bates said. "We can list HDTV channels specific to headends."

If an operator is carrying ESPN HD, consumers in that headend or system would see an HDTV icon — HDTV in capital letters inside a TV set — next to that program. The same would be true for broadcast-network programming, or HBO, Showtime or Discovery. If an operator is carrying HDNet, HDNet would appear as its only separate channel alongside the other linear cable networks, Bates said.

The onscreen information is being supplemented online, added Suzanne Meeks, vice president, promotions, TV Guide Networks. The online site will be up and running this summer with additional information, Meeks said.

Meeks also said TV Guide has struck a deal with Premiere Retail Networks, which supplies in-store programming to Best Buy, Circuit City, Wal-Mart, Sears and Sam's Club, among others, in 2,000 locations. PRN already carries TV Guide's "Hollywood Insider."

Meeks said a two-minute program on what's currently available in HD, including specific network programming, will launch this summer in Best Buy, Circuit City and Sears stores via PRN. "What's on HDTV," hosted by Katie Wagner, will showcase hot HDTV product and will be updated monthly, according to Meeks.

Bates said TV Guide Interactive is working on the same functionality.