Just as the last counties in Norway got digital TV signals, I upgraded my digital cabletv tuner to a HD PVR. The two most read blog entries I have written are What does HD Ready mean? and DVB-T with H.264 (MPEG-4), so I thought about writing about HDTV content available in Norway. There are two big companies providing HDTV on cable TV, Canal Digital and Get (both links in Norwegian). I have Get.
The difficulties in choosing provider
The first thing you notice when comparing the two providers, is the available HDTV content. Not many channels are available (more about that later).
Often you are not in a position were you can choose provider, your flat comes with one of them. If not, the two companies have chosen different price structures and it is therefor difficult to recommend one over the other. If you choose Canal Digital, you buy the decoder (1.990 NOK). At Get you rent the decoder for 99 NOK per month. Canal Digital then gives you a set HDTV channels as part of their other packages. With Get you can either rent one channel for 45 NOK per month (what I chose to do) or rent a basic HDTV package (99 NOK per month). When renting either a channel or the package at Get, you get Eurosport HD and SVT HD for free out 2008 for all HDTV subscribers. In other words, I have for now three HDTV channels for the price of one.
In the time of writing this article the two providers have the following channels available:
- Canal Digital: TV Norge HD, SVT HD, Eurosport HD, Discovery HD, National Geographic Channel HD, BBC HD (from December 2008), History Channel HD, Voom HD and Sliver HD
- Get: SVT HD (free 2008), Eurosport HD (free 2008), Discovery HD, Voom HD, Sliver HD and Luxe HD
Both companies have movie packages that includes HDTV channels from Canal+ and Viasat.
For now Canal Digital should be an obvious choice, as they have a far better selection of channels. Canal Digital for now also has an exclusive deal on TVN HD and BBC HD (Get is reported to be negotiating a deal with BBC). TVN HD is the only Norwegian HDTV channel (A historic TV-day in Norway). In the long run Canal Digital’s price structure is also paying off for the consumers.
My experiences with HDTV
I have a 32″ HD Ready flat screen, so upgrading from Get’s basic decoder with Scart to HDMI made a major improvement to the picture quality. Not only on HDTV content, but also to the channels still sending SDTV (which still is more or less all the channels that I have!). The picture is clearer and the colors are stronger and full of life. And my take is that it was worth upgrading the decoder only for that.
My take on the available HDTV channels at Get is for now, that it is not worth paying for the package. With subscribing Discovery HD and getting SVT HD and Eurosport HD included, you have gotten the best channels Get is currently providing.
Swedish HDTV content
A few words about SVT HD is in place. What a pleasant surprise! The channel is from Swedish public broadcaster Sveriges Television (SVT), and broadcasts high-definition simulcasts of programmes from the other SVT channels, where available. The first show I saw was their own produced talk show I kväll (Tonight), and Norwegian Kurt Nilsen was singing that night. The pictures were stunning. Some of their own produced programs are also available with 5.1 sound.
Initially the channel was only available on satellite from Canal Digital, but in May 2007 the channel started broadcasting over the Swedish digital terrestrial television network using MPEG-4 compression.
From SVT’s own presentation of the channel, we can read:
The aim is, starting next year, to broadcast at least one first run programme produced by SVT every day. SVT Acquisitions department is also scanning the market for feature films and TV series in HD.
But already today SVT HD broadcasts approx. 30 hrs a week.
SVT HD is simulcast with other SVT channels. That means that when a programme also is available in high definition it will be offered in the very best quality to the Swedish audience.
Swedes are very keen on good technical TV quality. They are buying HD-ready flat screens like never before for their homes, many investing in 5.1-sound as well. “Cinema at home” is becoming a status symbol.
Towards the end of 2008 75% of the Swedes are expected to have a “HD-ready” widescreen TV as their main set.
84% of the Swedes aged 15 -74 state that they know about HDTV and the superior quality.
But the real break through for HD in Sweden is believed to be the terrestrial net and that is still very much in the future.
BBC HD is a high-definition television channel provided by the BBC. The service was initially run as a trial from 15 May 2006 until becoming a full service on 1 December 2007. The first HD originated programme to be shown on the channel was Planet Earth, shown on 27 May 2006.
The broadcasts are generally six to eight hours per day (expanding to 9 in 2009), and include simulcasts with BBC channels, such as Michael Palin’s New Europe and Hustle (also on BBC One), and replays of HD programmes such as Planet Earth, Bleak House, Torchwood, and Hotel Babylon.
Norwegian HDTV content
As you can read from my blog entry, the HDTV channels come with a stunning picture quality and I am excited about what the HDTV technology will bring. It is so sad to see that Norwegian content is not available in HDTV, but TVN is planning start producing some of their own programs in HD next year. NRK and TV2 should start HDTV channels as soon as possible, and forget about RiksTV.
As I have stated before (The Analogue Signal Is About To Vanish), RiksTV (and DVB-T) is not part of the future, as they don’t have the needed bandwidth for sending HDTV. More correctly RiksTV will have to close several of the channels they provide today, so that their remaining channels could be sent in HD. We could very well say that RiksTV is slowing down Norway in our transsision to the next generation TV technology. The terristical network in Sweden has the same problem, and SVT HD is therefor currently only available in a part of the terrestrial net (around Stockholm).