Engineers flipped the switch this weekend at Chattanooga NBC affiliate WRCB, broadcasting the local news in widescreen high-definition for the first time.
WRCB became the second of the three local stations with their own news programs to broadcast in HD, after rival WDEF, a CBS affiliate, completed its own upgrade in 2009.
"Since then, we've had great feedback from our viewers about their growing awareness of HD news and how once they've seen news with quality production values on a high definition screen, it's difficult -- if not impossible -- to watch anything else," said Dutch Terry, Channel 12 news director.
Chattanooga viewers have for years been able to view regular NBC content in HD, but local content remained in standard definition until this weekend, said Tom Tolar, president and general manager of WRCB.
"Now when viewers watch the station, our local newscasts will appear in the same HD quality as the rest of the network," Tolar said. "There will be no reduction in picture quality."
News Channel 9, Chattanooga's ABC affiliate, is still broadcasting the local news in standard definition. An upgrade is under way, said Mike Costa, general manager of WTVC, but he wouldn't name a launch date.
"It's a ton of work and a ton of money," Costa said.
Switching a station over to high-definition isn't just a matter of switching out camera lenses, Costa said.
The change can require new lighting, new wiring, new production controls and new cameras. At WRCB, the change cost millions and took weeks to install, a process that could not interrupt the station's daily broadcast.
Costa claims that though it will be late to the game, News Channel 9 is doing "extensively more than other stations have done" to upgrade the picture quality.
"When we finally roll it out, viewers will see a noticeable difference," Costa said.
The first station in the U.S. to broadcast in HD, WRAL of Releigh-Durham, began in 1996 -- about 16 years ago.
WRCB is the TV news partner for the Chattanooga Times Free Press.
Contact staff writer Ellis Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6315.