Football fans won't be able to enjoy new Monday Night Football commentator Dennis Miller in 720-line progressive resolution and Dolby Digital sound, because ABC won't be broadcasting MNF in HDTV this fall.
According to Preston Davis, ABC president of broadcast operations and engineering, ABC decided last Tuesday to call off talks with The Ackerley Group about renting its 720p truck, which ABC used last year when it was owned by hi-def sponsor Panasonic. Since there aren't any other 720p trucks in existence, says Davis, "at this point, it does not look like we will be doing MNF in HDTV."
He adds, however, that ABC will increase the number of movies it broadcasts in HDTV. The network is also considering some HDTV prime time series for the fall, which may be subsidized by consumer electronics manufacturers.
At press time, ABC-owned station KTRK-TV Houston planned to broadcast its local Fourth of July fireworks in 720p HDTV, using a Sony-equipped 1080i truck from National Mobile Television (NMT). NMT recently purchased ABC's mobile production fleet and will be supplying the network with standard trucks for all of its domestic sports production, including MNF.
The station planned to take the 1080i output of NMT's "HD-2" truck and convert it to 720p for broadcast, says a Sony source. When asked why ABC couldn't pursue a similar strategy for MNF, an ABC representative explained that "ABC is committed to native 720p."