A while back I posted about the possibility that what SD cable and satellite viewers would be watching may change after the transition. In review here is the situation as I see it repeated:
With the analog cut off date fast approaching, I began a search for what the solution may be for cable and satellite providers if the 4:3 SD feed should disappear.
One way to get rid of the letterboxing is how Uverse displays the local channels for their SD feeds. They take the HD feed and crop the sides. Many Uverse customers complain about that as they would rather see the entire picture.
This issue will be revisited by cable and satellite providers when the analog cut off occurs next year and by everybody with the new converters, which may not be all that many people, but also everybody who watches the SD channels of local stations on cable and satellite systems. There seems to be a question unanswered as to whether the stations will continue to provide the 4:3 feeds or if only the 16:9 feed will be available. I have looked for an answer to this, but so far have not found one and maybe it will be a station by station call.
The problem the station has now is they are actually operating multiple TV stations. At least the analog station and the digital station, and many have additional sub-channels. Every feed requires some degree of manpower (or woman power) to provide the programming. I would think the stations would be looking forward to eliminate the 4:3 feed to reduce the labor when the cut off no longer has the need for the SD 4:3 feed.
If a station should cut the 4:3 feed then the cable and satellite will have to deal with only the 16:9 feed. Their choices will be to either show all of the programming in letterbox or crop the edges like Uverse does. If the letterbox approach is taken, then when a 4:3 program is shown it will have both the black letterbox bars and the black pillarbox bars leaving an extremely small picture on 4:3 sets. Sets that probably will not have any zoom settings to restore the picture to full screen. If the cropping method is used, then on shows that are widescreen, much of the original picture will be lost.
What the stations do now is essentially switch from 4:3 full screen to letterbox for the 4:3 feed and switch from 16:9 widescreen to 4:3 pillarbox for the HDTV feed. Will they continue the two feeds? My guess at this point is no they wonâ€™t and the providers will have a choice to make.
There is additional evidence that the stations will only be giving the HD feed to the other providers. It is the location of the network bugs. A few months ago the CBS bug was in the lower right hand area of the HD frame as shown here from a screen capture I recorded a few months ago:
Now here is a screen capture after the bug was moved toward the center to allow cropping the frame for 4:3 SD:
Yep it seems clearer that they will be taking to center portion of HD frames to send out the SD channels on cable and satellite in the future.