CBS Sports Is Set To Go All-HD for NFL

By Carl Lindemann
At CBS Sports, this season s NFL football coverage will mark the last in the transition to end-to-end HD. According to Ken Aagaard, EVP of Engineering, Operations and Production Services (Editor s note: Aagaard also serves as chairman of Sports Video Group), the network may be able to deliver all HD, all the time — if the cards fall right. Regardless, this is the opportunity to work out the remaining kinks to make sure that everything is in place to make that happen in the 2009 season.
Next season, we have a contractual obligation [with the NFL] to do all-HD, he says. This year, we re right on track and very close to achieving that.
What remains on CBS Sports to-do list? For the most part, the major technical hurdles are past. The big picture in the jigsaw puzzle is clear, with just a few missing pieces still to find their place.
All of our trucks and game sites will be HD. Everything will be produced in 16×9, 1080i HD, Aagaard says. Our issue right now is that we may not be able to distribute completely in HD. It depends on our networking. There are occasions where there will be issues. For example, in a double-header, a late game may start in 4×3 until we can free up distribution equipment from the earlier game to get the HD signal out. It s very possible we will have no problems all year. Still, there s a multitude of circumstances were we can t transmit in HD, and these may surface during the season.
Even though Aagaard has hope that these scenarios won t surface, the main goal of the build-out in the months ahead is seeing to it that they can t happen in the future. One element in attaining that is getting a full complement of coordination rooms up and running.
We still have two coordination rooms that have to come on-line, he says. We can work around this using the eight in place, along with some additional HD facilities at CBS.
What does this mean for viewers?
Our videotape-highlight area is still not fully redone, so, on any given Sunday, our highlights at halftime won t be in HD. That is the last piece that we ll have in place next summer.
Once this part of the HD game plan is complete, the next engineering issue is to resolve ongoing issues with 5.1 surround sound.
This was the biggest problem at the Olympics, and an engineering challenge that will continue to evolve, says Aagaard. This is something that everyone – including manufacturers — will need to get involved with in a coordinated effort.