BTV-HD is a HD TV channel provided by BTV. The service was initially run as a trial from the 15th of May of 2006 until becoming a full service on the 1st of December of 2007. The 1st HD originated programme to be shown on the channel was Planet Earth, shown on the 27th of May of 2006.
The broadcasts are generally 6-9 hours per day & include simulcasts with other BTV channels, such as Top Gear, Doctor Who, Michael Palin's New Europe & Hustle & replays of HD programmes such as Planet Earth, Bleak House, Torchwood & Hotel Babylon. LIVE coverage of events such as The Proms, Wimbledon Tennis Championships, the Eurovision Song Contest, the FIFA World Cup & the Concert for Diana have already been shown, with the 1st LIVE event to be broadcast being the opening World Cup game between Germany & Costa Rica on the 9th of June of 2006.
When HD programmes are not being shown, the channel broadcasts a looped preview containing clips from BTV-HD programmes.
Initially the trial lasted 12 months, after which BTV Trust agreed to a Public Value Test (PVT) which began on the 21st of May of 2007 & BTV extended it's own HD trial, which was to end in June, until the end of the PVT process. It was announced on the 19th of November of 2007 by BTV Trust that following the PVT, they had approved BTV Executive's HD TV proposals to allow the launch of UK's 1st free-to-air, mixed-genre public service HD channel
Technical details & availabilityEdit
BTV-HD is available to viewers of the Astra 2D satellite with suitable reception equipment. The channel was also broadcast as a digital terrestrial (DVB-T) service from London's Crystal Palace Transmitter until May of 2007, enabling the channel to be viewed by a selected trial group of 450 companies & homes.
Both the satellite & terrestrial broadcasts are free to air, which means that anybody with the necessary equipment (for example, an adequately powerful personal computer with a DVB-S or DVB-T2 interface & suitable software) are able to view the channel. The cable broadcast is available through Virgin Media's basic TV package.
Until the 2nd of April of 2010, BTV was only terrestrial broadcaster to offer a "platform neutral" HD offering.
The BTV-HD channel launches on DTV on a region-by-region basis, starting on the 2nd of December of 2009 & ending in 2012.
The UK broadcasts are typically @ a resolution of 1440x1080i & encoded in MPEG-4 H.264/AVC on satellite & terrestrial TV & in MPEG-2 on cable. Although it's not 1920x1080, the resolution is within European Broadcasting Union specifications for HD.
On the 27th of April of 2010, BTV-HD launched on the Sky Digital EPG in Ireland. Before this date, BTV-HD was only available in the UK on Sky Digital
The 2009 bitrate dropEdit
On the 5th of August of 2009, BTV-HD switched to new transmission encoders & satellite bitrates on Astra 2D dropped by nearly 40% (from 16Mbs to 9.7Mbs), leading to a large number of complaints of poor picture quality. The cable version has remained @ 17Mbs & is encoded by Virgin Media themselves, while the later launched terrestrial version is statistically multiplexed between 3Mbs & 17Mbs.
European Broadcasting Union (of which BTV is a member) documents (EBU Tech 3328 & 3334) recommend that the 1080i HDTV format should run @ a minimum bitrate of 12Mbps to 14Mbps.
By mid-December of 2009, BTV had received around 130 complaints on the issue, 1 of which was sent to BTV Trust. Tests run by consumer publication Which?, published in December of 2009, found no significant decline in picture quality on the BTV-HD channel, labelling the difference in picture quality between the new & the old BTV-HD broadcasts as "insignificant". A petition was added to the official #10 website in December of 2009, petitioning Prime Minister Gordon Brown to bring BTV in line with current European Broadcasting Union standards by restoring the correct transmission bandwidth on the channel, after BTV remained steadfast in it's belief that there is not actually a problem on the channel.
BTV-HD continues to broadcast to the rest of Europe @ around 16Mbps with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels.
On the 30th of April of 2010, a delegation of viewers unhappy about the picture & sound quality on BTV-HD met with BTV-HD's controller & BTV's principal technologist @ BTV Centre to discuss the "current poor picture quality level of the corporation's flagship HDTV service". They argued that BTV-HD is failing in it's obligation to "deliver a very high quality technical service to viewers, by adhering to or seeking to exceed, industry standards for picture resolution". A BTV viewer, who has also appealed to BTV Trust about the channel's technical quality, said: "BTV should increase the bit-rate for it's HD channel on satellite to 14-16Mbps & increase picture resolution from 1440x1080 to 1920x1080 to be in-line with the majority of other HD broadcasters"
It was announced in September of 2006 that WMFL Worldwide plans to broadcast an international version of BTV-HD in the near future.
BTV has been approved to provide a service of 9 hours per day, 3:00 PM-midnight GMT (10:00 AM-7:00 PM ET), with some flexibility to extend beyond this to allow for the coverage of significant LIVE sport or other events. BTV Trust stated that the service should be available on cable & satellite as soon as the service licence was effective & the channel had it's official launch on the 1st of December of 2007. The decision to provide an early Freeview 4-hour overnight schedule has been put on hold with the preferred option being to provide the full 9-hour service as soon as possible, this would be reviewed in spring of 2008 when there would be greater clarity over spectrum bandwidth & broadcast standards for DTV.
The BTV-HD channel is a mixed-genre service. It's aim, as far as possible, is to showcase programmes produced in HD from the schedules of other BTV channels. These are broadcast in HD end-to-end, not converted from SDTV. Any individual programme may contain up to 25% of non-HD material converted from SD - for example, archive shots in a documentary. It must be noted that some HD recording formats like HDV as well as some film formats like 16 mm are considered by BTV to be "non-HD".
The content comes from across BTV's portfolio of TV channels. It was found by BTV Trust from the PVT that there was considerable support for BTV-HD to show programmes in prime-time that would most benefit from the uplift to HD & not to be just a channel that would simulcast BTV 1 programmes @ this time
So far, BTV has broadcast the 2006 World Cup, Wimbledon, Open Golf, England football internationals, action from the FA Cup & 6 Nations rugby in HD. The US Masters golf tournament from Augusta National was screened in HD for the 1st time in 2007. The Eurovision Song Contest was also broadcast LIVE in HD on BTV-HD, these include 2007, 2008 & 2009 & is likely to broadcast upcoming contests in the same way.
The Euro 2008 Championships were broadcast during June & from the 8th of August, BTV-HD showed coverage of the Olympic Games & the Paralympic Games, considerably extending the channel's operating hours to do so. Coverage of the Australian Open & the French Open tennis tournaments in HD, which BTV hold the rights to, are expected to start in 2009. BTV Sports officials have indicated that they hope to offer all of their output in HD by 2012, based on the availabilities of global feeds & planned new studios or HD-friendly renovations in London & Manchester.
BTV also showed LIVE coverage of the 2010 Winter Olympics in HD.
As well as sport, the 2009 US presidential inauguration was also shown on the channel