The following is information you might find useful in better understanding this new technology:
What is digital television (DTV)?
The television picture viewers currently receive is based on an analog transmission system that is more than 50 years old. In December 1996 the Federal Communications Commission approved the U.S. standard for a new era of television: digital television. In a digital system, images and sound are captured using the same binary code found in computers - ones and zeroes. Digital television will not only dramatically improve the quality of the television picture, but also make possible the over-the-air delivery of several simultaneous services to viewers. This is due primarily to the three main benefits of the digital system: high definition television, multicasting in standard definition television and data transmission.
What is high definition television (HDTV)?
Digital television will allow stations to broadcast programs in much higher resolution or clarity than standard analog television. This is called high definition television or HDTV. Viewers at home will be able to receive high-quality, crystal-clear pictures. These visually stunning pictures, with more than twice the resolution and clarity of standard television, will be displayed in a wide screen format with a 16 by 9 width to height ratio compared to todayâ€™s 4 by 3 (basically square) format. And because HDTV is digital, viewers will have the benefit of six-channel CD-quality â€œsurround sound.â€ In other words, viewers will be able to enjoy a true home theater experience. TBN does not presently broadcast a HDTV signal but we do broadcast one or more "standard definition" signals in our DTV transmission in certain cities.
What is multicasting?
When not transmitting in HDTV, broadcasters will be able to transmit four or more channels of standard definition television (SDTV) programming simultaneously. This is called multicasting. Although SDTV will not match HDTV in picture quality, it will offer a higher quality picture than we have today. In communities where available, we offer TBN, JC-TV, Church Channel and TBN Enlace in our multicasted signal.
Will consumers be able to watch digital television on their existing sets?
Only if they obtain a digital converter box. DTV information is encoded in a different way than the analog television signal and therefore will require a different kind of receiver. Manufacturers are making converter boxes that will allow viewers to receive programs broadcast on DTV channels on their analog TV sets. However, in order to experience the full benefits of digital television, including HDTV, viewers will need new digital television sets.
The following is a list of cities in which we presently broadcast a digital signal:
La Salle, IL
Oklahoma City, OK
New York, NY
St. Joseph, MO
Presently, TBN's station in Canton/Akron/Cleveland, OH offers TBN, JC-TV, Church Channel and TBN Enlace on it's special four channel "multicasted" digital signal. In other words, all four networks can be received by viewers with a digital tuner or set-top-box. Soon, Atlanta, GA and New York will also be able to receive all four channels. Ultimately, TBN's four networks will be available via DTV in some 30 cities across America.
TBN's Local DTV Stations via Cable
At the present time, Cable TV will not be offering TBN's local digital channels, so the only way viewers will be able to receive them will be through use of an antenna receiving local over-the-air transmissions. It may be necessary to use a rooftop antenna. In some cases, local cable systems might make TBN, JC-TV, Church Channel or TBN Enlace available as one of it's offerings from our national satellite distribution, so if you desire is receive one or more of those, please inquire with your local cable outlet.
"HDTV Ready" TV Sets
The equipment required in the home for doing so will require either the purchase of one of the new digital "HDTV ready" sets with a DTV tuner or a set-top-box. If you choose to purchase one of the new digital "HDTV ready" sets, it is absolutely required that it be purchased with the optional "DTV tuner" in the event it does not come with one built in. Most are called "monitors" instead of "TV sets" because they do not have a tuner built in. So it is important that you include the tuner in your purchase. The new monitors or sets are the more expensive option, and will allow the best possible picture and are capable of receiving the high definition broadcasts of some of the other major network stations. TBN does not yet broadcast high definition programs. These new generation digital TV sets and monitors are available at nearly all major electronic appliance outlets such as Circuit City, Best Buy and many others.
There is additional good news about TV sets being capable of receiving digital signals. The Federal Communications Commission has enacted new rules requiring TV set manufacturers to begin phasing in DTV tuners in nearly ALL sets by 2007. This phase in requires:
* Receivers with screen sizes 36 inches and above; 50% of all units must include DTV tuners effective July 1, 2004 and 100% of all sets by July 1, 2005
* Receivers with screen sizes 25 to 35 inches; 50% of all units must include DTV tuners effective July 1, 2005 and 100% of all sets by July 1, 2006.
* Receivers with screen sizes 13 to 24 inches; 100% of all sets by July 1, 2007.
* All VCRs, DVD players/recorders and other such devices that receive broadcast television signals; 100% must include DTV tuners by July 1, 2007.
So armed with this information, when planning replacement of any and all TV sets in your home you should be aware that between July 1 of 2004 and beyond, you will have many choices at your local store from which to choose that are capable of receiving DTV transmissions.
What About Now? Can I Use My Old TV?
Yes. By Purchasing a "Set-Top-Box"
The second option for receiving TBN's digital over-the-air broadcasts is a "set-top-box". These boxes can be purchased for as little as under $300 over the internet and at certain discount dealers, and can be used to covert digital broadcasts for use with one's old TV set without having to replace the TV set. The benefit is the low cost. But a disadvantage is it's inability for the old TV to render high definition pictures on the old set. It is an improvement on the performance of the old set in that one can receive TBN's three other channels (where available) and can generally provides a cleaner more noise free picture than the set did using it's old technology tuner. These boxes can be obtained either at the local electronics stores, or can be purchased over the internet at generally lower prices.
The following is a list of some of the more popular, presently available "set-top-boxes":
Make and Model - Internet Price Range
Panasonic TU-DST52 - $349-$499
Samsung SIR-T151 - $299-$339
Toshiba DST-3100 - $537-599
One Other Option
For those who spend a lot of time on their computer, or wish to take advantage of the high resolution capabilities of a computer display or simply wish to save space, there is one other option. That is the purchase and installation of a HD television tuner card right into their personal computer. Happauge Computer Works manufactures a device called WinTV. This is a card that can be installed directly into most personal computers. Once installed and connected to an antenna, it can use the high resolution display on your computer for watching DTV signals or even HDTV signals from the various over-the-air broadcast TV stations. These cards can be obtained over the internet as well.
Internet Purchasing. Find the Best Deals
The following is a list of internet price search sites and retailers known to sell DTV related equipment:
Prices and Vendor Comparison Search Sites:
If you have experience using an internet search engine, you will find that these sites operate in a similar manner. Type in key words such as "DTV set top boxes" and the sites should identify the available products with a listing of online retailers who make them available. Most have customer performance ratings for both the product and the vendor.
Vendors Known To Sell DTV Products:
(When choosing a vendor, many of the price search sites offer customer ratings which are based on the past experiences of their users. It would be wise to review these as some vendors have a much better performance than others. Price should not be the only consideration when choosing an internet vendor as some of the ones offering the lowest prices also have the poorest performance.)
One final note. The plan in the USA is to completely phase out virtually all analog transmission by 2007. Few believe that it will be gone that soon, but it certainly will be by the end of the decade. So regardless of when it does, at some point in time your old TV set, VCR etc. will no longer work for receiving over-the-air broadcast transmissions without replacement or by your adding a set-top box or other means to convert them to receive digital signals. So start planning soon on what you will do. I hope this information is useful in helping you understand more about DTV and HDTV, TBN's activity in it as well as how you can begin planning it for your home.