History of the NFL in High Definition
With the first complete NFL High Definition Season quickly approaching, I am using this guest blog entry to chronicle the High Definition History of the NFL.
Ten years after the first NFL game was broadcast in high definition, every regular season game for the 2008 season is set to be broadcast in HD.
We have come a long way to get to this point…
1998 NFL Season
The first HD NFL game was a divisional battle between the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets on November 8, 1998 from Giant’s Stadium. That HD broadcast was a totally separate feed from the standard definition feed, and served as a test for CBS, who only aired the game on WCBS in New York City.
CBS broadcast two other regular season games and one playoff game in 1998. While these other games were broadcast nationwide, the high definition feed was only available on the CBS Digital Television Network, which was very limited at that time.
1999 NFL Season
The following year, ABC Monday Night Football became the first to broadcast their entire season of regularly scheduled NFL games in HD. All 17 of ABC’s MNF games in 1999 were produced in High Definition.
These games were not the integrated SD/HD broadcasts that viewers are used to today. Like CBS did the previous season, the ABC HD broadcasts were produced out of a separate production truck that had fewer capabilities then the production truck outputting the SD feed for the nation. Cameras for the HD broadcast were placed in secondary locations that were not always the optimal positions. However, one big benefit of this set up was that it allowed the HD cameras to frame the picture for the 16×9, unlike today’s broadcasts which are framed for 4×3 to protect for the SD audience.
Unfortunately, the Monday Night Football high definition experiment only lasted one year.
2000 – 2002 NFL Seasons
The 2000 through 2002 seasons only saw a handful of games produced in HD on CBS and ABC with most of the games being playoff games. The cost of separate HD and SD broadcasts could not be justified with the small HD audience at the time.
2003 NFL Season
2003 was the next watershed moment for the NFL in HD. ABC and ESPN committed to doing their entire schedule of Monday Night and Sunday Night Football games in high definition, including special games from both series that appeared on other days, such as Thursday and Saturday games. CBS also started doing their number one game each week in HD.
As scheduled this would have been 54 games in HD over the course of the regular season. However, due to the tragic wildfires in the San Diego area during the eighth week of the season, the Dolphins vs. Chargers Monday Night Football game was moved to Tempe, Arizona, and ABC (under incredible circumstances) produced the game out of a SD production truck that was still in town from the Cardinals game the day before.
The growth of HD during the 2003 season can largely be credited to integrated SD/HD productions. This did not require the additional expense for separate HD and SD production trucks.
The 2003 season also saw the last standard definition NFL playoff game, which was the NFC Championship game from Philadelphia, which FOX produced in their Widescreen SD format.
2004 NFL Season
The 2004 season saw tremendous growth in the number of HD games produced and delivered to viewers each week. FOX, made the bold move to start producing up to six games every week in HD and CBS stepped up to produce two additional games in high definition each week (except for Week One due to their US Open Tennis commitments).
No fewer then 10 games each week were available in HD throughout the season. By the end of the 2004 season, over 70% of all NFL games were produced in high definition, an astronomical jump from just 20% the previous season. More regular season games were produced in HD during the first seven weeks of 2004 then during the previous 6 regular seasons.
2005 – 2007 NFL Seasons
The next 2 seasons saw no great jump in the number of games produced in high definiton, with no season seeing more then 75% of he games produced in HD.
The only big change was in 2006, when ESPN took over Monday Night Football, NBC began broadcasting Sunday Night Football, NFL Network started doing 8 late season games and ABC exited the NFL picture. However, these changes did not led to any significant increase in the number of high definition NFL games.
The 2007 season saw an increase in the number of games produced in HD, with CBS going to up to 6 games in HD per week, depending on who had the doubleheader week. Only 25 of the 256 regular season games were in standard definition during the 2007 regular season, 16 of them on CBS
and 9 on FOX.
