OK, in the midst of this economic meltdown when people are being forced to cut back on their daily meals, let alone their cable and satellite services, I know this comes off as pathetic bellyaching, but the Reed Business blogmeisters demand — “Whine for men!” — so here goes:
As a long-time DirecTV subscriber and an HDTV owner, the Dec. 3 addition of high-definition Public Broadcasting System (PBS) stations in some of DirecTV’s local TV programming packages was more than welcome news, and way too long in coming.
The PBS network was among the earliest pioneers of HDTV content, and I happen to live in an outlining suburban area of New York City with no access to an over-the-air PBS signal and a cable operator content in its subordinate role in the race to HDTV leadership.
So, you can imagine my frustration over the past decade, going to dozens of HDTV seminars where PBS representatives spoke glowingly about all of the innovative things they were planning and doing in the new medium, and then going home to watch it all in mushy, washed-out and badly up-converted SDTV (the fault of my early HDTV set, and not necessarily DirecTV’s).
I must confess to an involuntary spasm of ecstasy or two, when after turning on my channel guide I saw the New York City area’s largest PBS affiliate (WNET-13) in high def, even if the only HD content I’ve seen so far has been warmed-over best-of programs for pledge week, month, eon or however long these things go on.
Which brings me to my new frustration: I have several other PBS affiliate stations in my local-to-local channel package, yet only WNET-13’s content is in HD. The others remain in sub-standard SD. As fate would have it, during this pledge period binge, most the shows I’d like to watch at any given time seem to be on one of the other PBS stations still in SD — WLIW, WNJN, etc. The frustration continues.
But there’s hope on the horizon for those PBS-HD-deprived DirecTV subs, like myself: A DirecTV spokesman confirmed that the one PBS HD channel per-market dilemma is only a temporary situation, as DirecTV rolls out the services to reach more markets across the country.
According to DirecTV’s Robert Mercer, “Right now, it’s just one HD PBS per market, but we will be rolling out the others beginning in 2009. Eventually all PBS stations (in markets where we’ve launched HD) have the right to HD carriage.”
Currently, DirecTV offers PBS HD channels in 24 markets, and will add them to every market it serves with local-into-local HD services — currently 116 markets in total.
But, as Tom Petty sings: “The waiting is the hardest part.”