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Premium Channels Just Aren’t

With the finishing of the basement and the installation of the new TV, it was time to dump the cable company.  As a result of the feedback I got from people, I ended up choosing Dish network.  (Thanks to everyone who commented!)  Oh, did it feel good to jettison at least one localized monopoly.  I never liked Adelphia, not from the day they arrived in town.  The criminal indictment of their founder and some of his family members didn’t do much to improve my perception, either.

Of course, when you sign up for any new media service these days, you get swamped with a zillion deals and promotional packages.  I ended up with three free months of movie channels—HBO, Cinemax, Showtime, and a variety of offshoot niche channels.  There’s something like twenty-five of them.  At the end of the three months, I have to cancel or else they start charging me for the movie package.

I’ll be cancelling.  It’s kind of handy having all those movies available, and I’ve caught a few I wanted to see in theaters but didn’t.  However, there is something about these “premium” movie channels, every last one of them, that kills the deal for me.

They all broadcast pan-and-scan formatted movies.  Not a letterboxed, widescreen showing to be found anywhere.

Last night, I found myself gritting my teeth over the ruination of several shots in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, a movie I was only half watching as it was.  Characters just vanished from shots that were, of a sudden, horribly balanced.  I can only imagine what outrages would be perpetrated on some of the classics of cinema.  I mean, come on.  The frickin’ SciFi channel shows letterboxed movies on a regular basis.  If the geeks over there can figure it out, you’ve got no excuse.

In short, there’s no way I’ll be paying to have mangled movies delivered to my home.  Fix that problem, and I might be tempted to sign up.  Otherwise, I’ll spend my movie-related money elsewhere, thank you very much.

13 Responses»

    • #1
    • Comment
    • Thu 27 Oct 2005
    • 1829
    Nathan wrote in to say...

    I agree with you completely Eric. I switched to Dish Network from Adelphia here in Virginia and I am a little disappointed with the “Premium” channels and the DVR. The DVR records, but man, it is terrible. Enough about that tho.

    You could try HBO HD
    http://www.hbo.com/hbohd/

    I don’t have an HD capable TV, so sucks to be me. I will stick with Netflix for my movies.

    • #2
    • Comment
    • Thu 27 Oct 2005
    • 1835
    Stephen Collins wrote in to say...

    Don’t each of those channels have an HD version available that would show the widescreen?

    • #3
    • Comment
    • Thu 27 Oct 2005
    • 1920
    Jack Brewster wrote in to say...

    I’ll stick to NetFlix for my movie-watching needs. Though I’m jonzin’ for a DVD recorder. I’m so tired of VHS for recording the few shows I do watch once in awhile.

    • #4
    • Comment
    • Thu 27 Oct 2005
    • 2249
    Tony wrote in to say...

    Steven,
    Depending on your set-up, you can get some of the premium movie channels in HD. My parents only get HBO and Showtime in HD, but you can also get get Voom HD channels, which I believe show movies.

    Nathan,
    What’s so bad about the DVR? My parents have the HD DVR, and it works fine, has the features you’d expect, and is pretty easy to use.

    • #5
    • Comment
    • Fri 28 Oct 2005
    • 0547
    Eric Meyer wrote in to say...

    I decided to pass on the HD tuner since the whole HD landscape is about to change and it was too expensive anyway, so the HD channels aren’t an option for me right now. They also aren’t an excuse. If you’re going to show a movie, show the whole movie, not a small window that only shows a part of the movie.

    I know, in a couple of years the whole HD thing will have happened and we’ll look back on all this like we do 8-tracks. It’s still an annoying situation now.

    Ah well. Back to the web stuff in a day or three.

    • #6
    • Comment
    • Fri 28 Oct 2005
    • 0900
    Jason G wrote in to say...

    I just upgraded to HD and got the free HBO/Showtime/Cinemax deal from Time Warner. I was already a subscriber to HBO for shows like Rome.

