Embarrassing: HD television reception virtually non-existent in Germany
By Angelika Abel
HD or High Definition TV. Buzzwords which gave rise to hope a few years ago and drew a wealth of people interested in technology to media trade fairs and businesses in order to procure HD televisions for themselves at considerable cost which would bring razor sharp images to the living room thanks to its 1080 line resolution. However, when it comes to television reception, there is a supply problem in Germany.
A brief flicker
The enthusiasm started nationwide a short time before the World Cup in Germany. As hope grew in Germany that at least the transmitting broadcasters ARD and ZDF would use this opportunity to make a name for themselves worldwide with advanced broadcasting technology, would not allow themselves to be taken. However, viewers were bitterly disappointed, since instead of razor sharp goals and the possibility to reproduce every single foul, the usual PAL past flickered onto their screens. Images in standard resolution flickered onto expensive HDTVs and left but little room for rejoicing.
HD enthusiasts still clung to Sat.1 and ProSieben, who had been broadcasting HD programmes in parallel since the end of 2005. However, their euphoria soon ended when it emerged that only a few programmes such as Grey’s Anatomy or Desperate Housewives were bring broadcast in HD and the vast majority of others were being broadcast as a converted 4:3 variant which rushed across the then much too blurry screens.
Why did ProSieben and Sat.1 cease HD broadcasting?
Since February 2008, ProSieben and Sat.1 tacitly withdrew HD format from their repertoires to the horror of the now somewhat more shaken HD customers. The reason which the media group gave to the press is rather difficult to follow. They were concentrating on spreading 16:9 formats. This means that the focus was shifted towards the relevant technologies for the 3 million owners of widescreen televisions. Free HD broadcasting is to wait until 2010, after which a third digital satellite transponder will become free with which the companies can broadcast in HD once more. The problem is that the development of High Definition technology has lagged far behind expectations. Just 150,000 customers are technically able to receive the stations Sat.1 HD and ProSieben in HD.
In Germany, HD television reception is virtually non-existent.
Here, we can only speculate that there is a hidden economic motivation. Even a media group as large as the ProSieben Sat.1 Group has to calculate in a cost-effective manner. Thus, it makes sense economically to concentrate only on those formats which can be received by the vast majority. However, here we must as the question of the chicken and the egg: if HD technology had been supported better from other sides at the start, it certainly would have spread more quickly.
What other HD broadcasters are there still in Germany?
1. Reception via satellite
With the loss of ProSieben HD and Sat.1 HD, HD format in Germany has become one of the smallest fringe entities for broadcasting technologies in the country. There are only a small number of broadcasters who currently broadcast in HD. First, the promotional channel Astra HDTV Promo is available via satellite. Here, extracts or trailers from other HD programmes are shown as well as Discovery Channel HD, Premiere HD and Deluxe Music. In addition, AnixeHD is also available via satellite. Hopes for free German HD television rest on this channel: as well as old series and films, which are broadcast in HD and SD, the station’s selection is to be expanded in 2008 to include new offers.
2. Reception on cable network
With the cable network, the offer of German language programmes is restricted to encrypted services from Premiere or Kabel Deutschland digital. Here, a Premiere HD channel is available and viewers also have access to the Discovery Channel in HD.
Pay TV broadcaster Premiere has been able to increase the number of its subscribers by almost ten percent in the past few months. After Premiere reported in February 2008 that it had 110,000 subscribers for the "Premiere HD" and "Discovery HD" channels, around 120,000 subscribers were reported to be availing of Premiere’s HDTV offer as of 31st March 2008.
As a European comparison, Great Britain is still ahead when it comes to HDTV. There, Pay TV broadcaster BSkyB has more than 422,000 customers for its HDTV offer Sky HD with various channels for films, series, sport and documentaries.