High-definition television in the United Kingdom
High-definition television in the United Kingdom is available via cable, IPTV, satellite and terrestrial television. The first high-definition broadcasts began in 2006 and the number of channels has grown to 65 as of October 2011[update].
The majority of channels in the United Kingdom remain broadcast, and largely viewed, in standard-definition but most major broadcasters have begun or are soon beginning their initial forays into high-definition television. Similarly, the vast majority of viewing still takes place in standard-definition though penetration of high-definition displays and receivers is increasing.
Current status 
High-definition broadcasts are available on free-to-air digital satellite, Freesat, Freesat from Sky and Sky satellite service and the Smallworld Cable and Virgin TV cable service. In addition, Freeview began rolling out a terrestrial HD service in 2009 on a region-by-region basis, largely following digital switchover, to cover the whole country by the end of 2012.
The BBC initially operated BBC HD on a trial basis on Sky and Telewest (now Virgin Media). Following full approval by the BBC Trust, the service expanded its hours to start at 15:00 and finish at midnight. On 5 August 2009, the BBC changed their encoders for satellite broadcast and reduced the video bitrate from 16Mbit/s to 9.4Mbit/s. More aggressive compression is being used which is causing macroblocking to appear.
On 28 May 2010, the BBC announced that they would launch a simulcast of BBC One in HD to accompany the BBC HD channel, which is aimed to show the best programming of the BBC in high-definition, where the new channel is aimed purely at being a HD version of BBC One. BBC One HD launched at 19:00 on 3 November 2010. In July 2011, rumours began to surface about BBC HD being replaced by BBC Two HD. These were originally rejected but on 6 October 2011 it was confirmed that the BBC plan to replace BBC HD with a single version of BBC Two HD in 2013. BBC Two HD replaced BBC HD on 26 March 2013. Meanwhile, BBC One HD received nations variations for Northern Ireland on 24 October 2012, Scotland on 14 January 2013 and Wales on 29 January 2013.
The ITV network started broadcasting a trial service on Telewest's digital cable television platform as well as on the digital terrestrial television trial in London during the 2006 Football World Cup. The service ceased after this period, but a new HD service began to be made available with the launch of Freesat, on 7 June 2008, where selected programmes were offered in HD format, and accessed by the red button on Freesat receivers. ITV plc intended to spend £10m during 2008 on supporting ITV HD. This occasional feed was intended for Freesat viewers and was not listed in the Sky EPG. However, ITV HD could be tuned in manually on Sky HD boxes via the "other channels" section from the "services" menu.
On 12 March 2010 ITV plc announced its intention to launch a full-time ITV1 HD service, available on Freeview, Freesat, Virgin Media, and Sky. The service launched on 2 April at 06:00. STV followed with STV HD on 2 April 2010, available on Freeview, Virgin Media and free-to-air satellite. While UTV launched UTV HD on Virgin Media on 5 October 2010. ITV1 HD was renamed back to ITV HD on 14 January 2013.
Channel 4 
Channel 4 launched its HD service on digital satellite in December 2007. The channel was encrypted on satellite, available with a free-to-view viewing card but as of April 2011 it is available free-to-air on Freesat. The channel is also available on Freeview and Virgin Media.
On 14 December 2009, Channel 4 launched a second HD channel to Sky customers, E4 HD. The channel is a simulcast of E4, with selected programming in HD. Unlike its standard definition counterpart, E4 HD is a subscription channel, part of Sky's HD pack.
For the duration of the 2012 Summer Paralympics, Channel 4 operated three high-definition channels dedicated to the Paralympics on Freesat, Sky and Virgin Media, as well as one channel on Freeview.
S4C launched a HD service, S4C Clirlun, on 30 April 2010. The service was exclusive to Freeview in Wales and available instead of Channel 4 HD. However, it was announced on 11 July 2012 that, as part of cost-saving measures designed to deal with the impact of cuts to S4C's public funding, Clirlun would close at the end of the year. The channel closed at 11:59 p.m. on 1 December 2012, allowing Channel 4 HD to begin broadcasting in Wales on Freeview from 2 December 2012.
Channel 5 
Channel 5 was awarded a licence for HD transmissions on Freeview from 2010, but due Channel 5 being unable to resolve certain key criteria, the capacity was handed back to the BBC. Five HD launched on Sky and Virgin Media platforms on 13 July 2010. The channel is free-to-view on satellite.
In 2011 Channel 5 HD was the sole applicant for a fifth high-definition channel slot on Freeview, with the aim of launching in spring or early summer 2012. On 15 December 2011, Channel 5 dropped its bid to take the fifth slot after being unable to resolve "issues of commercial importance".
BSkyB began HD transmissions of several channels in May 2006.
In March 2009, the Digital TV Group published the technical specification for high definition services on digital terrestrial television (DTT), contributing to the launch of three HD channels on the Freeview platform in early 2010.
The technical launch of Freeview HD took place on 3 December 2009, when the service began broadcasting on UHF channel 54 from the Winter Hill transmitting station in Chorley, Lancashire, and on UHF channel 31 from the Crystal Palace transmitting station in Bromley, Greater London.
The service is currently being rolled out on a region by region basis across the UK in accordance with the digital switchover programme. An advanced retrofit programme has been introduced to bring Freeview HD coverage to major cities such as London and Birmingham before they switch to digital television.
