Skip to comments.TV Tech: 10 Smartest Things I've Seen In 10 Years (By Philip Swann)
Posted on 03/17/2011 3:45:34 PM PDT by Las Vegas Dave
Washington, D.C. (March 17, 2011) -- Editor's Note: To celebrate the 10th anniversary of TVPredictions.com, over the next several months I plan to publish a series of features honoring what I think represents the '10 Best' in the field of TV technologies.
(And in some cases, '10 Worst' articles will expose companies and people who I think are failing to strive toward excellence, or, in some cases, not even making a serious effort to satisfy their customers.)
Last week, I wrote the 10 Dumbest Things I've Seen In The Last 10 Years of TV Technology.' Today, I present the '10 Smartest Things I've Seen in the Last 10 Years of TV Technology.'
In 10 years of covering TV technology at TVPredictions.com, I'm often accused of being too negative, usually by company officials who have a vested interest in the subjects I am writing about. Of course, they call it negative; I call it just being truthful.
However, that said, I also frequently praise good work and innovation when I see it. So to counter my '10 Dumbest Things' article...
I present, 'The 10 Smartest Things I've Seen In 10 Years of TV Technology'
1. DIRECTV Dramatically Expands Its HD Lineup With several TV providers now offering more than 100 HD channels, it's easy to forget that just a little over three years ago that most satellite and cable operators carried fewer than 20 HD channels, with some, like DIRECTV, offering less than 10. The high-def audience was growing, but the the TV providers were not growing with it.
However, DIRECTV decided in 2007 to invest heavily in four new satellites that would enable it to expand its HD lineup from just nine channels to nearly 100. At the time, DIRECTV had 16 million subscribers; today, it has more than 19 million and, unlike most of its rivals, it's not losing subs; it's actually adding them in a tough economy. The 2007 HD expansion is a big reason.
Of course, the reality is that DIRECTV, which now has roughly 130 'real' HD channels, greatly slowed its HD additions about 18 months ago. In fact, Verizon, AT&T and Dish Network now actually have more HD channels than DIRECTV. (And Comcast does as well in a few markets.)
But the 2007 expansion generated so much publicity, the satcaster still gets credit in the mainstream media -- and the culture -- as being the HD leader. Consequently, in 2011, many HDTV owners are still dropping their cable services for DIRECTV, thinking it offers the best HD lineup on the market.
DIRECTV's fraudulent and manipulative 2009 ad campaign, which promoted that it would soon have a '200 HD channel capacity,' added to this perception. The satcaster had no plans to offer 200 HD channels, but the campaign made people think that they would. And so many people, including even some in the media, now think that DIRECTV actually has 200 HD channels.
Smart isn't always right, but it works.
2. Cable Resists 'a la Carte Pricing' Pressure in 2005 with cable bills rising -- and consumer complaints skyrocketing -- several influential congressmen such as Sen. John McCain (R-Arizona) called for cable operators to offer 'a la carte' pricing. There were even threats that Congress would force the cable ops to allow their customers to pay only for the channels they wanted to watch.
Fortunately, the nation's cable executives saw the threats for what they were -- empty rhetoric designed to appease unhappy voters -- and they decided to resist the 'a la carte' movement.
Their decision probably saved a few of them from going out of business -- and definitely saved an untold number of niche channels from extinction.
You see, the way the cable (and satellite) business models work, the TV providers need each subscriber to pay a minimum monthly amount. If each subscriber decided, let's say, to only pay $10 a month for HBO, the cable operator would not have the funds to carry much more than, well, HBO. And that would not make for a successful cable or satellite company.
But by charging at least $30-40 per subscriber for a basic package of channels, the TV providers have more funds to spend on such things as new HD channels and niche channels. Without those extra resources, the providers would only be able to carry a small lineup of the most popular channels.
You might say that's not a bad idea, but how would you feel if your cable or satellite lineup suddenly didn't offer the MLB Network, or Versus, or the regional sports channels, or AMC, or The MGM channel, or HDNet? A la carte pricing would turn your 100 HD channel universe into a 10 HD channel universe in the blink of an eye.
