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Less For Your $50 From HBO PPV

I'm a huge boxing fan since way back, and seldom miss a big fight any time for any reason. Last night I threw down $50 to watch the Migel-Cotto-Zab Judah showdown on HBO Pay-Per-View over Comcast digital cable. The fight card itself met or exceeded expectations with two of the four matches, including the headliner, being terrific scraps.

But in spite of the fact that HBO consistently shoots its Championship Boxing series and this year its Boxing After Dark series in HD, and ads for the fight noted "in HD where available" (or something similar), this fight not only wasn't presented in HD, the image was among the worst I've ever seen. Not by a little either, by a lot. For $50 I expect a helluva lot more.

The image was so soft that it was extremely difficult to make out faces in the first row. The image was also excessively noisy, although there was no dsicernible blocking or obvious compression artifacts. It just looked like old-fashioned low bandwidth digital.

Worse still, and something HBO should care a lot about, the top and bottom of the image were cropped, so I often couldn't get information at the bottom of the screen, including some info about upcoming boxing programs, some of which are PPV events I'm sure the brass at HBO would like to get me to shell out another $50 a pop to watch.

How and why did this happen? If, as the advertisements themselves claim, this event was shot in HD, someone at either HBO or Comcast had to decide to downconvert the image for the live PPV broadcast. Why? Do I need to pay more money to free up the bandwidth to get it in HD?

But even if HBO or Comcast are going to downconvert, I see no reason why I shouldn't get something that's at least DVD quality for my fifty bones. Standard-def shouldn't be this bad, especially at $50 per household for an individual event.

If anyone reading this has any insights on the hows or whys, I'd love to hear them. I'd also be curious to know if any of you watched this event on DirecTV or DISH if it was in HD, or at least standard-def that's better than what I was subjected to.

For my part, I'm going to complain to both Comcast and HBO directly and see what they have to say for themselves.

Boxing promoters are trying a lot of different tactics to make the sport more appealing in the face of challenges from MMA and UFC. How about taking the lead and making sure that all your expensive events are presented in the best image quality possible? Can't hurt, can it?

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