Is the digital switchover time to switch off?
By Adam TURNER
Is Australia's digital switchover the perfect excuse for us to simply ditch terrestrial TV?
Despite all the talk of a glorious digital future, Australian digital television has turned out to mostly be more of the same. Filling those extra channels has simply meant screening more rubbish. Rubbish which the networks refuse to even start on time and then butcher with intrusive ads and over-the-top promos.
Fans of high-def content have particularly been betrayed by the free-to-air broadcasters who decided that, rather than screening sport in high-def, it makes more sense to run repeats of Gilligan's Island on their HD channels. It's a move that will certainly help Foxtel win over extra subscribers.
I think it's fair to say that many Australians are watching less live television, partly due to the contempt the networks have for viewers and partly because there are so many alternatives at hand. Between optical discs, BitTorrent and the growing range of legit online alternatives, there's very little reason to watch live television these days. A friend of mine bought a new Sony Bravia last year and hasn't even bothered to plug an aerial cable in the back.
I know I'd happily give up live television ahead of any of the other services which are pumped into my home. For now the only thing keeping me with traditional television is the superior picture quality compared to some online services, but that is changing. For starters I'd say the free-to-air digital picture quality has deteriorated in the last few years. Even the Foxtel picture often looks disappointing on some channels, although high-def AFL looks pretty good.
These days a decent BitTorrent or iTunes download often looks better than standard-def digital TV. Movies look far better on DVD/Blu-ray than they do on free-to-air or pay TV. Meanwhile Australia's Catch Up TV services are improving their picture quality. They tend to look better via Smart TV than via a browser and are starting to rival standard-def free-to-air. Unfortunately you get less content via Smart TV than a browser, but that will change with time.
Right now TV broadcasters should be looking to newspapers for a glimpse of the devastation which lies ahead. Viewers will start to switch off if they're not treated with a little respect.
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