3. 'Streaming Video' Partners With Blu-ray A few years ago, Vudu, which offers movies streamed over the Net, was pushing its own retail set-top. And there were rumors that Netflix was planning to do the same. However, the streaming companies finally concluded that the retail business was a tough nut to crack and they decided to partner with manufacturers of Blu-ray players and other devices such as gaming consoles.
They realized that it's a lot easier to sell your streaming service if the consumer only has to click a button on a set-top he already owns.
Roku and Apple are continuing to push their standalone Net TV set-tops, but I predict that they will hit a wall in the next year or two if they don't follow the path taken by Vudu and Netflix. People can only buy so many set-tops; there's real set-top fatigue out there. If given the option of getting Netflix on a Blu-ray/DVD player they already own (or were going to buy anyway for the disc playing features) or buying a whole new set-top (Apple TV, Roku) for the same type of streaming service, consumers will take the cheaper and easier path.
4. LCD Makers Out-Hustle Plasma Makers With 1080p Video Several years ago, the word Plasma had become almost synonymous with the flat-screen TV. Consumers were so excited about the prospect of buying new Plasma sets that they became status symbols.
So, why do more people today buy LCD flat-screen sets instead of Plasma? By a wide margin.
1. Early Plasma models were hampered by a flaw called 'burn-in.' If you left the set on too long, the image would stay on the screen. While Plasma makers fixed the problem in later models, the negative word of mouth continued to spread, thanks in part to LCD makers who were happy to whisper (loudly whisper) about the issue to anyone who would listen.
2. About four years ago, LCD makers decided to include a new feature in their sets called 1080p. The feature purportedly offered the best possible high-def picture, better than 720p or 1080i. Problem is, you could only watch something in 1080p (and still only can) if you had a Blu-ray or HD DVD player. TV networks did not (and still don't) broadcast in 1080p.
Perhaps noting that 1080p content was rare, the Plasma makers were slow to introduce 1080p sets. And that gave the LCD companies all they needed to take over. They persuaded potential TV buyers that a 1080p set was essential to getting the best possible picture. By the time the Plasma makers woke up and launched their own 1080p sets, LCD sales were booming.
5. Plasma Makers Push Lower-Priced Sets A little more than a year ago, some (wrong-headed) analysts were predicting the demise of the Plasma set for the reasons stated in #4. Sales were dropping so fast that it seemed inevitable that LCD would own the flat-screen category for years to come.
However, Plasma makers finally got smart and realized that they had two things going for them:
1. Most objective analysts (including me) said Plasma offered a better picture than LCD. 2. With the introduction of 1080p Plasma sets, the Plasma makers could sell their 720p sets at prices much lower than comparably-sized LCD sets.
Over the last year, the combination of the two factors has allowed Plasma to make a comeback and I predict that Plasma sales will continue to rise in 2011 and beyond.
6. CBS and ABC Go High-Def Early CBS and ABC (particularly CBS) decided several years ago that it was important that the majority of their primetime lineup was in HD. They saw the HD audience growing and they concluded that new HDTV owners would gravitate to the networks that offered the most programming in high-def.
In contrast, Fox was late to the HD game, finally offering sportscasts in high-def in 2004. It took a few years more before some Fox primetime shows switched to HD. (The network was clearly not a big believer in high-def's potential; Fox Sports Chairman David Hill even once said he didn't see why people were excited about HD; 3D was more interesting to him, he said.)
NBC was an early convert to HD, but under the leadership of now ex-CEO Jeff Zucker, the network downplayed HD in primetime for years, choosing instead to air reality shows in less expensive SD.
Bottom line: Which networks today get the best overall ratings? Answer: CBS and ABC. And I believe that the two networks' decision to court the evolving HD audience is a major reason why.
7. Local News Stations Go High-Def Early There are now more than 300 local stations that offer local news programs in high-def. But some of those stations had the wisdom to make the switch to HD several years ago when the HD audience was just building. Like CBS and ABC, the local stations that were first in their markets with HD news eventually benefited with better ratings, not to mention better broadcasts. They learned early what worked in HD and what didn't. And that continues to pay off for them.
