SYRACUSE -- Although it's been nearly two years since NewsChannel 9 (WSYR-TV) started producing local programming in high-definition, most syndicated fare and commercial breaks continued to air in standard definition. Those days appear to be over, as the ABC affiliate has upgraded its master control facilities.
In the past, the station's master control facility used a method called "pass-through" to -- as the name implies -- pass live HD signals through the chain. But local commercial breaks, promos and syndicated content -- basically anything that was not aired live, but recorded for later playback -- had to be aired in standard definition. That's because the equipment used to playback "taped" content was not capable of handling HD.
For example, programs like Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, which air during the 7pm hour, have been offered in HD for quite some time, but the shows are fed via satellite to affiliates earlier in the day, hours before they air in Syracuse. Because WSYR-TV's master control could only record and playback in SD, these shows would air in SD. Thanks to the upgrades, which we hear were carried out late last night, those programs should air in HD, starting this evening. The syndicated 4pm talk show Katie is airing in HD as your editor writes this story.
We've also heard through the grapevine that this upgrade covers not only WSYR-TV, but all of the stations which are covered by the master control "hub" in East Syracuse. That includes WWTI (ABC) in Watertown, WIVT (ABC) and WBGH-CA (NBC) in Binghamton, and WETM (NBC) in Elmira. The "hub" used to feed WHAM-TV (ABC) in Rochester, but with WHAM-TV being the only hub station not being sold by Newport Television to Nexstar Broadcasting, we presume that connection will be severed soon, if it hasn't already.
Still no word on whether Nexstar Broadcasting plans to expand that master control hub to include its Rochester stations WROC-TV (CBS) and WUHF (Fox), or Utica stations including WUTR (ABC), WFXV (Fox) and WPNY-LP (MyNetwork). WUTR used to be part of the hub once before, when both it and NewsChannel 9 (then WIXT) shared a common ownership under The Ackerley Group, and later, Clear Channel.