    HBO HD shows a 16:9 pan and scan version of the movies, which is better but still annoying. Shows like Rome, however, which are made for 16:9 look absolutly incredible in HD.

    Showtime HD, leaves a lot to be desired. They do show the full letterbox version of the movie, but it doesn’t look much better than standard definition to me. HD should look better than a DVD, not worse.

    The one thing I have found since I got HD is that, of the over 300 channles I have access to, if there is nothing I want to watch on the 12 or so HD channels, I feel as though nothing is on TV. :-)

    • #7
    • Comment
    • Fri 28 Oct 2005
    • 1138
    Chris wrote in to say...

    I too have had Dish Network for about 4 years after getting sick of Sham Warner. The premium chanels mantra, maybe HBO, was a New Movie Every Saturday Night. Not that’s really about 1 new movie every month it seems. I’ll be dropping the HBO/Showtime stuff any day now, at a net savings of about $22 bucks.

    • #8
    • Comment
    • Fri 28 Oct 2005
    • 1542
    Waylan wrote in to say...

    They all broadcast pan-and-scan formatted movies. Not a letterboxed, widescreen showing to be found anywhere.

    And my parents would thanks them for it. Whenever there is a choice (either the DVD at the store or those DVD’s with a different format on each side) they always insist on ‘fullscreen’. You see, they have an older non-widescreen TV and although I’ve explained it a million times, they still think they’re not getting the entire picture because they see those black bars on the top and bottom of any widescreen movie. Actually, I think my father gets it, but he likes the larger picture from the ‘fullscreen’, even if the sides are cut off, and sees no need to purchase a new TV. Considering the prices, I can’t half blame him.

    Speaking of the ‘fullscreen’ designation – is that a bad name or what? Talk about confusing.

    • #9
    • Comment
    • Fri 28 Oct 2005
    • 2354
    Adrian Rinehart-Balfe wrote in to say...

    It always puzzles me when, at the start of a movie, some blurb comes up telling me that the film has been specially formatted to fit my screen. How do they know about my TV? It’s not something I talk about in public! I’m tempted to get a widescreen set and see how long it takes them to find out about it!

    • #10
    • Comment
    • Sat 29 Oct 2005
    • 1757
    Bob Newill wrote in to say...

    The beauty of HD from any of the cable or satellite services is that the video has been compressed somehow, usually MP2, and soon to be MP4. What this really means is that you really aren’t watching HD, you’re watching some cruddy recording made by your DVR or ‘uncompressed’ by your settop box. This is a kind of trickery that I wish the industry would just own up to. Once the HD DVD wars pan out, then you’ll be seeing some real HD video. But really, since HD requires so much bandwidth, even in the recording of data to tape in the camera itself, it’s all pretty much compressed. I kind of like to joke that the only people in the world that have seen the true picturre that HD can offer are lab rats and guys like George Lucas. And that’s because they have a bazillion dollars worth of gear sitting in front of them. All this being said though, the picture on a nice, bright HD display is pretty breath taking when you see it. It is better than a standard definition picture, no doubt. I just can’t wait for things to get cheap enough for large displays to really make it into the mainstream. Then we’ll really see HD content spring to life.

    Enjoy your TVs though! Now if only the content would become a little more creative… :-)

    • #11
    • Comment
    • Mon 31 Oct 2005
    • 0814
    Michael C. wrote in to say...

    I quite enjoy life without a TV in the house. Of course, this and this might have something to do with that satisfaction. ;)

    • #12
    • Comment
    • Wed 9 Nov 2005
    • 2028
    Rodney wrote in to say...

    What pisses me off is that some of HBO’s original programming (films, Sopranos, Rome) is broadcast in widescreen; however, most commercial films are not.

    I totally agree regarding the Harry Potter film. I saw it twice in the theater, and the pan and scan version on HBO is highly disappointing.

    Are you listening, HBO?

    • #13
    • Comment
    • Mon 14 Nov 2005
    • 2154
    Emily wrote in to say...

    I didn’t know that this mattered so much-I’ve never given it much thought I guess!

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