Thanks to Walmart and other big box stores, the penetration of low priced, flat screen HD TVs has increased steadily. This has become increasingly evident with the rise in viewership of HD channels compared to their SD counterparts. In our most recent quarterly channel stats report from over 50 rural video markets, there were six channels that entered the top 100 for the first time, and four of them were HD channels. According to the report, out of the top 100 channels in rural America, 41 of them are HD.
Why Keep SD Channels in Your Lineup?
HD revenue and bandwidth limitations aside, some rural video providers are starting to move in the direction of HD exclusive lineups. Should you be concerned about your content providers? According to Jean Edhlund, Video Products Partner and content negotiator for Cooperative Network Services, the cost to carry HD and SD for any specific channel is one in the same. Edhlund says the important thing to the content provider is that the end user must still have viewable access to that channel regardless of the type of television that they have in their home. This access may be made available through the Set Top Box that can make HD content viewable on an SD television. Edhlund adds that a number of her clients have already moved to offering HD only lineups, but to check with your content providers or negotiators about any other ramifications.
What About Equipment Savings?
Though there are no cost savings from the content providers, taking SD channels off of your lineup can offer some technical efficiencies. A reduction of encoding and transcoding equipment and a reduction on transport signals on shared or back bone transport networks would be a benefit from the shedding of SD channels.
Service providers using the Innovative Systems Video Middleware, who are not ready to take the all HD leap, can now auto-tune channels to switch from SD to HD if they are on the most current software release.