In a random survey of HD Report readers we found that almost eighty percent of poll-takers would order an HD-only service plan if one was offered. So why aren’t the service providers offering this? It seems like a reasonable request to order only the channel formats which fit your 16:9 HDTV.
I’ve looked into several service providers and none of them offer HD-only packages. Dish Network had at one time offered TurboHD, an HD-only service that started at $24.99 per month. But according to a Dish representative that service has expired. In fact, when I asked about getting only HD I was told I could tweak my guide to display only the high-definition channels. Ironically, it makes sense. But then aren’t I paying for channels I never watch?
Things seem to be turned around, and no-one seems to care. I bought an HDTV. Why would I watch standard-def on it? If I was going to watch any standard-def I would go buy an old tube TV from the Salvation Army because at least the format would fit. Standard-def on a 42″ LCD looks like, shall we call it, crapola. And HDTVs (especially as they get bigger) aren’t doing any decent upscaling of those 480i broadcasts – nothing like what a Blu-ray player does for 480p DVDs.
Some readers have bypassed the service provider obstacle by setting up an antenna and watching HD programming for free over-the-air (of course, with limited HD channels to select from). Others have ditched their all-in-one service providers entirely and get their fix by ordering movies and TV shows à la cart via services like Netflix and Vudu, or simply watching content online through websites like Hulu.com.
Let’s be fair and say in some cases it’s not a lack of service on the providers side but rather a choice made by the customers. For example, you may have an extra standard-def TV in the house that you want keep running. Or maybe there is a program you watch in SD that isn’t yet available in HD. In either case you would need to get a package that includes standard-def channels.
There is also a large population of TV viewers (maybe the majority) who do not care about image quality — only content. If those folks can’t get the channels they need from the 100+ HD channel lineup that most large providers now offer then sure, serve them the 480i. But heck, that’s probably the same population that watches a standard-def show even if there is the HD option just a few clicks away.
My current lineup consists of about 60 HD channels and a few hundred standard-def channels that I never watch. This is like getting a prix fixe dinner loaded with dishes that I’m not actually going to eat but paid for (not that I would pass up food). Service providers should meet subscribers at least half way to the à la cart options available elsewhere by offering high definition-only packages. Bottom line.