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Now that all regular TV stations are broadcasting in HD, why doesn’t cable TV move the HD versions down to the low end of the cable line-up?

Ben Steelman

The trouble is, there’s a difference between HDTV (high-definition television) and digital television, said Melissa Buscher, spokesman for Time Warner Cable’s Carolinas division.

All television station have now switched over from analog to digital signals — and, as the questioner noted, Wilmington’s market switched over earlier than most of the nation, on Sept. 8, 2008. (Most of the rest of the United States didn’t make the transition until Feb. 17, 2009.)

HD, however, is a slightly different form of digital broadcasting, with a different aspect ratio and a different pixel density. (Aspect ratio refers to the proportions of the screen. The convention TV signal, even in digital, has an aspect ratio of 1:33:1 — about the same as a standard computer screen — while the HDTV aspect ration is 16:9, the same as a widescreen movie theater. Pixel density means, essentially, that the HD signal has a sharper resolution — i.e, more pixels, or dots of data, per section of screen — than a conventional digital signal.)

More and more network TV shows are being broadcast in HD now, but not all local TV stations are sending out their signals in HD, or are not in HD all the time. Thus, it might be awhile before Time Warner and other cable systems reshuffle their channels.

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