My daughter came home from school the other day and told me something quite interesting. Her English teacher asked the class to raise their hands if they had a a flat screen LCD or Plasma TV in their house. To my surprise she told me that every kid in the class, without exception raised their hand. Now, I know that peer pressure may have had a bearing here, some of the children may have felt embarrassed to have left their hand down so simply raised their hands to fit in with their friends, but nevertheless I imagine that would still leave a significant proportion of the class actually owning a flat screen TV. Times are changing rapidly and it would appear that anyone with CRT TV will soon be considered a dinosaur in the same way that anyone with a Black & White TV was with the advent of Colour.

Perhaps the next question from that English Teacher should be “How many of the flat screen TV owners actually take full advantage of their Television”. What I mean by this is, do they actually know what they’ve bought? Even my mother has one, but for the life of me I don’t really know why. She still owns a VHS recorder and the same DVD player that I bought her for Christmas some 6-7 years ago. (Note to self, get Mum a blu-ray player!) She’s not a gamer, so no high definition gaming, and mostly watches ITV and BBC channels on Freeview. Nevertheless she’s quite pleased with the set, which she bought on special offer from Tesco in January.

I suspect many of the kids that raised their hands in this class will be in the same boat. Don’t get me wrong I expect there will also be a decent number of savvy buyers who spent many an hour researching the make and model of their TV set along with a decent home cinema kit and blu-ray player to go with it, and obviously with kids at home its quite likely they own either a PS3 or an XBOX 360 to go with it, but in terms of the day to day TV signal how many of them will be making the absolute most of their Television. As a high definition TV owner in the UK you have a few options:

Sky HD
Probably the daddy of all the broadcast HD offerings. Sky HD offers a broad selection of HD movies and Sport as well as High definition offering of most of the Top Free to air channels (Including ITV1 HD if you have the new EPG)

  • Channel 4 HD
  • BBC HD
  • Sky One HD
  • FX HD
  • Bio HD
  • Sky Arts 1 HD
  • Sky Arts 2 HD
  • Luxe TV HD
  • Sky Real Lives HD
  • Sky Premier HD
  • Sky Screen 1 HD
  • Sky Screen 2 HD
  • Sky Comedy HD
  • Sky Action HD
  • Sky Family HD
  • Sky Drama HD
  • Sky SciFi/Horror HD
  • Sky Modern Greats HD
  • Sky Sports HD 1
  • Sky Sports HD 2
  • Sky Sports HD 3
  • Eurosport HD
  • Rush HD
  • Discovery HD
  • National Geographic HD
  • Nat Geo Wild HD
  • History Channel HD
  • Crime HD
  • Disney Cine HD
  • Sky Box Office HD1
  • Sky Box Office HD2

This choice comes at cost however. At the moment the SKY HD Box costs £49 and access to the sky HD content is granted by paying a £10 subscription fee on top of your standard TV package subscription. Not for everyone, but if you can afford the price then it is definitely the recommended option.

Virgin V+
Virgins V+ Offering is limited and only available to those in a Cabled area. The High definition content is limited to the following channels (as of October 2009)

  • FX HD
  • MTV HD
  • National Geographic HD
  • Channel 4 HD

However Virgin does make up for this limited selection by offering High Definition on Demand, thanks to Virgin TV On Demand. You can pick a film from their massive on–demand film and music library, which has a decent choice of HD content. You can also get the best of the BBC’s HD content on BBC iPlayer, which you can watch on your TV. It includes live sports coverage, plus spectacular series like South Pacific, as well as other documentaries and dramas.

Freesat launched in May 2008 and is touted as Terrestrial TVs answer to SKY. A collaboration the BBC and ITV, Freesat offers over 130 TV channels available without subscription. Limited High Definition content is available, including the BBC and ITV HD service and you need a set top box and a satellite dish installed to watch it. Bad times.

As well as a box, you’ll need to have a satellite dish pointing in the general direction of the Astra satellite. Some High Definition content will be available, including the BBC and ITV HD service.

Freeview HD
Not yet available, but the Freeview network is currently being upgraded to allow for the rollout of free-to-air terrestrial High definition channels through a TV aerial from 2009 with nationwide availability expected to be completed in 2012. A number of the larger cities in England and Wales may find they have access to the Freeview HD service in time for 2010 world cup. Freeview HD will give viewers access to subscription-free high definition channels from the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and S4C in Wales in addition to more than 50 Freeview channels in standard definition. Capacity has also been provisionally reserved for Five to launch its proposed HD channel from late 2010.

Personally I believe that SKY HD is without a doubt the only serious contender in the UK. Virgin has gone on record as saying that HD is not really a priority for them at the moment, probably down to them not want to pay any more money to Sky for their high definition content. But surely this can’t last, technology evolves at a frightening rate and eventually High definition will become the new standard definition as other technology starts to capture the imagination. 3D TVs are tipped to be big in the next 10 years but who know what else will emerge. So you can sit tight and wait for freeview television to catch up with you, or you can be pro-active. If you can afford it, make the most of now and subscribe to Sky HD. You won’t regret it.