ABC drops HD shows for ABC News 24

By David Knox on May 21, 2010 / Filed Under News 43

High definition drama and entertainment will become another victim of network restructuring when the ABC turns the ABC HD channel into ABC News 24.

The few programmes that aired in HD will be relegated to SD in the same way as TEN’s decision to introduce ONE HD impacted on its entertainment shows.

The good news is that the news channel will air in high definition when it airs in July.

The Sydney Morning Herald notes, in theory, the ABC could have converted one of the existing SD channels to HD, but the ABC’s director of TV, Kim Dalton, said there was a problem in finding enough suitable content.

It could be three years before entertainment shows are restored in true HD.

In 2013, when the digital switchover is complete and when HD was more mature, Dalton said the ABC would review the balance of SD and HD programming.

Networks must air a minimum of 1000 hours of HD content to meet licence requirements, around 3 hours per day. ABC will meet this with ABC News 24 when it launches in July.

The new channel will air content simultaneously around the country regardless of timezones.

The newspaper notes shows like Doctor Who will be one of the shows no longer airing in HD on ABC HD. However, TV Tonight understands the show has not been airing in HD because ABC does not purchase the more expensive HD version.



  1. Matthew May 23, 2010 at 2:22 am -

    I never understood the point of the HD requirements for ABC or SBS, with the requirements able to be met with out ever actually screening anything HD. The government needs to remove the HD content requirements from ABC and SBS ASAP so that the bandwidth can be better utilised. (If the ABC news channel was SD the resulting spare bandwidth could be allocated to ABC1, ABC2 and ABC3 resulting in 4 SD channels of reasonable quality.)

  2. Andrew B May 22, 2010 at 2:42 pm -

    Can’ t please everyone it seems. If you only have an SD box, then time to upgrade anyway as the new channels from Seven and Nine will be in HD only as well.

    Having to keep analogue on the air for so long is the main reason holding back the full development of digital TV in Australia. 2014 – when we are all digital will see major changes.

  3. effdee May 22, 2010 at 1:55 am -

    LOL I an so glad I haven’t bothered to waste money on a HD TV

  4. bindi May 22, 2010 at 12:37 am -

    I will certainly be adding this to my favourite channels lists, probably won’t watch it too often, but will switch whenever I am stuck in the 2-4am home shopping zone or when I want to get some news, although with a few news apps on my iphone now that isn’t such a problem as it used to be for me.

    The whole house is digital now, as we bought new devices the old STB’s that I was using have been spread around the house to other tv’s we don’t intend to replace and to the vcr’s, there is only 1 SD only device left but I don’t see any reason why this will cause a problem given which channels are HD only.

  5. Paull May 22, 2010 at 12:34 am -

    ka86: have you heard of something called the Internet? With the Internet, no one is left ‘out of the loop’ on breaking stories, as stories go up immeadiatly and are immeadiatly accessible to the whole world.

    But even if did happen to be stuck in the 90s and had not Internet access on you computer, all tv stations have at least 4-5 news bulletins every day. An early morning, a late morning, an arvo, a night and a late night. Not to mention hourly updates. If that wasn’t enough, channels do air, in some form, breaking news that is of significant public interet (such as the death of a high profile public figure), this is normally done by putting scrollig text on screen during a show.

    Also, I’d rather have less channels that have a high pic quality, than more channels with YouTube like picture quality.

    All that said and done, I still do look forward to checking out Abc4: News.

  6. ka86 May 21, 2010 at 10:18 pm -

    I really don’t get what all the fuss is about. Yes I do enjoy watching things in HD. But I value more channel over a few high quality videos anyday.

    ABC News 24 will revolutionise news broadcasting in Australia. No longer will people feel they are out-of-the-loop on issues that are breaking immediately.