8. Studios Drop Promotion of Blu-ray's 'BD Live' From 2007 to 2009, the Hollywood studios heavily promoted the interactive features available on Blu-ray high-def discs such as accessing ringtones, games, movie trailers and other content from the Net. Known as BD Live, the ITV features were prominently featured in Blu-ray ad campaigns and in-box promotions. In fact, they were promoted more than Blu-ray's two strongest assets -- a great picture and great sound. (Sony actually once said BD Live was Blu-ray's "killer app.")
I believe that the studios were shooting themselves in the foot by promoting BD Live over Blu-ray's biggest strengths. Movie lovers want to watch movies; they are not terribly interested in interacting during the film or even afterwards, particularly if they have to connect their set-tops to a Broadband Internet network.
Well, I'm happy to note that in the last two years that the studios have changed course and now usually promote Blu-ray's exceptional picture and sound in ads. The campaigns are targeted now to people who like to watch movies.
Okay, I know. Duh. But give the studios credit for being smart, realizing their mistake and moving forward.
9. Advertisers Switch to HD Commercials About four years ago, many (wrong-headed, again) analysts were predicting that the Digital Video Recorder would destroy the TV commercial. Few consumers would watch commercials during recorded playbacks, they said, because they would just skip right through them.
However, something changed. One, ad-skipping was actually overrated; believe it or not, TV viewers tend to be a bit lazy and don't want to constantly pick up their remotes and hit the FF button every 10 minutes. Sure, they'll skip some ads but they'll watch some, too. (Recent research has proven this.)
Second, some smart advertisers started to produce their commercials in HD, which made them stand out. So when the HD DVR owner watched a recorded show -- and started to hit the FF button -- they would stop if they saw that the commercial was in HD. A high-def commercial was interesting and different.
Shooting the commercials in HD was more expensive, to be sure, but it was also smarter.
And any advertiser today that doesn't shoot in HD is dumb -- and is risking that his/her commercial will be skipped by a DVR.
10. Cosmetic Artists Introduce 'HD Makeup' As I noted in my '10 Dumbest' article, the introduction of crystal-clear High-Definition TV sent panic waves throughout Hollywood. Actors and actresses were scared to death that people would actually see their facial imperfections and aging signs.
But several cosmetic companies smartly exploited the issue by introducing new makeup techniques designed to make people look better in HD. The techniques, often called 'airbrushing,' soften the imperfections so people look less 'real' on screen.
In my view, the HD makeup does help, but to be bluntly honest, it won't cover up someone's acne scars or wrinkles. The only 'techniques' that do that are trick lighting and camera filters, which blurs the image so the viewer can't detect as many details in the picture. (Some actors refuse to go on certain late night talk shows unless they're promised that the camera filters will be used.)
But the cosmetic companies have created the perception that HD makeup can work wonders. And they've been able to fortify their careers.
And that's being damn smart.
Interested in the HDTV ping list?
Please Freepmail me (freepmail works best) if you would like your name added to the HDTV ping list, ( approximately 375 freepers are currently on the HDTV ping list ).
The pinged subjects can be HDTV technology, satellite, cable, and OTA HD reception (Over The Air with roof top or indoor antennas), Broadcast specials, Sports, Blu-ray/HDDVD, and any and all subjects relating to HDTV.
Note: if you search Freerepublic using the keyword "HDTV, you will find most of the past HDTV postings.
off topic, but is there a simple way to run a 2 year old samsung hd tv into my dell xps computer and then into a bose stereo system?
when i connected my tv to my computer it took control of my desktop.
But it doesn't help with props and special effects. They now have to be more real, detailed, and expensive.
Well bringing the Internet to the living room HDTV needs to be on that list. Lots of inexpensive ways to do that these days.
HDMI should be number one on the list. It’s the hot-swappable, self-configuring, universal entertainment and data interface we’ve been waiting for.
It was nice to see the explanation for plasma being available in 720p almost exclusively. That’s such a stupid limitation. But the main reason it eventually lost ground is that the really large screens in LCD became price-competitive. That’s it. Also the greeniacs were claiming that plasma made all the whales die.
