First to offer true Blu-ray 1080p HD programming, Dish Network or DIRECTV?

July 31, 2008

First to offer true Blu-ray 1080p HD programming, Dish Network or DIRECTV Announcements from both satellite companies this week indicate the future launch of true 1080p HD programming by way of pay-per-view movies in the near future.  While DIRECTV was the first to announce such a change, Dish Network looks to be the first to deliver on its promises.

According to the New York Times, Dish Network has stated that they’ll start showing 1080p content within days.  In its press release, the company says that in addition to a host of 17 new national high-definition channels, it will also offer pay-per-view movies in 1080p. The first, available on Friday, is “I Am Legend.”

Until now, 1080p programming could not be transmitted because the signal contains too much information to squeeze into the available bandwidth. Instead it’s only been available on recorded media, such as Blu-ray.  The programming you get with an antenna or cable is usually sent in the less-high-definition 1080i (for interlace) resolution, rather than true 1080p.

While Dish Network may be the first to sell 1080p content, they’re not the first to announce it.  Those honors go to DIRECTV; on Monday the company said it would launch an additional 30 national high definition channels by the middle of August, bringing its high definition total up to 130.  DIRECTV announced it will also offer 1080p pay-per-view programming later this year.

Both companies imply that their 1080p offerings will look as good as Blu-ray discs. DIRECTV says its titles are in “the same format used by Blu-Ray HD DVDs.” Dish is even more direct, calling its offerings “Blu-ray disc quality.”  Resolution is not the only factor that determines picture quality; another is bit rate- the number of bits per second that are being transmitted down the pipe to consumers.

Bit rate is a subject that the cable and satellite providers never discuss, but anyone who watches the various services can see that some channels are considerably softer looking than others.  Fast-moving action, as found in sports programming, requires more bits, and program providers may “borrow” bits from one channel and give them to another.

Despite the potential HD-quality issues, the simple fact that true 1080p is finally making its way to television is a huge step forward.  Though it should have been done a long time ago, it’s still a welcomed improvement.  While the perfectionists of the world may baulk the differences in quality, most people wont.  To most people, HD is HD.

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