High Definition TV (HDTV) is set to be the big home entertainment “must have” this Christmas , as costs come down and a raft of winter’s most talked about programmes receive the HD treatment, according to Charlie Ponsonby, CEO of digital TV comparison service Simplifydigital.
“HDTV is now Sky’s leading digital TV package and the company has over 1 million HDTV customers. What’s more, 80% of all Freesat boxes sold are HDTV boxes, and Freeview is preparing to launch free to air terrestrial high definition TV early next year – so it really will be a bumper period for HD”, he says.
Is HDTV worth the additional spend? Most definitely. HDTV provides a picture with four times the detail of standard TV programmes and is particularly impressive for sporting events and documentaries, as well as movies and dramas. Football in HD for example is a huge improvement on the standard TV experience – with players (and the crowd) visible in extraordinary clarity.
In addition, HDTV signals are also broadcast in surround-sound making for a much richer aural and visual experience. Who is broadcasting HDTV content and how do I access it?
To enjoy HDTV, viewers will need to make sure they have an HD Ready TV; a receiver that can decode the high definition signal, such as a Sky+HD box, HD Freesat box, or Virgin's V+ box; and a TV package that includes high definition programming.
There are four HD packages to choose from:
• By far the largest range of HD programming is provided by Sky with their Sky+HD service – this offers 34 channels broadcast in HD, including premium Sky Sports and Sky Movies as well as drama and documentaries from among others Sky OneHD, National Geographic HD, Discovery HD, History HD and Sci-fi HD.
• Virgin Media also offer HDTV with their HDTV service. This offers 7 HD channels including National Geographic in HD, FX HD and ESPN HD (which shows 46 live FAPL games); as well as a library of HD on-demand content.
• BT Vision does not offer any linear HD channels, but has a selection of on-demand HD content to choose from.
• Freesat, which offers HDTV without a contract or subscription payment, and offers two HD channels: BBCHD and ITVHD.
Broadcasters are rapidly increasing the range of content broadcast in HD. As a result, this autumn will be an HD feast -
The pick of the schedule is as follows… BBCHD offers costume dramas in HD such as Emma, as well as popular entertainment show Strictly Come Dancing, and the unfolding Criminal Justice in HD.
ITVHD offers movies, drama and sport in HD – including the Coca Cola League, European World cup Qualifiers and the Champions League.
FXHD offers great drama in HD including Burn Notice and the US version of Life on Mars.
National Geographic HD has a full schedule in HD including Alien Worlds, Oceans in Glass and Megastructures.
Sky1HD has American favourites – House Season 6; Bones, Season 5; Fringe Season 2; Lie to Me Season 2 together with a new sci-fi series Stargate Universe.
Sky Movies Premiere HD’s autumn season includes something for everyone to enjoy, including: Pineapple Express, Ghost Town, Taken , Saw V , Get Smart, How To Lose Friends And Alienate People, The Changeling and The Women.
Sky Sports 1 HD’s schedule includes Barclays Premiere League Games; Champions League; Super League Rugby; LA Liga and the ATP Masters on November 22nd.
Consludes Ponsonby: “For families looking to watch a wide range of content in high definition – from drama, to documentaries, sports and movies – then Sky is the only realistic choice. Sky’s commitment to the HD revolution is really starting to show in terms of the breadth of content that they offer relative to the competition.”
The Sky+HD box also has all the features of a Sky+ box allowing viewers to pause and record live TV. In addition Sky recently cut the price of their HD box to £49. Virgin Media offer just 7 HD channels, including ESPN HD, which shows live FAPL action in high definition. In addition, they have a wide variety of on-demand content in high definition. For the budget HD viewer who is happy to watch only BBC and ITV programming in HD, then Freesat is a good choice, but the HD content may feel limited. Freesat does also have additional Freeview channels to watch in standard definition. BT Vision offers a limited range of HD content on-demand and no HDTV channels and is available only to BT Broadband customers.