The argument against a la carte pricing is specious. Of course there would be more subscribers, and yes they’d be paying less. And there’d be no lack of crooked installers offering to set up new customers with more channels for a one-time under the table bribe. Just as there is now. If there were a la carte pricing — and the local cable “provider” were not Comcast — I’d not have been pay-TV free around her for more than ten years. I won’t pay more and more all the time to have less and less that I enjoy — while still having to suffer the freakin’ commercials.
This is all fine and good but we STILL have to put up with all of those on-screen logos that screws up viewing. I guess they look better in HD but I still hate them. It would be nice if we, the paying customers, were given the ability to toggle them on and off as we wish. That has always been a major pet peeve of mine.
Good concept, bad execution. The physical connection is weak and is easily jiggled loose. The cable was originally meant for another purpose, and was not designed with the bandwidth in mind that is currently required of it.
I disagree with #2. Forcing your customers to pay for a slew of channels they don’t want is a horrible business model, and has cause a huge number of cable and satellite subscribers to just say to hell with it and leave (like me.)
Let the consumer pay for what they actually WANT to watch and charge the appropriate amount for that service. My bet is the service providers would prosper under such a system, not suffer.
Back when I had one of those big C-band satellite dishes, programming was more or less a la carte. You could either buy all channels sparately, or in a package, or you could do both. Some channels came bundled (bundles of 2 or 3), which shoots down the argument that "niche" channels would go away.
My yearly payment back then (it was cheaper if you paid the whole year in advance) was just a little more than my monthly payment with DISH now.
Amazing what is out there for free.
Dumped DirecTV for a host of reasons. Primarily, because they would not turn off the LOGO channel on my TV package. "If you can flip a switch to turn on HBO, you can damn well flip a switch to turn off LOGO."
I agree! Right now our cable line up includes a green channel and a homosexual channel. Ugh. The problem is the monopoly that cable TV is given by local government. Open things up so that we can choose our own cable company, and then you would see things change.
The real problem with #2 is that the cable companies didn’t actually resist anything, they never had a choice. They buy channels in bundles, if they want Discovery then they’re going to get TLC, OWN, Military, and Animal Planet, period, and they’re going to pay for them based on the number of subscribers they have in the appropriate tiers, period. They can’t buy a la carte, and subsequently they can’t sell that way.
FYI to the Ping list!
Washington, D.C. (March 20, 2011) — Mitsubishi has announced that it’s exiting the LCD business to concentrate on large-screen televisions.
The company had been struggling to compete in the LCD category, falling behind such companies as Vizio, Samsung, Sony, Toshiba and LG in sales of the flat-screen set. However, Mitsubishi is one of the few TV makers to offer microdisplay rear and front-projection sets larger than 73 inches.
By dropping LCD production, Mitsubishi can focus on strengthening its niche in the big-screen TV category.
“The goal is to reclaim our position as the ‘large screen’ company,” a Mitsubishi spokesperson said in a statement. “To that end, on the Audio Visual side of our business, we will manufacture and sell micro-display projection televisions and Laservue televisions in sizes 73 inches and above. On the Professional Visual Systems side, the company will concentrate on projector sales, display wall, printers and large public display screens.”
Mitsubishi said is will also reduce its workforce, closing two offices.
I am for 'a la Carte Pricing'. It is like funding NPR. If it does not hold up in the market place. It does not survive. I don't want to page through crap when I can't understand the language or if I don't agree with their morality.
I record almost everything on my Dish PVR, even when watching live news I pause it and do something else, because I will skip the commercials.
My first choice of recording is decent movies on channels that are commercial free and don’t edit the movie.
All of my NASCAR is recorded, much more enjoyable watching it without interruptions.
I am NOT remote lazy and WILL eliminate commercials, I don’t care how much they whine, I do NOT need nor want them.
Certain affiliate I avoid like the plague like USA, TBS as they alays edit the length of a movie, or the content. I do not pay for premium channels like HBO or Showtime, just a waste of money, Encore is awesome, always good stuff. Never any politically motivated greener crap.
