BBC "considering" HDTV distribution
In a report on the state of progress towards digital switchover, the corporation said it was looking to take a key role in launching the service, which provides viewers with an extremely high quality picture.
"As UK households adopt TV sets with ever larger screen sizes (a trend likely to accelerate as prices are dropping quite quickly), which expose the picture quality limitations of digital TV, demand for HDTV might be expected to emerge, for which consumers would need to invest in new receivers," said the BBC in its report. "Growing familiarity with the picture quality offered by DVD-Video could be expected to contribute to this."
Although it expected the service to become a viable proposition within the next five years, the BBC highlighted several reasons why it may not contrbute towards switchover.
"If UK demand for HDTV emerged, it would be most likely to do so from existing digital TV adopters and so, initially, would not drive switchover. In addition, because an HDTV channel would be extremely bandwidth-hungry (requiring an entire DTT multiplex which could otherwise carry 4-6 Standard Definition -SD -channels), limited DTT bandwidth suggests that, in the absence of improvements in the compression technology currently implemented for European digital TV, HDTV could only be efficiently introduced for the satellite and cable platforms.
"There is also currently limited availability of suitable content which would benefit from HD treatment (although high-end drama and sporting events -such as the Olympics – would), and could be made in HD without substantial added costs for the broadcasters, and for which consumers might be willing to pay (HDTV is not backwards compatible to any of the current digital receivers and so to consumers would represent another new platform).
"To enable HD channels to be launched prior to switchover would require new DTT capacity or the closure of existing DTT services and only cause consumer confusion. However, broadcasters could go a long way towards improving picture quality, without making the leap to HD, by paying closer attention to the way SD services are captured and played out.
"The BBC is considering distribution of HD. This won't, in itself, be a driver for digital take-up for the owners of millions of small-screen SD analogue televisions currently in the market, but it would be a service potentially of interest to the growing number of owners of large screen devices."
HDTV is already available in the USA and Japan.