Originally Posted by nickdawg
4:3 is not dead yet.
As a transmission standard, it is all but dead. Cable and a couple of OTA stations maintain a 4:3 legacy path, but origination is more and more 16:9 now. Within that 16:9 you will have 4:3 SD programming that hasn't converted to HD locally upconverted, but the handwriting is on the wall. It isn't, "if" anymore, it is "when" and "when" is sooner than later.
Viewers on the other hand will try and milk their 4:3 sets as long as possible but as more and more 16:9 displays wind up in homes over the next few years, those 4:3 sets will be relegated to bedrooms, kitchens and and the dump making stations less and less prone to keep 4:3 safe zones. If I had to make a guess, I would say within 5 years, if things keep moving at the rate they are, 4:3 safe zones will be mostly a thing of the past.
I don't see that happening until around 2012, or whenever a specific cable provider decides to end analog broadcast, and eventually SDTV broadcast. At that time SDTV viewers are gonna have to adapt like OTA viewers did last year. And of course by that time there will be converter/adapter boxes like CECB, and the viewer can choose the output.
When providers don't have to provide legacy 4:3 path, this will cause many people who have been on the fence about upgrading to go ahead and do it. You will have some who either just can't or won't upgrade and at that point, is when a station decides is it in their best interest to keep 4:3 safe zone or not. But by that point, just about all transmission and origination will be 16:9, even if it is AFD'ed by the station for the end user or modified in some way by the provider. For those viewers who will not upgrade for whatever reason, like those who had analog OTA and didn't get the converters or upgrade TV's last year at the Transition (and quite a few didn't), they will be out of luck.
In my own stations case, we are using AFD for 16:9 programming to letterbox (except for news which we do center cut since we are 4:3 safe zone for local news anyway since we do 16:9 news) and for 4:3 upconverted programming, AFD for center cut. That seems to be working out for those with OTA. Problem is, the MVPD's that pick up our signal refuse to use AFD for their SD subs and just center cut everything to keep from getting phone calls from their 4:3 subs. That is the real stumbling block for getting rid of 4:3 safe zone, the providers.
When talking to the local TWC headend engineer about AFD, he admitted they could do, had played with it, but when a letterbox program came on, he said the phones blow off the walls and so management decided to just keep all analog center cut to keep the phone calls down. Change THAT
mentality and 4:3 safe zone will be a thing of the past pretty quick.