The End of an Era

Over the last two decades, the average size of televisions in American households has been growing. From 1998 to 2018, TVs have ballooned from just 23 inches to 47! By 2021, televisions are projected to push past 50 inches or more.

According to Forbes, in a world that increasingly being dominated by screens, TVs are getting bigger to stay relevant. They are a focal point for shared viewing experiences in our living rooms, whereas smaller screens remain a solitary experience.

Example of Standard Definition Shop LC broadcast.

What SD viewers were previously seeing.

Shop LC has seen this trend affect viewership, too. Joe Arnold, Broadcast Engineering Manager, breaks it down for me.

“The main driver behind this change was to align the viewer experience and allow our production team to maximize their workspace. Before this change, High Definition (HD) viewers received more product information and promotion then our Standard Definition (SD) viewers.”

“Previously, we used a left cut down-convert for our SD feed, which means you cut the right-hand side of the screen off. This cut causes us to have a smaller area to shoot and display our products. However, the benefit to this type of conversion, from a viewer perspective, is that you use the customer’s entire screen, and on small monitors, you have larger graphics and text.”

Since TVs are getting bigger, there is less benefit to converting an HD feed to an SD feed. What is essential, however, is providing customers as much information as possible.

In with the New

“Over the last six months, we have been running a lot of promo videos and call to action graphics on the right side of the screen, so a left cut down-convert was eliminating that for our SD viewers,” Joe explains. “This negates the benefit of larger text and graphics from a left cut.”

High Definition Shop LC broadcast.

What all Shop LC viewers now see.

Due to resolution, HD feeds are in a 16×9 format, and SD is in a 4×3 format. This resolution determines how the picture fills up your screen.

“So, we decided to change our down-convert to an anamorphic aspect ratio,” Joe tells me. “This shrinks the entire feed down to fit it into a 4×3 aspect ratio, leaving tabs on the top and bottom to fill in the space.”

Testing ran for two weeks. DirectTV viewers would receive the new feed while other SD viewers would receive the existing one.

“We ran a test case on DirectTV for almost two weeks, and we received only one complaint from viewers about the change, so we implemented it across all SD platforms.”

“This change will drastically improve the production and video content team’s ability to produce more visually-appealing content for our viewers,” says Joe.

So, Standard Definition broadcast will continue, just with a new presentation!

Are you an SD viewer? What do you think of the new feed?

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