The broadcasts make use of a single multiplex currently allowing four channels, BBC One HD, BBC Two HD, ITV HD/STV HD/UTV HD and Channel 4 HD with a fifth slot still yet to be assigned. These broadcasts form the Freeview HD service which requires new reception equipment, available since the consumer launch in early 2010.
Until 17 October 2011, the Commercial Public Service Broadcasters had the opportunity to apply to Ofcom to provide an additional HD service from between 28 November 2011 and 1 April 2012. Channel 5 HD was the sole applicant.
Between 22 and 23 March 2011, an encoder software change allowed the Freeview version of BBC HD to automatically detect progressive material and change encoding mode appropriately, meaning the channel could switch to 1080p25. This was extended to all of the other Freeview HD channels in October 2011.
Sky has been carrying HD channels since May 2006. As of 2012[update] it has over sixty HD channels, a mix of basic and premium subscription, free-to-air and free-to-view services.
Free-to-view (Freesat from Sky) 
Freesat launched on 6 May 2008. It provides a subscription-free alternative to Sky and includes support for HD with a selection of HD channels available via a Freesat HD box.
Freesat is a not-for-profit company formed by the BBC and ITV, marketing itself as being completely free from subscription charges or contracts, although viewers of course are still obliged to pay the television licence, and must purchase a suitable satellite receiver and have a satellite dish installed (if they do not already have one) to receive the service. Freesat receivers are available in both standard definition and high definition versions. HD channels are available only when the satellite receiver is capable of supporting it.
Arise News HD, BBC One HD, BBC Two HD, Channel 4 HD, ITV HD, NHK World HD and STV HD and RT HD are available without subscription on digital satellite, and may be received by anybody with suitable equipment — a high-definition satellite receiver and a satellite dish.
Virgin Media 
Virgin TV's V+ cable service was the first HD service in the UK when it was launched by Telewest as the TVDrive on 1 December 2005. From launch it carried two channels but after the completion of ITV's HD trial, it only carried the BBC HD channel, alongside on demand content from several broadcasters. However from 2009 the number of HD channels steadily increased, which as of 2012[update] stands at over thirty HD channels.
Smallworld Cable 
Smallworld Cable began offering a selection of HD channels in April 2011 through their Smallworld HD+ service.
BT Vision, a hybrid digital terrestrial and IPTV service, augments standard definition broadcast channels with on-demand pay-per-view high-definition programmes, which the viewer downloads to the V-box set-top-box then watches when the download is complete. The HD service launched in February 2009.
Similarly, TalkTalk TV carries pay-per-view high-definition programmes, which the viewer downloads to the TalkTalk+ set-top-box then watches when the download is complete. The first HD content was added on 7 December 2009.
See also 
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- "BBC Two HD to replace BBC HD; BBC Three and BBC Four face cuts". What Satellite and Digital TV. 6 October 2011. Retrieved 6 October 2011.
- "TV to stream 24 channels for digital Olympic". BBC. 3 April 2012.
- "More choices announced for BBC Olympic viewers". BBC. 18 April 2012.
- "Confirmed: ITV HD is Freesat exclusive". Digitalspy. 2008-05-06. Retrieved 2008-05-06.
- "HD version of ITV to launch next Spring". Digital Spy. 12 September 2007. Retrieved 2007-09-12.
- James Welsh. "Channel 4 HD to launch in December". Retrieved 2007-09-19.
- Andrew Laughlin. "Channel 4 confirms E4 HD launch on Sky". Retrieved 2009-12-124.
- "Channel 4 to offer three dedicated Paralympic Games channels". Radio Times. 15 August 2012.
- "Sky customers to enjoy comprehensive access to the best of Channel 4". Channel 4. 14 September 2012.
- "S4C efficiency measures on course to meet targets". S4C authority. Retrieved 2012-08-17.
- "NOTICE OF VARIATION VARIATION NUMBER 28". Ofcom. 27 November 2012.
- "Channel 5 set for licence for high definition programmes on digital terrestrial television". 2009-06-11.
- "Five unable to meet Ofcom HD deadline". Broadband TV News. 2010-03-15. Retrieved 2010-03-17.
- Channel Five to go HD on BSkyB
- "Channel 5 takes Freeview HD slot". Broadband TV News. 1 November 2011.
- "Response to Ofcom’s Third Invitation to Apply for DTT Multiplex B Capacity". Ofcom. 17 October 2011.
- "Channel 5 again ditches plans to launch HD channel on Freeview". The Guardian. 15 December 2011.
- "Freeview HD goes live". Register Hardware. 2009-12-03.
- "Third Invitation to Apply for DTT Multiplex B capacity - Statutory Notice". Ofcom. 5 September 2011.
- "Response to Ofcom’s Third Invitation to Apply for DTT Multiplex B Capacity". Ofcom. 17 October 2011.
- "Software Upgrade for BBC HD on Freeview HD". BBC. 5 April 2011.
- "TVDrive to start high definition revolution". Telewest. Retrieved 2005-12-01.
- "Virginmedia: High Definition TV". Retrieved 2007-09-19.
- "Virgin TV Customers to See the HD Clearer Picture for No Monthly Fee". Virgin Media. 2010-03-16.
- "Virgin Media's TiVo platform to go live". Digital Spy. 2010-12-01.
- HD TV comes to BT Vision — starting with 11 stunning BBC documentaries
- "Tiscali TV launches HD 'Harry Potter'". Digital Spy. 2009-12-07.