To Catch an HD Thief

In this month’s rAVe HomeAV Edition issue, there’s an article about CEDIA and HDMI, LLC (basically, the HDMI police) partnering to educateHomeAV integrators about the upcoming, impending analog sunset issues – when we turn off component video for good.

Believe it or not, that happens sooner rather than later. In fact, many Blu-ray disc players will totally turn of the HD output of their component video port this December.  And, the law/rule actually is vague in its application of other devices, but, it’s clear that it could be used to allow cableTV, satellite companies as well as set-top box manufacturers to have an excuse to do the same thing.

Why?

Well, consider this:  for years, owners of bars and restaurants have signed up for satellite TV service using their personal/home address. Those of you integrating bars and restaurants — come on, admit it.  It happens all the time.  They do this since a commercial license for satellite TV runs on average about $400 per month whereas a home (totally open – getting every channel possible) package is about $150 per month. Over a year, a commercial TV package can cost $3000 more per year – PER TV!!!  So, we turn the other cheek and let them call DirecTV themselves and sign up for a home TV package, all the while knowing they are actually using it for the restaurant or bar you just integrated AV gear in to.

And, as we all know, ever since HDTV came on the scene, we’ve used component video gear to route the signal all over the place.

OK, so, what’s the big deal?

Well, TECHNICALLY, DirecTV can be very, very creative to catch all those so-called home accounts that are really commercial accounts. Here’s how:  DirecTV could make a decision to use the analog sunset deadline as an excuse to stop allowing component video to be fed from their boxes.  Think they won’t do that?  Well, here’s why they might. Statistically, over 85 percent of home HDTV installs of flat screen TVs connected to actual HD satellite set-top boxes are connected with HDMI.  Sure, 15 percent are done via component video, but they can solve that crisis by simply sending out a free HDMI cable to all those that call and complain (assuming they cut off the component video feed – or, more likely, step down the resolution to a max of 480p – like the Blu-ray players will be in late December of this year).  So, imagine if they decided to KEEP component video open for all commercial accounts since that’s very likely component video – in fact, statistically, 97 percent of those installs using HD DirecTV boxes ARE component video. You know that; you installed them.  So, while announcing they are keeping component video open and feeding 720p and 1080i (as it’s, politically, the right thing to do since we all know re-integrating them to be all HDMI right now would be cost prohibitive and nearly impossible), they also announce they are turning off component video at 720p and 1080 – only feeding 480.

This is VERY creative. Think about it: statistically, they field phone calls from homeowners who notice the lower resolution output and they offer to send them a FREE HDMI cable and tell them to connect it up to get the full HD feed.  Of course, those same illegally connected bars and restaurants (those who have commercial accounts registered at their homes) will call up and complain the signal quality dropped.  DirecTV tells them, “No worries! We’ll send you an HDMI cable…”  Ah, but herein lies the dilemma – the HDMI cable won’t solve the problem since they’ve got a component video feed distributing the TV stuff everywhere.  So, they’ve either got to call you out to re-distribute HDMI via switchers and DAs or they’ve got to switch the account to a commercial one – thereby admitting they were stealing it all along. Remember, the concept here is that DirecTV would keep the component video the way it is now – at 720 and 1080. This way there will be no massive complaints from commercial accounts that are registered as such.

Hmm…

Don’t think it could happen? Just wait…