It's a little off-topic, however there's alot of people on the DVR threads on others who have asked alot of questions about the Digital Transition, ADS and other issues.
MSOs (including dish and IPTV operators) are going to get more and more competitive about having more services, the two ways they are going to compete is to reduce analog and compress / encrypt Digital / HD channels.
Personally I would think the entire point of having HD channels is improved picture quality, so if the picture quality is sacrificed, they are going to push away the very customers they are trying to convince to stay.
More than likely I would think that would only be a temporary measure until more bandwidth can be made availible. - But then again, I don't think they'd be doing it so systematically if that was the case...
There are also newer standards (I want to say MPEG4 but it could be 6) that will allow for greater compression without degredation, however that requires equipment upgrades (and some boxes are not compatible) - I think HBO is pushing hard to switch to hardware that will allow them to put all their feeds in HD quality while using the same amount of bandwidth from their Sat feeds (we'd have to either downconvert them or upgrade out boxes to decrypt - for most boxes that would be a firmware upgrade I believe)
I know within Charter the general plan is to migrate Analog channels (expanded basic) over to Digital and use the freed up bandwidth to launch new HDs. Generally you can get 2 to 3 HD networks PER analog that's converted. - I know most of our markets that have HD now should be seeing 10 more HD channels being added by the end of the year. If we drop to only 20 Analog channels, that should free up bandwidth enough for us to have all 71 expanded basic in Digital (up to 10 digitals per analog)
So I'm thinking in your better systems you should expect to have about 20 QAM channels dedicated to Analog and probably another 30 for SD Digital (yielding a max of 300 Digital SD Channels) and if used responsibly, probably 50 for HD (which should give 100 to 150 HDs) Of course getting from here to there will be the bumpy road.
The big bumps in the road will be the fact that cable companies are trying to do alot of upgrading and changes and none of them are really making a huge profit at this time (most of them are still paying off major debts from the dot-com boom when they were laying down fiber like there's no tomorrow...)
Time Warner and Comcast are in the best position - they're #1 and #2 in the nation with plenty of room before #3 (which was Charter at last check)
TW and Comcast also have major advantages as they are also Media holders (Comcast owns several sports networks and the InDemand PPV networks)
One thing that was a major point in that thread is that all major MSOs have made commitments to keep *SOME* analog access for three more years -
however as I understand it here, in our case it will be Basic only... most expanded will be migrated to digital only and require the use of a box or Card*.
It's important to note here that a very large population of "Digital" tuners including alot of the new ones coming out now for people wanting to decode digital broadcast are limited QAM tuners without CARD access - as such they will only show what's unencrypted - which will be the basic channels, local HDs and Digital feeds and if the market so chooses - Music feeds (Music Choice etc)
Digital tuner boxes without Cable Cards may be even more limited as the ones I've seen will only do about 60 channels (as they are intended for broadcast only) and therefore won't pick up the channels outside of that range, even if they are unencrypted.
But again I'm going more off topic - on the HDs, I think they made the wrong decision to sacrifice PQ to squeeze more in and I'd hope (for the customer's sake) that it's a short term issue that is only occuring until they can get more bandwidth in place.