BBC to make all shows in HD by April 2011

All of the BBC’s networked TV programmes will be made and broadcast in high-definition by April 2011.

The BBC said that the television industry is moving towards HD “as a production standard” and that “the additional cost of making a programme in HD is now negligible in most situations”, compared to a few years ago when it was much more expensive to make HD content.

Given this, it said that from April 2011 it expects “all network programmes to be delivered in High Definition.” That’s right, we may yet get to see Peggy Mitchell in stunning high-definition – well, maybe not the stunning part.

The BBC is providing support for producers to make the transition to HD as seamless as possible. It will be offering advice on equipment, workflows and cost management, and training. The Executive Producer of BBC HD will also be on call for advice on moving to HD.

“There are no programmes for which we would absolutely rule out HD delivery,” it said. It qualified this by saying that there are some TV shows which are not majorly enhanced by moving to HD and will thus be a lower priority.

In order to meet the BBC’s qualifications for HD a show must contain at least 75 percent high-definition content. The other 25 percent allows for things like archive content, which would have been filmed in standard definition and has potential value in being displayed as such.

True HD sound quality will be 5.1 surround sound, but the BBC is not being strict about this, allowing producers to use standard stereo. It is also working on a wrap-around sound alternative, but did not provide any details on this.

HD is becoming increasingly popular, with 428,000 people signing up to it with Sky in the first three months of this year. Virgin Media received nearly 78,000 new HD customers in the same period, bringing its total HD userbase up to nearly a million. With the BBC planning to make all its shows in HD next year we would expect the HD adoption rate to skyrocket even higher.

“We now take the view that HD is becoming standard technology,” the BBC said, suggesting that others may follow suit in the move to full HD programming.