It's finally happening. Next month, Network Ten will launch Channel 13 on free-to-air television -- an all-HD simulcast of its main channel that will be available in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth. Here's what you need to know.
For years, Australia's restrictive broadcasting legislation denied free-to-air television networks the right to show their main channels in high-def. Thankfully, these days are finally ending, with Network Ten among the first to begin the switch to HD.
Unfortunately, not everybody will be getting the new HD channel, and the change also affects the network's existing HD content. Here are the main points you need to be aware of.
What Is Ten HD?
Channel 13 is a free-to-air high definition simulcast of its primary channel. This means you'll be able to watch Channel Ten sporting events in HD, along with popular shows like Gogglebox, Offspring, I'm A Celebrity...Get Me Out Of Here!, The Project, NCIS , Modern Family and MasterChef Australia. All content will be identical to the main channel, but broadcast in HD.
Who's Getting Ten HD?
The new channel will be available in Australia’s six major metropolitan markets of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth and the Gold Coast.
Which HD Resolution Does It Use?
Ten HD will be broadcast in 1080i using the 16:9 widescreen ratio. Videophiles will tell you that 1080i is visually inferior to 1080p (AKA "Full" HD.) While they are technically correct, it's unlikely that the average viewer will be able to tell the difference -- especially if your TV screen is 60 inches or under.
What Technology Do I Need?
To receive the channel, you'll need a HD TV with an MPEG 4 decoder. (The network uses MPEG 4 compression to deliver high-def content within the existing broadcast spectrum.) According to Ten, approximately 90 per cent of HD TV sets in Australia are MPEG 4 compatible.
How Do I Set Up Ten HD?
If you have a TV with an auto-tuner, you should receive a prompt to add the new channel on or around March 2. If you don't receive a prompt, you may need to re-tune your TV manually. If you run into problems, you can contact Channel Ten on the following toll-free help line: 1800 783 117.
What About Regional Viewers?
The availability of Channel 13 in regional Australia will be dependent on Ten's partner Southern Cross Media. Currently, Southern Cross has no concrete plans to launch the new channel in the markets it covers. Tch. (It will, however, be available in regions where both markets overlap -- so it's worth re-tuning your TV just in case.)
What Will Happen To Ten ONE?
From 2 March, Ten's former HD channel will be downgraded to standard definition. This means that many sports previously broadcast in HD -- including MotoGP, Formula One, Rugby Union and Netball -- will only be available in standard-def. The reason for this is that the network does not have the spectrum capacity to keep ONE in HD along with the new channel. Sucks to be a netball fan.
When Does Ten HD Launch?
Channel 13 will launch on 2 March; a little over a week from now. The launch coincides with Ten's coverage of the Clipsal 500 V8 Supercar race which will be screened on Channel 13 in HD.
While it's a shame to see channel One get bumped down from HD, we're still big fans of this development. Australia's main TV channels have been languishing in standard definition for a stupidly long time. It was seriously getting ridiculous.
Whether it will be enough to bring fed-up viewers back into the free-to-air fold remains to be seen. Nevertheless, watching Ten's premium sporting events in crystal-clear detail is nothing to be sniffed at.
Do you still watch free-to-air TV? Would a switch to high-definition entice you to watch more? Share your thoughts and opinions in the comments.