The Weather Channel forecasts new HD feed

Posted by Mark Raby

Atlanta (GA) - As part of DirecTV's initiative to offer tons of high-definition programming, The Weather Channel has signed on to offer an HD feed, which will premiere on the satellite provider in the second half of 2007.

The 24/7 weather channel says the transition to HD is difficult because all the graphics need to be updated, and it takes more equipment than most channels because of the live nature of the network.

There's a different set of requirements than it takes "to convert a TV station or, frankly, even a network that is more predominantly focused on tape product. Because we're 24/7 live. We have all the components: the studio, the broadcast infrastructure and the STAR technology," said Weather Channel president Debora Wilson in an Associated Press story.  According to Wilson, the HD move is an investment climbing into the range of tens of millions of dollars.

The network says the move to HD is important mainly because of the remote shots of weather events like hurricanes and blizzards, which would be better captured on high-definition cameras.

The transition will not be 100% complete when the HD channel goes live, though.  At first, only key daytime slots will be broadcasted in high definition.  The network plans to be in full 24/7 HD, which includes taped specialty programs like "It Could Happen Tomorrow", by the middle of 2008.

DirecTV will be the exclusive carrier of the channel at first, but there is no contract of exclusivity, and according to media reports, The Weather Channel HD is expected to hit other satellite companies soon after, with cable providers picking it up at a later date.

The reason it will take cable longer to offer the HD channel, aside from the fact that current bandwidth restrictions would prevent it from being in most providers' lineups, is the fact that local weather forecasts are passed down from a local cable headend, up to 6000 of which would need to be updated to support the HD output.