It’s TV announcement season and that means all the TV networks are presenting their plans for 2016 for their new TV shows, new ideas and perhaps even new channels.  We’ve seen two new channels announced – the Food Network from SBS and 9 Life from the Nine Network, but the announcement getting loads of attention is Channel 9 broadcasting in High Definition.  But there’s a catch.

From November 26 if you retune your Digital TV, you’ll get the new 9 Life channel, plus you’ll find Channel 90 is the normal “Main” Channel 9 in High Definition.  That’s if your TV can receive it.

You see there is a limit to how many channels a network can broadcast.  Each network has 23Meg of spectrum up there in the airwaves within which they can choose to broadcast whatever number of channels they choose.

A typical SD channel might be 4 Meg, a HD channel might be 12 Meg.  Theoretically more, but as the demand for more channels comes from the bosses at the networks, the techs need to squeeze the channels in and that means compromising quality for quantity.

There is a solution.  It’s called MPEG-4.  It’s a compression technology which allows a high quality signal to be broadcast in even less space than would currently be required (the current standard being used is MPEG-2).

It was confirmed by MediaWeek today that Nine will be broadcasting the HD channel using MPEG-4 compression.

The problem though is that MPEG-4 has not been standard in new TV’s since Digital TV was introduced.  It’s really only the last 5 years or so that all TVs have supported MPEG-4.

So if you have an older TV or a TV that can’t “decode” MPEG-4 – you will not be able to see the 9 HD channel.

Here’s how it looks (not 100% accurate, just a graphical representation of how the Nine Network are going to fit a new channel in AND simulcast the main channel in HD.


As you can see, they are dropping one of their Extra Channels, but the simulcast is a heavy load on spectrum that could only really be offset by the introduction of MPEG-4.

In reality, Nine won’t lose out with this little change, because 100% of homes can watch the content on Channel 9.  The question is what percentage can?  With HD penetration not at 100% on its own (sits perhaps between 90 and 95%) then MPEG-4 penetration could 70% or even lower.

Think about those second or third TVs in the bedroom, man cave or kitchen.  Those are older and likely don’t support this newer technology.

So, you won’t miss out on the cricket. But you might have to watch it in Standard Definition, until you buy a new TV:)

How can you check?

Good news is the Seven Network recently launched a Horse Racing channel on channel number 78 (Channel 68 in regional areas) – turn that on, because it’s in MPEG-4 already, so if your TV can view the TV channel, your TV will be able to watch Nine HD when it switches on, November 26.