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WFTV Up and Running With HD News

WFTV, the ABC affiliate in Orlando, Fla., has just completed its first week of broadcasting its newscasts in HDTV. The Cox station, which launched HD news with its 5 a.m. newscast on July 29, is the first station in Florida to offer HD news. A big driver for the HD launch was the high rate of HD penetration among cable subscribers of local operator Brighthouse Networks, says WFTV VP and General Manager Shawn Bartelt, and so far viewer feedback is very positive.

"We've gotten a lot of e-mails, and every single one has been delighted with the product," says Bartelt. "They're delighted we've done it."

Not surprisingly for the weather-focused Orlando market, WFTV is using the latest in weather presentation technology, including a high-def radar system from Baron Services and a high-def weather-graphics package from WSI. The station invested over $1 million in the HD conversion, says Bartelt, including building a new set, buying high-def Sony studio cameras and installing a new HD graphics system. Field footage for now is widescreen standard-def, though Bartelt says the plan is to convert field acquisition to HDTV as soon as it is technically feasible; the station already produced a 4th of July taped special in the high-def format.

"When we shoot and edit in HD, you're eyes just can't leave the screen," says Bartelt.