The 10 Best Shows In HDTV Of All Time!
Washington, D.C. (March 22, 2011) — Editor’s Note: To celebrate the 10th anniversary of TVPredictions.com, over the next several months I plan to publish a series of features honoring what I think represents the ‘10 Best’ in the field of TV technologies.
(And in some cases, ‘10 Worst’ articles will expose companies and people who I think are failing to strive toward excellence, or, in some cases, not even making a serious effort to satisfy their customers.)
This month, for example, I wrote the 10 Dumbest Things I’ve Seen In The Last 10 Years of TV Technology and the ‘10 Smartest Things I’ve Seen in the Last 10 Years of TV Technology.’ Today, we present the 10 Best Shows In HDTV of All Time!
In 10 years at TVPredictions.com, I often tell people that I get to watch television for a living. Okay, it’s not all that I do — I write daily news stories, commentaries and analysis as well as publish a daily newsletter, among other things.
But a big part of my daily activities is watching television to determine how shows look (and sound) in HD. After watching probably hundreds of different programs since 2001 — the first year I got an HDTV and roughly the time when the sets started to generate interest at retail — I think I can fairly choose what I think are the 10 best shows in high-def of all time.
I have selected each program because they share three things: 1. Strong Content. 2. Excellent Picture Quality. 3. Terrific Sound. There are some compelling shows, such as HBO’s The Sopranos, that didn’t make the list because they lacked one of the three features. (The HD picture quality on The Sopranos was a little inconsistent over the program’s series run, although no one will argue with its content.)
So, that said, I present, ‘The 10 Best Shows In HDTV Of All Time!’
10. HDNet’s Space Shuttle Launches (HDNet)
For several years, Mark Cuban’s HDNet has had a deal with NASA to broadcast launches (and landings) of the Space Shuttle Discovery. And the high-def network spares no expense in ensuring that each broadcast is a feast for the eyes and ears. You feel like you’re sitting on a bench in southeastern Florida, gazing at the majesty of the shuttle as it rises and rises and rises in the sky. In high-def, it’s a thrilling experience — and nothing beats the shuttle’s nighttime launches.
But HDNet’s coverage is more than pretty pictures. With veteran correspondent Greg Dobbs in the anchor chair and a slew of NASA astronauts taking the side car, you also learn more about the science of the shuttle than you would ever expect. It’s a great achievement.
9. Sunrise Earth (Discovery)
If director Stanley Kubrick were still alive in the 2000s decade, no doubt he would have been a regular viewer of Sunrise Earth, the documentary series from Discovery.
The one-hour program, which is no longer on Discovery’s schedule (perhaps because it doesn’t have anything to do with being obese or having 16 kids), was reminiscent of the opening minutes of Kubrick’s remarkable 2001: A Space Odyssey. Referred to as “The Dawn of Man,” the film’s opening masterfully displays the rising of the sun against a beautiful, mountainous backdrop millions of years ago. Kubrick offers a glimpse of what our world was like before man and his evil ways started to interfere.
Likewise, in each episode, Sunrise Earth’s producers positioned their high-def cameras at the brink of dawn in a lush natural setting, usually in a national park or alongside a body of water. Then, as the sun rose over a one to two hour period, the show chronicled how Earth and nature (birds, animals, weather conditions) co-exist at this marvelous time of day.
When seen in vivid, crystal-clear HDTV, the effect was hypnotic.
Hopefully, Discovery will bring the series back in the very near future. If there’s room for a Gosselin or two, there has to be a place for beauty, too.
8. Rome (HBO)
The HBO series, which ran from 2005 to 2007, delivered some of the most striking and graphic images of the decade. The Roman Empire was one wild and crazy place and this show realistically depicted the scene. Each episode was beautifully filmed in high-def, with special attention given to the opening credits, which give hint to the intrigue and deceit that’s to come. Rome was not just classical drama; it was a classic.
