Wide-Screen TV

I should like to know what is current position regarding wide-screen TV in the US. By wide-screen I mean the 9 by 16 aspect ratio screen as apposed to the nearly square old style. Here in th UK all three digital platforms (cable, terrestial and satellite ) are capable of broadcasting in this mode and most of the TV companies,including the BBC,are making programmes in wide-screen. There is also a good selection of wide-screen TVs in the shops with the prices almost at the level of the older screen shape ones.
Are you in front or behind us in this field ?

Way behind. 16:9 tvs in the US cost thousands of dollars. And once you spend that money, there are very few ways to take advantage of it. The best way is with DVD movies, almost all of which are widescreen. But US TV is mostly 4:3 instead of 16:9. Once High Definition TV is the standard, all programs will be widescreen. But this isn’t expected to happen until some ridiculous date like 2006. HDTV is available right now only in large TV markets and only a few programs are available in HDTV. The only ones I can think of off the top of my head are the Super Bowl, and certain CBS shows.

I don’t know if this is the case but there is a distinction between a widescreen TV and an HDTV. You can buy widescreen TV’s in the US for ‘reasonable’ prices ($1500-2000). This price, while expensive, is in-line with other similary equipped high-end TV sets.

HDTV, on the other hand, is still ludicrously expensive. I don’t remember the date that ALL broadcasters in the US must be broadcasting HDTV signals but Elwood is certainly close with the 2006 date. While that date may seen way out there the reality is no one expects this date to be met anyway. HDTV sets have made very little penetration into the US market and ‘poor’ TV stations are complaining bitterly that they cannot afford the new equipment to enable HDTV broadcasts.

Broadcaster’s are reluctant to embrace HDTV because it takes 8x the bandwidth of a current TV signal (at least for the best format of the 16(?) supported by the TV). They don’t see charging any more money for a McDonald’s commercial on HDTV then they did on regular TV. Instead they figured they could make 8 totally new stations of the old crappy format!

BUT! You may remember awhile back the US Congress gave away a good hunk of the electromagnetic spectrum to TV broadcasters. There were many people screaming that this was nothing more than a blatant giveaway to large campaign donors. That spectrum if auctioned off was wroth billions. What the TV broadcasters didn’t count on as they laughed their way to the bank was that nothing is ever really free. Since Congress ‘gave’ them the bandwidth Congress still has something to say about what is done with that bandwidth (something they’d be less capable of doing had they sold it instead). Congress dragged TV executives into Congressional hearings where they extracted PROMISES from the executives that the spectrum would be used for HDTV.

So…HDTV has barely any pulse but it is technically still alive and may recover someday.

As to European or Asian HDTV I don’t know what happened. I know Japan had a system ready to go and was even running it when the US pulled the rug from under them and instituted an entirely different standard for the US. Not so much because it was better but to allow US companies a chance to compete in this market. The Japanese got screwed on that deal. I have no idea which way Europe went.

There has not been much progress in HDTV in Europe either.What we are getting instead is Digital (as apposed to analogue)broadcasts still using 625 lines with the PAL colour system but broadcast in the 9 by 16 format.The British Government,at least, want to end the old analogue broadcasts so that these frequencies can be sold off for the next generation of mobile phones.The projected date is 2006 to 2010.

2006 was the original date for compliance with the HDTV standard, but chances are that the date will be moved back, due to the fact that HDTV penetration is still very low…