Five Annoying Things About Digital TV

Digital TV brings many benefits: extra free channels, potentially better reception, HD broadcasts, and an electronic program guide. But it also has its own nuisances. Here's five things about digital TV that continue to annoy Lifehacker readers.

5. Unpredictable scheduling

Admittedly, this isn't just a problem for the digital-only extra channels: even on the "main" network channels, the general attitude towards scheduling is one where viewers are treated with contempt, with programs pulled at the last minute, starting 15 minutes after the scheduled time, and withdrawn halfway through a crucial storyline. It's arguably even more pronounced on the commercial digital channels though. Reader Clint summed it up nicely:

If the new channels mean up to date good TV shows shown on time, in order, without a sudden repeat thrown in, or a sporting event etc, everyone should be happy. I don't understand why this is so hard in Australia.

4. Delayed broadcasting

A classic trick to avoid mind-numbing sports commentary is to watch the TV broadcast with the sound turned down, while listening to a radio stream from the ABC (or another international broadcaster if you go online). However, this often doesn't work with digital broadcasts, which appear to be delayed by a few seconds — just enough to ruin the sync between the commentary and what's on screen.

3. Multiple channels that are anything but

With three channels from every free-to-air network on offer (once 11 kicks off next year), there should be a wide range of options on offer, right? Not necessarily. Mumbrella highlighted one particularly embarrassing recent example: on a recent Saturday, both of Nine's secondary channels, Go! and GEM, were scheduled to show a repeat episode of The Nanny. Nine managed to fix that particular snafu, but it emphasises how having extra channels often just means a sea of repeats.

Even that sea of repeats can take a while to spread. While regional areas have been amongst the first to switch solely to digital, they haven't always benefitted from the full range of options. It was only last month that the government announced funding to ensure that all areas in Australia could receive a full set of digital channels.

2. All or nothing reception

We've all been there: wiggling around an external antenna on an older TV set to try and get the best picture on a particular channel. That's not an option with digital, at least in our experience: either there's a signal there or you've got absolutely nothing at all. That usually means paying an antenna installer to crawl all over your roof, and even then the results can be variable.

1. Restricted HD options

Each commercial network has HD spectrum in its digital channels, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they've been deployed in a way that all viewers like. Many Lifehacker readers clearly preferred it when the networks ran "simulcast" channels including HD content rather than separate channels which just happen to be in HD. An ongoing complaint is the lack of HD sports broadcasts — something which probably won't change until the networks go all-digital in 2013. As reader C-Mac put it recently:

A few years ago, 7 and 9 were both sprouting on about HD sports and how wonderful everything will look, and now they don’t even use the HD channels for anything worthwhile. I don’t need to see Ellen in HD, but the cricket would be nice!

What are your biggest bugbears with digital TV? Share your pain in the comments.

Lifehacker's weekly Streaming column looks at how technology is keeping us entertained.


Comments

    You pretty much hit the nail on the head with those. From a personal standpoint, especially the all or nothing reception, which is a nightmare in my house!

    Gem annoys more more than anything. i bet it get lower ratings than nine HD used to

    Agreed!

    Please forward this post to all of the Networks in Australia on behalf of all Lifehacker readers/TV watchers!

    The delayed start and poor HD channels are my biggest complaints!

    Think that pretty much covers it.

    It *really* bothers me that HD has gone in the toilet here now. ONE HD is great, but they only have some of the big sports. The cricket really does benefit from HD and even shows like Sunrise look a lot better in HD than their SD counterparts.

      your kidding right?? ONE HD IS THE BIGGEST JOKE AND IF YOU READ SOME FORUMS YOU'LL SEE HOW UPSET SOME PEOPLE ARE

      LIKE I HAVE SAID
      CRICKET, IT’S BAD ENOUGH IN ANALOG WORSE IN SD AND IT A TRAGEDY IN HD

      IT IS SOOOO BORING!!!!!!!

    Quite obvious to everyone involved that Australian Rugby union commentary probably the worst in the world. Why there is no option for alternative commentary, to listen to commentators that is actually there is behind even third[-world countries today.

      Dude,.. There's no need to shout eh,..! :)

        Sorry, this comment is meant for NickBoy98

    On the scheduling - The networks should be seriously kicked over this. It's simply anti competitive behavior designed to trap you on a channel. Channel 7 WILL be running 6 minutes over by 7.30 tonight. It's routine.

    HD - The networks are currently victims of the legislation. They have to broadcast their main channels in SD meaning they can either waste bandwidth and simulcast meaning a lost channel, or give us Knight Rider and News in (cough) HD.

    Digital should have required all boxes to be HD from the start. Its criminal that people are still selling SD boxes to consumers who don't understand that they'll miss out on ABCNews, GEM & 7mate.

    You missed the one thing that bugs me the most.
    Audio out of sync with the picture.

      I had repeated audio issues with GEM last night. Very annoying!

      Also, GO!'s playout system still seems to be about 1/2 a second out of sync in WA resulting in slices of ads playing.

    For the love of god put the cricket back on in HD!

    I just bought a new you-beaut 50 inch HDTV for watching the cricket in HD this summer, but now it looks so shocking that you can't even see the ball!

      soooo weird cricket is soooo boring as if you'd want to watch

        NickBoy98 why don't you just let the adults talk eh? You can't tell people what to like - accept that some people are different to you and will like different things.

    I think your missing the biggest problem of them all. NONE of the TV channels seem to care of do anything about these problems. They are very happy for these things to continue on they way they are.