7. Live From the Red Carpet (INHD, produced by E! Entertainment)
I’m not talking about the ‘Red Carpet’ shows that now appear on NBC and ABC before major award shows such as the Oscars. Although they can be irresistible, their production pales in comparison to the ‘Red Carpet’ programs that aired in the mid-2000s on INHD, the high-def network that folded a few years ago.
The NBC and ABC shows tend to soften the picture when they focus on the faces of Hollywood celebs as they walk the Red Carpet into the award shows. But produced in conjunction with E! Entertainment, INHD delivered a stark, crystal-clear look at the celebs. Talk about reality TV. The shows revealed more about the stars than an entire year of People Magazine. Facial flaws. Aging signs. Acne. You could see it all in high-def on INHD.
6. The Pacific (HBO)
The 10-part miniseries, which aired in 2010, featured the grunts who helped the Allies win World War II in the Pacific theater. In high-def, the show’s candid images and fear-inducing sound effects put you in the middle of the battle. Watched on a Home Theater system, it felt like the bombs were bursting around you, or worse.
And the show’s excellent cast, from James Badge Dale to Jon Seda to Fringe’s Anna Torv (in a memorable cameo role) was featured beautifully in high-def as they struggled to cope with the madness that surrounded them. You could see the conflict and tension in the actors’ faces in each scene, bringing home the inner turmoil of not knowing if your next day would be your last.
5. Dexter (Showtime)
Dexter, which will begin its sixth season this fall on Showtime, features a police blood splatter expert who moonlights as a vigilante serial killer. Starring Michael C. Hall as the killer, the show often displays scenes featuring decapitated bodies and other gruesome images. In other words, it’s perfect for high-def. The HD cameras provide an uncompromising look at Dexter’s handiwork, forcing you to question his motives and morals every step of the way. But Hall’s soft-hearted exterior (and sometimes interior) is also perfectly captured by the high-def cameras, lending balance and sympathy to the character. It’s a great show — and HD makes it even greater.
4. CSI (CBS)
The crime lab drama was the first to use high-def cameras to realistic portray the lives of people who examine dead bodies for a living. In HD, you better understand what drives these people as they pick, poke and prod a poor slob on the slab. You can see that their work gets into their heads — and their hearts — and only capturing the culprit will ease their pain. At least temporarily.
I’m sure that when CSI first aired in HD, the suits at CBS occasionally dropped a memo on the set, urging the producers to tone things down. But from my viewpoint, CSI has never stepped back; the show continues to shock and provoke with graphic images and searing acting performances.
3. NFL Football (CBS)
CBS unquestionably delivers the best HD broadcast of the game most people say is best suited for the medium. The network’s HDTV pictures are crisp and the colors are vivid. CBS understands that high-def viewers want detail and they never disappoint. You can see the stitches on a football as it spirals down field; hell, you can even read the print on a quarterback’s ‘playbook’ wristband if you look hard enough.
NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcasts finish a strong second behind CBS, but Fox, ABC and ESPN often disappoint with soft, muddy pictures of the games.
2. 24 (Fox)
The counter-terrorism drama ran eight seasons and I was ready to hide under a bed when it was over — or give away every civil liberty the government needed to stop a future terrorist act. The HD 24 brought the drama into your living room. In high-def, you could see the tension in the faces of the characters; the muscles in their cheeks sometimes clenched so hard that I was afraid that Kiefer Sutherland was going to pop a vein. Particularly when he yelled, “Put the weapon down! Now!!”
Sutherland said this week that Fox will release a movie version of 24 in the summer of 2012. I, for one, can hardly wait.
1. Lost (ABC)
The castaway drama, which finished its six-season run last year, had an narcotic effect on its audience, causing many viewers to re-watch each episode several times to look for story clues. And in high-def, the Hawaiian backdrop (where Lost was filmed) was absolutely gorgeous. Watching the show in HD, you could understand why some of the characters never wanted to leave the island.
And how about those characters? From Evangeline Lilly to Josh Holloway to Emilie de Ravin to Matthew Fox, the show was populated with the best-looking people arguably ever cast on one show. Combine the natural beauty of the actors with the supernatural beauty of the Hawaiian islands, Lost was the reason why high-def was invented.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.