Could Primetime Relics Rejuvenate UK TV’s HD Prospects?

Monday’s launch of Sky’s newest channel, Jones!, may pave the way for UK TV’s conversion to HD.

Jones! will largely showcase content from the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s that’s already aired extensively not only on free-to-air but also Sky’s UK TV, Comedy Central and The Box channels.

There’s a handful of series that stand out simply because they haven’t been on our screens for decades, like All in the Family, Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads? and Columbo.

But otherwise the schedule resembles a licensing rights fire sale – one that lazily recycles nostalgia rather than truly explores TV’s retro roots.

Where are the seminal series that older viewers grew up with, like The Dick Van Dyke Show, Petticoat Junction, The Andy Griffith Show, Gunsmoke, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Laramie, Wagon Train, I Spy, Night Gallery, The Defenders, Rawhide … all shows that have been off-air since baby boomers were virtually babies.

To wit: next month Jones! will dust off The Twilight Zone – not the groundbreaking ‘60s original but the tepid ‘80s re-make.

However, the fact that so many ex-UK TV properties will figure on Jones! — Open All Hours, Porridge, Minder, The Sweeney, Dad’s Army – may point to the BBC-run channel at last going HD.

Sky boss John Fellet historically has argued UK TV has too many vintage shows to warrant the cost of converting to HD.

But over the last few months UK TV has progressively ditched its predominantly UK Gold-style for more aggressive and contemporary programming, such as its weeknight soap strips.

It’s now screening an unprecedented number of first-run hours that have aired internationally in HD, including Top of the Lake, Parade’s End, Exile and Hidden, along with staples like Doctor Who and Top Gear that would pick up viewers who can’t endure their original broadcasts in SD on Prime.

Over the Tasman, both UK TV and BBC Knowledge air in HD on Foxtel, and are overdue for a 1080i upgrade here.

While Sky won’t confirm this possibility, it acknowledges UK TV is more likely to go HD ahead of other existing services.

For instance, while CNN and Fox News have HD US feeds, Sky sees no point in offering that quality of news coverage here.

“It wouldn’t be a high priority for us to carry the CNN HD feed,” Sky spokeswoman Kirsty Way says.

“Other channels like UKTV have a much higher viewership. HD on channels other than CNN would benefit our customers more.”

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5 Responses to “Could Primetime Relics Rejuvenate UK TV’s HD Prospects?”

  1. I’m SO looking forward to JONES … anyone else? 🙂

  2. I think this a logical move for Sky and it does reflect what’s happening in Australia. The BBC announced last month the launch of a new premium HD drama channel on Foxtel for new BBC drama and comedy that would be exclusive to pay-TV for 12 months before appearing on free-to-air. Quite possibly the BBC are wanting to launch that here. Could this mean that Coronation Street and Emmerdale end up on UK TV!

  3. The Jones line-up looks good despite everything being straight from retail DVD sets. I’m sure a channel exclusively covering the western genre would go down a treat in NZ, as would a war movie or crime-and-mystery movie channel (eg. we already have a comedy channel on Sky).

  4. It would be fabulous if Sky and the BBC did a similar deal for a premium drama channel but the various free-to-air rights tangle in this territory probably make it unlikely. In any event, TVNZ’s access to Emmerdale and Coro is through ITV, and despite its shabby treatment of Coro (18 months behind, not airing HD eps), the broadcaster would be prepared to pay big money to keep them.

  5. Too many rose tinted glasses. Many of those ‘classic’ shows were crap then and are crap now.

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