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Sunday's SF Chronicle has an incredibly inaccurate article about HDTV programming. The main source of information was the PR guy from AT&T Broadband! One would have to look long and hard to find a more negative source of information about HDTV than AT&T.


The article isn't on the sfgate.com web site yet, but here is a letter I wrote in reaction to the author. We will see if he makes an effort to correct his inaccuracies.



Bob Smith


___________


March 5, 2002


David Lazarus

San Francisco Chronicle
[email protected]


Dear Mr. Lazarus:


I appreciated your article on HDTV in today’s Chronicle. Unfortunately, I think that your sources of information have given you an inaccurate view of the progress that HDTV has made.


You ask: where is the high-definition programming? The answer is that there is a lot of it. We have more HDTV programming available today than we had color programming 15 years after the introduction of color (1953-1968).


Here is a list of programming available NOW:


1. CBS has been broadcasting its entire prime-time entertainment schedule in HDTV for two years.

2. ABC started the same this last fall.

3. NBC has regular HDTV broadcasts.

4. PBS has broadcast many of its best programs in HDTV over the last several years.

5. HBO-HD has been available over satellite and some cable systems for several years.

6. SHO-HD has been available.

7. This last fall, HDNet launched on DirecTV. It is a 24 hour HD service, mostly sports. They carried the Olympics in HDTV, in cooperation with NBC.

8. Fox is broadcasting in 480P. While standard definition, this digital format still looks and sounds much better than analog TV.


Near-term future HDTV programming includes:

1. NBC launches its prime time in HDTV this fall.

2. Discovery HD launches this June. [They have been producing their programming in HD for some time, like many content providers.]

3. Mark Cuban, the co-founder of HDNet, has announced that he will launch three new HD channels soon. Mr. Cuban is the most successful promotor of HDTV.


Please take a look at http://www.hdtvgalaxy.com and drill into “Online†for a list of HDTVprogramming. You will note that there are 34 HDTV programs listed for today alone. In prime time, there are often 5 or 6 different HDTV programs available at the same time.


For example, at 9pm PDT tonight, I can take my choice of the following HDTV programs:

1. Hallmark Hall of Fame on CBS in 1080i.

2. The Gathering Storm on HBO-HD in 1080i (begins at 8:40pm).

3. The Virgin Suicides on SHO-HD in 1080i (begins at 9:30pm).

4. The Extreme Adventures of Superdave on HDNet in 1080i (begins at 8:30pm).

5. Alias on ABC in 720P.


By fall, we will often have 8 choices of HDTV programming at the same time during prime time, and that should increase to 10 by a year from now.


I simply do not agree that there is not enough HDTV programming


Other notes:

1. Equipment: While HDTV-capable sets only accounted for about 5% of TV sets sold last year, they accounted for 25% of the sales in dollars and 35% of the profits. Many manufacturers have announced that they will only be producing HD-capable sets in the future, and will be including ATSC tuners in a broad variety of sets.

2. Broadcasters: As you can see, the classical networks are doing their part already, led by CBS. Broadcasters will soon be following provided the government provides an adequate push. Please read Senator John McCain’s recent speech on this point.

3. Satellite providers: DirecTV and Dish have been at the forefront of HDTV for several years.

4. Major cable companies have announced that they will start to push HDTV.


I note that your article quotes mainly Mr. Andrew Johnson of AT&T Broadband. Please note that AT&T has been the most resistant cable company to HDTV. Other companies, including Time-Warner and Comcast, have been more progressive.


I was in North Carolina two weeks ago and noted that Time-Warner has HDTV in North Carolina. Yet, AT&T has no HDTV programming in the SF Bay Area!


I should also note that AT&T has essentially failed in the cable business and is selling their cable holdings to Comcast.


Let me repeat to you a story I recently heard about Comcast. Comcast executives were attending a consumer electronics show in which a large variety of HDTV equipment was on display. They observed, to their chagrin, that DirecTV’s satellite service was the source of programming for the demonstrations, and they asked themselves: is this our future? They thereupon resolved to push the HDTV implementation in their systems.


Here in Palo Alto, where we also have AT&T cable, AT&T has suffered more than a 10% loss in subscriptions in the last 18 months, according to city records. No one knows why. But I do know that we have one of the highest rates of HDTV penetration in the country, so perhaps there is a relationship.


There are many questions yet to be resolved, but overall, the conversion is going well in terms of programming that is available. You only have to look at the support that HDTV is getting from the early adopters to see this. The early adopters determine what technologies will succeed and how they will be used, and they are voting for HDTV big-time.


Let me answer your plaintive question: “Where oh where is my HDTV?†The answer is, among other places, in my living room. I respectfully ask for you to wake up and smell the digital coffee that has already been brewed for you.
 

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That's an excellent response Bob.


I can't believe the article was written completely out of ignorance to the reality of HDTV. He goes into detail about the stations missing the digital conversion date, then quickly mentions in the end of the article that almost all bay area stations are already digital.


