Both Fox News and MSNBC will go high definition next year. For the HDTV owner, cable news has been one of the corners of the TV world that has gone into the HD universe kicking and screaming.
Cable news operations, most of which have been on the decline for years (with the notable exception of News Corp’s Fox News), have resisted going high definition since the technology’s inception. The costs of adding high definition to a 24-hour channel is staggering, especially for cable news which runs smaller profit margins than traditional network programming. The costs include issuing high definition, portable cameras, upgrading satellite trucks around the world, and airbrushing countless anchors and talking heads. Airbrushing is a key (and more expensive) technique in makeup for HDTV on-air talents, as facial imperfections are much more visible with all the extra pixels.
Fox Business, as covered previously on this blog, was the first channel to launch in high definition, though only DirecTV is currently broadcasting the HD version of the feed. Fox News is headquartered in the same building as Fox Business, and the two operations share many resources. News Corp intentionally decided to launch Fox Business in HD first, to amortize out costs and ensure a significant reduction in resources needed to train staff and adjust to the switch to HDTV.
MSNBC however was hoping that they could beat Fox to the punch on HD. The network which touts “fastest growing” numbers, actually is the smallest of the cable news networks. MSNBC had placed its best on drawing away viewership from CNN and Fox News by going HD first. In fact, many of MSNBC’s filler documentaries (which are taking up a large portion of prime time programming), are already taped and flagged as HD.
It’s not clear when in 2008 Fox and MSNBC will launch HD, nor is it clear if this will spread to the rest of NBC news, including network NBC News and CNBC.