When Fox Sports kicks off its HD NFL coverage this season, it will be thanks, in part, to the hard work of its truck-vendor partners. They'll spend the rest of the summer putting the finishing touches on
existing vehicles to meet demand. National Mobile
Television (NMT) just rolled the first of two trucks off the assembly line. Known as HD7 and HD8, the two 53-foot vehicles provide state-of-the-art HD. NMT President Jerry Gepner (who was once Fox Sports executive vice president of operations and engineering) talked trucks with
HD7 and HD8 were both rebuilds. How easy is it to rebuild a truck for HD use?
Have you ever had root canal without Novocaine?
It's that bad?
It depends on what truck you're starting with. We're taking a two-year-old digital truck and making it HD. That's difficult but not painful. Have you ever talked with someone who converted an analog truck for HD? I had a couple of phone calls with someone who did. And I was trying to talk him down from the ledge.
Why is that such a hard task?
Everything has to change in an analog truck. For example, it typically has an older power and cooling system that isn't an issue when you're pulling 100 amps off of 200 amps of service. But with HD, you're pulling up to 170 amps. If the power service at the venue hasn't been checked in 20 years, you've got problems.
HD7 just rolled off the line. Is it booked up yet?
To the wall. Its first event was the pre-game for the NBA Finals. Fox Sports is the leading client. It's also booked by ESPN and others.
By the fall, it'll be pretty much in use by Fox.
It's guaranteed to be. It will be used for their NFL B-game.
What does Fox's HD football cost you and other truck vendors?
It triggered six new truck builds right out of the gate. If a refit costs between $4 million and $4.5 million, there was $24 million in capital that needed to be cut loose [by truck vendors] the day Fox made its decision. And that's a minimum. If you're building from the ground up, it's a minimum of $7 million. So I'd guess the number is closer to $30 million. The truck vendors take the financial risk, but contracts like the one from Fox make it less risky.
How much of the sports market will be in HD in 2005?
It's going to polarize a bit for a while. But more than 70% of NFL regular-season games will be in HDTV. This is a snowball headed downhill fast. It wouldn't surprise me if 30% of televised regional and national events were in HD. It will take until the end of the year to get there. And there's a lot of talk from Major League Baseball rights holders about what they want to do in April 2005.