Broadcasting in widescreen

Are TV and cable networks planning to broadcast in 16:9 to match widescreen HDTVs? I have a widescreen HDTV now, but the only channels I like to watch aren’t HDTV or widescreen and all of the types of stretching and zooming are very noticeable. Also, I rarely watch DVDs and the current HDTV offerings are awful. Because of this, I’m think of switching to an HDTV with a 4:3 ratio. However, if content will soon be available in widescreen, I’ll just wait. Thanks

The major broadcast networks are already broadcasting some shows in 16x9. My favorite example is Conan O’Brien who likes to make jokes about aspect ratios. But that’s because he’s a dork.

Ummmmm… yes? Or is this some trick question I’m missing the nuance of? Or maybe a joke?

I watch the following programs on a more or less regular basis and they’re all broadcast in widescreen:

Arrested Development (Fox)
Prison Break (Fox)
Bones (Fox)
Reunion (Fox)
Lost (ABC)
Invasion (ABC)
Desperate Housewives (ABC)
*Monday Night Football]/i] (ABC)
My Name Is Earl (NBC)
The Office (NBC)
E-Ring (NBC)
Veronica Mars (UPN)
Nova (PBS)
Rome HBO
NFL Football (at least 90% of the non-MNF games are in HD in my market)

I also watch the following programs on a more or less regular basis and they’re not broadcast in either HD or widescreen (at least in my market):

The Simpsons (Fox)
Family Guy (Fox)
American Dad (Fox)
Trading Spouses (Fox)
That 70s Show (Fox)
Over There (F\X)
Ghost Hunters (F\X)

The first three programs are animated, so that makes at least a little bit of sense - Family Guy will pretty much look the same whether it’s broadcast in HD or SD.

Many programs on major networks that aren’t in HD are “reality”-type shows that require cameras to follow “live” people. Having said that, I don’t know why Trading Spouses is in SD while The Nanny is in HD.

Most programs broadcast on cable networks are in SD, mainly because those networks aren’t yet broadcasting in HD (at least they aren’t on cable networks). However, I have noticed an increase in many cable nets showing letterboxed stuff (which is usually imported from the UK, which (AFAIK) broadcasts in 16:9 almost exculsively).

So - the bottom line: a huge chunk - probably a significant majority - of the Big Four networks’ prime time programming is in widescreen HD. In fact, after 8pm on a weeknight, it’s hard to miss widescreen on a major network. As for the “netlets” (WB and UPN), a lot of their programming is in widescreen HD too. As for regular cable networks, almost none of their stuff is in widescreen, as only one of them (Discovery Channel) has an HD channel; even then, Discovery HD Theatre follows its own programming schedule and isn’t a “mirror” (like ABC HD is).

Buying a 4:3 HDTV is stupid. A rough analogy would be buying a B&W TV back in the mid to late 1960s when only a few programs were broadcast in colour… because only a few programs were broadcast in colour. Anyone that did that must have felt pretty stupid a couple of years later when 99.999% of anything broadcast was in colour!

NOTE: The above information is based on Time Warner Cable in the Charlotte, NC area. Your local cable system might offer more (or fewer) channels in HD. For the big networks - ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox - conversion to HD depends almost solely on the local affiliate, so WSLOW in your area might still be working on their HD conversion.

I don’t watch the networks except for the Simpsons on Fox, so I didn’t know that they had primetime in widescreen. I’m surprised people who don’t like letterboxing didn’t go nuts (or did they?). I just watch the cable networks, regular and digital, so it’s been a bit of a letdown for me so far.

Are they going to convert previously filmed shows as well (if it’s even possible)?

Also, if you have a HD ready tv that is 16:9, and they broadcast in HD widescreen, you still won’t get a HD widescreen picture unitl you get a HD tuner/receiver to go with the TV.

Here is a list of all the HD programming available right now.

It has a built-in tuner.

Do 16:9 TVs allow you to view 4:3 programming with black bands on the side? This seems the only satisfactory solution.

Or if you have a cable converter box or satellite receiver, as 97.431% of urban viewers do. Of course, if you live somewhere where you can’t get cable and don’t want satellite… then yeah, you’d need a tuner.

I forgot to add Weeds and The L word to the list. It seems that most programming in HD from the premium channels is in widescreen. One notiable exception to this appears to be HBO’s Entourage - which in 4:3 (but in HD IIRC).

To HD? Maybe… To widescreen? Possibly.

There is an HD-only network (HDNet) that shows reruns of Hogan’s Heroes that have been converted to widescreen HD from film. Whether the series was originally filmed that way and matted for TV or if the screen has been subtly stretched, I dunno. My guess if that they’re using some kind of “wide stretching” technology, where the edges of the picture are stretched, leaving what’s in the center of the screen largely untouched. That’s just my WAG though.

But the thing is, it takes a lot of time and effort to do this, so I doubt that the networks would even bother. Imagine if colourization of old B&W films\TV was accepted by the public - do you think the networks would have gone to all the trouble to colourize every old episode of *Andy Griffith[/] and Leave It To Beaver? I doubt it. And given the huge amount of material they’d have to convert (versus the relatively few B&W shows that are still shown that they’d have to colourize) I seriously doubt it… especially when your widescreen TV has the built-in option to zoom or stretch the picture.

I just looked up some shows on DVD on Amazon and it said they were in widescreen, so I guess some shows are converted.

The networks are broadcasting a lot of their prime-time shows in 16:9 as has been mentioned, but ONLY on their digital transmitters. Most of the letterbox-hating technophobes are still using their old analog TV sets and never see the difference.

[nitpick] Many (most?) shows that have been filmed in the past few years were either filmed in widescreen in the first place for HD broadcast or filmed that way for export to the UK and\or for DVD sets and matted for 4:3 TV (the first season of 24, HBO’s From The Earth To The Moon). So the it’s actually the 4:3 version that’s “converted”, not the 16:9 one. Which shows did you look at on Amazon? [/nitpick]

Sorry, I can’t remember which ones. They weren’t ones that I watch. I just saw an ad for one show’s season on DVD and went to check the aspect ratio. I found the second one from the “people who bought this, also bought” thing.

That’s interesting about the widescreen to 4:3 conversion. I was wondering if they did that. Thanks

Well, they might see the difference, if they’re watching a show like 24, where it’s painfully obvious because the show is framed for widescreen and crudely cropped so that significant details are often simply missing from the edges of the 4:3 broadcast.

[/doesn’t have the change to lay down for a widescreen TV but won’t watch 24 on the local Fox affiliate because the mangling is too distracting and instead downloads the HD versions off the 'net and makes up for the theft later by faithfully buying the box sets]