We get pretty insular here. We talk of 5.1 problems and tiny variations in (already spectacular) picture quality. We moan about a lack of ESPN or Discovery or other channels from our providers.
And all that is how it should be for those of us who love HDTV.
But the battle is going to be won (or lost) among those who don't yet share our fanaticism.
Here is a column I found today from a suburban Chicago newspaper which pretty neatly sums up where we are (and where we may be going) from an informed and well-grounded columnist.
We can nit-pick some of his facts and opinions, but his admiration for HD does shine through.
Incomplete reception for sports on HDTV
Posted April 11, 2003 By Ted Cox Daily Herald
A few months ago, I wrote how sports was going to propel the move toward high-definition television.
I still believe that, but I can now report - in part from personal experience - that the transition isn't going smoothly.
I'd compare it to riding in the back of a school bus as it crosses some rocky train tracks.
But let's not start with my troubles. Let's start instead with ESPN HD, the ballyhooed channel from ESPN, the self-proclaimed world leader in sports programming.
ESPN HD debuted March 30 with the season-opening baseball game between Texas and Anaheim. Early response was promising.
"It's fabulous," said ESPN's Katina Arnold. "Our phones are ringing like crazy. Consumers really want this very much."
The problem is, so few are getting it - including viewers who have an HDTV, the super-sharp picture system that especially benefits sports.
Comcast is the nation's biggest single cable company, having bought out AT&T Broadband to give it 22 million subscribers. But when I called my local Comcast office, they said HDTV was unavailable; they're working on the boxes needed to translate HDTV.
DirecTV is the nation's leading satellite TV system, with 11 million subscribers. It carries Mark Cuban's HDNet at no extra charge, I might add, beyond the high-tech dish and receiver needed to carry HDTV in the first place. It also has high-def channels from premium services HBO and Showtime, so it has the capability. But DirecTV isn't carrying ESPN HD either.
Why not? Without going into specifics, Arnold said it was various glitches to do with shifting to a new technology. "Everybody is in such a different stage of their HDTV plans," she said.
I think it also must have something to do with ESPN's eagerness to pass costs on to satellite and cable systems (read "you and me"). ESPN, of course, is owned by Disney, and Variety reported last month that DirecTV was complaining about an attempt by ESPN's Disney sibling ABC Family Channel to gouge cable and satellite firms with a 35 percent increase in license fees.
This should interest sports fans - especially baseball fans - because when ABC bought the family channel from Fox, it retained the rights to the first-round baseball playoffs that had been farmed out to Fox Family Channel.
Listen, I've got two kids; I'm a family man. But if you ask me, aside from the one week of the year that it presents baseball, ABC Family Channel is a wasted slot on your cable or satellite station lineup. They're clearly trying to squeeze cable and satellite companies for the one week when it is almost required viewing. It doesn't take a leap to think Disney is doing the same with ESPN HD.
DirecTV has set a channel aside for ESPN HD, but hasn't added it. A DirecTV spokesman said they're "in discussions" with ESPN, but declined to give any details about the hold up. I say it's simply money.
I recently made the switch to DirecTV, in part because it offered the channels I wasn't getting from my cable company: Turner Classic Movies, the Sundance Channel, the Independent Film Channel, BBC America and, last but certainly not least, ESPN Classic all day, not just in the middle of the night after some public broadcast station goes off the air. Yet now I find myself in the same irritating position I was with cable: waiting for my TV system to add a station I want.
That's not quite all. As with any new technology, there are unanticipated logistical problems that have to work their way out. After I bought a low-end HDTV monitor and jumped to DirecTV, first they sent out the wrong dish, then the installer hooked it up wrong. The picture's great, and I can receive HDNet, but it ain't high-definition. I'm "in discussions" with the manufacturer to figure how to hook it up.
So, just as I like to say as a critic that I watch the cruddy shows so you don't have to, I can now report that I am dealing with the hassles of HDTV so you don't have to. My advice: If you can afford one of those $3,000 plasma TVs and have someone come out and install it right, by all means make the leap to HDTV; the picture sells itself. Otherwise, wait a little while for the bugs to be worked out. I'll keep you posted on how it's going.
â€¢ Ted Cox's column appears Tuesday and Thursday in Suburban Living, Friday in Sports Weekend, and Friday in Time out!