  7. Craig May 21, 2010 at 10:10 pm -

    HD set top boxes are cheep now and really unless you’re on a very tight budget you’d be a fool to get an SD box (or TV for that mater)

    I watch mainly F1 on ONE HD and yes you can see the difference when switching back to TEN. As others have said the reason ABC did this is they legally can’t have more than on HD channel and it’s a marketing thing. Just like ONE HD or Ten, ABC can claim to be the only HD 24/7 news channel on FTA. Even if a lot of content would be YouTube quality.

    It is an irony of today with 1080 HD and big TVs that much of the content on them is no better that what you’d get watching the clips on you computer from various web sites. Same goes for music with MP3 players v CD quality.

  8. Reubot May 21, 2010 at 9:12 pm -

    So will the ABC be releasing it’s own HD programs on Blu-Ray or will we have to wait for them to be aired overseas or on pay?

  9. Bazza May 21, 2010 at 6:29 pm -


    Do you even know how HD digital TV works?

  10. "Anonymous" May 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm -

    Well, HD had a very short life on Australian digital TV…

  11. Rob May 21, 2010 at 6:12 pm -

    In 3 years things may change – just wait until analogue shuts down

  12. Rick May 21, 2010 at 5:56 pm -

    Gotta love Australia being so advanced!

  13. tasmanian devil May 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm -

    It’s easy for HD viewers to say “…oh, Channel X should be HD only to free up bandwidth etc…” but spare a thought for the SD viewers who’ve chosen not to buy an expensive HDTV fallaciously thinking the only benefit would be a sports channel they aren’t going to watch anyway, and now are missing out. And I can’t see what’s so great about having a news channel in HD. If anything it’s bad news because 1) Much of the footage will probably be SD anyway, 2) Using their HD channel for news seems like a waste, and 3) Having it HD only means a large proportion of viewers won’t be able to receive it.

  14. daqua_99 May 21, 2010 at 4:37 pm -

    I own a HD TV and can’t tell the difference, for most shows, between ‘HD’ and ‘SD’ versions of the same show on 7 and 9. No real problems here on my part. Bring on the news channel, it might actually be ‘news’ (unlike the crap on 7 and 9)

  15. Jordan May 21, 2010 at 4:17 pm -

    So no SD simulcast like ONE does? Pretty disappointing considering alot of people have purchased standard definition set top boxes, and one would think a 24/7 news channel would be available in standard definition as it doesn’t need HD picture quality and/or sound. Waste of bandwidth in my opinion

  16. Neon Kitten May 21, 2010 at 4:16 pm -

    For those wondering, the ABC actually has had quite a few HD shows that were actually screened in HD – both local drama (Rain Shadow, Bed Of Roses), and many documentaries, and even John Safran’s last series.

    I had wondered why the locally-produced “Voyage To The Planets” isn’t being screened in HD – and now we know. They’re pulling HD content, Ten-style, so viewers don’t notice anything going missing. But it was indeed there, usually not promoted aside from a tiny HD logo at the start but very much there.

    720p is a perfectly valid HD format, by the way. If you watch anything on ABC or FOX in the US – including Lost, Fringe, etc etc – you see it in 720p.

    This is a very, very bad decision by the ABC. And yes, just promotes more piracy.

  17. David S. May 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm -

    Currently no network has enough bandwidth or content for more than one HD channel (and until the analog switchoff in 2013 they’re not allowed more than one HD channel anyway). Also, one of their SD channels has to be a digital simulcast of their analog channel (in the ABC’s case that’s ABC1 Digital). Which means that the only channels the ABC could switch to HD now are ABC2 (which wouldn’t have enough HD content to meet the minimum 1040 hrs/yr govt HD content rule), ABC3 (ditto, and it’s a kids channel) or ABC News 24. QED.

    Post-2013 the networks can have as many digital channels, SD and HD, as they like and split them up between HD and SD however they like (though realistically they don’t have enough bandwidth for more than one HD channel each, so not much is likely to change). But the ABC will then be able to make ABC1 their HD channel (without the need to broadcast it in SD as well as they have to now).