    #1 should be lack of proper Electronic Program Guide. 4 and 5 could be fixed if the EPG was updated by the stations in real time. Who cares if you things over-run if your EPG gets updated so your recording changes with it.

    The anti-siphoning laws should have included the clause that any sport on the 'A' list HAS to be broadcast on HD as well as their main channel.

    #6 Stupid 3D test channel taking up a HD channel.

      The 3D channel is broadcast on a separate (real) channel so it's not taking away from any of the existing channel's bandwidth.

    Actually, what am I talking about....

    #1 - WHY IS DIGITAL TV LOCKED TO ONLY THE CURRENT TV STATION CARTEL?

    Have a look at Freeview in the UK and there are dozens of channels from 'independents.' Most of the channels on Pay TV actually pay Foxtel to be shown on their distribution network and would love to be shown on Free to Air TV!

      Why? Because when Howard was in office and planning the DTV switch-over the combined might of Packer, Murdoch and the other existing FTA broadcasters made it quite plain that he'd better not allow any new networks in on the digital spectrum. Else the government might find it difficult to get any positive news coverage, particularly around election time.

      As soon as Labor got back in they were told the same thing, and sure enough they rapidly lost interest in licensing any new FTA digital networks. All that freed-up analog TV spectrum would be needed for 4G mobile phones and mobile internet use, not a MHz to spare, not even enough for one new network.

    woohoo i got quoted on lifehacker, i can die happily now. (maybe heaven can get TV right.)

    Re the "delayed broadcast". I strongly suspect it's not the broadcast that's delayed - it's the processing latency of the STB.

    Digital TV really annoys me too - especially with regard to the HD/SD idiocy.

    If I had designed the spec, there would be no SD. Preferably no 720p either - all channels would be 1080p. Then everybody would just use an HD set top box (which already can downscale and output SD from the HD channels if the user only has an SD tv). HD set top boxes are only a bit more expensive, and would have been a lot cheaper this way because of economy of scale.

    This system would completely cut out all the crap we had before where TV channels were wasting valuable bandwidth having HD and SD versions playing the exact same things, and would stop the problem where my SD TV can't play three channels that HD ones can...

    Also, it would have been so much better to wait for DVB-T 2, instead of jumping on the original version - the new spec allows for H.264 streams instead of MPEG2 (which is really crappy at the low bitrates of the current channels).

    I don't really care too much anymore though - the future is clearly TV delivered over the internet (either multicast or on demand). It's already gaining some traction with things like the Boxee box and AppleTV, but should become fairly ubiquitous as the NBN rolls out.

    "A few years ago, 7 and 9 were both sprouting on about HD sports and how wonderful everything will look, and now they don’t even use the HD channels for anything worthwhile. I don’t need to see Ellen in HD, but the cricket would be nice!"

    THAT IS AN ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS QUOTE I'D RATHER WATCH ELLEN IN HD THEN RUIN MY MIND AND EYES WITH HD CRICKET, IT'S BAD ENOUGH IN ANALOG WORSE IN SD AND IT WOULD BE A TRAGEDY IN HD IT IS SOOOO BORING

    AT LEAST ELLEN CAN BE SOMETIMES ENTERTAINING(MUSIC ACTS ETC.) BUT CRICKET JUST IS SHIT AND IS A WASTE OF BROADCAST SPACE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqx2Bt5bnKE

      I think your point has been made. You find cricket boring and Ellen mildly interesting, so we are better off having something mildly interesting in HD than something boring yet more suited to it.

    Who cares Mate has The shield and Miami Vice now all I need is Kojak and all will be well with the world.

    tonight on 9;

    7.30 All new Two and a Half Men
    8.00 Two and a Half Men (R)
    8.30 Adults only special, Two and a Half Men
    9.30 Some rubbish reality programme
    10.30 Two and a Half Men (Encore screening)

    tonight on GO!;

    some rubbish reality show (R)
    followed by double episode of Two and a Half Men

    tonight on Gem;

    repeats of CSI
    followed by repeats of CSI Miami
    followed by double episode of Two and a Half Men

      Tell me about it - that show sh*ts me up the wall. I'm guessing Nine paid a bucketload for it given how popular it is in the US and is milking it for all it's worth.

      Alternatively, welcome to the summer schedule!

      Your point?

      We all LOVE two and a half men at our home... even the repeats :)

      I guess that's the problem. Whatever rates higehst, gets the most views. Hence despite NickBoys hatred of Cricket - we still get to see it.

      Let's not forget it's all about the money, and more money for the big guys means better things for us:
      Ratings = Advertising = Money = Investment in end user experiences*

      *in theory

    Reminds me of the useless babble we got when DVD was released... multi channels, multiple angles, multiple versions on 1 disc, yeh right, if they bothered to include the content, same goes with HD, late starts which stuffs up my recordings is the worst!!!

    Well i would like to stand up and ask everyone to stop wasteing HD airtime with sports. especially Cricket. It's not even fast moving, you have no need to see anything in more detail! Soccer, and football i can understand - but cricket?... come on guys.

    the only thing that annoys me is the all or nothing reception. i can live with the rest.

    To sync radio commentary and CH 9 TV I listen online and pause the cricket tv until it catches up with the audio. Works a treat. Online ABC can be upto 30 secs behind live.

    lol

    All I can say people is its probably going to get worse before it gets better...

    Now back to my regularly scheduled mantra –
    Thank the internet for sites like EZTV and for Bit Torrent,
    So I can watch the TV shows I like when I like...

    As for sport??? That what Foxtel's for isn't it?

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