Germany: New HD Viewers debate Formats

Progressive or interlaced? 1080i or 720p? While such questions in America, for the most part, seem to have come and gone with the general consensus that it's more a matter of individual taste than anything else, some viewers of new HD signals in Germany seem to have taken up the debate for themselves. Somehow, according to several European online forums, 720p is being portrayed as a "lesser form of HD" — compared with 1080i. (Wait till they see 1080p.)

That anti-progressive view seems to fly in the face of the current stance (albeit unofficial) of the European Broadcasting Union, which has more or less given its indirect blessing to progressive scan (which is favored by some because it most replicates a typical computer monitor).

Two German public service broadcasters, ARD HD and ZDF HD, have only been transmitting in 720p for a matter of days, but it was long enough for the verbal knives to come out from interlace proponents.

As the HD blog of one European Web site, Intelligence Center, points out, the flap is "an interesting development particularly because the HDTV debate in Germany has most recently been dominated by concerns that many cable households would not be able to receive [either channel] at all before the broadcasters struck an 11th-hour carriage agreement with Kabel Deutschland." Those carriage concerns, the blog said, seem pretty much forgotten.

Some viewers who oppose 720p by the two German pubcasters contend that 1080i has, in effect, become the de facto standard for HD broadcasting globally — an argument that might not garner overwhelming support in America where ABC broadcast, ESPN, Disney Family, and Fox broadcast and cable channels, among others, use 720p as their HD format of choice.

Still, it might be noted that NBC Universal is broadcasting several hundred hours of winter Olympics coverage on its broadcast and cable channels using its preferred 1080i, the format also shared by CBS.

Ironically, there also have been a lot of viewer complaints in the U.K. over the signal quality of some of the BBC's relatively new HD content which (wait for it)… happens to be 1080i.