Sunday, October 28, 2007

$199 HD-DVDs & VOD on DirecTV

OK, that's a lot of acronyms, right, but there are two big developments in the electronics world this week.

There's a new sub-200 buck HD-DVD player in stores now, and DirecTV has launched its video-on-demand service as it tries to separate itself even further from cable and DISH network competition.


The battle for the next-generation of HD DVD players got a big push this week when Wal-Mart started carrying HD-DVDs for $198. It's a Toshiba model and is more than $100 cheaper than the best price I've seen for a Blu-Ray player.

If you haven't heard, there are two types of players for high definition content via DVDs: Blu-Ray and HD-DVD. Like VHS and Beta a long time ago, the two formats are not compatible with each other and some companies only release on one format or the other. So if you like Spider-Man 3, you can only see it on Blu-Ray. Like Transformers? It's only on HD-DVD.

Now, you cannot get high definition pictures through your regular DVD player, even if you have a high def TV. Yes, most standard DVD players, when connected through HDMI or component video connections (the cords with the red, blue and green connectors), the picture will look better than you have seen. Going hi-def is a whole 'nother world.

Wal-Mart's promotion of HD-DVD is big. About as big as when Blockbuster decided to only rent Blu-Ray movies. You can rent HD-DVDs from Netflix, however. At one point, I was thinking Blu-Ray -- with its support from Sony and its PlayStation 3 -- would win this war. With Wal-Mart on the scene, I don't know anymore. I do know several companies with interests in either format or starting to line the pockets of retailers and film studios to support their brand.

So if you're thinking about making the jump to next-generation DVD, which creates an amazing experience, I'd suggest studying which companies are putting out the movies you want to see or looking at how you get your content. I have a few friends who already had PS3 (and Blu-Ray) and are now planning to do the $198 player at Wal-Mart or add the Xbox 360 HD-DVD player. But that's a lot of money.

I wish we could get to one format.

DirecTV adds DirecTV-On-Demand

Last week, DirecTV began to deploy its video-on-demand service called "DOD" or DirecTV on Demand. The service allows viewers to download programming to their receiver via satellite or internet connection.

To get it your HR-20 receiver (or newer) has to be connected to a broadband internet connection. Your receiver also has to have the latest software downloaded to it, and DirecTV was still deploying that software, version 0x1B4, around the country -- and to the Charlotte area. When you get it and are connected to the internet, you'll see a DOD option in your main menu as well as channels in the 1000s.

So far most of the channels in the service are free, though there are some that have charges. The content is available 24/7/365 but you cannot access the entire program when you select it, unlike cable. You have to wait for the program to download, which will depend on your internet connection speed and type of program you download (HDTV or not). You can start watching the program shortly after you start the download, similar to watching a recording on a DVR while it still taping.

Here are the current channels available via DirecTV's new DOD program:

1000 DTV
1101 The 101
1202 CNN
1235 Style
1236 E!
1245 TNT
1246 Court TV
1247 TBS
1249 Comedy Central
1250 Fox Reality
1256 Turner Classic Movies
1263 LOGO
1265 A&E
1269 History
1276 National Geographic
1277 Travel
1278 Discovery
1279 Discovery Health
1280 TLC
1282 Animal Planet
1284 Discovery Science
1285 Discovery Times
1287 Military
1294 Discovery Kids
1295 PBS Kids Sprout
1296 Cartoon Network
1297 Boomerang
1298 Noggin
1300 Nickelodeon
1303 The N
1327 CMT
1329 BET
1331 MTV
1333 MTV2
1335 VH1
1337 VH1 Classic
1339 Fuse
1354 G4
1416 MTV Tr3s
1419 CNN in EspaƱol
1520 Starz
1526 Encore
1605 Golf
1607 Speed
1608 Versus
1801 Anime
1802 Eurocinema
1829 Concert.TV
1886 Adult Swim on Demand
1994 Octane

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