Why can’t we get HD-only TV service?

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.

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Jeff Chabot

Jeff Chabot

Jeff Chabot writes about technology, broadcasting, and digital entertainment. You can also find him on Gameverse, Gadget Review, and Google+.

6 Replies to “Why can’t we get HD-only TV service?”

  1. hdreport says:

    thanks for that Wes.

  2. Wes says:

    hdreport,

    Dish has changed the names of their HD-only packages from TurboHD Bronze, Silver, and Gold to Dish America Bronze, Silver, and Gold.

    They don’t show it anywhere on their website, which is extremely frustrating.

    I just ordered the Dish America Bronze package Last week (April 1st, 2010) and now have it. The problem is, they told me that the channel lineups are the same as the HD channels in the Americas top 120, 200, etc. plans as listed here:

    http://www.dishnetwork.com/hdtv/default.aspx

    This makes since, since they have the little Silver and Gold medalions on the top 200 and top 250 plans.

    However, this is incorrect. The actual lineup can be seen here:

    http://www.highdefforum.com/dish-network-forum/109430-duo-receiver-vip722-hd-only-programing.html#post1012400

    Maybe they’ve discontinued these services, but are still letting people order them? I don’t know.

    But I just ordered it, and I’ve got the channels in the highdefforum link above.

    -Wes

  3. hdreport says:

    Look at their website. It says:

    “Add High-Definition Channels to your America’s Top package for only $10/month!”

    You are still getting 120 SD channels as a base lineup.

  4. Nope says:

    That information is incorrect. Dish Network still offers HD only programming. It’s now titled Dish America Bronze, Silver, or Gold. Apparently the person you were speaking to did not know what they were talking about.

  5. hdreport says:

    Hi. Not when I talked to them last week. Standard def channels are included in all packages.

  6. satellite tv says:

    Also in “fairness” you probably should research your topic more prior to writing something like this. Likely your research was limited. DISH does have an All HD package called DISH America. You can order it if you call in and ask for only HD channels. But you’re right, online, they don’t offer that package. Not sure why.

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