Tuesday, November 10, 1998

Riding a TV Wave

by Andrew Backover

In Randall Paris Dark's vision of the future, high-definition television - known as HDTV - will be as common in American homes as compact discs, personal computers, and VCR's. Before that happens, however, broadcasters need to show people programs on new digital channels. They also need the costly, hard to find equipment and production assistance to create HDTV - the super clear, colorful, and superior sounding format that's expected to end the era of analog televisions much like black and white sets replaced color TV's in the 60's and 70's.

The broadcasters' problem is the reason Dark's company, Las Colinas based HD Vision and a dozen or so HD production companies around the country are poised to ride the HDTV wave to what they hope will be a lucrative future. As early as 10 years ago they saw the potential of HDTV, acquired the equipment and developed the technical expertise to be ready for the change.

"Anybody that has expertise in this business can hang out a shingle and make some money on it," said Dennis Wharton, spokesman for the NAB. "That's a terrific business opportunity right now, I would think."

HD Vision produces programs specifically for HDTV, rents out the HD equipment and consults with the growing number of broadcasters that are adding digital channels. "Creating original programming for broadcasters will be one of our biggest revenue streams," said Dark, HD Vision's CEO. Dark's library of HD films and shows, which he either produced, co-produced, or brokers, has grown to 25 titles, including sports, nature topics and concerts, since he began work in the HDTV realm over a decade ago.

Another metroplex company that thinks big opportunities are brewing is Greene HD Productions, which is negotiating with 12 network affiliates to sell its new "Birth of a Legend," a 12 minute HD program on the history of the Corvette.

"They called me," said Brian Greene, CEO of Greene HD Productions. "It was unsolicited. I think that's evidence of the fact that people are hungry for true high-definition programming. That opens up really unique opportunities to provide broadcasters with the programming that they have to have at a reasonable cost." "Birth of a Legend" will make its public debut Dec.3 at Vandergriff Chevrolet in Arlington, where it will run through Dec. 6.

In conjunction with PBS, Greene and Dark co-produced "Fiesta in the Sky," an HD documentary about a balloon festival in Albuquerque, N.M. It is scheduled to be shown nationally early next year, they said.

Greene, who has 11 years of production experience, founded the HD side of his business in 1995, after being sold on the quality and powerful potential of the new technology, he said. He sells programs for $10,000 on up to $100,000, depending on how narrow or broad the broadcasting rights. Neither Dark nor Greene would disclose revenue figures, although both said their privately held companies are profitable.

WFAA/Channel 8, one of the stations using Dark as a consultant, bought the broadcast rights of Greene HD's "Texas Wild," a documentary about Texas wildlife regions that Dark co-produced, which has been running on its new HD channel, WFAA-HD/Channel 9.

from Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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