The good news and the bad news

Digital TV, digital home, digital lifestyle, digital convergence - what's it all about Alfie?

Pam Carroll
Former editor of CNET Australia, Pam loves being in the thick of the ever-growing love affair (well addiction, really) that Australians have with their phones, digital cameras, flat screen TVs, and all things tech.
Pam Carroll
3 min read
Pam Carroll

Digital TV, digital home, digital lifestyle, digital convergence -- what's it all about Alfie?

Well, that's what CNET.com.au is all about -- cutting through the hype and techno-jargon to bring you what you really need to know as we move further and further into the "digital age".

But first an explanation of the inside joke of this headline. As we've been slaving away, working to get CNET.com.au alive and kicking, Editor Alex Kidman always prefaced his "state of the site" updates with "Well, do you want the good news or the bad news?"

It strikes me that the state of the digital home is in a similar situation. Certainly there is a wave of new products on the market to help us live the digital lifestyle. We can stay connected to our friends and family like never before -- through mobile phones, digital video and still cameras and e-mail. And home theatre systems are getting so good that you may never want to leave your lounge again.

But the bad news is that so much of our digital lifestyle is driven by having compelling content to use and play on our digital devices. And that is where the news is not as exciting.

Take digital TV for instance. The good news is that there is increasingly more "free-to-view" digital content reaching more and more areas of Australia. But if you're a Foxtel Digital subscriber, forget it -- there are no High Definition broadcasts, and few network Standard Definition options with the service.

The upcoming Athens Olympics is another case in point. Consumer electronics retailers are leveraging the event to try to get us in to buy big screens to watch it, and several manufacturers' have promotions running to sell DVRs to record it.

But the reality is that Channel Seven and its regional partner, Prime Network, will be broadcasting only the opening and closing ceremonies of the Athens Olympic Games in High Definition 16:9 format.

If you want to be the first on your block to watch the Olympics in HD, you'll have to catch these two events, because unfortunately, the Athens Olympic Broadcasting Organisation (the host broadcaster) and major international networks are basing most coverage on the 4:3 format.

As a result, the delivery format for the majority of Seven's 2004 Athens coverage is 4:3 analog and 4:3 standard definition.

To get the HD feed for the opening and closing ceremonies, the spectacles are being produced and delivered by a separate global high definition television production unit in Athens. (available on Seven's channel 70; Prime channel 60).

To build on its 4:3 standard definition coverage, however, Seven is creating a separate 16:9 digital channel 71 -- integrating 4:3 vision with enhanced data packages offering the latest Olympic news and results as they happen, an Olympic medal tally and fact file, and an opportunity for viewers to interact with the network's broadcast through SMS voting and a "soapbox ticker". The same content will be available to Prime viewers on its digital channel 61.

So buy the big screen now if you must. Just don't expect the coverage you get to put you in the crystal-clear trackside/poolside/ringside seat you may be dreaming of.