updated 10:35 am EDT, Thu July 31, 2008
DISH 1080p TV
Satellite TV provider DISH Network today became the first known TV broadcaster to put out video in a full 1080p (1920x1080 progressive) resolution. Starting with an August 1st Video On Demand option for the movie I Am Legend, DISH says it will start offering 1080p whenever the content is available rather than the lower-resolution 1080i (interlaced) or 720p HD normally aired on DISH and other TV services. Using VOD effectively gives the image quality of Blu-ray but at a lower price than renting a disc, the satellite firm claims.
The upgrade in resolution isn't available for all subscribers but will be a no-charge addition for anyone who owns an HD DVR capable of playing MPEG-4 video. A software upgrade will be pushed out at the same time as the 1080p service that enables playing the video format, though no mention is made of supporting the HD resolution for recording regular TV shows.
Also launching today are a new set of channel bundles known as TurboHD that are purportedly the first in the market to offer customers a package that only contains HD stations. DISH doesn't say what the packages contain but explains that they start at $25 per month. Existing customers with a standard-definition bundle can pay an extra $10 per month to get extra HD content.
The advancement is described as possible courtesy of a new satellite addition that will significantly expand the number of HD channels DISH can carry to 150 by the fall.
Such a breakthrough closes one of the perceived gaps between TV and pre-recorded forms of HD such as Blu-ray and digital downloads. While downloads in particular are rarely offered in 1080p, both these and Blu-ray often provide better image quality than most live TV, which has been hampered by the frequent need to heavily compress the signal as well as a scarcity of channels. TV nonetheless has the advantage of reducing storage limits on the customer's end, which have contributed to the maximum 720p limit on Apple TV and Xbox 360 movie rentals.