Digital TV set to beam from Texas ballpark

Rangers' opener to make television history

NEW YORK — It’s a new season for the Texas Rangers today and, if all goes well, for digital television, too. That’s because the Rangers’ home opener against the Chicago White Sox will likely make history as “the first commercially supported digital broadcast.”

Likely is the operative word, however, for two reasons:

– Although there have been commercially supported high-definition broadcasts before, none is believed to have been digital; conversely, although there have been digital broadcasts before, none is believed to have been commercially supported.

– The broadcast may be so beset by technical difficulties it may not qualify. As Greg Schmidt, VP for new development for LIN Television Corp., said, mostly in jest, before a final trial broadcast on Monday: “We’re still putting this thing together with gum and spit.”

If it does work, however, visitors to the Transportation Committee’s room in the Rayburn Building in Washington, D.C., will be treated to a pre-game show at 2:15 p.m. EST, featuring a digitally taped message from NBC president Bob Wright as well as hot dogs, polticos and three baseball-beaming digital screens.

In addition, the game, to be broadcast from Dallas at 2:30, will be shown on the ballpark screen and picked up by a couple of Circuit City stores in Texas that are blessed with display-ready digital TV sets.

Procter & Gamble and MCI are slated as charter advertisers for the broadcast, which may further cement its place in history by devoting separate announcing and production teams to the digital version, as opposed to relying on network TV crews to do double duty.

Schmidt confirmed that a recent test of the system did, in fact, wreak havoc on heart-monitoring machines at nearby hospitals, but the problem has been solved. Those particular side effects, he explained, were circumvented by “going on channel 41 this time instead of on channel 7.”

LIN Television Corp. was recently acquired by Dallas-based Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, which operates LIN as a private entity.

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