Friday, April 25, 2008

HD TV keeps getting better!

If you havn't made the jump to Hi-definition television yet things are certainly improving!

At the moment the only option is from Sky. A handful of new channels have recently launched, with another 2 expected within weeks.

My favourite channel is BBC HD. It only broadcasts each evening but the picture quality is always exellent. They are running shows like Torchwood, Last of the summer wine, The green green grass plus various nature programs like Tiger Spy in the jungle, Planet Earth and The power of the planet.

Discovery HD and National Geographic HD are also favourites of mine. History HD also carries interesting stuff about space and the universe. Sky Arts is also available in HD.

There are now 3 HD sports channels if you subscribe to Sky Sports. A third movie channel has just launched in HD. Previously there were 2 channels showing movies in HD. There was often a wait of a month or two before new movies on Sky Premiere were available on the HD channels. We now have the Premiere channel broadcasting simulcast in HD. There are also 2 box office movie channels in HD.

Sky one HD and Channel 4 HD are a waste of time. They are simulcast of the SD channels, and 90% of programmes on the HD versions are not broadcast in Hi-def.

Lux HD launched a couple of months back but seems to be permanent repeats and I have not worked out its intended subject.

Some of the best programmes I have seen on National Geographic have been about outdoor pursuits - kayaking, surfing, base jumping etc. There is now a new HD channel called Rush HD that is devoted to programmes like this. I have seen nothing in the press about this amazing new channel - which has prompted this posting on my blog.

The 2 I mentioned that are due any day are FX HD (I don't ever remember watching the normal FX channel, but it has things like family guy) and ITV HD. Hopefully the ITV channel will be a different schedule to the normal ITV but with plenty of programmes actually in HD.

If you are not prepared to pay Sky the extra £10 for the HD content I have some good news. Within the next couple of months a new satellite TV service will be launching called Freesat. This will carry BBC HD, ITV HD and eventually Channel4 HD that can be received completely free. Freesat receivers are fully compatible with an existing Sky dish.

Getting accurate technical information about the new Freesat is difficult because Sky also have a free service they market as Freesat. At present it is my understanding that the new Freesat service uses exactly the same satellite signal as Sky. By this I understand that if the Sky transmitters that beam TV to the satellite were to go offline, all satellite TV services would break. Basically Freesat is a brand. They will sell you a different set-top box that will have a Freesat logo on the screen instead of a Sky one! Pretty pointless!

The choice is to get a Freesat box that cannot decode the Sky services, or get a Sky box without a subscription. At least with the latter option you can add a Sky subscription if you so wish in the future without buying a new box.

Having said that the more HD programmes I can receive the better - so I shouldn't complain!!!

Will update this if I get any more info:
1. Freesat will launch on 6th May. As I thought they are only broadcasting their own 'metadata' which is the tv schedule and teletext type services in english. Unconfirmed prices are £50 for SD or £120 for HD set top box, plus installation if required.

Last thing - there are a few pictures on the net of a new version of the Sky TV guide that will be pushed to the HD boxes in the next couple of months. Will keep my ear to the ground if I find any more details of the changes! (Here it is - link)


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