HBO announced at the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo that all of their HDTV programming will be distributed in MPEG-4. HBO will distribute a total of 26 channels in HD MPEG-4 by sometime in 2008. This HBO decision has implications for all video service providers, with particular impact on operators who operate in an MPEG-2 environment.
MPEG-2 operators will either have to transcode the HBO MPEG-4 signal back down to MPEG-2, or upgrade their networks (and customer set top boxes) to offer MPEG-4 distribution. To make things a little more complicated, HBO will encode their signal at 8 Mbps, and may mandate no further compression of that signal. This impacts TelcoTV operators who are utilizing a DSL infrastructure, because it will become a ‘bandwidth’ hog, compared to other MPEG-4 signals. The end effect may be a competitive advantage to DBS and cable MSOs who can more easily distribute an 8 Mbps HBO HD signal, thus providing a potentially better HBO viewing experience.