Satellites’ Blu-ray Clarity Claims May Be Dubious

Aug 28, 2008  •  Post A Comment

U.S. satellite companies’ statements that their so-called “full” high-definition broadcasts are as clear as Blu-ray may be murky, according to at least one analyst, who says Blu-ray growth won’t be hindered by such claims.
As HD disc and disc-player sales gradually pick up in the months since Sony’s Blu-ray emerged as the victor over Toshiba’s competing HD DVD format, leading satellite companies DirecTV and Dish Network have expanded their linear HD channel inventory well past the 100-channel mark. More recently, the satcasters have announced upcoming 1080-pixel broadcasts.
Last month, Dish said it would be the first in the industry to offer full-HD programming and that this month it would offer the Will Smith-starring “I Am Legend” on video-on-demand in 1080p resolution, “same as Blu-ray disc quality.” Larger competitor DirecTV also said in July that it would offer 1080p resolution “later this year,” calling it “the same format used by Blu-ray HD DVDs.”
Not so fast, says David Mercer, U.K.-based principal analyst at consultant Strategy Analytics, in a report this week.
“I don’t believe that DirecTV or Dish will actually be offering programming at the same level of quality of [Blu-ray Disc],” Mercer wrote on his blog this week, adding that the Blu-ray Disc Association called the satcasters’ statements “irresponsible” and “misleading.” “The 1080p story is just another phase in that competitive battle, but it is unlikely to seriously affect Blu-ray’s potential.”
Indeed, the second quarter produced mixed results for satellite companies trying to boost customers with their HD service. DirecTV earlier this month said it increased its subscriber base by 129,000 during the quarter while Dish lost 25,000 subscribers, marking the first quarterly subscriber drop ever for a U.S. satellite television company.
Meanwhile, U.S. Blu-ray disc spending for the first half of the year jumped fourfold to about $200 million and will overtake standard DVDs as the primary form of content software within the next four years, U.K.-based consultant Futuresource said last week.


  1. There are many problems the satellite companies will face with their claims.
    The first is that they just don’t have the bandwidth to pump out a signal with the bit rate present on Blu-Ray discs. Sure they’re sending 1080p, but it’s comparatively compressed 1080p, and it’s not 1920x1080p as on Blu-Ray.
    Second, there’s arrogance in respect to product. Dish’s recent VOD of “I Am Legend” was blown up to 16:9 rather than the 2.35:1 of the theatrical release and Blu-Ray. Yes, the fight to see films in their original theatrical aspect ratios will continue on in the HD marketplace.
    Bottom line, it’s no different than the satellite companies’ claims of giving viewers “HD quality” while compressing signals to lower resolution than program providers send them; marketing and reality are two entirely different matters in the world of satellite (and cable) TV.

  2. It is refreshing to see Bill call the satellite companies on the carpet. This is the dark secret the satellite and cable companies don’t want you to know. Despite their claims, they just don’t have the available bandwidth to provide full, uncompressed HD broadcasts. The only place you are going to get that besides a Blue Ray player and 1080p monitor is from over-the-air broadcast signals. Yes, that’s right, the good-old broadcasters are bringing you the best, uncompressed pictures! Get yourself an antenna, hook it to the tuner in your new 1080p screen and take a look for yourself, you will see the difference.

  3. Actually, the broadcasters can’t match Blu-ray either. Their 8-VSB transmissions are limited to about 19 Mbps, and most of them are braodcasting at least one SD channel along with their HD channel, further limiting their bandwidth. They typically are using about 15-18 Mbps for the HD transmissions, not much higher than satellite or cable.

  4. By your statements here why are you even writing a column in an industry magazine? You don’t even seem to know what 1080p is. The P has nothing to do with pixel resolution. It is progressive scan instead of interlaced.

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