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Blu-ray broadcasting claims are “misleading and irresponsible”, says BDA

by User Not Found | Aug 26, 2008

One of the main objectives of Blu-ray Disc developers was to set a benchmark in video quality that would provide sufficient encouragement for DVD owners to upgrade, as well as providing a challenge that few if any alternative video distribution platforms could hope to match, at least in the foreseeable future. One benchmark that BD sets is known as “Full HD” or 1080p and it provides the best possible video quality commercially available to consumers today. (Further enhancements are in the works, notably the Japanese Super Hi-Vision 4000 line system, but that’s another story for another day and will not see commercial availability for some years.) As the format was being developed in the early part of this decade, BD proponents were probably hoping that the blue laser disc would have the 1080p market all to itself for much of its life. It had been assumed that both broadcasting and internet delivery platforms would struggle to accommodate the bandwidth and bit rates required to delivery equivalent video quality. Those assumptions are now being questioned by recent announcements from broadcasting service providers on both sides of the Atlantic. French cable operator Numericable announced at the end of June that it would begin offering “Native HD” movies on its VOD service in July. Shortly afterwards, both US DBS providers, DirecTV and Dish Network, made announcements along similar lines. While DirecTV was first with the news, Dish is claiming bragging rights for the first 1080p movie, Warner Bros’ “I Am Legend”, which was available beginning August 1st. Dish claims this was an industry first, which may be correct as far as the US is concerned, but Numericable would appear to have beaten them to the punch in global terms. Apart from business model issues (like the fact that satellite providers can’t offer true VOD), there is the key question of video quality. Both Dish and DirecTV reference Blu-ray Disc in their publicity material. The quotations are as follows: • “Starting August 1, Warner Bros. Pictures' blockbuster "I Am Legend" starring Will Smith will be available in 1080p resolution -- same as Blu-ray(R) Disc quality -- on DISH Network's VOD service, DISH On Demand.” • “DIRECTV will begin offering movies in 1080p, the highest resolution format available for HD video enthusiasts and the same format used by Blu-Ray HD DVDs” These claims have clearly struck a sensitive nerve within the Blu-ray community, which, given their strategy as outlined above, is perhaps not surprising. Today the BDA has given me the following statement: “A number of companies have recently launched advertising campaigns claiming their products deliver high definition picture and sound “equal” to that delivered by Blu-ray Disc. These comparisons are irresponsible and are misleading to consumers. Up conversion and satellite broadcast cannot provide a true Blu-ray high definition experience, as neither is technically capable of producing the quality delivered by Blu-ray players and Blu-ray discs. To that end, the Blu-ray Disc Association is exploring these claims further and will take appropriate action, as necessary, to prevent consumers seeking the ultimate in high-definition home entertainment from being misled.” I look forward to hearing the results of the BDA’s exploration of these claims. It has always been a challenge to get industry consensus on the relative technical merits of one video system over another. Video and broadcast engineers will tie themselves in knots with competing claim and counterclaim about the significance or otherwise of numbers of vertical and horizontal lines, interlaced versus progressive scan, pixel counts, black levels, bandwidth, the merits of film and video cameras, scanning rates and any number of other technical criteria which may affect what the viewer ultimately sees on the TV screen. As far as misleading consumers is concerned, I agree wholeheartedly that while there may be no deliberate misleading going on, consumers are certainly confused in all sorts of ways about HD in general. People (on both sides of the Atlantic) have been buying “HDTVs” or “HD-Ready” TVs for a few years now, and many of those viewers will struggle to say exactly whether or not they are actually watching HDTV content at any given time. I have pointed out previously that programmes on so-called “HD channels” on Sky’s platform are often not true HD content. If viewers pay for HD channels and are watching SD content, how can they be blamed for not understanding? Instinctively I would say that the BDA is right – I don’t believe that DirecTV or Dish will actually be offering programming at the same level of quality of BD. But the technical arguments to prove the claim that they are not "technically capable" of doing so could be very difficult to prove one way or the other. In the end, these new Full HD initiatives are more of a statement of competitiveness against rival service providers than against BD itself. As has often been the case in the past, the satellite providers in the US are battling against cable companies, and now IPTV providers, to set new benchmarks in quality and customer experience. The 1080p story is just another phase in that competitive battle, but it is unlikely to seriously affect Blu-ray’s potential. Visit us at IBC: Web TV and Virtual Worlds Analyst Presentations Add to Technorati Favorites

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