And last week Freeview joined the HDTV party, by revealing that the launch of free-to-air HDTV services on Freeview has been brought forward to 2010, in time for the football World Cup finals in South Africa next June.
What is HDTV?
There is still a lot of confusion among TV viewers as to how to receive an HDTV broadcast. And indeed many of the 7 million homes who already have an “HD Ready” TV believe that they are actually receiving an HDTV service, when they are not.
This is because even though an “HD Ready” TV set has 4 times more pixels per square inch than a standard set, it will only show an HDTV picture if the content is being broadcast, transmitted and decoded in high definition.
So for the real HDTV experience you need:
• An “HD Ready” TV
• An HD set top box
• Access to HD broadcasts via a free-to-air or subscription HD service.
Customer feedback of those who are receiving an HDTV picture is broadly very positive. Picture quality is definitely far superior to standard definition and this is particularly noticeable for fast moving sports and documentaries on bigger screen sizes.
However, as the standard definition picture quality in the UK is generally significantly better than the standard definition picture quality in the US for example - the difference may not seem as marked to some.
Most HDTV set top boxes also have a PVR (personal video recorder) within the box as standard and as a result the HDTV revolution brings the added benefits of being able to store and record your favourite programmes by pressing a single button, and the ability to pause and rewind live television (should you need to halt proceedings to answer the phone for example).
Where are the best HDTV deals?
So where are the best deals to be had and should you wait until the launch of Freeview HD next year, before taking the HD plunge?
Our strong view is that there is no need to wait as there are plenty of great value HDTV deals available today, which offer far more HD content than is likely to be available free-to-air next year on Freeview.
Indeed, once you have your HD Ready set, there are three HDTV options to choose from:
• By far the largest range of HD programming is provided by Sky with their Sky+ HD service – this offers 33 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. Sky claims that viewers have access to up to 400 hours of HDTV programming per day – or 12,000 hours a month, which they claim is 50 times more than the nearest competitor.
• Virgin Media also offer HDTV with their HDTVservice, but this offers only 1 HD channel (BBC HD), as well as a library of HD on-demand content including some BBC iPlayer content in high definition
• Freesat, which offers HDTV without a contract or subscription payment, but only offers two HD channels: BBCHD and ITVHD.
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