Cable & Satellite in the HD DVD Age

July 11, 2006

PlasmaThis post will ramble off a bit into personal observation but hopefully it will circle back around to relevance and maybe even spark a few good conversations.

As someone who devours every bit of hi-def disc news I come across, I couldn’t help but think about the other two stalwarts of high definition content, namely HD cable and satellite providers.

Up until very recently if you wanted to watch a movie in high definition, one of these two outlets was likely your only source. You have to wonder, are Comcast, DISH and DirecTV just sitting around twiddling their thumbs with glee, as people (granted early adopters) scramble to pay $500-1000 for high definition DVD players?

This same group of early adopters readily plops down $20-30 dollars for the privilege of owning pristine copies of films in high definition. I wonder what the Cable and Sat providers think of al this?

Have you ever sent an email to Comcast asking when/if they’ll add more HD channels? I have and the response is somewhat canned and well, annoying:

“Thank you for your recent email, we are working to provide as many
high definition channel broadcasters as possible. Here are some of the
factors involved with expanding our high definition lineup:

The negotiation and contract process required to obtain the rights to
carry a specific high definition broadcast, such as HD-Net.

The increased bandwidth resources that are required

The relatively low subscribership (currently only a small minority of
customers have high definition compatible television sets)
We appreciate your channel request, we hope to expand our high
definition channel lineup as fast as we can. Unfortunately we are unable
to provide specific details regarding the launch of new channels at this
time, please keep an eye on your monthly billing statement as the
announcement of any channel additions will appear on those statements”

Yes yes, I know I’m a minority, wait a minute I’m a minority? You mean I’m one of the few people who actually subscribed to your HDTV package and dared ask hard questions like ‘when will more HD channels be added? how audacious of me.

Aside from that, yes I realize that bandwidth is a problem, and Comcast, wait bandwidth is a problem? Just how many people do they have subscribing that don’t have digital cable boxes?

Because if they have cable boxes they are capable of receiving all channels digital, which means Comcast can kill all those bandwidth hogging, legacy analog channels and get more HD in the pipeline.

If I had to speculate (and hey I’m not pretending to know a lot about Cable TV infrastructure) I would assume this really boils down to infrastructure and how willing Comcast is to upgrade it.

HD Satellite’s Buy-in Cost:

Which brings me to DISH Network, or doesn’t actually because as much as I’d like to have HDNet, the Voom’s and Nat-Geo in HD, I just cant rationalize buying into another HD DVR. Comcast leases theirs and that’s about all I’m willing to spend for a handful of HD channels. Given the installation and cancellation fee’s involved with switching HD providers, I’m probably better off just staying put for the moment.

I also have this annoying suspicion that the same month I cancel any account, my old provider will announce a must have HD channel and I’ll be left holding the new bag.

Again, I realize that those of us who have bitten the bullet and already purchased one of the two competing HD disc formats are in the minority, but as the months progress our ranks will increase.

So here I am back at my original point just what, if anything are the HD broadcasters planning in response to HD content being available in a pre-recorded format? I suppose this isn’t much different than DVD’s introduction at least in regards to Cable and Satellite.

I assume Cable and Satellite providers will go on about their merry business of transmitting HD content as is, with the eventual addition of even more HD channels and the occasional smattering of HD On-Demand offerings. That is unless they have something in the pipe-line that would offer a challenge to being able to watch HD discs whenever and how ever often we want. HD Video On-Demand Anyone?



Posted by Bryan Greenway | | Filed Under Commentary


Comments

  • Peter

    Not providing HD content because no one is watching it, is clearly a chicken and egg problem. Some people have bitten the bullet and are ready to watch it, they need to do the same and provide it.

  • Peter

    Not providing HD content because no one is watching it, is clearly a chicken and egg problem. Some people have bitten the bullet and are ready to watch it, they need to do the same and provide it.

  • B.Greenway

    Seems like those titles of consequence are slated for the third quarter.

    “Warner will release some of its premiere titles on HD DVD in the current third quarter, including Batman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, senior VP of marketing management Steve Nickerson told VB. Batman Begins had initially been expected earlier this spring.”

    http://www.videobusiness.com/article/CA6351635.html

  • B.Greenway

    Seems like those titles of consequence are slated for the third quarter.

    “Warner will release some of its premiere titles on HD DVD in the current third quarter, including Batman Begins and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, senior VP of marketing management Steve Nickerson told VB. Batman Begins had initially been expected earlier this spring.”

    http://www.videobusiness.com/article/CA6351635.html

  • westcott

    I think there are two reasons.

    One, lack of content available to broadcast.

    Two, lack of bandwidth.

    Makes HD DVD and BlueRay very attractive except they do not seem to be able to capitalize on this due to unrealistic piracy concerns.

    I read your previous article,and if 4 or 6 years is when ICT tokens are invoked, it may take that long for any titles of consequence to ever get released. Not good for either format or the consumer.

  • westcott

    I think there are two reasons.

    One, lack of content available to broadcast.

    Two, lack of bandwidth.

    Makes HD DVD and BlueRay very attractive except they do not seem to be able to capitalize on this due to unrealistic piracy concerns.

    I read your previous article,and if 4 or 6 years is when ICT tokens are invoked, it may take that long for any titles of consequence to ever get released. Not good for either format or the consumer.

  • Josh

    If cable had any cajones, they would offer all existing customers digital STBs. That way they increase bandwidth and could offer more HDTV. But, they’ll just sit on there hands until satellite can offer more HDTV channels. Cable is always reactionary.

  • Josh

    If cable had any cajones, they would offer all existing customers digital STBs. That way they increase bandwidth and could offer more HDTV. But, they’ll just sit on there hands until satellite can offer more HDTV channels. Cable is always reactionary.

  • Brian Hoyt

    I guess my deisre for HD overwhelmed my worry of another HD DVR. I have had DirecTV for 6 years. I got the Toshiba DST-3000 HD reciever the day it was available and again the HR10-250 TiVo based HD DVR. I have had the TiVo for over 2 years and feel comfortable in saying it was well worth the cost, even considering it is one third now.

  • Brian Hoyt

    I guess my deisre for HD overwhelmed my worry of another HD DVR. I have had DirecTV for 6 years. I got the Toshiba DST-3000 HD reciever the day it was available and again the HR10-250 TiVo based HD DVR. I have had the TiVo for over 2 years and feel comfortable in saying it was well worth the cost, even considering it is one third now.

  • M. Panchalingam

    The response from Comcast is just like the one I got from Rogers when i asked the same question. I don’t buy the “low subscribership” and “low number of households with HD TVs”. In my own little circle of friends, we went from me being the only HD tv owner, to about 2 dozen of us having LCDs, Plasmas and rear projections within a year. Most people who bother getting a new TV, go straight for the LCDs and Plasmas, why cable companies (and satelite) don’t tune into that is beyond me.

    The thing that annoys me above that is the fact that I still can’t get Cable Card so I can get rid of my external cable box.

  • M. Panchalingam

    The response from Comcast is just like the one I got from Rogers when i asked the same question. I don’t buy the “low subscribership” and “low number of households with HD TVs”. In my own little circle of friends, we went from me being the only HD tv owner, to about 2 dozen of us having LCDs, Plasmas and rear projections within a year. Most people who bother getting a new TV, go straight for the LCDs and Plasmas, why cable companies (and satelite) don’t tune into that is beyond me.

    The thing that annoys me above that is the fact that I still can’t get Cable Card so I can get rid of my external cable box.