ESPN is going to start providing all content for ESPN and ESPN-2 in MPEG-4 HD and will use equipment from Motorola Mobility to accomplish the task.

The transition to MPEG-4 is expected to be gradual, taking several years.

Motorola said its MPEG-4 video distribution systems will also position ESPN to offer both 1080p60 HD and 3-D TV programming when service providers are ready for it.

"Motorola's MPEG-4 HD distribution system will allow us to consolidate our distribution while efficiently delivering the highest-quality 1080p60 HD sports programming," said Chuck Pagano, executive vice president of technology for ESPN. "This enables us to future-proof for delivery of services, as well as provide our affiliates the option of lower-resolution services to support existing video infrastructure systems."

Motorola will be supplying ESPN with its SE-6601A MPEG-4 encoders and its DSR-6100 integrated receiver/decoder and control software. The IRDs will perform MPEG-4 to MPEG-2 transcoding to support legacy operator services.

ESPN plans to distribute full resolution HD programming, while simultaneously providing legacy MPEG-2 HD and SD services to its affiliate operators, all without requiring additional satellite bandwidth.

"ESPN's early commitment to all MPEG-4 HD distribution is a pioneering step toward the realization of a full resolution 2-D or 3-D video delivery ecosystem," noted Joe Cozzolino, senior vice president and general manager of network infrastructure at Motorola Mobility. "This is a revolutionary yet practical approach for ESPN to maintain support for existing cable delivery systems while enabling premium 1080p60 HD or 3-D TV consumer experiences in the home."