Carol's switch to Sky HD has made me think seriously about unbundling TV from my Virgin VIP package and signing up with Sky, and this blog's poll shows that I'm not alone. She's managed to make it pay for itself and is hugely impressed with her new service, which is great news for her and will possibly encourage others to follow suit.
And Virgin Media only has itself to blame if there's a customer exodus. Personally, I don't think there will be just yet as the demand for HD isn't that great with the great British Public and I think we're still a few years from a tipping point beyond the early adopters. At the moment, HD is niche, and Sky's the place to find it if that's what floats your boat.
As anyone who's followed this blog will know I've been growing increasingly frustrated with Virgin's attitude to HD. Despite the promises, we actually have LESS On Demand high definition programming now than we did a year ago, and the improvements we have seen with HD - a better BBC HD and wider selection from FilmFlex - have been a result of other companies' recognition of the HD future of TV, not Virgin's.
But after much consideration I'm sticking with Virgin. For now, at least. If it was just my decision my family would have adopted Sky for TV years ago around the time the Sky+ first appeared. But it's a family thing and it's not an easy switch to make if I'm trying to keep everyone happy. So here are the crumbs of comfort that help me live with that decison:
1. HD is great, but it's not our TV's raison d'etre. Video On Demand, especially iPlayer, is used almost everyday by my family and we're a democratic household. My wife likes Virgin Media (she'd also be happy with Freeview, but let's not go there). My daughter likes the music On Demand. We all find new stuff in TV Choice on Demand we enjoy and iPlayer and the C4 catch up services have proven invaluable. It would for us all be a big loss to move to Sky Anytime's second rate service.
2. The programmes/channels we actually watch aren't available in HD. We watch the BBC and Channel 4 channels mostly (including Film4, our favourite movie channel). We sometimes watch ITV channels, TCM and Dave, and sometimes Virgin1 or Living. None of these are in HD (except C4, more on that in a mo) yet. Showcase HD channels are impressive but not what we want. We get our documentary fix from the BBC, which I personally much prefer to Nat Geo, Discovery or History. Sky1? Got over that last year - we watch Battlestar and Lost on DVD now. So even with Sky HD we wouldn't actually watch much HD. Not yet, anyhow.
3. Film4 HD, where art thou? We do watch Sky Movie channels at weekends, but if it's a film we're really into we will have seen it at the cinema, will have it on DVD or may watch it on FilmFlex - by the time it hits Sky Movies it'll be a second or even third viewing for us. The one film channel we would possibly switch for is Film4 HD, but no sign of that on any platform yet.
4. The V+ upscaling is "good enough". It's not HD, but for our viewing it's more than adequate. We have two LCD HD-ready TV's in the house; a 32in Tosh and a 20in Sony. Neither are really big enough to make the most of HD. I doubt we'll look to replace either before 2012. The V+ upscaling is very good, especially on BBC4 (which is my fave channel most weeks), More 4, C4 and ITV1 (the latter being notoriously poor on Sky). I've been less impressed with the Sky HD box's upscaling and find the V+ better.
5. The Temptation of Footie in HD. Yes, I know I'm clutching at straws here but the picture on Sky Sports has improved considerably since they're been shooting in HD, even on the SD channels. I'm not a sports junkie though and the Sky Sports package is a luxury I would drop if money became an issue. (Having said that, am I alone in finding the Sky Movies' picture worse of late? It used to be great but now looks over saturated to my eyes.)
Anyway, for the forseeable future we'll stick with Virgin. Which I guess will please fans of this blog as I desperately continue to hunt down information on Virgin's HD scraps. And maybe even those with Sky HD will visit here still to see how sad a search that can be. I guess there are many who want more HD on Virgin but not to the point where they can or will switch to Sky. So, as they used to say, stay tuned.
And, who knows? Maybe one day we'll have a high definition service after all, even if it is after the Freesat and even Freeview services have their HD offerings available to tempt us...