Some broadband networks have been pulling back from HD broadband but ESPN360.com will start to provide the higher-quality experience with its NBA game this Wednesday. It’s a combination of 16:9 aspect ratio and a higher-bit rate of about 2 Mbps. Unlike other efforts, it won’t require selecting a special HD stream or downloading a file that requires buffering. Instead, once the whole-screen viewing option is selected over the ESPN360 mosaic, the delivery steps up in quality to match the speed of the user’s ISP. If the broadband connections drops down, the quality steps down. It looked very good on a laptop this morning; ESPN (NYSE: DIS) execs say it translates well to larger computer screens and TV sets. In fact, ESPN360 will explain to users how to hook a PC up to a TV. That won’t matter much for simulcasts but could come in handy as ESPN360 adds more exclusive content.
The HD offering is reliant on the event actually being produced in HD. ESPN360 will start with an NBA package and will show some games from NCAA conference basketball tournaments. Ads will be in HD whenever the creative is supplied that way — something far too few advertisers do.