Mark Cuban has been technology’s – and sport’s — bad boy for two decades. He has a habit of creating new companies and selling them for outrageous profits, and being ahead of the earliest adopters. Now he is running HDnet, a TV network shooting exclusively high-definition content.
– Q: What do you mean, shot for HD?
– There are a lot of people that shoot their programming in HD but don’t optimize for HD. Compare this to HDnet and at most five other networks that optimize for HD. This is an important distinction. We don’t have anyone with a 4×3 standard TV watching our programming, because everyone has a widescreen TV. We don’t have to worry about protecting a 4×3 aspect ratio, or to satisfy an audience that just has monaural sound as every other network does. We provide programming that is shot in 16×9 ratios and designed to completely fill that frame and also be heard in at least 5.1 digital sound.
– Q: Do you really need the 5.1 sound systems for HD TV?
– If you don’t have a full sound system, you are definitely missing out on a big part of the HDTV experience. Besides, most PCs these days come with 7.1 surround sound cards anyway. Any geek worth his salt that has integrated full fidelity sound knows exactly what I’m talking about.
– Q: What about picture quality? Should I wait for 1080p TV sets to come down in price?
– Technology will always get better and cheaper, but the picture quality of any TV capable of 1920×1080 far exceeds the signal it gets from any TV source. We are already looking at what we call Ultra HD, which comes very close to HDcam quality that is almost lossless and is designed to be stored digitally on hard drives.
– Q: What is the biggest obstacle for wider HDTV penetration today?
– It is all about time. No different than the old PC days of the 1980s. Once the PC broke the $1,000 price barrier, people found ways to get them into their homes. HDTV will become ubiquitous if only because analog TVs are going away. We are quickly getting to the point where you can’t buy an analog-only TV set anymore, even the 25 inch sets now come with HD tuners.
– Q: You are fond of saying, “get big, subsidize, and monetize” when it comes to running your businesses in the past. How does this apply to HDTV?
– With HDnet, it is different than the commodity PC business; we can’t just license cheap content. We need to build the infrastructure, charge subscriber fees, and put the revenue back into programming.
– Q: What are your thoughts about Microsoft’s Vista?
– Conceptually, Vista will help HDTV but the whole Vista DRM thing is ridiculous and will be outdated in three years anyway, and this will only hurt Vista as a media platform.