So now that the SD era is over for the NFL here are some interesting stats and tidbits:
- ESPN holds the longest streak of producing all of their games in HD, having produced every one of their games in HD since the 2003 season.
- There have been 873 regular season games in HD, of those 320 have been in
1080i and 553 in 720p.
Total NFL HD games by Network
- ABC: 68 (includes the 2005 week 2 game they split with ESPN when the Saints played a “home” game in New York after Hurricane Katrina.)
- CBS: 270
- ESPN: 88 (54 during the Sunday Night era)
- FOX: 397
- NBC: 34
- NFL Network: 16
Total NFL HD Games by Team (2003 – 2007)
Number of high definition games by NFL team over the last five seasons (2003 -2007 Regular Season only – 80 regular season games per team during this period).
- Arizona Cardinals: 43
- Atlanta Falcons: 60
- Baltimore Ravens: 40
- Buffalo Bills: 41
- Carolina Panthers: 54
- Chicago Bears: 61
- Cincinnati Bengals: 36
- Cleveland Browns: 33
- Dallas Cowboys: 68
- Denver Broncos: 64
- Detroit Lions: 56
- Green Bay Packers: 69
- Houston Texans: 27
- Indianapolis Colts: 56
- Jacksonville Jaguars: 36
- Kansas City Chiefs: 57
- Miami Dolphins: 47
- Minnesota Vickings: 64
- New England Patriots: 70
- New Orleans Saints: 58
- New York Giants: 68
- New York Jets: 55
- Oakland Raiders: 45
- Philadelphia Eagles: 67
- Pittsburgh Steelers: 56
- San Diego Chargers: 43
- San Francisco 49ers: 56
- Seattle Seahawks: 59
- St. Louis Rams: 58
- Tampa Bay Bucaneers: 60
- Tennessee Titans: 32
- Washington Redskins: 65
Last Standard Definition (SD) Game by Team
(Ranked shortest HD streak to longest, regular season only)
- Atlanta Falcons: (Week 17, 2007 season)
- Cincinnati Bengals: (Week 17, 2007 season)
- Denver Broncos: (Week 17, 2007 season)
- Miami Dolphins: (Week 17, 2007 season)
- Minnesota Vikings: (Week 17, 2007 season)
- Seattle Seahawks: (Week 17, 2007 season)
- Baltimore Ravens: (Week 16, 2007 season)
- Detroit Lions: (Week 16, 2007 season)
- Kansas City Chiefs: (Week 16, 2007 season)
- Buffalo Bills: (Week 14, 2007 season)
- St. Louis Rams: (Week 14, 2007 season)
- Oakland Raiders: (Week 13, 2007 season)
- Tennessee Titans: (Week 12, 2007 season)
- Houston Texans: (Week 11, 2007 season)
- New Orleans Saints: (Week 11, 2007 season)
- San Francisco 49ers: (Week 11, 2007 season)
- Carolina Panthers: (Week 10, 2007 season)
- Cleveland Browns: (Week 8, 2007 season)
- Jacksonville Jaguars: (Week 5, 2007 season)
- Arizona Cardinals: (Week 3, 2007 season)
- Pittsburgh Steelers: (Week 17, 2006 season)
- San Diego Chargers: (Week 17, 2006 season)
- Indianapolis Colts: (Week 16, 2006 season)
- New England Patriots (Week 15, 2006 season)
- New York Jets: (Week 14, 2006 season)
- Philadelphia Eagles: (Week 11, 2006 season)
- New York Giants: (Week 9, 2006 season)
- Tampa Bay Bucaneers: (Week 6, 2006 season)
- Washington Redskins: (Week 6, 2006 season)
- Chicago Bears: (Week 7, 2005 season)
- Dallas Cowboys: (Week 17, 2003 season)
- Green Bay Packers: (Week 15, 2003 season)
Homcom is a guest blogger at HDSportsGuide. All of his posts can be found at http://www.HDSportsGuide.com/homcom
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