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Eye pacts with Panasonic on high-def TV

"Murder' to shoot on HDTV videotape

Although consumers have been reluctant to get their toes wet, CBS has sealed a deal with Panasonic to once again wade the high-definition TV waters this fall.

Panasonic will underwrite the HDTV broadcast of 17 of CBS’ 18 comedy and drama series this coming season in the 1080 line interlaced format; only “Walker, Texas Ranger” won’t be converted to high-definition because of the way the show is filmed.

Also, the Viacom drama “Diagnosis Murder” will go a step further and shoot its episodes this season on high-definition videotape. The other CBS skeins will continue to produce episodes on 35mm film, which is then expensively converted to HDTV for air.

Mitsubishi, which underwrote the HDTV broadcast of CBS series last year, had already decided against renewing its deal with the Eye. Mitsubishi spent between $20,000 and $30,000 per hour to underwrite the HDTV broadcasts last season.

At the time, CBS said it made money off the Mitsubishi deal, since HDTV set manufacturers have been spending more ad dollars at the Eye network.

Thirty-one CBS-owned and/or affiliated stations broadcast in digital, repping 45% of the nation. CBS predicts that number will jump to 39 stations by the end of the year.

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