Updated: June 13, 4:35 PM ET
Why Did ESPN Choose 720p versus 1080i?
ESPN chose 720p because of the "p," which stands for progressive scan technology. Progressive scan technology paints the picture on your television screen from top to bottom on a line-by-line basis&.as in lines 1,2,3,4,5,6,7, etc. Interlace technology, the "i" in 1080i, paints the picture on an every-other-line basis, first painting lines 1,3,5,7,9 and then a split second later painting lines 2,4,6,8 and 10. Your eyes then assemble the painting into one image.
Progressive scan technology produces better images for the fast moving orientation of sports television. Simply put, with 104 mph fastballs in baseball and 120 mph shots on goal in hockey, the line-by-line basis of progressive scan technology better captures the inherent fast action of sports. For ESPN, progressive scan technology makes perfect sense.
We note with interest that when consumers now shop for DVD devices which produce the best pictures, the industry standard for quality is "progressive scan DVD players." We believe that says a great deal about our selection of 720p.
However, it is important to note that 720p and 1080i are not mutually exclusive technologies. Unlike certain incompatibilities in industries like cellular telephone service, DVD's and other products dating back to VHS versus Betamax and 8-track audio tape versus cassettes, all television sets, set top boxes and tuners are required to accept a series of formats, in which 720p and 1080i are included. Therefore, no one is excluded, and consumers with sets that inherently create pictures with progressive scan technology will automatically be able to see programs that are produced in the interlace format and vice versa. Some will debate the quality of the technologies, but we believe both 720p and 1080i produce HDTV pictures of a quality far above what most consumers have experienced over the first 50 years of television. As such, all HDTV viewers win!
Why Isn't ESPN 24:7 in HDTV?
The simple answer is lack of facilities. When ESPN produces a sporting event at a stadium or arena, we use what is simply called a "remote truck." These trucks are very complex and very expensive. During the typical 12 month year, ESPN will use roughly 40 different remote trucks to produce the telecasts of the sporting events we display. When we announced the launch of ESPN HD in September of 2002, no remote trucks existed in the 720p format. We now have access to a limited number of trucks that are capable of producing the high quality productions that result from our coverage of such sports as the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, the Women's NCAA Basketball Final Four and the College World Series. As HDTV grows, we will seek to expand the numbers of telecasts that ESPN originally produces for ESPN HD.
ESPN is also building a new 120,000 square foot facility at our headquarters in Bristol, Connecticut. When completed in early 2004, it will be the then-largest HDTV facility in the world. Over time, ESPN studio programming, such as SportsCenter and NFL Countdown will be originally produced in high definition. Stay tuned for future announcements regarding additions to the ESPN HD schedule, such as our new original series, Playmakers, which will display its three airings each Tuesday starting August 26th (9p, 10p and midnight) on ESPN HD in the 16:9 format.
In all of our program categories, from live remote events to studio programming to pre-produced programming, we are working to appropriately increase the number of hours of originally produced programming each week on ESPN HD. However, we have chosen to focus first on quality over quantity, in an attempt to deliver our most viewed, highest profile programming to showcase the quality of HDTV&rather than being able to say that we have a large percentage of our programming originally produced in HDTV. As the number of homes with HDTV and ESPN HD grows, more and more programming will be originally produced in HDTV.