Remember when you bought your HDTV? Bet you were dazzled by its size, blinded by its brightness, and promised ‘glorious’ high definition. But, with a lack of decent content, you’re just watching bigger and often blurrier TV.
Despite this week’s launch of BBC One HD, which ups the total of free-to-air HD channels to four, only the most deep-pocketed can enjoy a decent selection of HD channels.
Why? To get Sky+HD you must hand over more than £600 a year, and you can’t watch what you want when you want, or even guarantee what’s on will interest you. It’s a high price to pay.
On Freeview HD, meanwhile, the terrestrial HD channels put out a meagre menagerie of high-definition programming. Occasional highs, such as Champions League and high profile dramas, are mixed in with nonsense like Eggheads and The Jeremy Kyle Show.
Not until 2012, when the digital switchover is completed, will we see anything remotely approaching comprehensive. At present what’s on offer is little more than a token gesture.
Internet TV to the rescue?
Unlike Sky and competing services, where you pay a flat rate and hope there’s something worth watching, IPTV services (that’s TV over the internet to you and me) like Apple TV lets you pay only for what you want, when you want it. No monthly subscriptions, just high-definition on-demand. Its selection of TV programmes are still rather limited, but its library of films is comprehensive.
There’s further competition on the horizon, too. Patrick Steen has already enthused about YouView’s potential to save the TV licence here on Which? Convo, but its potential to re-ignite the HD revolution is equally strong. Without the limitations of the UK’s TV network, YouView will be free to offer as much HD content as it likes and all of it on-demand.
Also coming soon is Google TV, which launched in the US recently. If and when it arrives on our shores it could herald another leap into wider, richer content as it promises to ‘make the web a channel’.
However, despite much fanfare, it’s had a lukewarm reception so far and offers little original programming itself, merely the means to access it in a slightly different way.
Stuck in the broadband slow lane
IPTV has a similar roadblock as traditional TV, however. To stream HD video you need a fast internet connection, and too few of us have that pleasure.
Virgin has the fastest network, and BT plans to roll out high-speed services next year, but due to the need for “competition” BT will lay many of its lines alongside Virgin’s. It’s a ridiculous waste of money that ensures the majority will remain in the broadband slow lane.
There’s more high-definition choice for the lucky few, then, but it’s hardly ‘access for all’. Roll on 2012.