Wednesday, July 19, 2006

31 Months And Counting: What's Changed?

Once again, it's the 17th, 31 months until the current "hard" date on which analog broadcasting is supposed to cease. Well, actually, it was the 17th a few days ago. In any case, this is the 4th of 34 planned monthly recaps of developments affecting the various players (laid out in my first few posts) in this story.

This one's a bit short, for the same reason it's a bit late - another committment having taken up much of my free time in the last month. Apologies if I've missed anything truly significant. It's possible that I may be spending some time (beyond simply attending) on this as well, so it's also possible that the next month will be affected as well, but I'm not sure yet. After that, back to normal (I think). Anyway, here's what I've got.

THE PUBLIC -I haven't seen any new surveys regarding public awareness of HD since this one that I reported on in last month's wrapup. Meanwhile, there's another effort underway to educate consumers on the transition, though the story' doesn't really go into details of what they are actually going to be doing. On a related note, see the MANUFACTURERS section for info on a campaign to spark awareness of the HD-DVD format.

BROADCASTING - I haven't seen any updates on one of the bigger stories last time, the struggle between broadcasters and cable over cable's wish to downconvert digital broadcast after the analog shutdown. In addition I spoke too soon about broadcasters' imminent victory in the multicast must-carry wars (see GOVERNMENT).

No more info about network broadcast news going HD, but that's not stopping forward-thinking local affiliates, as this HD Beat story shows.

PROGRAM PROVIDERS - Not a whole lot to report here. Both satellite companies continue to add local network HD signals, but Dish seems to be doing better at adding national channels. Comcast contiinues its slow-motion roll-out of MHD (with Chicago being added recently, and more regions planned for August). Comcast also plans to expand HD VOD by year's end. Wonder if they'll be carrying WWE HD PPVs when that starts happening late next year.

Another thing Comcast is up to in a small Ohio town suggests that they are considering an interesting solution to the problem of how to move "legacy" customers into the digital future.

One other experiment is over; USDTV has filed for bankruptcy.

HD NETWORKS - I haven't seen any formal announcements for new HD networks, but as June 30th Food Network HD joined its sister network HGTV HD in limited distribution.

As far as established networks go, the guy in charge of VOOM Networks has some interesting comments.

MANUFACTURERS - Well, Blu-ray is here, and what I've been reading (mostly about the quality of movie pressings) does little to support the notion of paying twice as much as you would for HD-DVD. They still have a couple hole cards, 'tho; many more studios on board (which may eventually lead to actually having more movies), and the eventual incorporation into PlayStation 3. If they get that far, that is.

Speaking of HD-DVD, backers of the format have unveiled a big marketing campaign, complete with website.

Caught something interesting in the Sunday supplements a few weeks ago (the first Widescreen SDTVs I've seen), and wrote about it here. Last Sunday had an item of note as well; the first time I'd seen a 4:3 SDTV hit the $200 price point. Granted, it's Best Buy's house brand Insignia, but still..

GOVERNMENT - Last month, I wrote that the FCC seemed ready to impose multicast must-carry at their next meeting. I was wrong.

This again? The broadcast flag is back, according to HD Beat.

That's all for the moment!

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