Liar, Liar, Screen on Fire

A federal judge has ordered DirecTV to suspend TV ads claiming that its HDTV is of higher quality than that of cable. For years, videophiles have complained that DirecTV's signal--HD or otherwise--is overcompressed, pixellated, and full of video artifacts. But this is the first time the satellite operator has been rebuked in court. The triggering event was a lawsuit by Time Warner Cable in response to ads starring William Shatner and Jessica Simpson with the slogan: "For picture quality that beats cable, you've got to get DirecTV." Has Captain Kirk steered us wrong? How the mighty have fallen. TWC also objected to claims that its subscribers weren't able to receive certain NFL football games. While TWC (and Cablevision) don't carry the NFL Network, the eight specific games in question were aired by broadcast stations available on cable. In addition to the TWC suit, filed in December, DirecTV is also fighting a class-action suit filed in California three months earlier. That one alleges inferior HD picture quality on HBO HD, HDNet Movies, Bravo HD, Showtime HD and DirecTV HDTV pay-per-view. Attorney Philip K. Cohen claims DirecTV sends HD at a data rate of 6.6 megabits per second, versus the industry-standard 19.4mbps.

Tom Thompson's picture

I find two things interesting. The first is the lack of real figures, other than those of the plaintiff, being cited by the providers. Second is that the count has not set any "standard" that must be met for "proof" of HD content being truly HD. You would think that at some point the court might look to published technical data that was agreed to by manufacturers when getting governmental approval for using that term. Or have they been taking lessons in smoke and mirror publishing from our administration in Washington?

Mark Fleischmann's picture

What's sufficient for "high quality" HDTV depends on who you ask. CableLabs, the R&D arm of the cable industry, says 15mbps for HD VOD. ABC, which broadcasts HD in 720p, says that's enough. CBS, which broadcasts HD in 1080i, says 18mbps. I got these figures from Pete Putman in response to a direct question, so this would be a good moment to mention that his website is a must-read.