Am I HDTV ready?
Having bought a shiny new HD Ready TV, all of the old programmes I’ve been watching will now be High Definition,
right? Well, unfortunately not. HDTV providers have dedicated HD channels which provide a growing choice of programmes in the
To watch programmes in High Definition you will need to take
out a HD subscription with a satellite (Sky) or cable broadcaster (Virgin
Media). Alternately, as of May 6th 2008 a free-to-air satellite
service (Freesat) has launched with some HD programming.
Currently in progress across the UK, the roll out of Freeview HD is
Freeview is similar to Freesat but is available
through your aerial and is built in to the vast majority of HD Ready TV's. HD
channels from the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 have already been rolled out to Granada and
London regions with the rest of the UK gaining access by 2012.
Although you will need an HD Freeview box or a Freeview HD enabled TV to receive the new HD channels, there
is no subscription charge. Check with
Freeview to see if their HD services are available in your area.
We cannot stress strongly enough here
on HDTV org that taking out a High Definition subscription with Sky or
Virgin Media does not make all of your TV programmes available in this
format. The number of channels is growing with Sky having the widest choice. See below for more details ...
Sky currently offer
over 50 dedicated HD channels. With the addition of ITV HD and Channel 5 HD
(along with BBC HD and CH4 HD) Sky have the full set of popular terrestrial
Premiership football is a big attraction for those thinking of a HD subscription,
and at the moment Sky has taken a big lead here broadcasting regular premiership
games on its HD sports channels.
Many dramas are already shot in HD such
as the Sopranos and Desperate Housewives in the US. The BBC, which already
has a large catalogue of HD material is committed to recording everything
in HD by 2010.
Note: Sky's High Definition channel, Channel 4 HD, is a 'simulcast'
of the Standard Definition channel 4, with HD programmes being
shown where possible.
Virgin Media currently offer
around 20 dedicated HD channels along with on demand Films and other
programmes in High Definition.
To view High Definition through Virgin Media,
subscribers will need to get a V+ box (formerly the TVDrive) or the new
V HD box which offers free high definition to Virgin's M+ or greater TV
package subscribers. The range of HD programmes is dependent on the
package you subscribe to.
You can also take out a separate subscription via Virgin Media
for access to Sky Sports 1 HD, Sky Sports 2 HD and Sky Movies
Not to be confused with 'Freeview', 'Freesat' is a free (i.e. No subscription required) satellite based service that requires users to install a dish and set-top box. Sky satellite subscribers wishing to use the service may be able to use their existing kit and unlike Freeview, Freesat has the advantage of being free from bandwidth restrictions and can reach more than 98% of the UK population.
Being free from bandwidth restrictions, Freesat will offer HD
programming from the outset. Although the BBC's trial channel will be
the only HD fare available initially, it will be joined within weeks by
ITV's HD service.
* Find out more about Freesat with our Freesat guide
Unlike cable, satellite is available in most areas of
the country, and at the moment Sky has taken a slight lead with its HD
offering. View their website to get full details.
Virgin Media offer a range of cable services which include
HD subscription services. These services may not be available in some
rural areas. Also, if you are planning to sign-up for broad band check
that this is available in your area. View their website to get full details.
Offers over 80 digital TV and radio channels, with some
HD programming. The service is subscription free, but consumers will
need to buy a set-top box and satellite dish.