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HDTV Clears Important Tech Hurdle Native Programming Remains The Last Barrier Print E-mail
Thursday, 19 December 2002
Everyone who sees HDTV is wowed by it. Connecting it and making it work in your own system as an early adopter is another story. Breaking news today made things potentially much better with an announced deal between cable operators and the AV industry that will remove many of the technological barriers currently restricting consumer HDTV setups. The most important development from the agreement today seems to be that the need for an external HDTV receiver box will likely disappear. Currently, you need an expensive (most are $700 or more) and very quirky AV component to receive both cable and terrestrial HDTV. With restrictions lifted, consumers will soon be able to connect HDTV sources directly into their sets and/or high bandwidth AV receivers. With big-screen HDTV prices currently below $2,000, the removal of an additional $700 receiver brings HDTV much closer to the masses. HDTV is already picking up support from national chains like Best Buy, Circuit City and Sears.

The next advantage will be in the world of recording HDTV. With traditional NTSC television, AV enthusiasts and TV fans can record, copy and pull off other amazing feats with VCRs and PVRs (PVRs are digital recording devices like TiVo and ReplayTV). Successfully recording HDTV with currently available components like JVC’s DVHS and Samsung’s Firewire HDTV tuner requires nothing short of a degree in electrical engineering degree from MIT. Now things should get easier for the rest of us. Even better, with hard drive prices getting lower every day and the drives getting bigger all the time, an HDTV TiVo should be right around the corner. The stumbling block so far has always been copy protection. Reportedly, there still is terminology in the agreement for Hollywood to add all sorts of copy protection to their high-resolution programming -- and who can blame the producers? But with HDTV movies at home this spectacular, anyone with an HDTV would gladly agree to only making one copy of an HDTV movie from their “HDTV’ VCR.

Mark Cuban, founder of the 24-hour HDTV network HDNet (channel 199 on DirecTV) and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, tells AudioRevolution.com, “It (the decision) will be huge. It reduces costs for cable companies, and it simplifies the process for the consumer. All good things.” Cuban’s HDNet will likely benefit from growth in the HDTV space. HDNet broadcasts live sporting events, feature films, special native HDTV documentaries and vintage TV in gorgeous 1080i resolution HDTV. For people with TVs pulling in HDTV right now, HDNet is often the best (if not the only) source for programming on the dial.

Now that these technological hurdles have seemingly been cleared, the big issue for HDTV is programming. With the exception of HDNet, there is often “nothing on” HDTV, especially in those cities with few terrestrial stations. Even big market cities like Los Angeles have predominantly upconverted (not created in HDTV to start) HDTV programming that doesn’t look nearly as good. The problem is cost of production for native or live programming. Live sporting events cost dearly to produce in HD for a tiny audience. Additionally, the cameras are exponentially more expensive than traditional TV cameras. With significantly more sets on the market thanks to this deal, there are more compelling reasons to produce quality live and pre-recorded native HDTV content. One thing is for sure, with better content, more people will want to buy HDTV.

Sources: LA Times

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