Aug 4, 2003  •  Post A Comment

How many channels are available on your cable or satellite TV service? Two hundred? Three hundred? Now guess how many of those networks broadcast in high-definition TV? The answer: 12.
Twelve! Gloria Allred is on more than 12 channels! And the 12 networks do not even broadcast in HDTV 24 hours a day. Is it any wonder that only 6 million people have bought hi-def sets?
Networks that do not broadcast in HD claim that production costs are too great and the rewards too little. Officials say there’s insufficient evidence that people will watch a show simply because it’s in HDTV.
However, as an HDTV owner who spent nearly $4,000 on a hi-def installation, I beg to differ. I wind up watching almost anything in HDTV to justify my investment.
For instance, last Tuesday I sat down with a cold drink in one hand and my remote in the other. Starting at 8 p.m. I scanned the major broadcast networks-CBS, ABC, NBC and Fox. Only one show was in HDTV: ABC’s “8 Simple Rules for Dating My Daughter.” With a program title that long, thank God I have a widescreen set. However, I couldn’t watch the ever-widening waistline of John Ritter for more than 10 minutes in hi-def.
So I flipped to Discovery HD Theater. The network, which broadcasts 24 hours a day in hi-def, was airing a documentary called “African Garden of Eden.” Fascinating. Set in South Africa’s Kalahari Desert, the show featured a flock of flamingoes. In HDTV, the picture was so incredible that I felt I could reach out and actually touch one of the birds. That is, until I felt weird thinking I could reach out and touch a bird on TV.
Speaking of the aviary world, at 9 p.m. I hopped over to Mark Cuban’s HDNet, which was airing “Bye, Bye Birdie,” the 1963 comedy starring Ann-Margret. Converted from 35mm to HD, the film never looked better. However, I had seen it before so the search continued. ABC was airing “According to Jim” in hi-def, but still there was nothing on CBS or NBC. I didn’t have to check Fox. The network will not offer any HD programming until next year. The WB Network was showing a hi-def edition of “Smallville,” which I think was a documentary on the number of hi-def shows in prime time.
So it was back to Discovery HD Theater, where I watched “Feast of Dates,” a documentary on the date palm tree in the United Arab Emirates!
It’s 10 p.m. Do you know where your $4,000 is? NBC kicked in with an HD broadcast of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” It looked cool, but I didn’t want to watch an autopsy in hi-def before going to bed. HBO HD had a Bill Maher comedy special. No way. Not Bill Maher in HD. CBS was airing “Judging Amy.” However, by then I was exhausted. Who knew that watching television could be so difficult?
High-definition TV is a remarkable technology. When done right, it’s like looking through a window. However, until the networks broadcast more shows in hi-def, many consumers may be content to window shop.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at Swann@TVPredictions.com.