A recent article in Forbes.com states that the 2006 World Cup in Germany will be broadcast only in wide-screen format. On conventional TVs, the image will be letterboxed.
Philips Electronics struck this broadcast deal with FIFA. Philips, of course, is a major manufacturer of TVs and would love to start selling more of their higher profit margin, wide-screen TVs.
The problem for TV manufacturers is that they are still on the short end of the network effect. People are hesitant to buy wide-screen TVs until there is enough content available that would take advantage of the format. Apparently, all the DVDs that provide the full 16:9 aspect ratio in which the movies were originally filmed hasn’t been enough. Broadcasters and their content providers are hesitant to produce and broadcast wide-screen content until enough consumers have wide-screen TVs. Otherwise, they face the ire of all the consumers who are unhappy to see all those pixels “going to waste” when the content is letterboxed on their current 4:3 aspect ratio TV.
This hopefully won’t be an issue for us, as we plan to actually be in Germany for World Cup in 2006. For the games we don’t attend, we will try to find pubs, bars, or restaurants with wide-screen TVs. I expect that most places in Germany will have upgraded by then.
We almost certainly will have purchased a wide-screen TV at home by then, anyway. I need to read more about the Broadcast Flag (more here) to decide if we need to make the purchase in time to beat the July 1, 2005, implementation of this seemingly quite misguided ruling by the FCC.