The buzz word coursing through the international electronics fair IFA in Berlin this weekend is HDTV. But though the high-tech television is exciting some companies, German broadcasters remain hesitant.
Full speed ahead for technology, but not for most broadcasters
It's being called a "quantum leap" and the next big development in television since the move from the black and white box. The euphoria surrounding high-definition television can hardly be contained at this weekend's consumer electronics fair IFA in Berlin.
"HDTV is the most important development in the world-wide television industry in the coming years," said Georg Kofler, head of the resurgent digital pay-TV broadcaster Premiere.
The technology uses a 16:9 aspect ration which basically means that television images are shown in a far higher resolution than normal analog television, or DVDs. A host of major companies, like Korea's Samsung and Holland's Philips, have already brought several different HDTV models on the market. Major consumer electronics markets like the US and Japan are already far ahead of Germany and the rest of Europe in adapting the new technology.
Cooperation to increase visibility
Ahead of the start of IFA, Premiere announced a cooperative effort with Philips and Samsung and a long-term link-up with the Discovery Channel aimed at bringing the quality of HDTV programming to a wider audience.
All 64 World Cup games in Germany this year will be shown on Premiere in HDTV format. Beginning in November, Germany's only pay-TV broadcaster will introduce three different 24-hour HDTV channels into their channel list.
Premiere viewers with HDTV televisions will get all the World Cup action delivered to them in the high-definition format.
ProSiebenSAT.1, recently bought up by the Axel Springer publishing house, plans to be on air with HDTV content even earlier. They plan on broadcasting their ProSieben and Sat.1 channels in HDTV format beginning at the end of October.
"HDTV is a quantum leap," said CEO Guillaume de Posch.
Still too expensive
But the rest of the German broadcasting landscape is not as excited. The two major public stations, ARD and ZDF, said they plan on waiting longer with HDTV format, citing high costs and insufficient users.
ZDF said high-definition television will have to wait until Germany's homes make the switch from analog to digital, something they predict won't happen before 2010. RTL, Europe's largest broadcaster, said it will wait as well.
"HDTV brings with it much higher costs," said an RTL spokesman. One television CEO estimated the broadcast cost 10,000 euros ($12,456) an hour, according to the German daily Handelsblatt.
There is also the cost of the televisions themselves, which start at around 1,000 euros and can go as high as 5,000 euros. In 2005, fewer than 1 million sold and analysts do not expect to reach the one million mark before the end of 2006.
HDTV sets can cost upwards of 5,000 euros or more
Branch analysts expect HDTV sales to make up more than 10 percent of total sets sold only in 2008.
"We'll start planning when 10 to 15 percent of the viewers own HDTV," said an RTL spokesperson.