Why I'm a Hi-Def Hold Out

People are often surprised to learn that I don’t have a high-definition television system at home. Am I just not an avid TV watcher? On the contrary, I have two networked DVRs plus a Media Center TV PC. Oh, plus a portable media player. Oh, and a Slingbox. If anything, I push the limits of how much TV programming a human can watch. But there are several key reasons why I’m in no hurry to make the move to hi-def.

  • DRM: I’m really concerned that Fair Use is going to get fly-swatted. From everything I’ve read, a lot of high-def programming will get DRM’ed to death. I’m talking about the sinister broadcast flag. If this becomes a reality, Hollywood will have the ability to lock down what, when and how you record HD programming. Why should I not have the ability to take what I’ve recorded on my DVR, download it to my PC or portable media player. I can do that today, and I always want that capability. Is it about guarding against piracy, or is it about creating multiple revenue streams? Imagine recording something, but needing to purchase it again should you want to put it on your portable media player. There’s already some amount of “time-bombing” out there in TIVO-land whereby a program can contain an instruction to self-delete after a period of time.
  • Recording and playback: Options are still very, very limited (and expensive) for recording and playing back in Hi-Def. My two networked ReplayTVs can’t handle a high-def signal. Tivo Series 3, which I saw at CES last January, is rumored to be coming out any day now. It will be HD capable, but I refer you to #1. There are a handful of Media Center PC models out there that can do HD recording, too. Like anything, prices will be high at first, but will settle down as adoption rates increase. Blu-Ray and HD DVD will offer some interesting options, but again, equipment will be very expensive at first, and disc based recording is always a bit of a hassle.
  • Cost: The entertainment system at my home is very modest. But it serves my needs perfectly and s is the epitome of flexibility. Introducing Hi-Def would force me to retool my entire system and a very high cost.

I’m sure, at some point, I will make the change. The “invisible hand” of the market will eventually force me to. I have to admit, I am in awe of the picture quality that HD programming gives you on HD equipment. I just hope that Hollywood has to give some ground on DRM.