ESPN will launch a high-definition simulcast service in April 2003, promising 100 live HDTV broadcasts in its first year.
Net plans to produce a variety of original entertainment, including the X Games and the ESPY Awards, in HDTV, as well as select games from college championships, Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NFL and NHL. In 2004, ESPN will produce and distribute most of its studio shows in HDTV, tacking on another 3,700 hours of originally produced high-definition programming.
“ESPN is making a significant commitment to spur the growth of high-definition television,” said George Bodenheimer, the net’s prexy. “Sports will be a key driver of HDTV, and it is only fitting that ESPN play a leadership role in serving our fans, affiliates, advertisers and rights holders in advancing the adoption of digital technology.”
ESPN veep Bryan Burns will manage ESPN HD, reporting to ESPN Enterprises’ Rick Alessandri. All high-definition programming on ESPN HD will be delivered in the 720p format. Net will digitally convert all other programming to 720p for viewers with HDTV sets.