I know, it sounds crazy, but I could care less than Channel 9 and 7 are abandoning their main channel’s HD broadcasts, in favor of a third channel.

Following in the footsteps of Network Ten, which removed its TENHD service to introduce ONEHD, and the recent introduction of ABC NEWS 24 in HD replacing ABC 1 HD, Nine and Seven announced their new ‘third’ channels would be broadcast in HD.

Firstly, the background. As I’ve written and said on radio time and time again, this is for the protection of the main channel broadcasts, not because they don’t care about HD.

You see, there are a LOT of people with Digital TV who converted early, or cheaply, and only got an SD (Standard Definition) Set top box or TV. So, if Nine was to broadcast NINE HD along with GO! (SD) and GEM (SD), and likewise Seven was to broadcast 7HD alongside 7TWO (SD) and 7mate (SD) the people with SD boxes or TVs would NOT, I repeat NOT be able to view the main channel broadcasts. They would miss all the main News, Prime Time and key programming. Pretty big loss. And, I suspect, TV Execs know only too well that the demographic of people who did buy cheaply are likely not to be keen to rush out to upgrade ‘once again!’ and more over would be their core Main channel viewers.

So, do we care? I don’t.

I’ve got two 46 inch TV’s, one of which I sit VERY close to in my office/studio (ok – Man Cave), and when I’m watching the HD channels, I’m not blown away by the intensity of it. I notice – yes, mainly on 100% HD content like Underbelly was, or when watching ONEHD the Graphics they use in commercials and the like and locally produced programs are outstanding.

But for the most part, the content broadcast on those HD channels is in fact up scaled to HD, or, only the ‘lesser cousin’ of the HD format – 720p, not 1080i/p that TV’s are made to show.

The average Joe simply doesn’t notice the times when stuff is in HD or SD, they might notice the odd event or show in FULL HD, but is it worth the excitement?

The argument that the networks are depriving people of HD content is nonsense. I would argue (without surveyed fact) that people haven’t rushed out to buy HD TV’s just because Channel 9 news is in HD. It’s more likely either a nice TV, and they in fact rushed out to get a flat screen more for the wow factor than the HD factor, OR they bought FULL HD with intent, to watch movies and gaming, both of which are not affected by these Network decisions.

I would go one step further and say, that in fact the overwhelming majority of TV viewers, and even JUST viewers who bought FULL HD TV’s would prefer the extra channels than the ongoing simulcast of the same channels in HD and SD.

Let’s reflect.

Not so long ago we had ABC, SBS, 7, 9, 10.

Today we have ABC, ABC 2, ABC 3, ABC News 24, SBS ONE, SBS TWO, 9, GO!, 7, 7TWO, 10 and ONEHD.

TWELVE CHANNELS!, and by the end of this year, add 7mate, GEM and 11 – we’ve got ourselves FIFTEEN free-to-air channels. Outstanding.

Who cares which of them are in HD.

For what it’s worth, I think TEN have shown the most foresight and planning, launching a service which justified the HD spectrum. The rest have been caught hopping.

Sure it seems like a deprivation of quality content to the masses, but in fact it’s the complete opposite. Without these decisions, we’d be without a 24-hour news channel, and two other free to air options.

I know this isn’t the popular view, but please – lets all take a step back from the hysteria and remember, content is king – the more the better, and the free stuff rocks!

PS – I can’t even begin to describe to you how this is going to get even more complex in the coming years. There are some people saying that post the Analogue Switch off broadcasters will get more spectrum so can add back the HD option. This won’t happen.

The change after Analogue switch off will result in nothing more than a ‘restacking’ of the spectrum. What the networks will then do is make a decision to broadcast their HD channels in MPEG-4 compression. At the moment HD is broadcast with MPEG-2 compression, and it’s not as efficient. If they switch to MPEG-4, they can likely fit an extra HD service in (or perhaps 2 new SD – hmmmm, what to do what to do!!).

HOWEVER, hold the phone – you’re thinking – so, why not switch to this MPEG-4 thing now? Good idea! Except, like the HD/SD set top box problem I described earlier, there are a LOT – and I mean a LOT of people who’s TV wont be able to DE-CODE MPEG-4, and as such won’t see a darn thing. This is why, if you’re buying ANY DIGITAL TV – or Set top box – look for the Label, and ask the question, is this TV/Set Top Box FREEVIEW compatible – because the FREEVIEW guidelines mean it must decode MPEG-4.

QUESTION – and please, comment below or on twitter (@trevorlong) – WOULD YOU PREFER MORE CHANNELS, or HD SIMULCASTS OF EXISTING CHANNELS? Tell me, and why?

Over and out… (in SD)