Friday, June 03, 2005

Hi-Def Birds?

So far I've managed to catch just one Baltimore Orioles baseball game in high-definition since I've had my new cable box/DVR. It was last Friday's game against the Tigers, in which the Os' clawed their way back from a 4-0 deficit to go into the bottom of the ninth a single tally behind, at 4-3. They loaded the bases with two out when one of their youngest hitters, Jeff Fiorentino, struck out to end the game.

The game was broadcast live from the Birds' home venue in Baltimore, Oriole Park at Camden Yards, on Comcast SportsNet Mid-Atlantic, HD channel 200 on my Comcast box.

The picture was absolutely stunning on my 720p 61" Samsung DLP. Did it start out as 1080i, or 720p? Who knows? For sports fans, though, this kind of picture (and sound) quality is reason enough to go hi-def.

It looks to me as if, sadly, none of the televised O's games that don't originate from Camden Yards — i.e., none of the away games — are in HD. But it's real hard to find out for sure.

For example, take a look at the team's broadcast schedule here. Now, compare that listing with this one. Notice the listings for the games against Houston and Colorado on June 13 through 17. On the second list, which is from the Comcast SportsNet website, one sees "CSN/CSNHD," implying these games will be shown in HD on channel 200. But in the first list, which is from the Orioles' official website, it just says "CSN." No mention of CSNHD.

It gets hairier. Some of the games on the official O's website schedule are shown as "WJZ / PAX 66," and yet others as "WB54 / PAX 66." Of the three channels mentioned, as far as I know only WJZ has a hi-def twin in my cable lineup: WJZ-DT, channel 212. WB54 is WNUV-54, channel 14 — non-hi def, and not even digital. PAX 66 is channel 20 on cable, also non-digital lo-def.

So possibly, just possibly, home games on WJZ will show up on WJZ-DT in HD. One can always hope. (Notice also that the CSN listing is entirely silent about these other broadcast outlets.)

My cable box's onboard program guide does in fact tell me about Birds' games appearing on supposedly-HD channel 200 — except that it forgets to distinguish between those carried only in standard definition and those actually carried in true high defintion.

Plus, channel 200 is presently omitted from the guide's dedicated list of supposedly HDTV-only channels, with the lo-def CSN sister channel, channel 7, appearing in its stead. If I select from the list a game that I know damn well is going to be shown in HD on 200 and tell the DVR to record it, the channel-7 lo-def version is what gets recorded — which is exactly what you'd expect, since it says channel 7 right there on the screen. Comcast simply needs to make sure it's channel 200 that shows up in the HDTV channel list, not channel 7.

Notice also that the O's official broadcast schedule makes no mention of games on ESPN or ESPN2. Fox's Games of the Week are listed, though — but there's no indication whether any of them are going to be in hi-def. (I do receive a hi-def twin of my local Fox station: channel 213, WBFF-DT, so, again, I can hope.)

ESPN and ESPN2 present their upcoming HD offerings here. Only the next month or so gets listed, and I find no Baltimore Orioles games shown at the present time (the list runs from June 3 through July 4th).

Joy of joys, I do get ESPN-HD on channel 202. I'm guessing that it carries whatever HD offerings happen to be on either ESPN or ESPN2, but I'm not sure about that. Maybe it's just duplicating ESPN, not ESPN2. Maybe there's a separate ESPN2-HD which my cable system doesn't carry.

Confusin', ain't it?

Of course, the problem is basically that so few people's homes are HD-ready yet. To be HD-ready, they'll have to be at least digital-ready. I'm not clear on how digital-ready they'll need to be before the powers-that-be in Washington deem it time to pull the plug on analog TV. More on that in my next post.

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