MPEG 4 Info for HD with DIRECTV

It may not be the number one question that we answer on the phone each day, but over time it might be. Everyone wants to know about the future of HD on DirecTV, and whether their HR10-250 (or the one they’re about to purchase) will be obsolete. In a word, the answer is “no.” The current HR10-250s won’t be obsolete anytime soon. We’ll give you more details.

Last January, DirecTV started the announcements of MPEG 4 transmissions. They claimed this would start mid-year (still hasn’t started yet) in twelve markets. The current update is that they claim to have the top twenty-four markets up soon. But the key is the programming here: local channels in these markets. If you have an OTA (over the air) antenna and get your local channels that way, then this is no improvement. Your HR10-250 (or H10 or H20 or older receiver) accepts input from an OTA antenna so you generally already get these channels.

At least for now, this is the sum of DirecTV’s MPEG 4 plans: local HD channels in twenty-four markets around the country. All other programming in HD (HBO, ESPN, Discovery, HDNet, HD movies, etc.) will remain in MPEG 2 format for at least the near future – probably for many, many years. Essentially, all DirecTV HD equipment out to date can only read MPEG 2 format, so all of that would need to be swapped if DirecTV cut these transmissions. The H20 is the new receiver and it can read MPEG 4 also, but it’s just trickling out (ours are in transit). And there is no MPEG 4 DVR out – the HR20 is rumored, but seems to be nowhere on the horizon – and, more importantly, it very likely won’t have the TiVo OS.

So we don’t think there’s any reason not to get an HR10-250 now. The new channels only benefit those in who can’t receive local HD transmissions, and they’ll need the new 5 LNB dish to get them with a new unit. DirecTV will be keeping compatibility with HR10-250s and H10s for several years to come.

Finally, there has been speculation about DirecTV’s plans to switch out all current HD equipment to newer equipment. We haven’t seen any concrete evidence that this will happen. We haven’t heard it from our DirecTV dealer representative either. It certainly may happen, especially as the price of HD equipment drops, but we just don’t have proof much less details.

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