  18. Chris May 21, 2010 at 3:51 pm -

    The question I’ve wanted to know for a while now is when the government licensed out the spectrum, why didn’t they include more HD channels in the package? To me, it would make more sense to license each “channel” as a SD + HD package. It doesn’t make sense (to me, but then again I’m no expert – maybe someone can fill me in) that each network gets one HD channel, but multiple SD channels. And that the networks (well 10 and soon the ABC) aren’t using it to simulcast their primary content in HD. Does anyone have a logical explanation?

  19. Kev May 21, 2010 at 3:41 pm -

    No ABC News for me,I’m not buying a HD box.Will just keep watching CNN,BBC,FOX and Sky News.

  20. Woody May 21, 2010 at 3:16 pm -

    Honestly can’t see any advantage in using ABC HD as the news channel, but then again – exactly what HD content have ABC had on the HD channel anyway?

    All seems a bit odd to me.

  21. Jason D. May 21, 2010 at 1:48 pm -

    I think that ABC News HD should be in standard definition, because most of the news content sourced from overseas will probably be in SD anyway, with the exception of the studio and local content such as interviews from politicians and Parliament Question Time. I know I would prefer ABC1 in HD, instead of ABC News.

  22. Richard W May 21, 2010 at 1:03 pm -

    It doesnt make sense… the networks seem to be hell bent on providing 3D content for a market of about 500 TV sets, but yet HD has been around for 6 or more years but they don’t want to promote HD content!

  23. Regan May 21, 2010 at 12:50 pm -

    I don;t even have ABC1 tuned in. I watch it all on ABC HD.

    When is this happening, because I’m going to have to make some adjustments.

  24. timmy May 21, 2010 at 12:04 pm -

    @Jack – it’s likely they will assign logical channel number (LCN) 24 to ABC News 24 as well as having the existing LCN 20 – both would point to the same stream, in the same way LCNs 3, 33 & 34 point to SBS’ main channel stream.

  25. CK May 21, 2010 at 11:51 am -

    @ Jack : Yes they could just point the digital “24” channel at the same stream as the “20” channel. They’re not channels anyway, just pointers (like shortcuts in Windows).

    They should probably think about pointing 20 at the same thing as 21, which is pointing at the same thing as 2 already.

  26. Rhys May 21, 2010 at 11:49 am -

    I’m looking forward to the ABC’s 24/7 news channel but I’m with others in wondering why on earth they’ve allocated their HD bandwidth to the service.

  27. Jack May 21, 2010 at 11:33 am -

    Would it not make marketing sense to have ABCnews24 on channel 24? As that is the next channel in the line up and ABCnews24 is effectively ACB4? It certainly would be a cool connection – 24hours of news on channel 24…

  28. Craig May 21, 2010 at 11:27 am -

    Exactly, no big deal as there was little to no native HD content on ABC HD anyway. I’m looking forward to a 24 hour news channel, ABC does have some excellent journalists out there who report proper news, unlike 7 and 9 who try to sensationalise everything.
    It’s a shame though that those with only a SD set top box will not be able to receive it.

    Like previous posters have mentioned HD does not seem to be taken seriously here in Australia. Even most of the general entertainment HD channels on Foxtel are just upconverted SD content rather that native HD.

    I’m looking forward to seeing how good a job SBS will do of providing the World Cup in true HD.

  29. Paul May 21, 2010 at 10:44 am -

    I don’t see the big deal, Like the blog said most of the shows on abc HD aren’t even in HD because it’s alot cheaper to just buy the SD versions. Abc HD is only 720p compared to the far surpeior 1080i resolution the 3 commerical networks use. While I may choose to watch seven HD over seven SD I certainly don’t watch abc HD over abc1 because the picture quality really isn’t that much better. I would prefer a completely new channel with seperate programming over a crappy HD similucast. And if that’s your reasoning for switching to foxtel, well all I can say is enjoy the monthly bill :)

  30. Dan May 21, 2010 at 9:56 am -

    What’s the big deal? Why is this even an issue? I would rather ABC News 24 then a ABC HD general channel, same one with One HD, better then Ten HD. It’s not like ABC HD has far superior picture quality anyway. I certainly won’t miss it.

