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If you want to know the weather…

by David Mercer | May 03, 2007

... look out of the window, of course, or, possibly, watch the Weather Channel in HD, which presumably should be just as good, depending on how often you get your windows cleaned. The Weather Channel launched in 1982, is owned by Landmark Communications, Inc. and reaches more than 89 million subscribers in the US. It has just announced an investment of $50m in HDTV, and its HD channel will be launched on DirecTV in September 2007. The investment will include a new studio in Atlanta, new cameras and other equipment, as well as upgrading its extensive graphics output to HD quality. Debora Wilson, the company's president, claims that the transition to HD is simply a "cost of doing business". Sony's broadcast division will certainly be licking its lips... TWC is an interesting case in the HD transition because it is one of the few examples of a nearly-24-hour live network. Even the regular 24-hour news channels carry a certain amount of pre-recorded programming, and TWC claims that 22 our of every 24 hours are live feeds. This means that, once the HD investments are made, the channel will very quickly become a full HD service, unlike most channels that claim to be HD, but in fact are relying heavily on upconverting older, SD originated material. There is still considerable debate as to how far and how fast the HD transition is going to affect news channels. The scale of TWC's investment suggests one reason why others may be reluctant to move quickly, however much it is dressed up as part of the normal capital spend. I imagine that for CNN or Sky News to make a similar move would require an outlay an order of magnitude greater, given the news gathering resources required to operate such a service. The flipside is that news channels may find themselves isolated from HD tiers. Wilson notes that HDTV subscribers tend to stick to HD channels, so news and other channels resistant to the transition may be forced to respond sooner than they would like.
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