How about this: "Sets capable of airing cinema-quality high-definition broadcasts range in price from $2,500 to $10,000. By contrast, a top-of-the-line analog Sony Trinitron flat-screen TV can be purchased at Circuit City for less than $400. "


Show me that top of the line flat-screen Sony for $400. I wonder what his definition of top-of-the-line is, a 20" TV? That's the only flat screen Sony I could find in that range.


Or this: "But genuine HDTV programming is still a rarity, typically limited to special events such as the Super Bowl or New Year's Eve fireworks displays."


What is he smoking?
 

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You should also tell David that HD ready sets sizes 47" to 65" cost $1,500 to $3,500 these days, while a Sony analog flat screen may cost $400, a large screen analog projection TV two years ago costed no less than today's large screen HD set.


Please also mention that an HD ready TV combined with a progressive DVD player will put any analog TV to shame when playing a DVD movie.
 

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Lazarus is one of the worst of a bad lot of columnists at the Chronicle. He shows incredible laziness by admitting he has not even seen a HDTV picture for years - it must have been too much trouble for him to get off his lazyrus ass and go to any one of a large number of stores in the SF Bay are where he could have seen HDTV within the past few weeks. Maybe he would have been actually able to find out the real prices of HDTV sets. You can't believe a thing this guy writes, and this article just proves it. Frequent Chronicle readers will know this is typical for him and for the Chronicle in general - the business and news pages are awful. The only sections worth anything are sports and the datebook (entertainment) sections.
 

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It's this type of shoddy journalism that is making the daily newspaper a thing of the past. Having worked in the music business for many years, I had one of those idiots review a great show and write a terrible review in a major market newspaper.


I asked the next day why he wrote that article as the artist left to three encores and standing ovations...he replied my editor told me I had to write bad reviews cause we never get mail when we write good ones. Maybe they want us to write???? Don't write the author write his boss!!

Chronicle Feedback


So I guess consider the source and I hope the American public gets better information from the broadcasters soon. While I agree the amount of programming is good, the amount of on air promos and tv guide listings is "zero"!!!


Great letter Bob!!!
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by rlsmith


Here in Palo Alto, where we also have AT&T cable, AT&T has suffered more than a 10% loss in subscriptions in the last 18 months, according to city records. No one knows why. But I do know that we have one of the highest rates of HDTV penetration in the country, so perhaps there is a relationship.
I can't speak for Palo Alto, but next door in San Jose and many neighboring

communities, the cable system we have has a long track record. Its an

A-B system, the lowest tech perhaps left in the country. Formerly managed

by TCI, the San Jose cable plant was famous mainly for offering fewer

channels at higher price than surrounding communities. This is in Silicon

Valley, the high tech capitol of the world.


This cable system is also famous for racking up customer complaints. Many

customers have had to take TCI to court. I personally had to tell TCI

for weeks that I was getting pay channels I should not (hey, I have an

honest wife) only to be rewarded with having my cable disconnected

as an obvious priate.


TCI racked up an incredible record of customer hatred before AT&T

bought them. It was hardly a surprise when after K band satellite,

the small dishes went up in droves. Judging by my (admittedly upscale)

neighborhood, it is about %50 now.


As the article says, they have no intention of offering HDTV service

to any but "newer" cable systems. Its amazing that they leave Silicon

Valley, the home of the most technically knowledgable users and also

the ones with the most means to afford advanced TV, in the dark ages.


In San Jose, AT&T may be digging the cable sales into a hole it may never

recover from. Their principle customers are going to be apartment renters

who can't get a dish. Its very sad.
 

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Heres my reply sent to the article author:


Where oh where is my HDTV?


David Lazarus


Sunday, May 5, 2002


"Sets capable of airing cinema-quality high- definition broadcasts range in price from

$2,500 to $10,000. By contrast, a top-of-the-line analog Sony Trinitron flat-screen

TV can be purchased at Circuit City for less than $400."


At Frys, San Jose, they put a HDTV on special for under $1500, and this is normal for at

least the last 4 weekends (please call and check). $2500 to $3500 will buy pretty much

any wide screen TV in the 40-60 inch range RPTV. $6000 will buy the very latest Sony

with built in tuner, but that is mainly because of the other new features of that

set. Nothing is selling for $10,000. Standard definition TVs in the 40" and greater range

are disappearing (because most such sets are HDTV now), but the few that can be found

are most certainly NOT $400.


Most HDTV sets are the larger sets.


Because those are the sets that HDTV most improves the look of, since standard definition

TV shows visible lines in the 50 inch range.


The figures you gave were accurate for 1 to 2 years back, which leads me to believe that

your information is not inaccurate, just old.


"Most Bay Area broadcasters are already offering digital signals. But genuine HDTV

programming is still a rarity, typically limited to special events such as the Super

Bowl or New Year's Eve fireworks displays.


