Climbing the Hi-Def Mountain


On Christmas Eve 1996, the FCC approved the high-definition television standard that launched a new era. Ten years later, broadcast networks now offer the bulk of their primetime programming and major sports coverage in HDTV. Cable networks provide a wealth of HDTV content, even dedicated HD networks. A handful of stations offer local newscasts in hi-def. Manufacturers say they will sell more HDTV sets this year than standard-definition models.

But viewership is so minuscule that ratings for HD programming don't exist; no more than 20% of all commercials are aired in HD. Policy issues and operational challenges need to be addressed before Feb. 17, 2009, the date that Congress says analog broadcasting will cease. For the broadcast and cable industry, HDTV's message is clear: Keep climbing.