Nov 24, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Last week I probably ruined the holidays for some people by dishing out my awards for the biggest turkeys in TV technology. So to even things up, I want to give thanks for the industry’s greatest accomplishments. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, here are five products or services that truly deserve our praise.
HDTV Channels in 1080i
HDTV programming is skimpier than a Hilton sister’s party dress. On most cable and satellite systems, there are fewer than 10 hi-def networks, and some channels, such as ESPN HD, don’t even broadcast full-time in the format. However, just when you start to question your sanity for spending thousands of dollars on a hi-def set, you click on HDNet, Discovery HD or iN Demand HD.
The three hi-def networks, which broadcast in 1080i, the industry’s highest standard, all deliver a picture so sparkling clear that you can hardly believe your eyes. It will be years before the HD industry wins the hearts-and wallets-of American viewers. However, when hi-def finally reaches the mark, the industry should thank HDNet, Discovery HD and iN Demand HD for paving the way.
Despite hitting the 1 million subscriber mark this month (after nearly five years), the digital video recorder service is still more buzz than buys. TiVo has not persuaded consumers that they should dump their VCRs for more expensive DVRs. In addition, the company now faces stiff opposition from cable DVR services that could eventually put TiVo out of business.
And that would be a shame. TiVo, which enables viewers to pause live TV, skip commercials and record up to 100 hours of programming, is a truly revolutionary product.
It makes watching television more convenient and more entertaining. In fact, the product is so good that it weaves a near-hypnotic spell over its owners. Sounding like members of a religious cult, grown people will volunteer that TiVo has “changed my life.” If positive word of mouth still means anything, TiVo will survive. And that would be a good thing. TiVo has done more to advance the concept of new TV technology than any other product or service.
And lest we forget …
Cable’s Carriage of Local HDTV
If you’re an HDTV owner, getting your local channels in hi-def can be a chore. Because satellite TV operators don’t have the bandwidth to provide the locals in digital, dish owners must install an off-air antenna to receive the signals. However, most cable TV operators provide the local HD feeds through the cable set-top; no special equipment is required.
DVD Recorders
Finally, there’s a device that will let you transfer your fading videotapes onto DVDs, which should last for a lifetime. Plus, with a DVD recorder you can make copies of your DVR recordings and exchange them with friends.
You want to watch a new video release but you don’t want to get off the couch, get into the car, fight traffic, look for a parking space and then hold your breath until you actually see that the movie is in stock at the local video store. Video-on-demand, which is available on most cable systems, takes the inconvenience out of watching movies at home.
Phillip Swann is president and publisher of TVPredictions.com. He can be reached at swann@TVPredictions.com.