  31. Peter May 21, 2010 at 9:09 am -

    What is the point of putting a news channel in HD? Most of what it will show will be people sitting in the studio in HD (exciting!) and reports largely shot in SD, including footage from overseas of appalling quality. It would have been much better to ask for the regulations to be changed so that the channel could be received by more viewers and more bandwidth could be given to the ABC’s other channels.

  32. Paul May 21, 2010 at 9:08 am -

    Pretty sure I recall at the time this was announced as “coming soon” that it was claimed that it wouldn’t adversely impact on their other operations.

    So much for that! :-(

    It’s great the ABC are moving ahead with a 24-hr news channel, but to dump HD content for it – especially content that is more varied – is not smart. Dalton saying “suitable” (whatever that means) content can’t be found is an odd remark. It’s out there. Even if they refuse to buy it. Hence TT’s observation.

    Does anyone know just how much more expensive are true HD shows compared to their SD counterparts? I’d be very surprised if it’s enormously more. For the BBC at least, I would think the ABC would get something like mate’s rates – we buy so much of their content and they’re both public broadcasters, etc etc. If HD content was priced at poisonous rates, the impetus to buy it would be low for all networks. Yet this doesn’t seem so, from the other channels’ schedules.

    Should a change of government reduce their funding, what then of their claim to see us right in 2013? Seems like another poor trade-off at the ABC…

  33. Mike May 21, 2010 at 9:08 am -

    what a bloody shame. They get you to upgrade your tv and now show even less HD programmes than a year ago. Im pi**ed. Another reason to get Foxtel.

  34. Adam May 21, 2010 at 9:00 am -

    Just to buck the trend, I’m a SD viewer who was hoping the News channel would be SD not HD :/

  35. Craig May 21, 2010 at 8:14 am -

    It’s a pity ABC can’t afford the HD version of Doctor Who but I guess it will no longer matter in a few months.

    It is ironic with retailers pushing HD TVs we have fewer entertainment channels in true HD, yes I love my sports in HD but really I can’t wait until there is enough bandwidth in the airwaves for all the SDs to have HD options.

  36. darthfyer May 21, 2010 at 8:10 am -

    Well, we all knew this was going to happen.

    At least the ABC haven’t completely ruled out other HD programming in the future. It’ll be interesting to see how this goes in 3 years time.

  37. pietro May 21, 2010 at 7:42 am -

    “problem in finding enough suitable content”. They can’t be looking very hard.

    Considering how much news footage is recorded in HD, having the new channel in 720p is a waste IMHO.

  38. Woody May 21, 2010 at 7:41 am -

    The ABC showed things in HD?

    News to me ;)

  39. Paul May 21, 2010 at 7:28 am -

    High definition news.
    oh the excitement, the tension the 5.1 surround sound
    Why does Australia just not care about HD
    Really this will never rate
    The networks already satuate us with news and factuals because it’s cheap

  40. Bazza May 21, 2010 at 7:21 am -

    What a monumental waste of bandwidth.

  41. Bogues May 21, 2010 at 6:59 am -

    The last sentence really sums it all up. ABC were showing not much HD content at all (at least as listed in the guides), so it’s no real miss.

    Am looking forward to the news channel though, and not being on a delay.

  42. Paull May 21, 2010 at 6:41 am -

    They could have easily converted abc2 to HD, the weekend and weekday preschool programming to abc 3, and thus retain HD entertainment, rather than giving us HD news.

    Then again, abcHD never really looked like an HD channel due to it’s 720p out put.

  43. kerry May 21, 2010 at 6:28 am -

    who cares – i dont watch much ABC anyway and why would i watch HD news – the same reason i dont watch ONE HD as i dont watch sports and if i did i have the channels on Foxtel

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