Last summer, the network news race was toward transmedia content. This year, it appears to be gearing up for a race to high-definition.
And the early sprinter is NBC Nightly News, who will become the first of the evening news shows to launch in HD when the show starts a high-def broadcast next month.
NBC's Today has been broadcast in HD since last September, while Dateline, the other NBC news production, has not made plans for high-definition as of yet.
James Hibberd, the TelevisionWeek senior reporter who provides excellent continuous coverage of the industry's latest high-definition news, writes, "Though local news markets have increasingly embraced HD as a way of keeping viewers coming out of HD prime-time programming, national evening news departments have been slow to embrace the format. In addition to the cost of overhauling a studio, the department has to replace field cameras around the world. For NBC Nightly News, most field reports will continue to use standard-definition cameras until early 2008."
The precursor to this race to HD was also Dan Rather's jump to Mark Cuban's HDNet for Dan Rather Presents. Back in July, I wrote:
The move marks a key shift in HDNet's marketing that has been taking place, to definite itself in relation to its content and not simply the HD platform, which will see its originality wearing thin in the coming years. HDNet wants to market itself as innovative, and it is continuing to do that now by pushing that cutting-edge feel into content as well. In the press release, Cuban is quoted as saying that Rather will now be "finally released from the ratings driven and limited depth confines of broadcast television." Correspondingly, Rather says of moving to the network that "hard news needs backers who won't back down."
NBC has been a major player in the transmedia race as well, such as with November's decision to podcast the Nightly News and Meet the Press. Back last May, NBC had started to offer news content through iTunes, while ABC created a deal with the BBC to be "the exclusive representative for on-demand broadband and wireless in North America." Then, last July, NBC created a video blog for NBC news anchor Brian Williams, called The Early Nightly, in which he gives a preview of the news after the editors of the nightly newscast have their initial editorial conference call.
With all this switching of temporality for current events shows, you have to ask as I did with Jay Leno: "Is It The Tonight Show if You Watch It the Next Morning?" So, it was no surprise when ABC dropped temporality from its news day, with its continuous ABC News Now on the Web, changing its evening news program from World News Tonight to World News with Charles Gibson, as well as ABC's streaming the news online to more than 200 affiliates.