Monday, April 17, 2006

34 Months and Counting: What's Changed?

Hey, it's the 17th! It is now 34 months until the current "hard" date on which analog broadcasting is supposed to cease. I'm going to try something here and use the 17th (or soon thereafter) each month to recap developments affecting the various players (laid out in my first few posts) in this story. It could be one post, or be broken up into parts over the course of a few days, depending on length and the amount of time I have. So here goes!

THE PUBLIC - I haven't seen any new surveys regarding public awareness and attitudes towards the transition, but I have been doing an informal survey of a few friends. Overall, there's more awareness than I expected; then again, these are fairly educated folks. Another thing I noticed is that most of them do not believe the current date will hold. I'm guessing that they're thinking about the kind of reaction displayed in a letter to the Boston Globe that got printed today, from a reader dismayed over the fact that there are no longer any Red Sox games on broadcast TV (they're all on NESN now). This reader represents the segment of the public that cannot afford any kind of cable subscription - what will they do when faced with the potential loss of all of their programming? Also, My April 15th post deals with some interesting statements made by two officials regarding public reaction.

BROADCASTING - Not a lot to report on the spread of HD programming. Supposedly the go date for Today is sometime this fall. One area has actually gone backwards - I've learned that plans to convert CBS owned-and-operated news operations to HD are now on hold indefinitely.

PROGRAM PROVIDERS - Not much to report from cable, either - a quick check of the HD section of my local Comcast website shows that it hasn't been updated in more than two years (four channels have been added in that time), and that's in line with the priority the product seems to be getting (all the "buzz" is directed to VOD, DVR and HSI lately). I'd probably be with RCN if they could service my building - it's a better product (HD Net, full-time NESN), and they really should promote it more . Contrast with Dish, which just launched a major ad campaign promoting the superiority of their HD lineup.

HD NETWORKS - Scripps Networks released HGTV-HD into limited distribution a week ago, with Food Network slated to follow in June. I gave my opinion on A&E plans back on April 8th.

MANUFACTURERS - It's probably too early to say definitively, but the last couple of weeks of big-box circulars would seem to indicate that the new "digital SDTVs" may do very well in the 25-30" range against HD sets of similar size. I apologize for not talking yet about the looming format war between next-generation DVD formats. I'm still gathering my thoughts on that one.

GOVERNMENT - Don't look for too many developments here until there are signs that existing mandates aren't practical.

That's all for the moment!


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