DirecTV, HD and the rest of the story

TV Antenna to get HD signals The Cotton Bowl, the New York Philharmonic's New Year's eve concert and the NFL's Giants playing the Vikings may not seem to be related. However in the strange world of DirecTV they share a common element. Now what could these events possibly have in common? Well if you want to see them in high definition (HD) and you're a DirecTV subscriber in Boise you'll need to shell out for another television antenna. In fact if you want any of the many HD offerings from PBS, NBC, ABC or FOX you'll need another antenna.

The DirecTV numbers game

DirecTV likes to advertise that they have more channels in HD than other providers. However this falls far short of telling the whole story. For example it neglects to mention that many of those channels are are only available with expensive packages. Even then what the numbers advertised gloss over is that they include several of the regional sports channels. Once you subscribe to several of these channels you rapidly realize that although there are more than a dozen of them the majority of their programming is shared. So you might have 16-channels of college football on a Saturday afternoon. It just happens that the 16-channels are showing 2-3 games.

NBC Olympics and equestrian coverage

I'm rather surprised and pleased with how good is this time around. Sure there are annoyances like expecting users to download a Microsoft plugin, although it appears that the plugin is even available for Linux and Firefox. The site and approach aren't without their flaws. It remains clear that NBC doesn't grok the internet. They don't understand how people want to access data and they require you to click through a screen which says you subscribe to a local cable/satellite service as well as provide a zip code so they can target advertising on the page to their local affiliate.

So I'll certainly give the benefit of the doubt and say it looks like progress. I'm looking forward to the olympics of the future where networks compete globally and if the BBC has the best equestrian coverage I can not only view it easily but download and remix it in ways they never intended.

For now, this is better than a sharp stick in the eye. Although the next DirecTV terminator advertisement it might not be.

Cutting the cable

Tom wrote recently about ditching cable TV. Over the last couple of years we've been watching not much TV. With our move last winter we ended up in a house that for various reasons isn't suited to cable or satellite.

This situation brought out the rabbit ears and there is an amazing revelation that free TV is still available via plain old rabbit ears. The coming conversion to digital TV won't even render them useless though an old TV set will need a converter box. But there is the lack of TiVo. That all powerful system for time-shifting shows. Fortunately there is a reasonable solution there too.

Admittedly the Eye TV Hybrid takes some cash up front. However, it pays off in the long run. There are no TiVo fees, no requirement to use anything but a computer and some rabbit ears. Though I don't yet have even the latest software, it does a great job of turning a 20-inch iMac into a great media center. Hook it up with an AppleTV and it's even better than TiVo in many ways.

Powerful Television

For those series I'm interested in I watch the DVD's when they come out. Since I am in a time-warp in this regard I'm just now getting to watch the last season of The West Wing. There were times in seasons five and six where the program struggled. Some suggested it jumped the shark. Having seen a great deal of the last season now I can definitively say it rivals Deadwood as the greatest show of all time.

Watching the show in a time-warp there was little doubt what would happen with John Spencer's character after he passed away during the production of the last season. Even knowing what was about to happen the show is so well put together that it seemed to reach up and grab the viewer and be completely realistic all at the same moment. It is hard to believe that it has been a year since Spencer's passing. That has more to do with how fast the arms on the clock are racing forward and is the topic of a different post.

iTunes Wishlist

Two shows that would have a great market on iTunes Music Store. The complete Tour de France and the complete National Finals Rodeo.


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