NewsChannel 9 recently became the last of the three major television stations to convert to a high-definition format, and locals in the industry said the move is required to stay competitive.
“We were fortunate enough to build a new set,” Channel 9 News Director Tom Henderson said. “Because of the new ownership and the investment that they’ve made in our television station—we were fortunate enough to basically accomplish HD done right.”
Sinclair Broadcast Group recently became the new owner of Channel 9, which is the local ABC affiliate.
The company that had owned Channel 9, Freedom Communications, struggled with bankruptcy and sold its assets, including Channel 9, to become debt-free, according to a news release from Freedom.
Channel 9 leaders chose to take on the change—which involved a new set, new cameras, and an array of other new equipment and software—all at once.
The competitors have been slowly making the conversion for a while.
“We have actually been making the changes in stages,” Tom Tolar, president and general manager of NBC affiliate Channel 3, said.
First, they installed equipment to make NBC programming available in HD, which is broadcast in a 16:9 ratio, instead of a 4:3 ratio.
The next step was to be able to record and play back syndicated programs in HD, which required new equipment, Tolar said.
They also got equipment that would allow for local programming to go HD.
Dutch Terry, news director of CBS affiliate Channel 12, said his station was the first to produce local content in HD.
His station also did the conversion in stages.
“We spaced it out … instead of doing it all at once,” he said. “It’s just a different philosophy in taking the approach.”
Terry said the conversion for his station cost hundreds of thousands.
For Channel 9, just the cost of the new set was in the six figures, general manager Mike Costa said, declining to be more specific about the entire cost.
For Channel 3, the entire change cost $7 million, Tolar said.
“We’ve had the same owner for almost 30 years,” he said. “This allowed us to plan our capital expenditures and spread them out over an extended period of time.”
Derrall Stalvey, news director, said his team recognizes that, in large part, viewers tune in to see the on-air personalities.
So Channel 3 leaders spent time making sure the anchors and reporters felt good about appearing in HD.
Terry also mentioned that crews made changing to lighting and makeup because HD may make flaws easier to see.
HD provides a brighter, clearer picture, and leaders from all three stations said the main idea is to give viewers a better experience.
And Terry said that once a viewer goes to HD, it might be hard to go back.
“If you watch it in HD and turn around and watch it in standard—it’s just almost painful,” he said.