In the skies above Los Angeles, KABC is giving viewers the market’s sharpest pictures of traffic snarls and car chases. That is because the ABC-owned station is flying the market’s first HD-equipped helicopter, dubbed Air7HD.
Gannett Broadcasting’s tech-savvy KUSA Denver is the only other local broadcast station flying an HD chopper. In L.A., KABC will use the new helicopter as its primary aircraft. The station also has options to use two other choppers, although they are standard definition.
The helicopter is KABC’s first foray into HD for its local news. "This seemed like a great way to start making our way to all high definition," says News Director Cheryl Fair. Because the HD cameras provide a clearer picture, she added, "it is beneficial for people with HD sets and standard definition sets too."
KABC is leasing the chopper from Helinet Aviation Services. The station would not comment on the cost of the new aircraft, but high-definition equipment is usually about 10% more than standard definition gear.
To introduce viewers to the new technology, KABC ran a series of teaser promotions for four days, promising “something would change and improve our breaking news," VP of Programming, Advertising and Promotion Bill Burton says. Then on Monday, the chopper's first day in flight, the station featured it in stories on the early evening and 11 p.m. news. The reports, Burton says, also explained the advantages of high def TV and how viewers can receive it.
"It was important that viewers understand what this is and why we did it. This enhances our breaking-news brand," Fair says.