"There doesn't seem to be a large movement to offer programs in high-def," said Andrew

Johnson, a spokesman for AT&T Broadband, the Bay Area's main cable provider. "This has

to change.""


Its really too bad you apparently choose such an inaccurate source. In fact, both CBS

and ABC are broadcasting most of their prime time lineup in HDTV. Further, there is a

lot more available off satellite, which leads me to wonder if your AT&T *** cable ***

source didn't have an axe to grind. All told, this is what you can get in HDTV now:


1. CBS prime time.


2. ABC prime time.


3. NBC Jay Leno and special events, like the Oylimpics.


4. KQED PBS.


5. HBO-HD


6. HD-NET (exclusively HDTV).


7. Showtime-HD.


Thats 4 off air and three additional satellite channels.


Further, NBC has announced that its prime time shows will also be HDTV in the fall,

and Discovery is adding an HDTV channel.


This is hardly a "rarity".
 

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When we find articles like this, we need to find out which section of the paper the article shows up in - then complain to that editor and the managing editor. This article is so out of wack its unbelievable, and complaints to the perp won't cause them to change.


Mike
 

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Thanks Subaru... Message sent, not that it will make much difference.


Mike
 

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Maybe you readers should also advise the Chronicle that you'll take your complaints to any local electronics stores that advertise in their paper. Articles like this must be bad for business of any retailer that promotes HDTV.


Kei Clark

Digital Connection
 

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Now THAT is a VERY good idea!!!!
 

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He sent me a civil reply. He also indicated that he had a large response

from the "HDTV enthusiasts". I think the approach of gentle but firm

nudges to these writers who print misfacts is the right direction.
 

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I didn't know about this thread regarding the Lazarus article in the Chronicle, so I posted one in the "Local HDTV Info" section. Instead of repeating myself, here's a link to what I wrote:

http://www.avsforum.com/avs-vb/showt...hreadid=138535


Let's bury him in mail to let him know that there are lots of HD viewers in the Bay Area.


Larry
 

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Did his reply address any of the inaccuracies in his article, or a printing of corrections?


He did a lot of damage with his article. It would be nice to see a decent assessment of the state of HDTV done. Maybe we could write to the editor, and volunteer to work with a writer to do an accurate article.

Quote:
Originally posted by S. A. Moore
He sent me a civil reply. He also indicated that he had a large response

from the "HDTV enthusiasts". I think the approach of gentle but firm

nudges to these writers who print misfacts is the right direction.
 

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I got this email from Lazurus's editor. I was/am REALLY amazed. I stole a few things from this thread (and did not attribute) for my message, so flame me if you want.



Mike



Message follows:



Mike,

Yeah, Laz is taking some heat for the HDTV piece. He's working up his defense now. Is it all right if I run your email as a letter to the editor? It's pithy and to the point.

Ken

-----Original Message-----

From: MIke Kopriva [mailto:[email protected]]

Sent: Monday, May 06, 2002 8:09 PM

To: [email protected]

Subject: HDTV Article



Sir,


This message is in response to the HDTV article written by David Lazarus. I live in the South Bay, and have come to associate really bad reporting with the Murky news. Apparently, laziness and bad reporting are not just a function of South Bay reporters. Regardless, unless you are the problem, you might SUGGEST to Mr. Lazarus that he actually consider the concept of current RESEARCH as opposed to recycling 4 year old information. I had always considered the San Francisco papers to be a bit higher on the food chain than the San Jose paper (albeit more pharocial), but apparently that is not the case.


Regards,


M. Kopriva


San Jose, Ca.
 

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Quote:
Originally posted by tji
Did his reply address any of the inaccuracies in his article, or a printing of corrections?


He did a lot of damage with his article. It would be nice to see a decent assessment of the state of HDTV done. Maybe we could write to the editor, and volunteer to work with a writer to do an accurate article.

Naw. He did imply that he was going to go see some actual HDTV (what a

concept).


What we need is not a war in the ed collumn with a writer. What we need

is an evenhanded peice in either the Cron, the Merc or preferably both.


With the prodding of someone here, I did another search on my DTC-100

last night. It found *** 12 *** digital channels, and that is without working

the rotator. I know for a fact that using the rotator I could pick up one or

two more.


And this is in an area, San Jose, whose off air picture is so bad cable is

virtually universal.


In those Merc trash peices, I note with amusement that the back of the

same section that says HDTV is not happening has Frys ads for HDTV

blazing on a full page.


DTV and HDTV is going wild in the Bay area. The retailers know it. The

stations know it. The only ones who are not with the program are the

liberal press who seem to have got it in their heads HDTV is a republican

plot.


Newspapers never stand against their readers very long. One of these

papers is going to suddenly change sides and find out what is going on

in DTV/HDTV. I don't know when that will happen, but I am betting its

before the end of this year, and I highly suspect that the increasing

torrent of mail is making them wonder what is going on.


Good.
 
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