Sunday, March 23, 2008

Time Warner's "Free HD" not so "Free"

Time Warner added four HD channels here in Columbus last week. This is great, since I now have two HD sets since we picked up a 26" Panasonic on clearance for the bedroom a few weeks ago (thank you tax return).

There's just one small problem. "Free HD" really means that you need a digital cable box to view the channels.

Not so free when you need to pay to rent a cable box.

You see, the Panasonic has an ATSC tuner with Clear QAM. QAM is the technology that handles transmitting a digital signal across cable lines. If the signal is in the "clear", then it can be decoded by a TV that supports Clear QAM.

In Columbus, we get CBS HD, PBS HD, PBS Ohio, PBS Plus, Columbus Sports Network, NBC HD, NBC Weather Plus, CW HD, ABC HD, My TV and Fox HD in the clear. All of these are broadcast over the air, so Time Warner is required to transmit them over cable in the clear.

According to Time Warner, "Free HD" includes Discovery Theater, TNT, STO, FSN, Vs/Golf, TBS, A&E, HGTV, and NatGeo.

If it was truly "free", I'd be seeing these channels in my bedroom like the 60 odd analog channels being picked up without a cable box.

That would be something worth marketing.


Patrick said...

You obviously don't know much about HD tv, every company that you go through to get HD uses a receiver (box) and guess what they charge for the HD channels as well as to have the box, time warner doesn't charge for the channels so why complain.

Mike said...

Untrue. As of November 2008, I get all HD locals + CSPAN2 in the QAM band.

Why do I get CSPAN2? Why don't I get TNTHD, TBSHD, ESPNHD etc. Why did ESPN2HD used to be in the clear, and now isn't?

So since you need to get an additional box for your bedroom TV and pay for that, I would argue that you do have to actually PAY to get HD. I don't require a box in all of my rooms, just one. If I'm going to get a box in all of my rooms, I want full home DVR.

The company that offers more HD channels using pure QAM, is the one that's going to have a chance at succeeding against Time Warner. The box is one more annoyance that you simply don't need (especially since CableCard was pushed out by the cable companies).

Please read up on QAM and its capabilities before defending the cable company on another cash grab. Because that's what it is.

Joe said...

I'm in Wisconsin and have Time Warner Digital Cable with HBO channels. Anyway, I seen the commercials for free hd channels and free dvr so I had to do some more browsing on the web. I was at Time Warner's site and followed a link to contract details and it seems everything is just a trial? says that the HD channels are only for 3 months and then they are charged. Another way to sucker people in to paying them more money. I guess the free DVR is worth it though there doesnt seem to be any restrictions on that.

Joe said...

My bad, it looks like the DVR isnt free either. From time warners web site "After 3 month free trial period, standard local rates will apply for DVR and HD Tier. To receive all services, Digital Cable, remote and lease of an HD or HD DVR set-top box required. Some services are not available to CableCARD customers. Not all equipment supports all services. HDTV set required for HD service."

douglas said...

I feel your pain...but you can get all this for almost free. I have roadrunner and TW can't stop the cable channels from coming in + the local hd channels. I have gotten the digital music stations to come randomly, but never anything good.

Btw- Pat was one of Hitlers youths.

Tony said...

You all know so little. Pure ignorance. You need a digital tuner for any non analog channel.

A standard definition tuner is the same cost as a high definition tuner and therefore high definition is FREE. With the other companies you have to pay for the tuner AND the extra HD channels. With time warner, your dont. So quit QQing before they actually do start charging you like everyone else.

The 3 month HD TIER for free, is another 5 extra hd premiums outside their free like 50 hd channels. Read before you complain kkthx

Mike said...

Not pure ignorance. I understand their model quite well.

I do not wish to pay for a tuner. I have ATSC/QAM tuners on my TVs. I should get more than just my local channels through QAM.

Why should I need to pay for a cable box when I do not need it on TVs 2-4 in my home? My wife certainly doesn't want a cable box junking up our bedroom.

Anthony said...

Clearly, you do not understand the model quite well. Digital cable providers are required to broadcast stations that are already broadcast OTA for free through their broadcast or basic cable service. However this does NOT apply to subscription networks, time warner, comcast, cox, etc etc all pay these companies like discovery, espn a subscription fee, and therefore you pay your cable company. If they opened these up to the open QAM frequency, then users that only pay for the local stations could receive the HD subscription stations

Mike said...

Not true. They could control the level of cable provided, at the source. Much like I can get either 24 or 68 channels of analog service.

It certainly can be done. We should demand better. It's not free. it's only free if I pay for a converter box which I do not desire.

Anthony said...

So if I have a standard definition digital box on my standard definition tv for say $10/month.

And I upgrade to an HDTV and get an HD box with the extra HD Channels that I did not have before, but still pay $10/month.

Thats not free.

I guess if I do the same upgrade with X satellite company and pay $7 more, thats the free one. Keep in mind time warner could have done this too, and still been competitive, but they did not.

Mike said...

You just don't get it, and I'm going to leave the argument here.

I don't need cable boxes. That's what cable ready TVs were designed for 20 some odd years ago. I only need a cable box if I want premium channels.

If you think that's OK, then fine. One reason I do not have DirectTV is the need for a tuner. Same for UVerse. I don't want an extra box lying around when my TVs are quite capable.

My TV has a digital cable ready tunes QAM. As TW removes analog channels that are standard tier, it does not add them to the digital QAM tier. It should be.

If a cable company came a long which provided only digital and HD channels in Clear QAM with the exception of premiums which would require a cable box/card, then I'd be switching to them.

Anthony said...

I would accept your argument, if the qualm is with all providers, versus one in particular. Which it seems to be

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