Thursday, May 17, 2007

HDTV and the shovelware problem; in praise of The Tube

The plan for HDTV, I had always assumed, was to provide flagship programming in as visually striking a manner as possible. By and large, the main network broadcasters and the sports stations do a fine job of this, and the sports stations in particular have made what I think is the most compelling case for going hi-def. It is possible, mind you, to make some very nice eye candy, and you do see it here and there in travel documentaries and the like on PBS-HD. But if flagship programming is what it's all about, why are the cable stations by and large doing such a half-assed job of it?

Comcast just picked up Food Network HD and HGTV HD in my local area. While it's nice to see that Scripps and Comcast came to an agreement (I believe those two stations have been on the big dish systems for some time now), I'm kind of having a problem with their implementation. It seems like Scripps is just the latest in a line of HD providers who have put out an HD product that is little better than a random feed of programming from other stations that happens to have been taped in HD. The hi-def content is fine as far as it goes, but to look at the HD channel's presentation on foodtv.com, you do get the sense that it's an afterthought, something that's farmed out to a junior exec to be done in one's Copious Free Time. And a lot of stations are like that; I think MTV Networks' MHD is probably the most egregious, given that it seems to have entirely too little original content to sustain it, though Discovery HD isn't much better, and PBS-HD seems to do at best a half-assed job of being a flagship.

Hey, HD folks, can we get on the ball here? HD isn't that expensive to produce anymore, with decent-quality cameras available in the $1000 to $1500 range (and that's just for consumer gear; a Sony HDR-FX1 isn't drastically more expensive than a Canon GL-2). I realize overhauling the Emeril Live studio would be a huge undertaking, but c'mon. Not everything has to be done in a full studio setting. I did my show with a single camcorder in my kitchen.

And another thing: I like The Tube. It's carried over-the-air on WLVI 56 and on channel 296 on our local cable system, and it's pretty much the Jack FM of television, with a remarkable profusion of videos from the last thirty years or so of music video history, along with an equally remarkable library of live concert footage that goes well beyond anything MTV ever put on the air, ever.

1 comment:

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