Friday, March 31, 2006

The Players #4: HD Networks

Unless you're a simulcast of a popular non-HD channel, it is a proud and lonely thing to be an HD network in these early days. The general public doesn't know that much about you, even if you're affiliated with something they do know (e.g. PBS HD). You're lucky if you can get distribution, especially from cable.

Even lonelier must be those forward-looking TV programmer types working away at dozens and dozens of cable networks, dreaming of the day when they can go HD, and wondering just how long they'll have to wait. While satellites are ramping up new birds and new choices like FIOS (and eventually IPTV) promise bandwidth relief, most of us are cable watchers, and things are pretty dire in that sector. Systems everywhere seem stretched to the limit, and new channel rollouts are painfully slow (older Comcast systems still don't have TNT-HD, which Comcast rolled out in May '05). If you're a would-be HD programmer and you know Comcast may not be able to carry your channel for years, that's gotta effect your go/nogo calculations. No one wants to be the next Encore HD.

So the question facing the few brave souls willing to launch in these times is this; can they hang on long enough for cable to solve its bandwidth problems (especially if that doesn't happen until the end of analog)? Or can satellite/FIOS/IPTV carriage be enough?


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